What is Candidate UX?

In order to understand Candidate UX, you must first understand what “User Experience” (UX) is.

The discipline of UX is dynamic and always changing and growing, but in a nutshell, it’s an umbrella term used to describe all the factors that contribute to a user’s overall perception and feeling about a system or product.

UX Design is the process of enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty by improving the usability, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the customer and the product. This is done by asking questions such as:

  • Is it easy to use?
  • Is it attractive and appropriate?
  • Does it meet user’s needs?

It’s important to note that the core of UX Design focuses on having a deep understanding of the users – what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations.

Candidate UX takes the best practises and fundamentals from the discipline of UX Design to provide frameworks and guidelines to the design of the hiring process.

By applying what we’ve learned from the field of UX, we can use these frameworks and guidelines to design a positive, high quality, and user-friendly hiring process which will ultimately improve the overall candidate experience:

What are the UX Design best practises?

A quick Google on this topic will give you ample information about the fundamentals of UX Design from which you can work from. My favourite list is by Peter Morville, a respected UX expert, who identifies these core best practises of UX design which I’ve adapted to relate to the job application process:

  • Useful: Your content such as job descriptions, information packs, feedback etc should be original and fulfil a need.
  • Usable: The entire job application process should be easy to use.
  • Desirable: Image, culture identity, employment brand, and other design elements conveyed on careers sites, job specs, social sites etc are used to evoke emotion and appreciation.
  • Findable: Job opportunities and relevant information needs to be navigable and locatable onsite and offsite – nowadays this includes mobile platforms.
  • Accessible: Content needs to be accessible to candidates with disabilities.
  • Credible: Candidates must trust and believe what you tell them.

Candidate Personas – The Foundation of Candidate UX

The foundation of a great UX Design is having a strong understanding of your user’s behaviours, attitudes and motivations (a.ka. personas). Personas concentrate on what a user does, what frustrates the user, and what gives the user satisfaction[4]. For Candidate UX this means gaining a deep understanding of your target candidate’s preferences, needs and expectations as it relates to the hiring process.

For example, after 9 years of tech recruiting I have formed a good idea of a candidate persona for a Software Developer:

  • I know they are typically well educated, smart and are passionate about problem solving, building things and technology so this needs to be evident in all job descriptions to catch their attention.
  • They are technical by nature so all job descriptions and relevant useful information such as company profile and products must be easily searchable and available online and on mobile devices.
  • They tend to be more introverted and analytical and are impressed and motivated by technical challenge so a combination of behavioural and technical interviews are required to get an accurate candidate assessment.
  • They like team collaboration with other smart people so including peer level developers (not just hiring managers) in the interviews can be beneficial to both parties.
  • Software Developers like a degree of freedom to play with and test new new tools and emerging technology so these topics should be discussed during the interview process.
  • They aren’t always the best verbal communicators and often prefer to demonstrate their technical ability as opposed to just talking about it, so including technical coding assignments into the process is valuable for both parties.
  • They are detail orientated by nature and like to analyse data instead of taking things at face value so make sure you have good data available to back up any claims you’re making about the job and company etc.
  • They are motivated by learning new technologies and there’s a typical dichotomy where some prefer to remain 100% technical “hands on” throughout their career, while the others tend to move towards architecture or people management so its important to uncover this during the process and educate the candidate about typical career paths available to them at the organisation.

The Universal Candidate Persona:

At the end of the day, all candidates are human, and regardless of what job or industry we work in, there are some common denominations in behaviour, attitudes and motivations that we all share. Whether you’re hiring a CEO, a software developer, or a truck driver, there are certain elements that all candidates need and expect throughout the hiring process. I have identified the following universal factors that must be applied to all job application processes:

  • User friendly: Whether its submitting a resume, finding information, or interviewing, the entire job application must be easy to “use” for the candidate.
  • Feedback: At minimum, confirmation that a job application has been received is critical. Better yet, feedback about the status and timing of the application should be communicated to all candidates regardless of the strength of their application.
  • Communication: honest and clear communication throughout the process is vital. The more personal the communication is, the better.
  • Information: Accurate, consistent and quality information must be available to all candidates (and easy to find!) throughout the entire process.
  • Respect: All candidates deserve respect for their effort and time regardless of their fit for the role.
  • Closure: All candidates, whether successful or not, need closure on their application.

Who’s doing it right?

I love finding out about companies that are going the extra mile for their candidate experience. LinkedIn Talent Blog recently profiled 3 companies that I believe are setting new standards in candidate experience:

  1. Rapid7: http://goo.gl/UzdwR8
  2. LinkedIn: http://goo.gl/fS7Zhr
  3. Airbnb: http://goo.gl/bTCVs3


In today’s competitive job market, the organisations that offer the best candidate experience are having the most success in reaching their hiring goals. By applying the principles derived from UX to recruitment, organisations can design better hiring processes that will have significant positive impact to the overall candidate experience.

Author: Brian Thompson is Talent Acquisition Expert at www.talentandrecruitment.com. Follow him on Twitter @briantrecruiter.

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