How To Leverage Human-Centered Design In Your Employment Brand Strategy

Holland Dombeck McCue Always Be Closing, Candidate Pool, Employment Branding and Culture, Holland Dombeck, HR, Recruiting

I learned the back-story on LinkedIn Pulse today from the leader of an Innovation Lab I’m participating in. I didn’t fact-check, so here’s my historically accurate version of the story:

Basically, these two sharp guys attending Standford created the news aggregator, formerly known as Pulse, around the time the iPad was first rolled out. The guys would approach coffee shop patrons to use Pulse but instead of giving explicit instructions, the duo would observe the patrons using the app, document their emotional connection to their interaction and close by asking for feedback. The Pulse team would then apply feedback from these quick sessions into a new version of the app and return to the coffee shop to test again. When they finally had a prototype that satisfied their audience, they went to market. Then, in November 2013, the inventors of Pulse sold their app to LinkedIn for a bunch of money. The key to their success? Human-centered design.

Human-centered design (HCD) is a creative approach to problem solving that first considers the people you’re designing for and ends with tailored solutions that are best suited for their needs. When executed well, the outputs of a human-centered approach are solutions that resonate more deeply with their end-user—ultimately driving deeper engagement with that solution.

HCD follows a fairly straightforward framework:

  • Define your target customer within a specific scope. Who is the ultimate end-user of your solution?
  • Immerse yourself in that target audience and develop a deep understanding of their workflow, culture, environment and needs—conducted through targeted interviews and observation.
  • Prototype and test potential resolutions with your target customer to find the right solution.
  • Implement your solution and deliver it to your end-user/take it to market.

Human-Centered Design and Your Employment Brand

At the core of any successful brand is customer empathy—a fundamental understanding of a customer’s values, needs, perceptions and emotions. When building an employment brand, many organizations often consider these factors at macro level in the form of an EVP. However, as Kelly pointed out Monday, not all shops are equipped with full employment branding teams or a budget to drive large-scale branding projects. So I’m serving up one lightweight way a team of any size, with any budget, can adopt the human-centered design framework into their employment branding strategy.

Example: Job Descriptions

Define your customer(s) – Job descriptions typically serve two customers:

  1. Candidates
  2. Hiring mangers/the business

Immerse yourself in that target audience – Determine if you are going to conduct interviews or observe interactions (or both). In this example, we are using the interview approach.

  1. Candidates – Select 2 new hires (<6mos.) for your top 3 most-hired titles or functions.
    • Interview: Develop 5-10 standard questions that you will ask every candidate. Frame your questions to achieve a fundamental understanding of the candidates values, needs, perceptions and emotions. Dig into what they need from a job description to prompt conversion.
  1. Hiring managers/the business – Select 2 hiring managers of your top 3 most hired titles or functions.
    • Interview: Develop 5-10 standard questions that you will ask every candidate. Frame your questions in an empathetic way that digs into what they need to ensure they are meeting the needs of the business (team fit, compliance, etc.)

Prototype and test potential resolutions with your target customer to find the right solution.

  • Prototype – Develop 2-3 different formats for your job descriptions that accentuate the emotional connection sought after by your candidates to drive conversion, and incorporate required data from your hiring manager.
  • Test – Issue the prototypes to your target audiences and observe them interacting with your job description, note the emotions they are conveying—both good and bad. Ask for direct feedback and adopt that feedback into your solution.

Implement your solution. Roll your finalized job description framework out to market and begin benchmarking success. You should experience a stronger return because you designed your solution with the end-user at the center.

  • On the candidate side, this can either come in the form of broader testing (like A/B) or a straight release where you track performance through your ATS.
  • On the hiring manager side, you’ll need to track quality of applicants driven by your new job description framework.

Don’t post and pray; design with intent and take a human-centered solution to market.

FOT Note: This post is sponsored by the good folks at, who care so much about the world of recruiting and human resources that they’ve become an annual sponsor at FOT.  Here’s where it gets good: As part of the CareerBuilder sponsorship, FOT contributors get to write anything we want on a monthly basis, and CareerBuilder doesn’t get to review it.  We’re also doing a monthly podcast called the “Post and Pray Podcast,” which is also sponsored by CareerBuilder.  Good times.