Awesome candidate experience design

Are your candidates this excited about joining you?

Are your candidates this excited about joining you?

By Heather Parker, Handpicked Society member

The war for talent, far from being over, is fiercer than ever. With unemployment at a four decade low, and advertised role vacancies increasing, talented candidates can afford to be choosy. Given the reliance on talent for their success, it’s no wonder that many organisations are now choosing to compete for their talent just as hard as they compete for their customers.

Why candidate experience design?

Awesome candidate experience design can fundamentally transform your ability to hire the candidates that will best support you in achieving your goals. That’s why 75% of high-performing companies focus on improving candidate experience, whilst only 17% of poorly-performing companies do.

Experience design is not your standard process review. Rather than viewing candidates as numbers to be processed, experience design methods reveal the humans behind the numbers – their thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

So whilst most successful organisations will know what their ideal candidate’s CV might look like, experience design methods allow us to answer questions about who your ideal candidates really are - what motivates them to apply for a role? How do they prefer to engage? What makes them switch off?

This understanding informs the design of high-quality interactions that elicit the thoughts, feelings and behaviours you need to foster deep engagement from your ideal candidates. Helping them to understand what you’re about, feel excited to apply, and shine through the recruitment process.

Top tips for creating an awesome candidate experience

Tip 1 - Don’t rely on stereotypes

We recently worked on one of the largest and most complex recruitment processes in Europe. Our client found a significant proportion of their young talent pool had no access to a mobile phone. But “millennials can’t live without their devices”, right? Even stereotypes based on real trends won’t necessarily apply to your talent pool. Get the data on your talent pool, and bin the stereotypes.

Tip 2 - Balance streamlining with engagement

Traditional process reviews focus on efficiency. It’s crucial that every step of the recruitment journey adds value, but we find that the value of engagement is often overlooked. Conventional wisdom says each step in a candidate’s journey is an opportunity to drop out, but we know it’s also an opportunity to be engaged. If touchpoints are highly engaging, they draw candidates in and help them perform at their best. Balance a streamlined experience with highly engaging ‘moments that matter’.

An awesome experience is one that creates deep logical and emotional connections

An awesome experience is one that creates deep logical and emotional connections

Tip 3 - Remember to sell yourself

The average cost of a bad hire is estimated to be 2-3 times their salary. It’s no wonder organisations want to make sure the right candidates make it through. But we’ve seen great candidates fly through the recruitment process, only to reach the end feeling unsure whether they want the job. At the same time as your recruitment process selects the best candidates, your candidate experience needs to sell you to them.

Tip 4 - Invest in the people candidates interact with

Hiring managers and recruiters need to be fully engaged and supported in attracting and hiring the right talent. They’re, often unwittingly, a rich source of information for candidates on what it’s like to work for you, and key in delivering a great candidate experience. Make sure they’re having a great experience themselves. 

Tip 5 - Get feedback

Your most valuable source of information for improving your candidate experience is your candidates themselves. Seek to understand, from the horse’s mouth, why your ideal candidates chose to join your organisation, or chose not to. Then make sure you act on it.

Tip 6 - Follow with an awesome employee experience

You just hired your ideal candidate. Now you want to keep them. Help your fabulous new joiner feel they made the right decision by providing an employee experience that meets, or even exceeds, their expectations. By creating awesome experiences from onboarding to progressing, help them stick with you and perform at their best.


Heather Parker, Handpicked Society member

As an expert in experience design, Heather designs and implements better client, candidate and employee experiences. As well as her client work, she’s the lead for our very own Handpicked Society client and member experience programme too. Heather is a Cambridge graduate and Master of Psychology, which is the basis of her expertise, which also includes organisation culture, ways of working, change management and communications. She likes to run the Gin 10K, which she has completed twice.

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Sources used in Heather’s article

  • “Unemployment at a four—decade low”, “advertised role vacancies [are] increasing” - Office for National Statistics, Dec 2018.

  • “That’s why 75% of highperforming companies focus on improving candidate experience, whilst only 17% of poorly-performing companies do” - High-Impact Talent Acquisition Report, Bersin & Deloitte, 2018.

  • “The average cost of a bad hire is estimated to be 2-3 times their salary - Dr. G. Kustis of Talent Develop.