Innovating the candidate experience. The Zalando way.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Chris Raw, Candidate Experience and Innovation Manager at Zalando in Berlin.

I have to admit, I’ve never come across this title before and so was interested to learn more about his role and the work Zalando are doing in this area. The mere fact that they invest in a person such as Chris, tells me a lot about how they view the important topic of candidate experience.

As a business, Zalando has experienced unprecedented year on year growth. Putting a huge demand on the talent acquisition team to source the very best talent at scale.

How does an organisation growing at such a rate, ensure that during the hiring phase people receive the best candidate experience? How do they ensure the Zalando brand is at the very least protected, or at best enhanced?

Here are some of the key learnings extracted from my interview with Chris. The full podcast is available at

1.   Start with your internal values.
If you have values about how candidates or customers should be treated. That sets the tone for future conversations. If you know you are delivering bad candidate experience, find the data to support it. Tell a story and shout it from the roof tops. Think about the platforms available in your business to tell that story.

2.   Get focused and obsessed.
Avoid going vanilla on everything. Really prioritise what changes are important to you. Going back to you defining your values, both as a recruiter and business. Bring them back into the recruitment process.

3.   Consider all perspectives.
Start listening to all of the people who share the experience. Listen to the candidate, recruiter, hiring manager and interviewers. By understanding these different perspectives, then overlaying them. You’ll start to immediately see the moments that matter.

4.   Create a journey map.
Start with the main stages step-by-step. Look out for the moments between the moments. Connect the journey to emotion. Zalando found one of the key moments was the period of actually waiting. What can you do to tackle this or create unique experiences?

5.   Measure the experience.
Put a hard metric to the experience and use the numbers to shine a light on problematic areas. If you’re not currently measuring, just start somewhere. You will know as a recruiter what kind of rough issues there are. If you start to measure it, then you can shine a light on it. Then go deeper with the data to identify root cause or themes.  

“Think about your candidate experience as a movie or storyline. The candidate is the star of the show and has supporting actors, cameos etc…

If they all don’t interact well, it won’t be a good movie! See people’s point of view from different angles to support and enable the experience for the star of the show, the candidate”  

6.   Consider the first human contact.
When people move into the hiring phase, the human interactions increase significantly. Invariably this is the first human contact. Candidate expectations of cohesion increases significantly. Interviews must be well prepared and organised. 

7.   Use data to influence and plan.
At Zalando, recruiters take previous data to strategy meetings and use them to showcase industry insights. By visualising data and sharing with hiring managers, creates credibility as a recruiter, but more importantly encourages a collaborative approach to the hiring plan and timeframes.

8.   Be bold.
Prototype ideas and test them. If there’s one theme I noticed was the business environment encourages people to tackle challenges using design thinking methods. The adventures into chatbots really supported this thought.

9.   Feedback is a gift
Finally, one of my favourite pieces of advice. Feedback is a ‘gift’. Drop feedback not bombs. Not just candidate feedback. Your ability to listen to others, unearth truths and turning them into insights.

For a detailed transcript or to listen to the podcast visit

Steve Usher