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The Applicant's Journey

This article describes the “Applicant's Journey,” from the first contact to getting the job with a company.
The idea of ??the Applicant's Journey goes back to as early as 1898 when E. St. Elmo Lewis developed a theoretical model about the customer journey from the moment a brand or product attracted the consumer attention to the point of action or purchase.

St. Elmo Lewis' idea is often referred by to as the AIDA model - an acronym which stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. This staged process is summarized and adapted to the HR situation below:

• AWARENESS – A person is aware of the existence of a new position
• INTEREST - Actively expressing interest in a new position
• DESIRE - Aspiring to get a particular job opening
• ACTION - Taking the next step to apply for an open position
(Egan 2007, p. 43)

In the course of a job application process, there are activities that are transparent and those that are not transparent, e.g. a candidate does not know what happened to his application after sending it to the potential employer or an employer does not know exactly what led the applicant to apply.
These unknown factors are disadvantages for both employers and candidates.
In this case, important questions cannot be answered, for example

-Which applicants are aware of a vacant position?
-What is the most effective channel to gain contact with the right candidates?
-What role do the individual pages of a company’s website respectively play for the motivation of interested candidates to apply for a job?
-A candidate has submitted his application 4 weeks ago and has not heard from the company yet. Is that good or bad news?

If you know the stages of the journey of the candidate (applicant's journey), you can decide which of the stations are necessary to enable a prospective candidate actually applies to a company.
In this particular case, e-commerce metrics are used, e.g. link, click through rate (CTR), which can be used for the applicant's journey (page views, visits, etc.).

The use of the term "funnel", e.g. conversion funnel, estimates that the number of users is reduced within the customer journey from one step such as clicking on a banner to the next step, such as landing page.
Not all who have clicked on an advertisement or a job offer will necessarily apply. This can be assumed for the applicant’s journey as well!
On the other hand, mouth-to-mouth leads can supersede the clicks on an advertisement in a job portal because people get the tip about a vacant position directly from a colleague, for example. This leads to those prospective employees going directly to the employer’s website.  
It is obvious that the applicant's journey is different (for various industries, positions and candidate profiles) -  nevertheless, there are patterns for the respective sectors, positions and resumes that lead to more effective recruiting approaches.

The Internet now plays a role in two ways:
-Linear models as it expands from for example the purchase funnel known as Awareness - Familiarity - Consideration - Purchase - Loyalty (link: ) to other aspects such as social media, blogs, review portals etc.
-Because Web Analytics makes user behavior transparent, the applicant's journey can be understood more than ever.

Concepts for the customer journey - customer conversion funnel or funnel - are based upon e-business concepts that explain the path of a prospective buyer on the web from the first idea to the purchase of a product.
This allows the researcher to identify customer behavior right up to final purchase. But there is still a "data gap", especially when it comes to steps that do not take place on the Internet, such as effects of billboards.
First approaches to the measurement of mobile devices, real-life user action such as barcode left on websites etc.) already show where the development is:
The combination of real-life data and the footprints on the Internet to a customer journey.
This aggregates everything from the interest in a product, visit the website, contacts in a shop, sharing with friends, the LIKE on facebook etc.

And this also plays now a role in the recruitment process - not only since the "war for talent" ( ) :
It is increasingly important to understand the motivation behind the "interest" in a new position (frustration in the job search, looking for better income opportunities, better work-life balance, change of address etc.).
It is interesting to know which channels prospects first encounter with regard to an open position, for example friends, colleagues, the newspaper, social network, job portal etc.
It is also important to find out the next step the applicant takes (visiting the website, visiting a rating portal such as kununu link: , contact at a trade show or an event).
An additional factor of importance is the influence that the presence of a company’s employees on social media platforms (like foursquare, twitter, linkedin) has on the decision of interested candidates to apply for a job.
It is helpful to have objective sources of information about the company and what is reported when a prospect decides to apply for a job, e.g. online articles, reviews, tweets, facebook threads etc.
And from the perspective of a job candidate, it is important to have a clear time schedule throughout the process and to have a specific contact person within the company.
The applicant becomes the customer – recruiting becomes a CRM process that guides the applicant from the first contact to the hiring of the chosen candidate.
With this approach, the applicant's journey is the basis for human resources marketing - to guide promotional campaigns targeting different stages of the applicant's journey, and also as a basis for customer relationship management (CRM) programs in HR which are better known as talent relationship management (TRM) (Bruckner 2007 ).

There are already some approaches to "applicants journey", which mainly aim to demonstrate the progress of the application - for example, at Halesowen College that has implemented a so-called iTracker feature, in which information of each candidate and their status can be read (link:

This is what we refer to as the "black hole" in the recruiting process. Job seekers often complain that potential employers more closely resemble black holes than functioning companies. Applicants still often receive no response after submitting resumes - even those addressed to specific managers and hand-carried by contacts on the inside – but the applicant often gets no response."

This falls short of the mark for the recruiting process because it is rather the question of:

What happens if companies treat job applicants like customers?

If this is taken seriously, the Talent Relationship Marketing (TRM) process begins; respectively, the applicant's journey begins much earlier – in the same way as the customer journey in regard to candidate awareness.




Egan 2007: Egan, John, Marketing Communications, London 2007
Bruckner 2007: Bruckner, C., Talent Relationship Management, Bamberg 2007

© by W. Schmidt-Sichermann