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6 candidate journey mapping secrets savvy recruiters know

A journey map can be a critical tool for uncovering what it takes to provide your candidates with great experiences. Here's advice on how to use it the right way.

Candidate journey mapping can help uncover the most enjoyable path through the recruiting and hiring process.

Mapping takes a look at important touchpoints in the candidate journey with the goal of improving the recruiting and hiring process. Companies can use it to improve their overall recruitment efforts and, in turn, score more high-quality talent over time even in a tight job market.

"Candidate mapping can teach you a lot about your applicants -- from how they're discovering your listings to why they're applying; this is a treasure trove of data," said Jon Hill, CEO and chairman of The Energists, a staffing and management firm specializing in the energy industry. "If you have a problem with candidates losing interest or turning down offers for other positions, you can even use your candidate map data to figure out where things are going wrong."

While candidate journey mapping focuses on improving the candidate's experience today, it's an important tool for bringing back past candidates as well.

"The closing part of the recruitment process is important," said Karolina Kwaśniewska, recruitment manager at Future Processing, a Polish IT company. "We're open to returning candidates, so the last impression we make as a company counts."

There are many ways to use candidate journey mapping to a company's benefit. Here is how to get the most out of it by capitalizing on the insights these maps reveal.

1. Map the entire journey

The point of mapping a candidate's journey is to see a full view of the candidate experience.

Beyond recruiting more qualified candidates and working to improve their experience, you're also looking for data that will help sharpen overall recruitment efforts. Mapping the journey beyond the recruitment and hiring cycles can be helpful to improving retention efforts as well.

"Along with increasing the number of qualified candidate applications, our goal is to use an integrated marketing campaign that spans the entire recruitment, acquisition and engagement lifecycle of a new employee," said Louonna Kachur, director of talent at KSM Consulting.

2. Track external touchpoints

The candidate's journey actually starts before the hiring company makes direct contact.

"Look further than the recruitment and hiring process," Kwaśniewska said. "There is a way to create touchpoints before the candidate's formal application, which gets him or her closer to our brand."

"We think about the social media content we generate, the advertisements we publish, the reviews we get as a company on job sites, but also about all one-on-one communications via Linkedin InMails," she said.

Mapping external touchpoints after candidates decline an offer -- or after your company chooses not to work with them -- also provides important insights into your recruiting process, as well as a look into what other candidates are seeing and hearing about your company.

3. Use a coordinated drip campaign

A drip campaign is a marketing communication strategy that sends prewritten messages to candidates, customers or prospects over time. These messages often come in via email, but companies can also send them through other channels.

A coordinated drip campaign times the automated messages to coincide with key events.

"Our overall campaign includes social and retargeting our advertising with thought leadership content, video and imagery, as well as a coordinated drip campaign," Kachur said. "The email drip campaign provides a series of touchpoints between scheduling communications and interviews for candidates."

KSM Consulting's drip campaign was launched in spring 2019, but it's already showing positive early results, she said.

4. Probe for answers

While HR routinely asks candidates questions, it typically doesn't go far enough to get the data the company needs for more granular insights.

"There's a standard question on most job applications that asks candidates how they found out about the open position," Hill said. "There are usually several choices, like Indeed, Monster.com and 'from a friend,' but you have to dig deeper than that."

However, when you do dig deeper, make sure to consider the content of your question and how you phrase it, he said.

This should help keep you from overstepping boundaries and encourages the candidate to stay involved.

"By using empathy to examine and rebuild our recruitment process, we've been able to meet our candidates where they are at each step of their journey," Kachur said. "We're continuing to test and iterate, talking with new hires after they've settled in for feedback on their experience to gain more understanding."

5. Seek balanced automation

Automation technologies, such as chatbots and AI-enabled apps, used strategically throughout recruiting and hiring can streamline processes, but there's danger in completely replacing the human touch with automation.

HR professionals can borrow the journey mapping approach to improve the candidate process.
Matt PoepselSenior vice president, The Predictive Index

"One of the problems we're seeing is that some businesses are choosing to replace their recruitment teams completely with AI," said Vinita Venkatesh, vice president at Mya Systems, a recruiting platform that uses conversational AI to screen and source candidates. "Recruitment chatbots are incredibly valuable, but in order to be the most effective, they need to augment existing recruiters."

The human element is still imperative throughout the candidate journey, she said.

6. Make improvements

HR leaders need to look into the future when it comes to candidate journey mapping.

"HR professionals don't create candidate journey maps simply to document the current state," said Matt Poepsel, senior vice president at The Predictive Index.

"In a competitive job market, it's important to take a candidate-first mindset," he said. "Journey mapping isn't just a tool for user experience professionals. HR professionals can borrow the journey mapping approach to improve the candidate process in order to attract and hire the very best talent."

There are steps HR can take to help identify candidate experience improvements, Poepsel said.

Here are a few to consider:

  • Take a vote. Give each team member three small sticker dots. Ask the question, "If you could dramatically improve one part of this experience, which would it be?" Ask them to place one or more dots on a specific sticky note. The density of votes will give you a clear priority as to what the team feels deserves the most attention.
  • Check the numbers. Reconcile your hiring pipeline metrics with the candidate journey map. Where are you seeing choke points in your process? Where is the friction? Are some of your processes inefficient? Make it a point to note these areas and find answers to those problems.
  • Shop around. Take a quick spin through early-stage touchpoints, such as Glassdoor, job postings, social media, careers pages and job listings, from companies that are attracting the kind of talent you're looking for. What do you see that you like? Whether they're competitors or well-respected market leaders, assemble a list of North Star practices. You should make a plan to incorporate similar improvements in your own candidate journey and, of course, to take them a step further.

While candidate journey mapping is important to the recruiting process, it is imperative to remember the candidate on the other side of the screen and incorporate that into your new strategies.

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