Blog Post

Why the Candidate Journey Matters More Than the Destination

Thomas Boyle

Principal Consultant, Thought Leadership & Advisory Services - Talent Acquisition at Cornerstone

Quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Life is a journey, not a destination," suggests that life is more about the individual experiences than the result.

The same can be said about the candidate journey and the hiring process. Gone are the days when companies could automate three to five page paper employment applications and have candidates jump through many hoops.

Thanks in part to a globally evolving job market and the demand for new skills, organizations are now struggling to fill existing openings while planning for future needs, which has created a candidate-driven market. In this market, candidates are no longer willing to bend over backwards for employers, and their experience matters.

So why is the candidate journey more important than the destination? Because the vast majority of candidates that apply will never make it past your pre-screening. The average corporate job opening attracts between 100-200 submissions. Of those candidates, four to six will move to the interview stage, and only one will get hired. What will the other 98 percent of candidates say about the experience? Will they continue to be consumers of your goods or services, and will they apply again or recommend you to a friend?

According to the Talent Board, whose primary research focus is candidate and employee experience, the impact can be massive:

  • 46 percent of candidates who believe they have had a negative overall job seeker experience say they will take their allegiance, product purchases and relationship somewhere else, an increase of 7 percent from 2016.

One of the more widely publicized examples of the candidate to consumer impact is from Virgin Media. In 2016, Virgin Media set out to determine the real effect of weak candidate experience. Their research found that they were losing £4.4 million per year, the equivalent of $5.4 million, due to poor candidate experience. This calculation of financial impact was determined by the number of rejected candidates who reported that they would switch providers and did so within a month. According to Virgin's research, 6 percent of candidates followed through and changed providers.

What if we applied this same formula to Starbucks? Eighty-seven percent of Starbucks' applicants are also customers. They receive an estimated four million applications annually, resulting in an expected 50,000 hourly retail hires in the U.S.. If 6 percent of candidates (200K) no longer make purchases at Starbucks as a result of their candidate experience, the cost would be an estimated $220 million annually.

Of course, not everyone has a large consumer following like Starbucks or Virgin Media, but that doesn't mean that the impact won't be significant. Candidates that have a poor experience share it with their friends and generally don't apply again or refer others.

Every candidate who applies hopes to be hired, but realistically, candidates know their chances are relatively small. That doesn't mean they don't want a positive experience. In fact, when candidates have a positive experience, it increases their likeliness to engage with your organization as a candidate and a consumer.

  • 74 percent of candidates who said they had a positive experience indicated that they would increase their relationships with the company in question by applying again, refer ring others and making purchases when applicable. (Talent Board)

As employers,we sometimes overcomplicate experience—what candidates want is simple. They want an easy-to-use, mobile-friendly experience that provides them with a sense of transparency and fairness throughout the process. Here are a few tips to help make the candidate journey a better one.

5 Tips to Make the Candidate Journey a Better One

  • Relevant career site content and messaging: Career sites should never be a one-size-fits-all experience. LinkedIn estimates that professional candidates spend an average of one to two months searching before applying to an opening (LinkedIn research). This trend makes having targeted, relevant and personalized content imperative. Create content that fits your audience. If the vast majority of your positions fall into three major buckets such as sales, distribution centers and corporate, then consider creating multiple landing pages with job listing and content that pertains to each of these roles and shows applicants why they should work for your organizations.
  • Easy to use, mobile-friendly experience: The fastest way to create a poor candidate experience is by having a poor mobile strategy. It is estimated that between 60 and 70 percent of all job searches take place on a mobile device. This phenomenon not only makes it critical that your content be searchable and consumable on mobile devices, but also means that candidates are increasingly using their mobile device to apply. So, make it easy for them to fill out necessary forms and answer questions on a smartphone.
  • Application length and data collection: In an age where data privacy has become a significant concern, job applicants are no longer willing to provide page upon page of personal information or wade through lengthy employment applications. According to, ( research) companies with 45 or more screener questions are losing the vast majority, 88.7 percent, of their potential applicants before completion. Your application process shouldn't be the first test. Ask your candidates for what you need when you need it. Most candidates have no problem filling out more information once you have expressed an interest in them.
  • Transparency and fairness, throughout: The number one frustration for candidates is lack of communication. They want to know up front what the time investment is going to be and they crave continuous insight into the process. How will they be measured and what are the core skills needed? Think about the types of calls and emails that your recruiting teams get from candidates wanting to know where they are in the process or how long the hiring process will take. Publish your process and share the most commonly asked candidate questions.
  • Engage Disqualified Applicant Pools: Ninety-eight percent of candidates that apply for a career opportunity will never make it to the interview stage. Organizations need to think more strategically about this population. For example, what insights into the company are they getting from their experience? The vast majority of these candidates receive only the standard automated email, letting them know of their disqualification. Candidates know when they are excluded automatically by a machine. Take steps to be sensitive to the time commitment; these candidates want to work for you.n many cases, they were qualified— just not the most qualified for the specific opportunity. Regardless of where they were in the hiring process, organizations should look to engage disqualified candidates with more meaningful feedback and content to help drive future decisions.

We would love to hear from you. What strategies are you using to ensure every candidate has a positive experience, regardless of the hiring outcome?

Happy Recruiting!

Photo: Creative Commons

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