A new candidate experience

6 min readDec 2, 2015

The challenge: Many candidates wonder what will happen next when they apply for a job. How would you design an application experience that enabled the user to see the status of their application?

  • How would candidates understand where they are in the process?
  • What other information might you provide to help the candidate understand next steps for their application or an interview?

Who are target users and stakeholders

I’d like to define new grads or recent grads as the target user. Time wise, it’s from the moment they complete an application until receive a hiring decision. Stakeholders are Amazon recruiting team, along with the hiring team (PMs, Devs, Designers), who work together to find the best candidate from the above target user group.

Create deeper relationship with candidates, and ultimately bring in the best talents.

Learning from the target users

I interviewed 4 people aged 21–27 who graduated from school within the past 1.5 year, and gained a lot of empathy. They’ve all once applied for Amazon’s tech roles.


  1. Don’t like to check back on the application system, but they do care about the process and would look else where for information.
  2. Want first-hand information on application progress. In order to get it, they’d look up recruiter & interviewer and try reaching out to them.
  3. The further they are in interview process, the stronger they feel they need information. Before and after onsite is the step they care the most.
  4. Email is always a great medium.

In general, when not knowing about process, people don’t feel in control or relaxed . If interested, you can read more details about those interviews.

Ways to acquire information

For Insight #1, the participants reported what they do today to get information, including where they are in the interview process. I highlighted things they do:

Out of all those approaches, it’s obvious that they struggle to collect information, and the info they acquire is verbal or text-based.

What if they can get fast, memorable, easy-to-understand info, all in one place?

I brainstormed ideas and grouped them by methods and content:

I find opportunities around visualization, gamification, and interactive content. Additionally, using mobile to provide first-hand update is a growing trend. According to a recent study by Aberdeen Group, 70% of people used their mobile devices to search for jobs, and 51% are already applying for jobs on mobile. Instead of designing an automatic real-time status update system that candidates don’t even remember to log in and check, email is always a smart, lightweight system, keeping a record of all correspondence and providing a fast way for communicating back and forth.

Content content

Insight #3 particularly interests me. I followed up by performing a hierarchical card sorting with 5 participants. My goal is to understand what information is important to them in different stages of their interview process.

The results indicate that we need to prioritize interview-related information in early stage, and further down the road in this process, company-related information. This informs wireframing as to how to best organize information, and build a module-based content system:

Not only can the stakeholders customize what information to include, design and implementation can also be done module by module. For example, an intuitive status visualization module/widget:

The widgets are building blocks. Composing such an email only requires the stakeholder to piece together a puzzle game. For a recruiter, this could be done in the HR system which is linked with his/her email.

Learning from the stakeholder

Designing such an experience involves more than candidates themselves. Recruiter’s role is to “sell” that open position and get the right candidate to sign an offer. Along the process, better understanding and ideally quantitative data from Amazon recruiting will impact decision-making. I decide to interview a HR friend. And I learned a lot, for example:

  • In the beginning, candidates tend to ask about whether they are qualified and the type of person employer is looking for. Later on, they start to care more about culture, the team, benefit, etc.
  • Most of the time they have a fixed process, with slight change when needed.

The solutions need to hit the sweet spot between recruiters and candidates, while bringing transparency and openness.

This indicates that the solutions need to be customizable, and scalable.

The new experience

The first touch

Anna, a 26-year-old new grad, just applied for a UX Design position through employee referral. Almost immediately, she received an email.

She saw an engaging graphic of what she could expect. With understanding of process and timeframe of the interview, she felt in control.

She also noticed the new methods for checking status. She remembered her past experience with other companies when she waited anxiously for weeks after submitting an application, only realizing it fell into a black hole.

Check my status

Two days later, Anna wanted to know how’s her application going. She understood recruiting takes time. As instructed, she replied to the email with a single word “status”. Immediately, she was able to get a response that made her less worried. She also read about the Leadership Principles and found Amazon shares the similar values with her.

Reply with “status” to check for updates

Every time she sent the word “status”, she received a unique material or video about Amazon that she could learn about in the mean time. She found it engaging and fun.

Hearing back!

Time passed quickly with relaxation and fun. A week later, she got an email notifying her that an update from Amazon has arrived. “Great! The recruiter wants to schedule a phone interview!”

Anna then replied to the recruiter with her availability.

Anna also wanted to find out about her other applications. She tapped on the blue button, and was taken to the portal without having to log in. She found every single one of her application status here.

All lined up

The next day, she received an email that her phone interviewed had been scheduled.

It includes the interviewer, interview tips, and date. Exactly what she needs to know!

She wanted to find out more. She went to the system, and noticed that Amy had put together information she needed about the team, culture, ways to communicate with people, and latest news on social network, all in one place. The videos were helpful in understanding Amazon, and she was confident about her upcoming conversation with Tim.

Benefit & impact

By having a streamlined process, candidates get abundant but still personalized information they want to know. A central hub they can rely on will help them better prepared for the interview, ultimately it adherent to the customer-oriented principle. Plus, a great candidate application experience would attract talents and help Amazon cultivate an ongoing source of loyal prospects.

As modular pre-arranged information is shared with all candidates, it addresses a process bogged down in inefficiencies and laborious procedures. This will ultimately reduce recruitment cost— save recruiters time by not having to respond to common questions.

What else can be done

  • Validate ideas by Speed Dating with people (Amazon Storybuilder is a cool tool).
  • Keep a close eye on our customers, follow up with survey emails.
  • Where am I? What’s your thought about me? Why am I not hired? Rapid and honest feedbacks to those questions are critical for maintaining a positive relationship with candidates. As a giant leap, we can study opportunities around providing interview feedback. Showing applicants we are the type of organization that cares about them will likely to strengthen Amazon’s employment brand.

Thanks for reading!