Improving Candidate Engagement: Understanding the Candidate Journey and Experience

Improving Candidate Engagement: Understanding the Candidate Journey and Experience

As technologies, candidate expectations, and workplace cultures have changed, certain facets of recruiting and recruitment marketing have become more nuanced. This increase in “moving parts,” so to speak, in the recruiting puzzle includes a somewhat more complex learning curve for recruiters than in years past, as well as terms like “candidate journey” and “candidate experience.”

Now, while these two aspects of recruiting sound quite similar, they are discrete and dissimilar components encompassing what candidates perceive, steps they must take, and what they might expect to happen as they execute their job search.


The Candidate Journey vs. Candidate Experience

The candidate journey refers to the specific steps a candidate takes throughout the recruitment process, from awareness of the job opportunity to being hired. It includes all of the interactions a candidate has with the hiring company, both online and offline.

On the other hand, the candidate experience refers to the overall impression a candidate forms of a company throughout the recruitment process. It encompasses factors such as communication, responsiveness, transparency, and fairness. A positive candidate experience can help to attract and retain top talent, improve employer branding, and enhance the overall recruitment process.

Understanding the difference between the candidate journey and the candidate experience is important because they require different approaches to measurement and improvement. While the candidate journey requires a more in-depth analysis of the various interactions involved in the recruitment process, the candidate experience can be evaluated through surveys and feedback from candidates.

By focusing on both the candidate journey and the candidate experience, organizations can improve their recruitment process and candidate engagement to attract top talent.

candidate experience


Understanding the Candidate Journey

There’s a reason it’s called recruitment marketing. In similar fashion to when a consumer is considering a product or service, job seekers go through progressive stages when they’re looking for new opportunities. Therefore, to a large extent, recruiters need to treat candidates as prospective customers.

The five stages through which all candidates progress are:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Application
  4. Interview
  5. Offer

During the course of the candidate journey, candidates typically have multiple interactions with a company – in this context, with the employer brand. These interactions are known as touchpoints.



In the Awareness stage, a candidate becomes aware of the availability of a position at the company. This occurs when the candidate sees a job advertisement on a job board, visits the career site, researches the organization on a company review site, speaks with a company representative at a career fair, or some other preliminary interaction.



This stage involves the candidate moving past the job description and endeavoring to put together a picture of the company as a whole (e.g., organizational values, mission, culture). As discussed previously in this space, today’s candidates have become far more discriminating regarding companies they might want to work for, so it is extremely important that the impression they receive at each touchpoint is a good one.

This is where the company’s efforts in putting together a compelling employer brand start to pay off. A well-crafted employer brand that is consistent across all communication channels (social media, job websites, company pages, job descriptions, etc.) translates into a highly-effective external narrative that attracts candidates.

Tip: Over 50% of job seekers use company websites and social media pages to find out more about employers, so recruiters should be mindful that a positive and clearly-defined employer brand will determine the quality of the first impression candidates have of the company.

optimizing the candidate experience



In the Application stage, ideally, the candidate completes an application for the position. It’s “ideally” because aspects of this stage are often overlooked by companies and recruiters to the detriment of the recruiting campaign. The chief take-away here is that the application must be smooth, uncomplicated, and user-friendly. According to CareerBuilder, 1 in 5 candidates won’t complete an application that takes them 20 minutes or more to complete. This not only means that applications should be succinct, but that the back-end technology is up-to-speed as well, with clear instructions and pages that load quickly.

These days, applications must be mobile-friendly, since nearly 60% of today’s candidates use their phones in their job searches. Unfortunately, due to formatting problems and slow-loading or unresponsive web pages, mobile job seekers typically complete over 50% fewer applications and take 80% longer to complete each one (Glassdoor).

Communication throughout the application process is also very important. This is essential even if the application is as far as the candidate has gotten in the process. Over 80% of job seekers surveyed said that they would be discouraged to consider other relevant job openings at a company that failed to notify them of their application status, but they would be 3.5 times more likely to re-apply to a company that initially rejected them if they were kept informed of their application status (WorkplaceTrends).

Here, one highly prudent measure to ensure the viability of an organization’s application process is to have someone in the company go through the process of applying for a posted job – ideally, more than once, across different devices (e.g., laptop or desktop, tablet, smart phone). This will test the viability of the process throughout, as well as uncovering pain points that could sabotage the candidate experience.



The Interview stage has changed in recent years due to the overall changes in workplace dynamics, culture and candidate values. Today, it’s much more of a mutual vetting process, with candidates operating from more of a position of strength than in years past. It is also more likely that candidates will have multiple potential employers from which they are fielding offers.

When a candidate is called in for an interview, they will typically gather more detailed information about the company, which they will use to compare the potential employers with whom they’ve had interviews. Here is where candidates will be able to tell whether or not they can envision themselves working for the organization. Therefore, ease of communication and transparency are paramount.

The recruiter or hiring professional should be able to convey to the candidate as closely as possible what it will be like to work at the company. The organizational culture should be communicated, as well as workforce structure, challenges, perks, benefits and their pathway to success in the company. Candidates should be encouraged to ask questions and to voice any concerns they might have about the job they’re applying for, as well as the company.

recruitment marketing strategies



When a candidate has passed muster, the process then moves to the Offer stage, in which the company makes an offer of employment. While the company’s deportment should be one of “assuming the sale” (in which the candidate accepts the offer), this may not in fact be the case. Regardless of the potential outcome, the candidate should be shown that the company is looking forward to working with them and is excited about their mutual success. The candidate should be informed about aspects of the onboarding process and what to expect moving forward.

Apart from having an open position that fairly compensates the prospective employee and a solid EVP to support that, delivering a positive experience throughout this journey is essential in attracting quality hires. In order to engage candidates effectively, it's important to understand their journey and how they interact with the employer brand. Mindfulness and care in addressing the foregoing points are the best ways for recruitment marketing professionals to gain that understanding.


Understanding the Candidate Experience

As stated earlier, the candidate experience encompasses the impression a candidate forms of the company over the course of the entire recruitment process. A positive or negative candidate experience not only affects the perception of individual candidates, but it can impact an organization's employer brand and reputation – for better or worse.

In addition to compensation, culture, and parity issues (organizational values, inclusivity, etc.), factors that contribute to a positive candidate experience include aspects such as clarity, transparency, and the personalization of communications. An attractive employer brand, a smooth application process, and the quality of communication and feedback provided throughout also factor into candidate experience.

One way to ensure that a company is providing as positive a candidate experience as possible is to have its senior leadership review the application process on a quarterly basis to determine what they can learn from it. This not only facilitates a better understanding of the candidate experience, but the candidate journey as well, and can provide deep insights as to how they might improve both. Refining internal processes to enhance both of these also improves candidate engagement strategies, which carries over into engaged hires and better productivity.

recruitment strategies

As competition has stepped up in the recruiting game, organizations have begun to use candidate journey mapping and candidate experience feedback to enhance their recruitment processes. Candidate journey mapping is where a company creates a visual representation of all the interactions candidates have with the employer brand during their candidate journey. Mapping out the candidate journey can help organizations identify pain points (or obstacles), areas for improvement and opportunities to enhance candidate engagement. Like tools such as flow charts, these visual aids are known to provide superior insights than lists or reports.

Finally, using data and analytics are proven methods to measure and optimize candidate engagement efforts. Far superior to human diligence alone, these tools have been shown to improve and streamline numerous aspects of the recruiting process, from communications to talent pool access to eliminating potential bias in recruiting.

While identifying the weak spots and pain points in the candidate journey can be elusive, understanding the candidate journey and candidate experience arms recruiters with all of the information they need to relate to job seekers for better candidate engagement.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if your organization is ready to prioritize candidate engagement in its recruitment strategies! The Recruitics team is here to help your team accelerate their ability to attract and hire top talent. We leverage our technology and our team of experts to craft unique recruitment plans unique to your company’s hiring needs.

Subscribe to newsletter


Find Out How We Can Become an Extension of Your Talent Acquisition Team