Optimizing the candidate-to-employee journey


Published on: August 2021

Throughout the talent acquisition process, candidates form impressions and assumptions about companies and jobs, all before a company even has a chance to interact with them. In fact, from the time that candidates first hear about a company, to when they settle at their new desks, they are continuously learning about the company and its opportunity. What candidates learn and the impressions they form in the early stages of the talent acquisition lifecycle can have a meaningful impact on 1) whether they will accept a job offer if extended, 2) what they will say to others considering roles at the company, 3) whether they will purchase products and services from the company in the future, and 4) their level of commitment to the company, should they become employees.

Segmenting the candidate-to-employee journey into six phases – attract, apply, screen, select, onboard, and perform – ensures alignment throughout the process, and sets up both candidates and employers for success.


1. Attract: give prospective candidates a reason to take notice

During this phase, candidates learn about the company, business unit, and/or job. They do some research and become intrigued, and eventually decide to learn more.

What are you doing to build your employment brand? Do prospective candidates regard your company as a great place to work? What do others say about the candidate experience at your company? If candidates research your company on a job site, what will they read? If you find yourself cringing as you read through these questions, take action. Specifically, consider the following:

  • Review the careers page on your company’s website and evaluate whether its messaging represents your values.
  • Look into marketing, advertising, and sponsorships at college recruiting events, industry events, and in trade publications. These activities certainly come at a financial cost, but may be worthwhile if they improve access to qualified candidates.
  • Analyze your screening and hiring processes from the candidate’s perspective, and consider soliciting their post-process feedback for more information.
  • Evaluate the employee experience. If it’s positive, find ways to share that message with candidates. If it’s not as positive as you would like, first, fix it; and second, find ways to share the message with candidates after the repair.
  • Ensure alignment between your company’s sourcing activities and diversity goals.


2. Apply: explain what it takes to be successful on the job

During this phase, candidates learn even more about the job, determine whether it aligns with their capabilities and interests, and decide whether to apply, all along refining their impressions for your company.

Of course, for this decision to be favorable, the candidate’s information must be valid. To that end, it’s important for companies to ask themselves – do the requirements listed in position descriptions provide accurate reflections of what it takes to succeed? Does the language used in position descriptions appeal to viable job candidates?  How easy is it to navigate your company’s careers page prior to submitting an application? Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Consider including a realistic job preview, such as a video, on your company’s careers page to tell candidates a bit more about what life is like on the job. Remember, though, that “realistic” should be interpreted as “balanced” and the preview should include the positives and
  • Review your company’s position descriptions for neutral and inclusive wording. Researchers have found that certain words used on position descriptions can dissuade females, people of color, and people with disabilities from applying for jobs. Consider using software that can identify these potentially problematic words to review your position descriptions and ensure that they are as inclusive as possible.
  • Review your company’s careers page and online application to ensure that they are as straightforward and user-friendly as possible.
  • Be careful not to lose sight of your current employees, as they may actually be better aligned with new openings than they are with current roles.

Cultivating prospective and new employees

3. Screen: assess and teach candidates

The screening process further solidifies the candidates’ impressions and assumptions about the company and jobs from the attract and apply phases. Any tool, test, assessment, role play, interview, minimum qualification, etc. that a company uses to make decisions about candidates’ applications is a form of screening.

What does your screening process teach candidates about the company and job? How engaging is it? Is the time commitment associated with your screening process commensurate with the job level? Do specific steps of the screening process result in adverse impact? How effective are your interviewers? To what extent is your screening process biased against certain groups of candidates?

All of these questions speak to the critical nature of this phase. Once again, if you find yourself somewhat concerned by your answers to these questions, don’t worry – you’re not alone, and you can take steps to improve:

  • Conduct blind resume reviews. Believe it or not, people make (potentially irrelevant) assumptions about candidates based on things like how professional their email address is, what school they attended, where they worked previously, and beyond. Of course, some of these judgments may have relevance, but don’t assume that. Instead, consider using software that can facilitate blind resume reviews by blocking out particular pieces of information on candidates’ resumes.
  • Harness candidates’ attention during the screening process by teaching them about the company and job through an assessment that is modeled after the job.
  • Ensure that the capabilities assessed during the screening process align with the most critical capabilities required for successful job performance, and that are difficult to learn in a short amount of time. Spending time assessing inessential or easy-to-learn-later capabilities is inappropriate and possibly illegal.
  • Relatedly, consider the method(s) you are using to assess critical capabilities, and ensure that they are appropriate. As a simple example, if you wanted to evaluate candidates’ verbal communication skills, you would not ask them to write an essay.
  • Leverage structured interview guides, ensuring that interviewers are properly trained on interviewing best practices.
  • Regularly monitor assessment data for adverse impact so that no step of your process inadvertently disadvantages, or is biased against, some candidates over others.

Properly constructed and validated talent acquisition assessments help to minimize bias through objective data, so build them, validate them, use them, and trust them.


4. Select: make informed decisions

Now that you have all these salient data-points about candidates, it’s time to put them to use. How does your company make hiring decisions about candidates? Is the process consistent? What guidance do hiring managers receive regarding the selection decision? What feedback, if any, is provided to candidates who are not hired?

The answers to these questions can have a significant impact on whether your company finds itself in legal hot water (or how it fares if it does find itself in hot water). Consider the following best practices:

  • Establish a decision process before it’s time to make a hiring decision. If you wait until it’s time to make the decision, whatever process you establish will likely be influenced by your gut reaction to candidates. Your gut, generally speaking, should not make hiring decisions.
  • Consider all sources of viable information when making decisions, looking for the preponderance of evidence. No one source of information is ever going to be perfect. By looking at all the relevant details, however, you can begin to paint a picture of what candidates would be like if hired.
  • If you are going to provide feedback to rejected candidates, which is a growing trend even in the US, be sure to review your process and the nature of information with your legal team.
  • Remember: relying on data rather than your gut will minimize bias and result in better hiring decisions.


5. Onboard – help employees acclimate to new roles

By this point, your company has invested significant time and energy into hiring employees, and now it’s time for them to acclimate them to the company and job. This is when assumption meets reality. Do candidates’ expectations, set by the hiring process, align with reality? How structured is your onboarding process? Are all new employees, regardless of role, onboarded in the same way? Here are some best practices to help make onboarding as effective as possible:

  • Use what was learned about employees during the talent acquisition process to tailor the onboarding journey to be efficient. Suppose that you are hiring sales representatives. You know from a talent acquisition assessment that a new employee is quite adept at handling rejection, but struggles in following up with prospects. It would be best to spend more onboarding time on the company’s account-planning process and follow-through, rather than on strategies to overcome rejection. Of course, for this to happen, your company’s talent acquisition assessments must be closely aligned to both the job and onboarding.
  • Ensure that onboarding covers the right topics. Yes, having engaging content is critical in winning over your new employees, but having the right content and the right amount of content is also important.
  • Verify that the onboarding experience reflects the vision, mission, and values of the company, while also showing the personality, soul, and DNA of its people.


6. Perform: enable employees to perform to their fullest

Over time, because you have followed a best-practice approach to hiring and onboarding new employees, these new employees become not so new anymore. They perform their roles and make significant contributions to the organization.

When you evaluate candidates on the right capabilities, assess them in a way that mirrors the job, trust the data collected during the hiring process, and analyze it in full, you minimize bias and can make the best hiring decisions possible. After that, onboard your new people in a way that aligns to both their individual needs and those of the role, providing the tools and support required to perform. If and only if you do all of these things will you achieve maximum impact. Shortcutting the process at any step is a service to no one, and a disservice to everyone involved.

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