It's not easy to apply for a new job these days. It's also not easy to recruit the right candidates. LinkedIn plus talent management tools like Taleo have created an environment where companies must continuously optimize candidate conversions.

What was once a job-board-to-career-site-to-apply process has become much more complex. Promotional Consultant Today takes a closer look at the candidate journey and how your organization can influence the right candidates at the right time.

We tend to think of the candidate journey as having three distinct phases: discovery, nurturing and applying. There are some parallels between this journey and the buyer's journey as defined by a digital marketer. Just as buyers now start their journey with research on Google, and social media and rating sites, so do job seekers. CareerBuilder recently released data showing that as many as 73 percent of candidates now begin their job search on Google—far more than any traditional job board.

This is all part of the discovery phase of the new-candidate journey. The variables that go into this phase alone have turned organizations' top-of-the-funnel recruiting strategies upside down. It's more vital than ever that companies consider and optimize their employer brand, social recruiting strategy, the content they create, how easy their jobs are to find on Google and much more.

Once job seekers actually make it to the career site through one of these entry points at the top of the funnel, it's no longer a one-and-done scenario. The best digital marketers understand they're not going to convert every buyer in their first interaction, and recruiters need to think the same way about candidates. This is where the nurturing phase of the candidate journey comes into play.

Today's leading companies are deploying tools like job alerts and talent networks on their career sites, enticing job seekers to opt-in and essentially become part of their candidate pipeline. Candidates may not be ready to apply, but they're interested in the company and its positions. When used correctly, a pool of candidates that chooses to be contacted can deliver major returns to key metrics over time such as cost-per-applicant and time-to-fill.

In some scenarios, large global companies are able to build up such a pipeline that reaches several million people in a short period of time. As one example, a consumer electronics retail chain organically grew its talent pipeline with the use of job alerts, and virtually eliminated its job board spend for the holiday hiring surge simply because it had a massive group of people waiting to hear about new opportunities in each location.

When candidates are ready to apply—which could be on their first visit to the site or after visiting over time via nurture marketing—today's companies have to be prepared to impress them with an awesome apply experience. This means the ability to apply on any device, with the same level of quality that matches modern consumer brands. This is perhaps one of the greatest areas of opportunity, given that so many companies are behind the curve in their apply experience.

The new candidate journey has been influenced by job seekers' changing behaviors and preferences for finding information. Use these tips to optimize your candidate conversions and stay ahead of your competition.

Source: Mike Roberts is a writer and researcher. At Jibe, a candidate experience platform solution, his focus is on helping talent acquisition professionals stay up to date on the latest recruiting strategies, technology and trends.