Improving Hiring Turnover With Design Thinking

Design Thinking applied to overcome challenges of a tech recruitment team


In 2016, a recruitment team of a global software development company needed to increase its hiring turnover to meet new business goals. My role in this project was to help the team during a 3-month period to design and validate a recruitment strategy that would increase the hiring numbers, report findings and results to the business leadership.

Methods Used To Collect Data

At the start of every project my approach is to gather and analyse information to define the scope and plan of action that best suit the business goal. In this assignment we used:

1: In-Context Interview

  • I interviewed the team and key stakeholders individually.
  • I asked questions about what their current process is like, how the team is set up, and what they think is impacting the turnover.

2: Shadowing

  • In the office, I shadowed the team during their typical workday, noting what systems they use, joining along with their meetings and discussions.
  • Got up to speed in their hiring targets, organization style, and their roles and responsibilities.

3: Workshops

  • I planned and facilitated sessions with the team to visualize and understand challenges, ideate and prioritize solutions, choose our plan of action and performance indicators.
  • After mapping what needed to be done, we sorted their activities into groups and defined areas that the recruitment team is responsible for.

4: Concept Testing

  • Every prioritized idea was put to test with the team, being analyzed every five working days.
  • Insights and recommendations were shared with management in a bi-weekly written report.

Key Insights

What is the cause of the low hiring numbers?

“There’s so much of our work that is invisible, and a lot more that is dependent on other people’s calendars”

  • Besides the everyday coordination of the hiring process, the recruiters are also responsible for other activities, such as employer branding and giving interviewer training, but the time required of each recruiter to handle the hiring tasks holds them from making progress with employer branding and training projects.
  • There’s an understanding of the standard hiring steps, but there isn’t a clear way of working that the team can follow. This causes redundancies and increases communication issues between the recruiters, candidates, and hiring managers.
  • The applicant tracking system data was outdated, and it didn’t reflect the actual interview steps nor gave correct indicators — adding up to miscommunication and workload due to the need to triple-check application status.


1: Co-Design User Flow

Clear decision-making parameters for each stage of the hiring flow sped up the time-to-hire

In a workshop setup, we designed the recruiters' (user) workflow. We sketched the hiring flow, noting milestones, touchpoints, tasks, and decision-making guidelines

We then chose to rearrange from recruiters managing vacancies' entire cycle from start to finish individually, to each team member responsible for specific steps of the hiring process of all jobs open.

2: Update Applicant Tracking System Data

We wrote down the hiring funnel each candidate goes through from the first contact to hire, agreeing on a name convention too. With that information, we edited their recruitment system to match the hiring funnel realistically.

Given the repetitive nature of some stages and how they are communicated to candidates, we added customizable e-mail templates for each touchpoint (such as interview invitations and tech assignments).

3: Adopt Agile Practices

The Hiring Kanban Board gave clarity on workload and progress the team was making, while the daily stand-up sessions improved communication and planning (image blurred for privacy)

We created a Hiring Kanban Board that helped the team quickly visualize their tasks, translating the “to-do”, “doing”, and “done” columns to the process steps (“Phone Interview”, “Tech Assignment”, “Final Interview”, etc).

We agreed on a time-management approach in which tickets further to the right — closer to the Offer stage — had higher priority.

Following that, we started having daily stand-ups, going over the Hiring Kanban Board, discussing to-dos, blockers, and the plan for the day. We implemented a lightning-speed retrospective on Fridays to talk about what went well during the week, any changes we could make, and set targets for the following week.


  • The team doubled the number of applications screened weekly and they grew from closing one vacancy per month to closing three vacancies per month.
  • The business was able to gather and analyze hiring metrics and use them, later on, to evaluate the hiring funnel and other KPIs.
  • It became possible to update every candidate regularly throughout their application journey, in no less than seven days

I'm a UX Designer & Researcher based in Amsterdam. I love making sense of chaos, fixing things and listening to stories that are different than mine.