It all starts like this…

An employer calls upon a recruitment agency asking for help.  “Hey!” They excitedly exclaim. “We’re looking for an awesome graphic designer, can you help?”

Of course this excites any recruiter “Great!  I can absolutely help! What skills or specialties are you looking for in this role?”…

Then the recruiters get to work; asking questions to pinpoint the requirements of the job, the education and skills that a perfect candidate might have etc…

They want to know what the client would recognize as that special something; maybe it’s that coding ninja or accounting master.

They post the job on every job board imaginable, set up a profile for this position in their ATS and start receiving applications from every corner of the geographic recruiting area.

So then what? What happens to the candidates that have seen or applied to the postings? Their journey can be intense and understanding their hopes, dreams and fears throughout the journey can be a helpful tool when trying to build an engaged pool of talent.

On average, a corporate job opening attracts more than 250 applicants but only around five of them will get an interview. And as we are all too aware, only one gets the job.  It also takes 42 days and an average of three interviews to get some kind of offer from an employer.  It’s no wonder why just under half of all candidates who refused an offer did so because they accepted a position somewhere else.  This is why understanding the candidate journey is so significant.

The candidate journey, or sometimes called the candidate experience, is the way candidates perceive and react to employers’ sourcing, recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and on-boarding processes.

Traditionally, a recruitment agency’s primary concern would be ensuring a great experience for the client company. But in recent years agencies have found that the experience for the candidates is equally important and while they know this, as an industry, recruiting is slow to implement this practice.  Not to mention a great candidate journey is one way for one company to differentiate itself from the next. An experience is simply that, an experience. It’s intangible and can be convoluted at times but it can be mapped. There are a number of ways organizations have attempted to do this but my favorite is following these 4 steps:

  1. Align
  2. Attract and Nurture
  3. Qualify
  4. Hire


In this step an agency will meet with their client, identify what they’re looking for in new hire and create boundaries around the skills, experience and education required for each role. Knowing exactly what is required per role helps the firm create candidate personas and puts structure to the agreement with the client. It also gives clear direction to any recruiter working the job which can better guide who exactly they source.

Attract and Nurture

This stage is critical to the candidate journey and can be thought of as the ‘marketing’ step.  An oversight here can cause a top candidate to breeze on by or fall-off during the application process. Choosing the right job board, posting media and company graphics inform candidates what you’re looking for. An example would be posting a graphic designer position on Dribbble rather than Dice.

Another area where attention should be paid is the application process. Is it overly complex? Are you asking questions that don’t yet matter? Is the candidate forced to re-key information? All of these things happen and can lead to application fall-off.

Notice attracting isn’t the only part to this step.  Nurturing a candidate throughout the hiring process is imperative.  Here’s an all-to-common scenario from a candidate’s perspective:

Jane wakes up and, for one reason or another, she’s decided to look for another job.  She’ll spend hours crafting the perfect resume that details her skill set and highlights her awesome experience and education.  She’ll apply to the few jobs thinking “I got this in the bag!” But weeks pass by with no communication. Finally, Jane gets called in for an interview.  She’ll dress to impress and bring in her extensive design portfolio. She’ll speak with the hiring manager and answer all of her questions with ease. She’s a good fit, but Jane never hears back…

Unfortunately, this experience is all too common for candidates today.  They never know from one day to the next whether their search is bearing any kind of fruit at all.  This is why nurturing your candidates is so important. You are selling your company to candidates and your product is largely similar to what other companies are offering.  You probably have similar pay, insurances, and other benefits. But what can set you apart is nurturing and engaging with candidates throughout their journey.

Keep in mind, nurturing isn’t confined to this step. It’s all encompassing and actually comes into play at the beginning, middle and end of the entire hiring process.


Now we move to the qualification or interview phase. How can you quantify how successful each candidate would in the position? Have they checked all the boxes needed from the aforementioned persona? It’s also in this stage where the candidate experience can break down unexpectedly. Are you asking redundant things of your candidate like filling out another application or submitting another resume? Are you actively communicating to set expectations on timelines or if additional testing/interviews are required?


We’ve made it, the final step. At this stage an agency should quickly inform the chosen candidate(s) and send along any pertinent details. But, what about the candidate that didn’t make the cut? This is where an agency in-tune with the candidate experience can differentiate and shine. Far too often candidates not selected get left in the dust, despite the fact they could be a good fit for the next matching role to come along. Why burn the bridge? Why not keep a conversation going?

Each candidate has a journey and what that looks like for a specific organization will set them apart from other employers.  If you want to attract top talent, be a top recruiter. Candidates today go through a lengthy and often times discouraging journey.  By following the four steps outlined above, Align, Attract & Nurture, Qualify and Hire, you will set yourself apart from other staffing firms and employers.

Article written by Roger Johnson