What You Need to Know About the New Candidate Journey

Central to talent acquisition’s success is the task of continuously optimizing candidate conversions. The word “continuously” is imperative here, because it’s a task that never ends. Back at the turn of the millennium, nearly every company in the world had to change their perspective on and approach to candidate conversions because of the rise of job boards. And now, in 2015, we’re seeing a number of other transformations.

To really understand these transformations, though, it’s important to take a step back. We must consider the evolution of the journey candidates take while searching for a job, and the various touch points along the way. What was once a job-board-to-career-site-to-apply journey has become much more complex. The rise of the internet—as well as its uses and how people to connect to it—has changed everything.

We tend to think of the new candidate journey as having three distinct phases: discovery, nurturing, and applying. There’s an interesting number of similarities between these three phases and how digital marketers think of the buyers’ journey and the concept of inbound marketing. This isn’t a coincidence—in fact, it coincides with the rise in the popularity of the term and practice of recruitment marketing.

Just as buyers now start their journey with research on Google and social media and rating sites, so do job seekers. CareerBuilder recently released data showing that as many as 73% of candidates now begin their job search in Google—far more than any job board.

This is all part of the discovery phase of the new candidate journey. The variables that go into this phase alone have turned organizations’ top-of-the-funnel recruiting strategies upside down. It’s more vital than ever that companies consider and optimize their employer brand, social recruiting strategy, the content they create, how easy their jobs are to find on Google, and much more.

Once job seekers actually make it to the career site through one of these entry points at the top of the funnel, it’s no longer a one-and-done scenario. The best digital marketers understand they’re not going to convert every buyer in their first interaction, and recruiters need to think the same way about candidates. This is where the nurturing phase of the new candidate journey comes into play.

Today’s leading companies are deploying tools like job alerts and talent networks on their career sites, enticing job seekers to opt-in and essentially become part of their candidate pipeline. Candidates may not be ready to apply, but they’re interested in the company and its positions. When used correctly, a pool of candidates that chooses to be contacted can deliver major returns to key metrics like cost-per-applicant and time-to-fill over time.

In some scenarios, large global companies are able to build up such a pipeline that reaches several million people in a short period of time. As one example, a consumer electronics retail chain organically grew its talent pipeline with the use of job alerts and virtually eliminated its job board spend for the holiday hiring surge, simply because it had a massive group of people waiting to hear about new opportunities in each location.

When a candidate is ready to apply—which could be on their first visit to the site or after visiting over time via nurture marketing—today’s companies have to be prepared to impress them with an awesome apply experience. This means the ability to apply on any device, with the same level of quality that matches modern consumer brands. Digitally-savvy job seekers have little patience for bad experiences these days, and whatever patience that’s left is running out quickly.

This is perhaps one of the greatest areas of opportunity, given that so many companies are behind the curve in their apply experience. According to The Talent Board’s 2014 Candidate Experience research, even among award winners nearly 50% only received 3 out of 5 stars on their application process.

The new candidate journey has been influenced by job seekers’ changing behaviors and preferences for finding information. This is much more of a transformation than it is a trend, as it is completely changing the way recruiters and talent acquisition leaders think about connecting with top talent. At the same time, the tools required to effectively pull in, nurture, and convert talent have evolved as well. The idea of optimizing candidate conversions has taken on a whole new meaning.