Candidate Journey: These 6 Phases are Crucial

In this article, we introduce you to the Candidate Journey with its individual phases, as well as practical tips

GIF: Candidate Journey
Table of contents
  1. What is the Candidate Journey?
  2. Why is a good Candidate Journey indispensable?
  3. The 6 phases of the Candidate Journey
  4. 5 Tips for Setting Up and Optimizing Your Candidate Journey
  5. Conclusion

Applying is as easy as online shopping? In an era where online shopping has changed the way we find, buy, and review products, the analogy to the Candidate Journey in recruiting is obvious. Similar to how companies want to guide customers through a seamless Customer Journey it is more common today than in the past to strive to win potential employees through an efficient and appealing application process. Big providers like Nike, Adidas and co. have long been guiding their customers to the sought-after product via Google and Social Media along the Customer Journey. Why shouldn't this also work in recruiting?

This parallel between the experience of customers and applicants forms the core of an increasingly important aspect of modern recruiting. In this article, we will look at the meaning and different phases of a smooth Candidate Journey in recruiting and show how your company can optimize it to attract and retain qualified talent.

What is the Candidate Journey?

Essentially, the Candidate Journey describes the journey of candidates from first contact with a company through the entire Recruitment Process to the successful signing of the employment contract and subsequent onboarding.

Along this Candidate Journey, there are a number of so-called Touchpoints or contact points between candidates and companies. These touchpoints are important for an appealing and successful design of the Candidate Journey. In recent years, the number of contact points has significantly increased and the journey starts well before the application, as you'll find out later in the article.

Why is a good Candidate Journey indispensable?

A good Candidate Journey, and the accompanying positive Candidate Experience, is so important because it has a significant influence on the overall Employer Brand and how you're perceived as an employer. It's all about individual experience in a recruitment process at all direct and indirect touchpoints.

Many candidates share negative experiences during a Candidate Journey directly on social networks or corresponding Review Platforms like Kununu or Glassdoor. Again, the comparison with online shopping can be drawn. Because there, too, people usually look at reviews before making a purchase. I have even noticed negative comments from applicants on Google, outside the typical employer review portals. From these shared experiences, candidates can then deduce how a company probably deals with applicants. This, in turn, is often seen as an indicator of how one might be treated later as an employee. This can negatively affect the future applicant funnel. If fewer qualified candidates apply, it costs your recruiting team more time and resources to optimally fill open vacancies. Suitable candidates might even refrain from applying in the worst case, which can then impact the performance and innovation of your company.

The 6 phases of the Candidate Journey

The phases of a Candidate Journey are represented differently in literature and on the net. There is a multitude of models. Some only consider phases up to the hiring, while others explicitly include the onboarding and retention phase in the Candidate Journey. Which phases you look at, of course, is up to you and depends on your own requirements and goals.


In this illustration by GainTalents, you see e.g., an illustration of a 6-phase model, which addresses steps up to the offer or rejection. This provides a detailed overview of potential touchpoints across various phases.


In the study "Recruiting in Transition - Where is the Journey Going?" it was found that the majority of recruiters surveyed only consider the recruitment process to be completed after the onboarding phase. This result also represents my view, which is why I would like to bring this aspect into the article. For this article, we will therefore focus on a 6-phase model, which also takes into account onboarding and binding and is often found on the net.

6-Phase Model:

Candidate Journey (before joining the company)

1. Attraction

2. Information

3. Application

4. Selection & Employment

Candidate Journey (after joining the company/transition to the Employee Journey)

5. Onboarding

6. Bonding

Phasen der Candidate Journey

  1. Attraction: From the company's perspective, this phase is about achieving the goal of significantly increasing the visibility as an employer as well as the quantity and quality of the candidates. This happens in different ways. For one, candidates themselves proactively search for a job on Google or job portals or browse on LinkedIn, XING and similar platforms and thus become aware of your company. Potential candidates can also be made aware of your company without actively searching, e.g. through Active Sourcing, employee recommendations or Social Ads on Facebook, Instagram & Co.. This is then referred to as the passive applicant market. Already this phase is of crucial importance for building a good Candidate Journey.
  2. Information: In the second step, candidates will usually want to get to know your company better after the approach or the loose search, e.g. on the career page or on the said rating platforms. In this phase, candidates now try to get a feel for your company as a whole. They want to understand the values, the mission and also the company culture more closely.

    Here, there are numerous
    Touchpoints, based on which candidates can use the available information to form their own idea. The first impression counts and is particularly memorable here. In this phase, you must therefore put yourself in the mindset of the talents as best as possible. The information provided by the company should therefore ideally include such details about the position, the employer brand or the positioning of your company, which are actually relevant to the target group.
  3. Application: The previous phases focus more on approaching candidates so that they become aware of your company and the vacancies offered. Only when a talent has developed so much interest from the Attraction and Information Phase that it wants to learn more about your company and the jobs, will the application phase be initiated. In this phase, different channels are used for the application, depending where the vacancy was found and what communication offers there are. Try to make it as easy as possible for your candidates and make the application e.g. through clear job titles and short online forms as uncomplicated as possible.
  4. Selection and Employment: From a study by Viasto, it's apparent that 28 percent of the respondents said they had withdrawn their application because they found the company's selection process too long or unsatisfactory. I therefore consider this phase of the Candidate Journey very critical. Up to now, candidates only have first information and impressions about the company from various channels. Once a suitable vacancy is found and candidates have applied, the actual Selection Process begins. In this phase, job interviews, the reception in the company, the design of the selection process and the general communication fall. This means, candidates now get in touch intensively with representatives of your corporate culture. If you can convince in this phase, there is nothing standing in the way of hiring the desired candidates soon - at least from your side.
  5. Onboarding: If you've done everything right, ideally the talent has signed the employment contract. A signed contract doesn't mean that recruiting is already over. Also, the entry into your company should of course be a positive one. So that your new employees arrive well in the company and can quickly familiarize themselves with the structures, the recruiting must transition into a targeted onboarding and a employee-centered integration. In my company, for example, there is a mix of general digital as well as presence-based Onboarding Events, and a individual training plan with various milestones. A so-called "godparent" acts as a permanent contact person during the training.
  6. Binding: If you have designed the previous phases positively, the foundation is laid for the talents to bind long-term to your company. Like every interpersonal relationship, however, the integration of new employees is characterized by highs and lows. As long as new employees still feel like strangers, there's a risk they will leave your company. Therefore, also after the "official" onboarding, continue to pay attention to getting to know your employees better, optimally integrating them and developing them. Only when your candidates have settled into the company and feel they belong, is the Candidate Journey considered complete.

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5 Tips for Setting Up and Optimizing Your Candidate Journey

Those who give priority to optimizing the Candidate Journey have a clear advantage. To improve the experience in each phase, you should take on the perspective of the candidates as much as possible. This means possible wishes, fears and needs of the applicants that determine how the contact at the individual points is shaped. To optimize the Candidate Journey, all contact points that applicants have with your company should first be set up. A Candidate Journey Mapping helps to get a better feel for your own touchpoints in the company. This provides information about the means used, such as career websites, trade show appearances or other channels. Even though I can't cover all eventualities in this post and each company has to look at the optimization processes individually, I want to give you at least 5 tips that can positively influence your Candidate Journey.

  1. Create Candidate Personas: Ideally, develop a thorough understanding of your ideal candidates before the first job advertisement. You can achieve this, among other things, with the design of Candidate Personas, because with the multitude of possible touchpoints and recruiting channels, it's not easy to make the right choice. The instrument "Candidate Personas" involves the creation of fictitious applicants, who represent your target group. The goal is to be present on the right channels and then target this group of people more specifically with employer branding and recruiting measures, thus increasing the likelihood that they will become aware of your company. Over time, these should be further developed based on experience and surveys.
  2. Develop an Employer Value Proposition and tell your company story: The most successful employer brands position themselves with a good mix across many communication channels, such as on social media, on company pages and on the career page. Ideally, you know which channels to use through your created Candidate Personas. Make sure that a consistent story of your company is told across all channels. More than three quarters (77 percent) of all respondents in a Glassdoor study said they thoroughly research the company culture before applying.

    ⁠Ideally, work out an EVP (Employer Value Proposition) for your company. The Employer Value Proposition (EVP) is the
    unique selling point of a company. The EVP answers the question of what makes you unique as an employer and what the company stands for. The EVP fulfills functions such as: identification of employees, differentiation in the labor markets and orientation for applicants.
  3. Application must be as uncomplicated as possible for your target group: Here, the motto is to make the application process as easy as possible, comparable to an online shopping experience. With just a few clicks, applicants can find exactly what they're looking for and ideally apply directly via smartphone. So definitely check whether your job advertisements and the opportunity to apply are mobile-optimized, as more and more applicants are going this route. A trend that many employers also recognize. According to a study by the University of Bamberg , more than 80 percent of the companies surveyed fear losing potential candidates if they do not offer mobile recruiting.

    ⁠⁠⁠Create compelling job offers with your
    career page, which are perfectly tailored to the talents sought and optimized for search engines. Inspire talents directly with authentic photos and videos and the easy online application from the smartphone. Tools like the JobShop von talentsconnect, which picks up exactly these principles, can help you with this. The tool can, in turn, be connected with many existing applicant management systems such as, e.g. Personio, d.vinci Bewerbermanagement or softgarden. Particularly simple ways of applying are also offered by providers like Pitchyou and Talk n‘ Job, which make applying via Whatsapp or even simple voice messages possible. It doesn't get any easier than that.
  4. Use the digital possibilities and optimize your selection process: To optimally support and accelerate the selection process, you should rely on systems that specialize specifically in e-recruiting. A Applicant Management System contributes to a more structured, faster and especially GDPR-compliant communication of all persons involved in the process. All applicant information and the entire digital communication are centrally managed in the system. The fact that the complete applicant history can be seen in an Applicant Management System also enables a more transparent decision-making process. This in turn saves a lot of time, because due to the storage of all information in one place, an Applicant Management System eliminates redundant work steps. The software also automatically takes care of many routine tasks such as acknowledgements of receipts and thus relieves you of administrative tasks.
  5. Create a good atmosphere in your getting-to-know conversations: Even in mutual getting-to-know, you can do a lot to improve the Candidate Journey. Almost three quarters of the participants in the previously mentioned Viasto study stated that a good conversation atmosphere must be present for the getting-to-know to succeed. Almost half (48 percent) expect the job interview to be clearly structured from the employer's side. For 60 percent of the respondents, it is important that the technical questions are goal-oriented. 53 percent expect that this must also be the case with personal questions to them.

    Also here I have a suitable solution – namely a
    professional suitability diagnostics. Suitability diagnostics has become an important part of the selection phase within the Candidate Journey for me. Suitability diagnostics according to the standards of DIN 33430 serve exactly the previously mentioned candidate wishes and more. Yes, that's right – even for selection procedures there is now a DIN standard. DIN 33430 is the practice-oriented process standard, which formulates quality criteria for the selection, planning, implementation and evaluation of job-related aptitude assessments. What might sound dry at first reading can greatly facilitate and even speed up the selection process. If applied correctly, the DIN can also ensure that the same conditions apply to all candidates in the interview process and thus comparability of candidates is given. This way, discrimination in the application process has no chance. In conducting the getting-to-know conversations, your company can clearly distinguish itself from the competition.


The analogy between application processes and online shopping is not new, but it illustrates the need for a smooth and appealing Candidate Journey in recruiting. Similar to a shopping experience, applicants want a quick and uncomplicated process that provides them with all relevant information and provides a positive experience.

A good Candidate Journey is indispensable as it not only shapes the image of your company as an employer, but also directly influences the quality and quantity of applications . The various phases of the Candidate Journey - from the attraction phase to integration into the company - require specific measures for optimization. This includes the (further) development of Candidate Personas, a consistent Employer Branding strategy across various channels, optimization of application processes, supported by applicant management systems and professional selection procedures. By strategically designing and optimizing each phase of the Candidate Journey, your company can ensure that applicants get a positive overall impression and also bind long-term to your company after successful hiring.


Book Sources

Jansen L., Diercks J., Kupka K. (2023); Recrutainment: Gamification in Employer Branding, Personnel Marketing and Personnel Selection; 2nd Edition, Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden 

Verhoeven T. (2016); Candidate Experience - Approaches for a positively experienced employer brand in the application process and beyond; 1st Edition, Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden

Wisotzky H. (2023); The perfect Candidate Journey & Experience: Successful recruiting for medium-sized companies and start-ups; 1st Edition; Springer Gabler, Berlin/Heidelberg                                                                                                                                  

Internet Sources

Young Heart Agency (2023): HR Glossary

Centre of Human Resources Information Systems (2020): Mobile Recruiting

Expedition.R (2017): Recruiting in Transition

Glassdoor (2022): Company philosophy and culture are more important than salary for employees

Ute Wolter (2019): Job interview - many companies miss their chance


Tim Verhoeven (2012): Candidate Experience Wheel, 6 phases of a tangible employer brand

Sascha Zuther
Sascha Zuther

Sascha ist Head of Recruiting bei der svt Unternehmensgruppe. Schon im Laufe seines Studiums des Wirtschaftsrechts hat er den Bereich HR für sich entdeckt und ist seither mit Leidenschaft dabeigeblieben. Über unterschiedliche Branchen hinweg sammelte er Praxiserfahrung in diversen Facetten des Recruitings und darüber hinaus. Dabei steht die optimale Candidate Journey im Fokus seines Handelns.

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