The candidate experience documentation process, designing a system, and identifying areas of opportunity is a lot to take on. It’s a difficult cross-functional team opportunity – and we all know how easily cross-function can come to different types of organizations.

And at this point in the blog series, you may be thinking to yourself – this is complicated. And for good reason. I’ll be so bold as to say that I enjoy this foundational work – I enjoy digging deeper into organizational function and dysfunction. But it’s more than enjoyment – there’s a bigger reason for foundationally discovering, documenting, and detailing your candidate experience process as it stands today – and that’s one of argumentation.

My background sits extensively in argumentation and rhetoric. It started as early as five when everything to me was a negotiation. At the time – I wasn’t that effective – I was five. But my passion for the world of argumentation and debate grew, and it led me to discover programs like Mock Trial and Speech and Debate (or Forensics, for my fellow debaters). After another four years under my belt of more structured debate, I entered into collegiate debate and high school coaching for another three.

During my time in forensics, I discovered a few things about argumentation, storytelling, and public speaking that help me on a daily basis for process improvement (who would have thought?):

  • Documentation builds confidence. It’s laughable to think that our senior managers will have time to scour the level of detail we are building around our candidate experience. A – it’s not their job to go to that level of detail, and B – you (hopefully) work in an environment of trust where they don’t feel the need to. But when you are building this level of foundational work the side benefit to it (and one that your executives will see) is confidence. This level of detail not only helps you feel confident in the discovery process, it helps you answer difficult questions. I think so often we confuse confidence and preparation with visible presentation, tangible materials. That’s just not the case. All the work that we are pouring into this level of detail might never see the light of day from a literal perspective, but you can be sure that it will enable you to answer difficult questions and make informed recommendations.
  • Confidence is what builds a better Public Speaker. My worst debates were the ones I was unprepared for – and you’re talking to a fairly humble “best” public speaker. I could always tell when my rhetoric stumbled – and it was always tied back to my confidence to the material that I was speaking to. Foundational work (like designing your candidate experience into a system) prevents that from happening. You know this stuff. You have done a level of work that few in our industry (much less your organization) have done. The good news? This level of confidence that enables your public speaking comes directly from competence – not false bravado – and people subconsciously recognize that.
  • Last – it enables you to tell a good story – and we are nothing without our stories. I speak from a broader cultural identity perspective, where our companies, our groups, our communities, and our individuals are defined by our stories. Our identities are developed when we share stories of who we are. Stories inspire endorphins, enhance memories, increase focus, encourage trust and bonding, and develop a level of commitment that process and systems do not. A process or a system design is just a piece of documentation. Add in a story of where you want it to go – and you’ve got the potential for buy in.

But I digress – getting back into the candidate experience documentation, we’ll continue developing our template. Our first dive into the candidate experience template focused heavily on documenting current state. This portion of the template is dedicated to identifying areas of opportunity (and prioritizing those opportunities).

In many cases, you’ll want to finish identifying your current state before defining the ideal. But if you work better in more focused segments rather than large picture – that’s okay too.

A quick reminder: sometimes, categories don’t fit some elements of candidate experience as cleanly as the type A personality wants it to - but you will find a way to make it work for yourself. Where I struggled in getting started was that I wanted everything to fit perfectly within the system, but the reality is that it’s just not going to happen, and that’s okay.

Are we doing this: Let’s start with the obvious portion when we are looking to “what’s next” with your candidate experience improvement projects. When we started documenting our current process, we realized that if we stuck with just documenting the current state, we would be missing obvious gaps in our candidate experience and where we wanted it to be ultimately. We added this column to help us easily indicate whether this part of the process recommendation would be “net new” or “improvement on current state” to help us filter results through our spreadsheet. We ultimately ended up portioning “net new” recommendations differently than we did “improvements to current state” because they net new tended to be more difficult to implement. It was also an easy way for us to indicate how many gaps we anticipated in our candidate experience based on how many things we had that needed to be done.

Opportunities for Improvement: So, you’ve documented your current state, and gaps. Now it’s time to identify the ideal. What do you wish you could do? How could the process work better? What’s missing in the process now? Start to document basic information of what you’d want to improve. It doesn’t have to be perfect – or fully fleshed out, but start to understand what you’d want to insert in your ideal process to frame your ideas around your ideal experience.

Ease of Implementation: There are two components to this portion – and it’s one of the easiest ways to understand where to focus your attention (and where to pull back your attention) based on how easy it is to implement the change or net new process, and what is the level of impact of said change or introduction. When looking at the ease of implementation – we did this on a numerical scale (1-10) to determine how difficult it would be to introduce a program, feature, or change in the process. Some of this ranking comes from gut feeling – something that you shouldn’t dismiss. Some came from research, surveying, and industry knowledge. At the end of the day – it’s not going to be exact – but it will give you a general idea of measurement when comparing the two metrics.

Level of Impact: The second half of this equation is how much of an impact it would have. There are going to be surprisingly easy things to implement that have a high impact (obviously this is your first go to). There are going to be surprisingly difficult things to implement that have drastically low impact. Obviously, you want to avoid these. What came as the biggest surprise to me as part of this assessment is how much time we were wasting on difficult implementation low impact areas of our candidate experience.

Don’t be surprised if you have to reassess multiple times throughout your documentation. You’ll start defining the levels of impact and ease of implementation, and then you’ll stumble across something else that you think is actually harder. Be open to revisiting your rankings throughout the process. It means you’re getting better, more specific, and more accurate as you go through these different areas of candidate experience.

Resources Needed: What’s it going to take to implement this new process or new feature to a current process? What teams would be involved in the change? Is there a technology that would need to be added in order to make this improvement? Or, are there little to no resources needed, which should be factored in to your Ease of Implementation and Level of Impact scale?

Measuring Effectiveness: Before you make any improvements, have your data prepared. If this change was implemented – what would that look like in terms of key metrics? Is it a direct measurement? An indirect measurement? Further down the talent pipeline? How long would it take you to measure? What does it look like today? What is the current performance of this portion of the candidate experience?

You want to determine your metrics because it helps you justify, measure, and prove the impact of the change. Everything has a measurement attached to it – you might have to think creatively about some of it (or the measurement itself might be part of where you need to improve your candidate experience) but make this predetermined, not something you rush to find after the fact.

That’s it for your template – but we are going to take you through each portion of the candidate experience to help you determine what pieces might fit in each slot. Hang tight for next week.  


After many years organizing communication efforts for local, federal, and international campaigns, Lindsey gave up her constituents for candidates upon entering the recruitment marketing world. For seven years, she worked at Symphony Talent, assisting Fortune 100 companies with their recruitment marketing content marketing strategy, attracting talent to organizations by encouraging the right fit for both the company and the candidate. She now manages a Global Employer Brand Program for Palo Alto Networks, innovating new ways to reach out to candidates, leveraging regional stories, an improved candidate experience, and pushing the boundaries of how we think about the recruitment and candidate process. 

In her allusive “free time” she can be found picking up new hobbies like Girl Scouts leadership, reading all the books, speaking for her cat, and asking her kids for the 100th time to pick up their toys. Follow her on Twitter @LindseySanford