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Automated Client Onboarding Design for Recruiting Social

Guiding new clients through the first week of service


Client: Recruiting Social, a recruitment firm that provides “on-demand recruiting:” hiring support as a monthly subscription service

Role: Content designer


Team: Solo project

Project duration: 2 weeks


Skills: User interviews, journey mapping, user flows, content strategy, UX writing, service blueprinting

Sample onboarding emails


When you provide an innovative service, you need to spend a little time helping clients get how it works.

This is the challenge Recruiting Social faced with its on-demand recruiting service. The first week of a project was critical to success, but clients had questions and recruiters weren’t always equipped to answer them. The result was often frustration on both sides: clients felt like they didn’t know what was going on during week one, and recruiters felt they weren’t getting information and feedback.

The challenge:

Design a client onboarding procedure that results in a smooth project start.


Desired outcomes:


  • Make clients feel confident that the project will succeed

  • Explain the process and set expectations

  • Automate first-week administrative tasks

  • Anticipate and answer FAQs

  • Encourage timely feedback




  • Automate as much as possible

  • Recruiters shouldn’t need to be involved in delivering onboarding

  • Only use the company’s existing software and systems

  • Create a “set it and forget it” system with minimal upkeep required


Client interviews:

I recruited two recently-new clients for interviews. Our conversations focused on their first two weeks working with Recruiting Social and what the project ramp-up experience was like.

Stakeholder experience mapping: 

I held one-on-one conversations with 5 employees: 4 recruiters, and the company’s operations lead (who handles client contracts, setup, and receivables). During our chat, each team member filled out a journey map worksheet-template to depict their experience during the first two weeks on a recent client project.

Collected anecdotes:

As a sideline-observer of many recent client projects, I’d collected quotes and comments coming from both recruiters and, indirectly, from clients.

Experience map example

Example journey-map worksheet completed by a recruiter.


Client and employee users:


I’d suspected as much at the outset, but the research made it clear: both clients (specifically, in-house recruiting managers at tech companies) and employees (Recruiting Social’s recruiters) experienced problems during project ramp-up – particularly during the first week. I decided to treat both as users. I knew this would be essential to ensure the adoption of any new solution.


Client empathy map:


To wrap my head around the interview notes, I pulled together an (admittedly lo-fi) empathy map peering into the client’s on-demand project ramp-up experience.


Client journey map:


Next, I assembled a current-state journey map of the client ramp-up experience. For such a quick solo project, with no need to present updates to the client, I stuck to paper and pencil.


Recruiter journey map:


Working with the individual maps produced by employees, I synthesized a journey map of the recruiter ramp-up experience.

Insights: The empathy and journey maps helped me see several key problem areas:


  • Accounts receivable: Collecting client invoicing and payment information was a persistent struggle at the start of every project.

  • First-week blackhole: After the sales process ended, clients received no additional orientation on how the on-demand recruiting service works. They had no idea what to expect and would become concerned during the first week when they got no updates from the recruiter.

  • Feedback on candidates: Recruiters would become frustrated when, toward the middle of the first week, they’d begin submitting job candidates to the client and receive no/insufficient feedback. The first weekly report, delivered on Friday, would also elicit no response from the client.

  • Communication: It took about two weeks for the client and recruiter to figure out a mutually-compatible flow of communication.

Example empathy map and cusomer journey map

To keep the process moving, empathy and journey maps were kept lo-fi.

Defining the problem

Client needs:

  • Meet qualified candidates

  • Fill roles as quickly as possible

  • Net-reduction in workload

  • Early signs the project will succeed


Client motivations:

  • Look good to execs (validate spend on recruiting services)

  • Keep hiring managers happy

  • Reduce workload


Recruiter needs:

  • Understand and manage client expectations

  • Find good candidates, ASAP

  • Quick, early feedback on candidates

  • Fill roles


Recruiter motivations:

  • Make the client happy

  • Protect/boost reputation


Problem statement:

How might we ramp up on-demand searches so that both client and recruiter feel confident in success?

Problem statement for service design

Problem statement summary.


Competitive analysis:

It was at this stage that decided to perform a competitive analysis – a task analysis reviewing the features of 6 email-based onboardings for other service companies, because I knew, to meet the project requirements, our solution would be an email drip campaign. I wanted to get a sense of what these looked like, how they guided the user, volume and frequency of emails.


I brainstormed based off the problem statement. The list of ideas was definitely influenced by specific suggestions received during my user research, as well as my recently completed competitive analysis.

Idea organization and prioritization:

Using my list of client and recruiter goals/needs as criteria for a Pugh analysis, I scored each idea and created a prioritized list of features.

The information/features prioritized:

  • “What to expect” sent before project starts

  • A/P details form

  • Ramp-up timeline visual

  • Ask about communication preferences

  • Weekly report and metrics walk-through

  • How/when to give candidate feedback

  • First-week check-in

  • Feedback request after the first month

It was a fairly long list. But, I wanted to err on the side of more, to start, and scale back as the campaign design evolved.

User flow:

The user flow, done on paper, was where I started to settle on number and frequency of emails. Top of mind was: providing information just-in-time, asking for information at the easiest moments for the user, filling the mid-week “communications black hole,” and checking satisfaction at critical moments.

User flow for service design

The initial user flow helped me consider content grouping, sequencing, and timing.


My first prototype was on paper. From there I elaborated to several content inventory versions and finally written email and form drafts. In total, I produced 5 prototypes, each increasing in level of detail.

Onboarding process design prototypes

In total, there were 5 prototypes.

User testing:

I sought employee feedback after completing each prototype version. To encourage the team to provide critical feedback (sometimes they’re too nice!), I asked for them to use the “I like, I wish, I wonder” format. To validate information and double-check promises the content made, I used yes/no questions and reminded testers that we would be committed to follow-through on every word.

Copy document:

The final prototype was a complete copy document.

Copy document sample page

Sample pages from the copy document.

Visuals, systems & setup

Visual assets:

I created a first-week timeline graphic and smiley-face rating scale using Sketch. The operations lead provided me with a sample version of the typical weekly report, and I used it to create several screenshots.

Google Forms:

I chose Google Forms for the forms because everyone on the team already had Google Drive access and would be able to access collected information. The form features are limited, however, so some of the content needed adjusting.


Recruiting Social already used MailChimp. I used a modified version of their existing template to create each of the emails. I set up the automated campaign using a date-based trigger: every email would send X days before or after the project start date, which would be input when the client was added to the campaign list.

Final email desigs

Final email designs.


Service blueprint:

Though the emails themselves were automated, the new onboarding required new procedures and created new sources of data that need processing. I produced a service blueprint to provide a birdseye view, show what happens at each step, and guide team members on how to deliver the onboarding successfully.

Readme document:

The business operations lead would be the main “owner” of the new onboarding procedure. I provided her with a “readme” instructional document to help her manage it and give her an easy reference point.

Service blueprint fo the client onboarding process

The service blueprint visualized the onboarding process, step by step.

Internal launch

Team meeting:


Clients were going to start getting these emails. The recruiters who managed client relationships needed to know about it! During the weekly all-hands meeting, I provided an overview focused on how they would benefit and answered questions.


Launch deck:


The overview deck was designed to be readable on its own and give a basic how-to on getting new clients set up for onboarding. After I presented it in the all-hands meeting, I shared it with all team members via email and in the #general Slack channel. (Internal communications best practice: repeat the message, repeat the message, repeat the message!)


Internal communiction strategy was a critical part of the design process.


What I learned:


Designing for multiple users means you sometimes need to compromise whose needs you’re going to prioritize. I also learned that with a service design project, resulting in an experience delivered by employees, it is critical to think about how you’ll communicate the design to them and how you’ll earn their buy-in.


Biggest challenges:


There were plenty of other opportunities to create new value during the project ramp-up period. Limiting the scope – staying razor-focused on – to what could be accomplished via an automated drip campaign was one of the toughest tasks.


Every client project is different. It was challenging to design a single, (not really customizable, given the system constraints) onboarding process that would still *feel* relevant to every user.


What I’d do differently next time:


Ideally, I would have liked to speak with more clients throughout the process. I also would have liked to include employees in more steps of the design process, but this was a challenge given their limited availability.


My favorite step:


I love interviewing, and it was great to chat with folks to hear about their work and experiences. At the outset, I was unsure if I’d be able to recruit clients to interview. They were more than happy to give their time, however, and even declined the incentive offered.

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