Candidate Journey

Guest contribution by | 10.02.2020

“When a person takes a journey, that person will experience something.” This proverb applies to applicants on the job market as well as backpackers in the mountains.

Finding a new employee who fits into the team as well as stays with the company for a long time, feels comfortable and enjoys his or her work is a great challenge for many companies. It is also often a long and steep path for an applicant to find the right company and the right position. The average time for vacant positions in Germany is more than 4 months. During this period an applicant travels to the company – the so-called Candidate Journey. The goal of the company should be to make the Candidate Journey as pleasant as possible and to build up trust with the applicant in order to win him/her over to the company. Candidates only develop trust if a company meets the expectations they have set themselves. Therefore, honesty is the most important principle. Otherwise, a great candidate may join the company full of high expectations due to colorful descriptions of the job and the work place, but quits after a few weeks because the job turns out to be a cheat.

As an entrepreneur and human resources manager, you now ask yourself the question: How do I attract the right candidates more quickly and how do they stay with me? But applicants also want to arrive at their destination quickly and well informed. Therefore here is a look at both sides of the Candidate Journey.

The transparency in the Candidate Journey

Honest communication is essential. For a mountain tour, there are altitude profiles, time and route information for even the smallest and easiest routes. References to mountain huts and rest stops along the way should not be missing, especially for tours lasting several days. In recruiting it should be the same way, because, as already mentioned: fulfilled expectations create trust and result in long-term employees. So make the application process transparent to your applicants:

  • Explain on your career website which steps the applicant can expect.
  • Is there a confirmation of receipt?
  • When can we expect the first feedback?
  • How many interviews will take place and in what form until the contract offer comes?
  • What can candidates expect between the offer of contract and taking up the position?
  • Is there any onboarding?

This can easily be illustrated with a small flow chart on the website and shows openly what the candidate is getting involved in.

You leave a particularly positive impression when you explain what really needs to be included in the documents. Unfortunately, the instruction to submit all meaningful application documents is too abstract for many readers. Also ask specific questions that should be included in the motivation letter so that you only have to read what you really want to know or what you evaluate at the end of the day. In each individual job advertisement, say which certificates are particularly important to you.

The question of the target group

At the very beginning, even before the job ad is written and the career page is made more attractive, there are two questions:

  • Who am I looking for?
  • AND what am I looking for?

In the image of our metaphor, this corresponds to the search for a partner for a hike: With whom can I imagine spending a few days without any great difficulty? Do we get along with each other personally? Do we have the same interests on such a hike – not that one person only wants to climb and the other only wants to go to huts.

With the second question I look for suitable skills for the company (or the hike): Is my partner good at handling difficult climbing situations? How does she react to sudden snowfall? How much fitness does she have and is that enough for our tour?

In order to find the right person for a job, it is essential to know what kind of skills someone should have. You shouldn’t underestimate this little analysis, because it saves you a lot of unwanted applications if you know who and what you are looking for. You can then state this very specifically in a job advertisement and you can play this in turn through channels where the target audience you are looking for is really located.

Display information on the career website

Where do candidates look for information about the employer? Correct: On the Internet. Whole books are written about the structure and content of career websites. I would therefore like to mention only briefly the most important: The candidate wants to get to know your company!

Take advantage of this curiosity and introduce yourself as an employer in the best possible way without deceiving.

So what information do applicants look for on the careers website?

  • First of all, of course, what jobs are available.
  • But also how they will work in their future dream company.
  • What benefits are there?
  • How flexible is the work?
  • Where can I get lunch?
  • How is the culture lived?
  • Which values does the company really represent?

Your employees can best answer these questions! Let a few statements with pictures of real employees appear. Show a real working environment, gladly also by means of a small video. Let your colleagues speak. This is authentic, honest, likeable and convincing more than just empty phrases that you can read everywhere.

The application in the Candidate Journey

Now someone has actually decided to apply to you. But what should be packed for the hike to the new job summit?

The path will be particularly rocky and bumpy with application forms that run over several pages and candidates leave the path to you before you have even started walking. For small companies, e-mail is the application tool of choice, which, by the way, is also the preferred method of applicants.

Here, too, transparency is required in the Candidate Journey: What documents do you really need? Do you need a cover letter? And if so, what would you like to read? Ask specific questions in the job advertisement that you want to have answered in the cover letter. This will kill several birds with one stone: you will know whether the applicant has read the advertisement. You know whether he or she has dealt with the company and you don’t have to read a CV in prose. This way you get answers to the questions that really interest you.

This also applies to all other documents, by the way. For example, the 10th grade certificate may be relevant for the recruiting of apprentices. You probably don’t even look at it in the case of a candidate with 20 years of professional experience, as it is hardly meaningful for today’s job. Then you would be happy to write that the last 2 job references are sufficient. Write calmly that you expect in the curriculum vitae that also the learned and used programming languages should be included and hobbies can be omitted gladly, if you do not read or evaluate them anyway.

Here I would like to give a small recommendation for the one-click application or the application via Whatsapp, which makes the first hurdle of contacting applicants much easier. The applicant expresses her interest in the job with just one click and by providing her e-mail address. You can make a positive impression directly with a friendly e-mail and the notes on the application process and the required documents. Although you write one more e-mail, you will receive the documents and answers you really need to make a decision (and you can save yourself the trouble of having to send an e-mail requesting the documents).

This way you have already established the first contact with your new colleague and will be remembered fondly. Of course, this applies to all communication up to hiring or rejection. Stay in contact during the entire process. Give feedback – out of decency and to be recommended – as an employer, reliable customer or service provider or or or … You make a good impression with a good Candidate Journey and advertise your company.

The interview as mutual application

The last steep ascent with the goal in sight will make the whole tour the experience of which you will still tell your friends and colleagues years later. This applies equally to positive and negative experiences during mountain hikes and job interviews.

Already the invitation to the interview pleases most applicants, but the excitement increases. What does the company want to know from me? Here you can also very cleverly stand out in a positive light. Why not write a few questions to the candidate a few days before the interview so that she can prepare herself. This takes the excitement out of it, because it is clear that at least in these questions you can appear prepared. You in turn can save yourself and the candidate time and uncomfortable silence.

How should the interview be conducted now? Very simple: It is a conversation between people at eye level. You apply to your potential new colleague and she applies to you. The host offers a drink, you start with small talk. How about a small guest gift? A pad and ballpoint pen with your company logo are already in the room before the interview and may of course be taken along. (If there is still paper in your office.) For this you could offer a cup or another small present from your company? This will remain at least as much in good memory as a short feedback at the end of the conversation and the hints how the process will continue now. A short tour of the office and the introduction of the possible future team completes the conversation and allows a friendly conclusion without making anyone feel like they are being kicked out.

As regards content, all participants in the discussion should be well prepared. In order to be able to compare several candidates better, you should have some questions ready which you ask all candidates. For some professions, small tasks are also suitable, which the candidate can either prepare at home or should solve spontaneously. The most important thing is that you ask yourself the question beforehand: What do you want for your company and what questions do I have to ask to find out whether a candidate can and knows this?

The offer and onboarding

The goal has been reached, the summit has been climbed, an offer for a new job has been made. Since most applicants have notice periods, it is quite rare that someone starts the next day. Now it turns out that a mountain tour must also lead back to the base station. Here, the candidate can be pushed over the cliff into reality quite rudely and be appointed to the first working day with a clear instruction. But it can also be done in a more friendly way. How about a colleague as a contact person who gets in touch with the new colleague before the first day of work and then continues the familiarisation from the day of the start. A small welcome package, a furnished workplace, a small plan for the first few weeks and of course taking lunch with you are only small things and make the start in a company much easier. If you provide this information in small weekly or monthly e-mails or telephone calls between the offer and the first day of work, your dream candidate will actually start with you.

Because what is worse than seeing the perfect candidate turn into the competitor’s hut at the last moment?



Madeleine Kern will be happy to assist you in designing a Candidate Journey that fits your company. If you have any questions regarding personnel marketing, recruiting, employer branding or other topics related to personnel recruitment, please contact her at

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Here you can find a conversation with Madeleine Kern in the t2informatik Blog about job adverts.

Madeleine Kern
Madeleine Kern

Madeleine Kern supports IT companies in the recruitment of personnel. Her most important task is to make the strengths of the company visible to potential candidates. Together with the entrepreneurs and employees she works out all steps of the Candidate Journey and helps to implement them in small and large steps.

In addition, you will find further helpful tips and tricks for improving your recruiting on Madeleine’s blog. Just take a quick look at her website