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An Introduction to Candidate Journey Mapping

August 1, 2022

January 11, 2022

Successful recruiting depends on having a solid understanding of your candidates. Especially in the startup world, where a fast-growing number of companies are competing for a relatively small pool of talent, it’s incredibly important to know who you’re hiring and how you can connect with them.

So how can you do this? One powerful way to understand and connect with your potential employees is through something called a candidate journey.

In this article, we’ll show you what a candidate journey is, why it’s so important, and how to map one for your own candidates.

What is the candidate journey?

The candidate journey is the series of steps candidates follow, from the moment they become aware of a job opportunity all the way to (and beyond) the point they are hired onto your team.

Everyone’s candidate journey is a little different, but they typically follow the same general pattern, and as recruiters, we can tap into that to gain a fuller picture of what our candidates are doing. This has a ton of valuable benefits.

Why do we need to map the candidate journey?

Recruiting for startups is not an easy business. You need to do everything in your power to stand out from your competitors and attract the right talent to build a successful team.

Right now, many companies are failing to do that. In fact, almost 60% of candidates have a poor experience while applying for jobs. Mapping your candidate journey can overcome that — here’s how:

  • It helps you connect with candidates better by understanding who they are, what they want, and what they stand to gain by joining your company
  • It allows you to identify and fix many of the flaws in your current recruiting process, giving your candidates a smoother and more rewarding experience
  • It shows you the right channels and techniques to use when attracting the best people for your business
  • It avoids good potential candidates slipping through the cracks as the result of a badly designed recruiting process — allowing you to attract and retain more of the right talent

How to map the candidate journey

Mapping the candidate journey is all about defining the stages your candidates go through and what they experience at each of these stages. Then, you can pull everything together to decide the best way to connect with them and optimize their experience every step of the way. Here’s how.

Consider the stages of the journey

There are a few different ways to define the stages of a candidate journey, but generally speaking, there are six main steps:

  • Awareness — when your candidate first becomes aware of the opportunity. They might see a job posting on a recruiting site, hear from a friend, stumble across your website, see a social media post, or something else entirely. Their journey has begun.
  • Consideration — your candidate has seen your vacancy and is now working out if it’s something they are interested in. This stage can take seconds or weeks and will be influenced by the information your candidate encounters.
  • Interest — having considered your job opportunity, your candidate has now decided that they are interested.
  • Application — where the candidate begins the process of applying for your job. This might take place through a third party but ideally happens via your own application process.
  • Selection — where you review the application and make a decision on whether the candidate would be a good fit for your company
  • Hire — the candidate joins your team!

Think about where your candidates are at each stage

Once you’ve defined the stages of the candidate journey, it’s time to think about the different points of contact with your company at each stage. This helps you identify all the relevant channels and platforms for your recruiting process.

For example, during the “awareness” stage of the journey, your candidates will likely be coming from job boards, social media pages, or referrals from other people. At the “application” stage they’ll be on your website. Knowing where your candidates are coming from at each stage allows you to tailor each stage of the process for them and improve their experience.

Think about what your candidates are experiencing at each stage

Understanding the worries, challenges, desires, and goals your candidates are experiencing at each stage of the candidate journey helps you connect with them more effectively and build more relevant materials and messaging.

For example, in the “consideration” stage of the journey, your candidates may be feeling overwhelmed by all the opportunities and struggling to narrow down to a few specific jobs. They’ll be on the lookout for anything that stands out and makes their decision easier, which is a great opportunity for you to promote your company and show what makes you different.

Find out who your candidates are

Understanding as much as possible about who your candidates are is extremely valuable. It allows you to tweak your messaging, processes, and branding, give your candidates a better experience on their journey, and improve your chances of hiring the right people.

Start by conducting surveys and questionnaires with people looking for jobs in your industry. Spend time on the same social media pages and platforms as them, talk to them in comments sections, and gather as much information as you can. Then, you can build detailed candidate personas with information like age, experience level, skillset, education, and what they’re looking for in a job.

Learning about your candidates and building personas allows you to treat your candidates like individual people, not just numbers. You can be more personal in your messaging and advertisements, and build a more impactful and enjoyable journey for them.

Identify ways to communicate and build relationships every step of the way

The best candidate journeys don’t feel one-sided. They’re a way for you and your company to connect with your candidates on a human level, building a real relationship. At every stage of the journey, you should be looking for ways to increase your level of communication with your candidates, showing them that you care about their experience and want to get to know them.

Create a visualization

It can help to create a visualization — a flowchart showing each stage of the candidate journey and things to consider for each one like touchpoints, what your candidates need and where they are, and how you can best connect with them.

Think about what each stage of the journey should look like, and all the things you need to be aware of at each point. This helps you and your team get clear on what you need to do and the best way to reach your goals.

Here’s an example of a candidate journey flowchart, courtesy of TalentLyft:

Don’t stop after hiring

Too many companies treat hiring as the end of the candidate journey — and they suffer for it. Hiring is just the beginning, the next important stage to consider is the onboarding process. Use all that you have learned during the candidate journey so far to build a friendly, rewarding, and effective onboarding process to bring your new employee onto the team.

The best onboarding processes introduce new hires to their teammates, teach them all the basics of the job, and are interactive and dynamic.

Building an effective candidate journey is one of the best things startups can do to attract the right talent, stand out from the competition, and build the perfect team. It’s never too early to start, and should always be revisited and enhanced over time.treated as a priority.

At The Swarm, we help startups optimize and fine-tune their recruiting so you can compete confidently and attract candidates who fit your project perfectly. Find out more at