The Documentation Template: Systems Design and the Candidate Experience
April 10, 2019 by Lindsey Sanford, Global Employer Brand Manager, Palo Alto Networks
If you’re like any company ever, you have opportunities for improvement in your candidate experience. As markets change, processes improve, resources shift, and technology evolves, there will always be opportunity for change. Heck, if you’re reading this blog, you’re actively seeking improvement.
I say all this to preface our continuation of the candidate experience as a system because the system is very much designed to identify areas of opportunity. But getting started in designing your candidate experience as a system can be incredibly intimidating. Why? (Aside from the obvious of more work, no time). Because if you truly want to capture every aspect of the candidate experience, well, it’s a beast. There are over a hundred touch points and interactions your candidates can have with your brand, and most of those sit in areas that can be unpredictable at best, and constantly changing to boot. And for us, that was just our first try at defining each point – I guarantee we missed some.
Luckily, you aren’t starting from scratch – so let’s get started.
If you haven’t read the first blog in this series, called "Designing the Candidate Experience as a System: The Approach” start there.
If you have – your next step is defining your current process. It’s the easiest, most concrete way to identify your gaps, your opportunities, and what you do well. To do that, you need a template for the information you are hoping to gather, one that will easily be consumed by cross-functional teams, and organized so that the chaotic potential is organized into optimized output. (These are all fancy ways of saying that it’s organized and can actually be read by people who care). This is why the first part of the template is “documentation” and the second part is “improvement”.
I used Google Sheets for a few reasons – but predominantly because of the ability to filter. This can happen in either Google Sheets or MS Excel, but Sheets slightly edges Excel out because of the ability to monitor and contribute if more than one person is working on this. I dislike having to manage versions – and we had two or more people reviewing and adding to this content at any given time.
Next, the categories, or column headers. Our Sheet had 24 columns – each one measuring and organizing our system into a more manageable system that could be easily read and understood by a large group of individuals. Even better? The filter allowed us to condense the candidate experience documentation by teams, stages, and other elements to make it more consumable by individual group receiving the information. Your template may differ, but here are the column headers we found important to include, with their respective definitions and purpose:
A quick note: 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.
Numerical Stage: This is the easiest way to keep your data organized. Since the world isn’t fair and the stages of candidate progression aren’t in alphabetical order, do yourself a favor and add a column at the very left-hand side that has “numbered stages” for ease of filtering.
Phase: While this seems like a simple enough decision, adding the column for phases is an important consideration. Many define candidate experience far more reasonably than I do. They start when the applicant becomes a candidate – so it’s more focused on the interview process and the rejection process. Others consider candidate experience the process of becoming a candidate (read: application process). Others take it more liberally (cough, me, cough), and I start at the very beginning of “how the are they finding us in the first place?”. The phases for your consideration are: awareness, engagement, application, selection/rejection, interview, and offer/rejection. You can add and remove as you please, but these are where I started.
Channel: The channel is most simply put as the medium or mechanism for the touch point with the candidate. That channel might be Facebook (or you could be more general, like social media, though I would advise against it). Your channel could be an Application Tracking System. Your channel could be your career website, or your consumer site. But overall, the channel is the house for the interaction, and keeping track of your channels will help you compartmentalize your focus. But channels don’t have to be digital. One channel could be your recruiters – or an event.
Channel Objective: This one is where intent comes in. As you start to design your system for intent, you will find that your messaging, strategy, what you do, and what you decide not to dobecomes a little cleaner. Some of our channel objectives were more consumer in focus, some employer brand specific, others more thought leadership based, some customer service oriented. In many cases, defining the channel objective helped me to decide where we didn’tneed to be present, because the objectives just didn’t align (this was mostly for the awareness stage of the candidate experience).
Candidate Interactions, or Touch Points: This is the individual touch point a user can take within those channels. One candidate could take multiple actions on your career site, for instance. Or a candidate could take multiple actions within your Applicant Tracking System (either applying or joining your talent community). Adding the column for Touch Points will allow for you to determine individual touch points that matter, and allow for a detailed description of the process for your candidates. This allows you to be much more thorough in your design.
Label: Okay, so I’ll be real. After a while, we were documenting over 100 touch points in our candidate experience and I can guarantee that our execs weren’t going to be reading through all the lines. We created a column for “label” so that when we plotted this in a graph for PPT it was a bit cleaner. Sometimes that matched the “Touch Point” column because the touch point was simple to describe, but sometimes we had to come up with new names so it fit into the PPT table more clearly.
Key Messages: Within these touch points, what key messages are your candidates receiving? What should they be receiving? Are they the same? Does it match with the channel’s objective? This I really important. It gives you a chance to define what your candidates should be hearing, and more importantly, making sure they are hearing that you want them to hear throughout the entire process. Not only does this give you the ability to decide how you want your candidates to learn about your organization, and interact with it through the process, it gives you the ability to point to your system’s design as a means of justification for why it needs to be this way.
Team: Candidate experience is a cross functional experience by design. You have recruiters, hiring managers, operations teams, and more. Which means you are going to be orchestrating a lot of resources and teams (and cats). Sometimes the team part of touch point will be multiple teams. It might be a group of individuals, a specific tiger team, or project team, or one individual who helps manage that aspect of the candidate experience. Having this information in the row for that touch point will help you bring in the right stakeholders to improve and document your process.
Process: The process portion of this template is intended to identify what actions/process is oriented with that touch point. Sometimes, a touch point might have been triggered from an automatic feature in your Application Tracking System. Sometimes a touch point might trigger a notification to someone on the inside of the system. Whatever that might mean for your touchpoint, include any information of how that might have moved something in the system because of a touch point your candidate might have experienced. It’s a good thing to document because you’ll want to know what communications or experiences might be prompted as part of the integrated process.
And that’s it! Just nine columns for the first half of your candidate experience TEMPLATE. I say this with an obvious undertone of understanding that this process is complicated, but that’s what you have me for! Stay tuned for the second half of the template next week (I say with a straight face).
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