Mapping HomeDepot.com’s Candidate Experience: Q&A with Philip Newman
HomeDepot.com journey mapped their candidate experience. Talent strategist Philip Newman talks about why they did it, the process, and lessons learned.
Photo & Banner Image: The Home Depot.
Philip Newman is the Senior Manager of Talent Strategy at HomeDepot.com, The Home Depot’s multi-billion dollar, award-winning e-commerce business. Joined by his intern, HR peers, and the talent acquisition team, he recently led HomeDepot.com’s first job candidate journey mapping exercise. Speaking over the phone, Philip shared why his team took on the project, who was involved, what the process looked like, and some of the resulting enhancements now shaping the HomeDepot.com candidate experience.
“We’re really excited about the enhanced experience our candidates will see.”
Why did you and your team decide to undertake a candidate journey mapping exercise?
I support the HomeDepot.com team, which is responsible for The Home Depot’s e-commerce business. Along with data scientists, product managers, content managers, and all kinds of creative folks, we’ve got a large user experience (UX) team that’s responsible for the digital customer experience across all platforms and devices.
I’m always spending time with those guys in their office, looking over the mock-ups and customer journey maps that represent our digital shopping experience. One day I was over there amid all these visual representations, and I just kind of thought to myself, there’s no difference between a customer journey and a candidate journey. Most of our candidates are also customers. Wouldn’t it be neat to take this user experience approach, but instead of analyzing the product web page for a washer and dryer, you’re looking at the job application job seekers use to apply? To map the emotional experience candidates go through as they read our job descriptions, complete our applications, and go through our hiring process? So we decided to pull out the Post-It notes and do it.
Who was involved in the mapping project, and what did the process involve?
We have a world-class talent acquisition team, from coordinators, to sourcers, to recruiters. So my intern and I partnered with them first to get a holistic view of things. We also worked with our fellow HR Generalists and our digital experience teams to gain more insight and absorb expertise. With so much knowledge in-house, we knew we wanted to gain everyone’s thoughts. Collectively, we surveyed and spoke with recently-hired people within our organization. We also collected real-time feedback from people as they were going through our interview process.
Our Vice President Online, Prat Vemana, also provided input and valuable feedback. Not only is he a big evangelist for candidate experience, he also joined the team less than a year ago. His experience coming through the hiring process was still very fresh – and we took advantage of that.
How did the actual experience map come together?
We started with a half-day immersion, mapping out every touchpoint throughout the candidate’s journey. We looked at every phase of the talent acquisition process, from brand discovery to application, interviews to offers. That guided the rest of our research, surveying and interviewing recent hires and managers.
We asked ourselves: when and where does the candidate first touch our brand? Do different sources of candidates – different mediums, postings, applications, emails – perform better than others? When do they start interacting with us? What is the conversation? What does the experience look like? What does it feel like to go through the process when coming from each different channel? How does the experience differ if you’re an active job seeker, an internal candidate, or a sourced passive candidate?
We mapped out every single touchpoint. There were a lot of Post-It notes stuck on the wall! We were lucky to have guidance from talented UX professionals who work with us in-house. It was really cool to phone a friend and say, “Hey, are we looking at the right things?”
Did you produce an actual journey map document to work with and reference?
We did. We made different profiles for the active candidate, passive candidate, and pipelined candidate. Those gates of experience helped us look at opportunities to make our process even better. We went really into detail.
Was there anything that came out of the research and mapping exercise that surprised you?
I think a couple things were the most revealing:
We realized that sometimes you have to hit the “pause” button, turn up your empathy as high as possible, and really think about your candidates’ mental and emotional state of being. We forget what it feels like to be in their shoes. Different touchpoints, different stages of the process are about different things: getting them excited, providing information, creating comfort, addressing fears.
Journey mapping helped us step back and see the opportunities for improvement – to see the forest for the trees. And the thing is, we’re pretty good at hiring. But we know there is always room for improvement. We want to keep pushing ourselves to be great.
Did this change everything in an instant? No. But we were able to put a number of deliverable improvements in motion. Not only process enhancements but also digital assets for our recruiting teams, hiring managers, and candidates that will hopefully help nurture people’s interest and excitement in joining our team.
“Journey mapping helped us step back and see the opportunities for improvement – to see the forest for the trees.”
Can you share a couple of those enhancements that were initiated by the journey mapping?
We’re really excited about the enhanced experience our candidates will see. This was a big collaboration with our talent acquisition team; they really deserve a lot of credit. Thanks to their help we’re going to raise the bar.
We’re calling these enhancements The Orange Touch, because it’s not about trying to be something we’re not. It’s about being even more authentic and passionate about our core values: excellent customer service, entrepreneurial spirit, taking care of our people, doing the right thing, and building strong relationships. It’s about finding ways to live those values even more within our candidate experience.
One of the enhancements is so simple: we expanded the timeframe we give for interviews. Because sometimes, you just need more time with people. Candidates have a lot of questions – this gives them more opportunity to ask them. Or to continue conversations and follow tangents that might be really helpful; for example, if the candidate would need to relocate their family to take the role, and the interviewer just went through that experience a couple years prior, talking about it and sharing that experience is a valuable interaction.
But not only are the interview times longer, we’ve also built in a fifteen-minute buffer between interviews in case conversations run over, or candidates need to use the restroom, or have another glass of water. Because time is precious, and we needed to make sure we were providing enough of it. This doesn’t seem like a big thing, but it was very clear in the feedback we collected as part of our research.
Do you have any advice that you would give to talent leaders looking to run their own candidate journey mapping exercises?
Number one, do it. It’s incredibly powerful to hear the voice of the candidate. When do you ever get 360° feedback and really take a deep, forensic look at how you’re making people feel at every step of your hiring process?
Number two, it’s unbelievable what you can do when you get different teams together who, together, can help create an exceptional candidate experience. And so I say: Go big. Bring together anyone who touches potential hires – whether in-person or digitally. Even if their role is just to schedule the interviews and book the flights, because they have incredible insight. Include people who just came through your hiring process – people who were sourced, people who applied, people who transferred internally. Everybody has a perspective. And it’s all good, valuable insight that will help you build an exceptional candidate experience.
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