A person applying the principles of design thinking unlocks insights for creating the ideal candidate journey.

Creating Better Candidate Journeys for Applicants

In preparation for our October Bootcamp, in our previous blog post, we discussed how you can apply a sales funnel framework to ensure that you nurture candidates through every step of the candidate journey. Although this is a great starting point, if you really want to delight your candidates, you should also incorporate design thinking principles into your hiring process.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a user-centric approach to problem-solving. By assuming the role of your subject (in this case, the candidate), design thinking forces you to step outside the box and into the shoes of your candidate. Rather than trying to solve for a defined problem, or evaluate a definitive feature, you evaluate and observe the entire lifecycle of your subject’s engagement with the process in question, from their perspective (in this case, your hiring process or their candidate journey).

By viewing the situation through this empathetic lens, you develop a more comprehensive overview of the challenges that your candidates face and their needs that have to be met. This understanding will empower you to begin taking action to adjust your recruiting processes and improve the candidate journey.

Newton Knows a Thing or Two About Design Thinking

So how do we know that design thinking works? We built Newton, an applicant tracking system for small and medium-size employers, following these very principles- and our users wonder why Newton is so intuitive! In fact, design thinking came naturally to our founders, who have worked in the recruiting industry for decades. Starting out as technical recruiters, then moving on to create their own RPO, Steve and Joel’s understanding of the intricacies and common trouble spots prevalent in corporate recruiting programs is second to none.

However, even this wealth of knowledge wasn’t enough. Steve and Joel worked tirelessly through constant and rapid iterations of problem defining, solution ideation, and prototyping to create what would one day become Newton. And what was key through every stage of this process? Constantly immersing themselves in the world of their potential users through design thinking. Along the way, the two also lived out the challenges and opportunities of recruiting and hiring as they built out a company of their own.

Using Design Thinking as an Employer

You may be thinking, “How can I use design thinking? I don’t have customers and I’m not creating a product.” Well, not so fast. You may not have a product, but you certainly are offering a service to job seekers, and by this logic, you do in fact have a customer- your applicants. And keep in mind, these customers have become far more demanding in the level of service that they expect.

To offer the modern candidate an ideal candidate journey, you must fully immerse yourself in the world of job seekers. They have so many touch points throughout the application process, with so many stages involved. The reality is, if you fail them at any of these points, chances are they will not continue on.

So go ahead. Put yourself through your job application process. Pick up a mobile phone and try to apply. Take notes. This is one of the key concepts of design thinking. Put yourself in the shoes of the user. Building empathy in this way will empower you to identify opportunities where you can build upon and improve your candidate journey!

Why Has the Candidate Journey Become So Important?

Just over a decade ago, candidate experience was a nearly non-existent term. So why now must you go to such great lengths, like applying design thinking principles, to ensure that your candidate journey satisfies job seekers? The fact of the matter is that job seekers have evolved, so as an employer, you must do the same.

Rise of the Connected Candidate

Because of recent advancements in technology, the digital divide is rapidly shrinking. Over the past decade, the number of people “online” has more than tripled, rising from 1 billion to over 3.2 billion. This widespread access to internet connectivity has greatly altered how people carry out their job search and even changed their expectations for the candidate journey. At Newton, we like to refer to these modern job seekers as “connected candidates.” So what exactly defines a connected candidate, and as an employer, how can you offer them an ideal candidate journey? Let’s take a look and find out.

Mobile Search

The massive dissemination of internet has largely been made possible by mobile phones, which have granted web access to those who previously had to go without. Furthermore, as mobile search advances, even those who already have internet access from a computer are transitioning their online activity to mobile devices.

In fact, we are in the midst of a mobile revolution. This past year, the volume of mobile search surpassed that on traditional computers and laptops. And search activity specific to job seekers? They are actually ahead of the curve! Already, 70% of job searches are initiated on a mobile device.

Open Networks

As more and more people gain access to the internet, once close-looped employment networks are now wide open. Between employment search engines like Indeed (millions of jobs), professional networking sites such as LinkedIn (+ 450 million users), and company career pages, candidates now have limitless touchpoints to engage with fellow professionals and employers of interest to discover new career opportunities. The burden of finding jobs no longer falls on the candidate. Rather, the burden falls on employers to get their jobs in front of candidates amidst all of the competition.

Engaged Employer

To successfully recruit and hire connected candidates, organizations must go above and beyond traditional means to become “engaged employers.” In essence, this means meeting candidates where they are at, along every step of the recruiting lifecycle.


This starts at the beginning with attracting candidates. Are your job postings easy to find online? Once candidates come to your job postings, are they easy to read (from both a computer and mobile device) and do your job descriptions drive candidates to apply?

Once candidates have decided that they would like to apply for your position, is it easy for them to do so? You need to offer a mobile-optimized application to meet the 70% of users who come to your job posting from their phones. Furthermore, your application process needs to be streamlined. Keep it short and sweet or candidates will simply go elsewhere.


Once a candidate does apply to your job, it is vital that you acknowledge them. Over 50% of applicants report never even receiving acknowledgment that their application was submitted, let alone an update on the status of their candidacy. More and more, candidates are feeling like they are shooting their resumes into a black hole.

Offering acknowledgment is a great way to differentiate yourself as an employer and establish a strong employer brand. Beyond this, it is common decency. Remember that applicants are people just like you so they deserve to be treated with dignity.

Once you have selected applicants that you would like to pursue, get them into your interviewing process as fast as possible. If candidates don’t hear next steps from you within a week, chances are they have lost interest. Also, a delay in reaching out to candidates only gives more room for competitors to get involved in the recruiting process.


Beyond initial engagement and acknowledgment, the connected candidate expects instant gratification when it comes to communication. This means status updates, follow-ups, feedback… even the bad news. Candidates always want to know where they stand and the communication of this must be managed in a timely manner. Not only does active communication force you to stay on top of your recruiting processes, but it is also more efficient for your candidates as well.

How you communicate is also important. Being open and transparent helps you build a good rapport with your candidates. This humanizes the hiring process, which goes a long way towards the candidate’s final decision, especially considering the fact that most companies don’t offer such forms of communication.

Take them Home

Once you have identified a candidate to hire, you must bring them to the finish line fast! Time is the enemy of all deals. It allows uncertainty and other variables (such as additional job offers) to creep into the equation. To close out the candidate journey on the right foot, provide candidates with the offer details and information that they need to make a decision quickly.

Of course, this final stage is built around the offer letter. An offer letter is the culmination of months of work, so you want it to be perfect. Still mailing or faxing offer letters? You might as well be using a carrier pigeon! Even emailing a PDF attachment can be troublesome for the candidate. How do they sign and date stamp the PDF and deliver it back to you?

Digital offer letters give you a better way. Through integrations with signature providers, digital offer letters allow for seamless delivery, review, signing, and returning.

Learn How You Can Apply Design Thinking to Your Candidate Journey at Newton’s Bootcamp

Still confused about design thinking and how you can apply it to your hiring process? We get it, design thinking can be a complicated concept. Join us for our October Bootcamp where Newton co-founder and recruiting expert, Joel Passen, will share his insights for how you can apply design thinking to the candidate journey at your organization.


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