Candidate Journey

3 Things Employers Aren't Asking Candidates About Their Candidate Journey (But Should!)

Sep 12, 2022 - Cat DiStasio

It’s common—and even advisable in many situations—to use candidate personas or profiles to help steer talent acquisition processes and conversations. Over the years, we find many recruiting teams excel at developing candidate personas and tailoring strategies to address each one. However, there is often some crucial information left out.

TA teams don’t always know where candidates are in their journey—or even what type of candidate they are. The way you interact with active candidates should differ from your approach to passive candidates, based on each group’s unique perspective and circumstances. You also won’t get the best results if you’re using boilerplate messaging for candidates throughout the recruitment pipeline, without considering different groups' defining candidate behavior or customizing your candidate journey touchpoints for the stage they’re in within the job application process.

Advantages of Learning about your Candidates’ Journey

Using the most effective messaging can help combat ghosting, boost engagement, promote positive candidate experiences, and potentially result in even better hires. These same strategies can also help you target candidates for hard-to-fill positions, senior leadership roles, and other tricky hiring goals.

You can pose these questions at different points throughout the recruiting process, but the earlier you start collecting these data points, the more useful they will be in your overall strategy and candidate journey map. Add them to the forms you use when candidates join your recruiting pipeline, for virtual and in-person event registration, in chatbot scripts, in email follow-ups, and any other important touchpoints.

To learn this crucial information about your candidates, you need only to ask a few key questions to reveal who, where, and why.

The Who: Active vs. Passive

Perhaps the most important thing you can learn about candidates is whether they are active or passive. Ultimately, this is a spectrum but there are some basic differences between the two camps. Active candidates are highly motivated to find a new job and often prefer to move quickly through the application process, while passive job seekers typically want to collect a lot of information before taking steps to apply or talk to a recruiter. At the highest level, active candidates generally feel like they need to convince a potential employer to hire them, while passive candidates need employers to convince them to apply to specific job opportunities.

Use your chatbot, online forms, and event registrations to ask candidates which statement most aligns with their feelings:

  1. a) I’m applying for jobs [active job seekers]
  2. b) I’m thinking about leaving my job [active, early stage]
  3. c) I wonder if I can do better than my current job [passive, primed to become active]
  4. d) I’m happy with my job but curious what is out there [passive]

Create a different messaging strategy for each candidate stage, and use the information you collect from candidates to inform how you interact with them. Since the objective is generally to convert a passive candidate to an active candidate, it’s also important to track the change in their activity and interest over time and adjust your communication strategy accordingly. This can be as simple as inviting passive candidates to virtual information sessions and recruiter office hours or surveying passive candidates about their current work experiences to reveal pain points you can address during the recruiting process.

The Where: Stage of Candidate Journey

Once you’ve determined whether a candidate is active or passive, you need to zero in on where they are in their journey. This helps you tailor messaging for each stage and more effectively move candidates through your funnel.

You might ask candidates to self-identify with one of the following phrases:

  1. a) Just starting to look around
  2. b) Applying to multiple positions
  3. c) Interviewing with potential employers
  4. d) Have received offers

The messaging you use to engage with a candidate who is not even ready to apply would obviously be different than a candidate who is entertaining multiple job offers and is actively on the job hunt. But if you don’t know which candidates are in which stage, you can’t effectively communicate—and you’ll have trouble keeping candidates engaged if your messaging doesn’t align with their experience and expectations.

The Why: Top Priorities for New Role

Knowing how motivated your potential candidates are and what their candidate journey has been to date helps you tailor your messaging and can lead to better results. The ultimate keystone to effective recruiting lies in understanding what matters most to candidates—and addressing their biggest concerns, pain points, and needs to build trust and generate more interest in the opportunities your organization can offer.

Employers often try to guess what matters most to their ideal candidates but it’s best just to ask. Ask candidates what their top priorities are in choosing a new employer, after compensation. You might offer multiple choice answers for them to rank, such as:

  • career opportunities and advancement
  • extended leave
  • flexible work hours
  • remote work
  • expanded benefits
  • company culture
  • other (open comment field)

So don't ignore this important constructive feedback. Each key priority deserves attention—and addressing your candidates’ biggest priority lets them know that what matters to them also matters to your organization. This might look like highlighting your mentorship program, benefits, or remote work arrangements in your recruiting content, and sharing specific types of content with talented candidates who have identified with a particular concern.

Knowledge Improves the Candidate Journey

Getting to know your candidates is, in a sense, what talent acquisition is all about. Diving deeper into the context of a candidate’s journey, and collecting information to inform your interactions, helps you personalize the candidate experience and add relevance to the entire interview process. Many employers are missing this key step when trying to build out their ideal candidate journey, which means TA teams who adopt this strategy will stand out from the competition and may have an easier time building trust, improving engagement, and landing today’s top talent.

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