New Research Shows Power of Leveraging Design Thinking to Build Better Recruiting and Talent Processes

This just in: design thinking improves your talent acquisition team’s effectiveness

Lever was founded with design thinking at its core. We’ve long deployed design thinking tools and techniques like building empathy, understanding the ‘why’ behind our users’ challenges, and experimentation to build our Talent Acquisition Suite. Which is why we jumped at the chance to partner with the Human Capital Institute (HCI) on a brand new piece of research, out today, that demonstrates the clear impact that design thinking can have on the effectiveness of talent acquisition teams.

Our research was based on the survey responses of 307 talent leaders, 73 percent of them at companies headquartered in North America, from a wide range of industries. We sought to understand the impact, if any, that design thinking has on an organization’s effectiveness in critical areas of talent acquisition. Among the findings:

Talent leaders have a mountain to climb in effectively delivering on their most important priorities

We asked our survey respondents to rate the importance of 15 different areas of talent acquisition, along with their perceived effectiveness in those same areas. In only one area – negotiating offers, which was rated third to last in importance – did talent leaders’ perceived effectiveness match or exceed the level of importance.

In all other areas, there was at least a 23 percent gap separating importance and effectiveness. The areas with the biggest gaps? Sourcing candidates for critical positions, rated important by a whopping 89 percent of respondents, only 37 percent of whom believe they’re effective, and building sustainable talent pipelines, which 70 percent believe is important while only 16 percent (no, that’s not a typo) say they’re effective. 

Importance versus Effectiveness Comparison for the Components in the Talent Acquisition Process


Talent teams and their broader orgs are tiptoeing into design thinking

About half of all respondents said their broader organizations don’t really use design thinking at all. At the other end of the spectrum, a scant 2 percent said design thinking is intrinsic to the way their organizations work. In between is a broad spectrum of talent leaders whose organizations use elements of design thinking – whether it’s confined to specific catalyst-type groups, or evident in specific tools that are used more broadly. Either way, it’s clear that design thinking is still a relatively new and underutilized concept at the majority of organizations.

Those who use design thinking in talent acquisition reap major rewards

The results of our survey consistently demonstrate higher levels of effectiveness, improved measurement, and all-around better performance across a wide variety of dimensions.

Case in point: 31 percent of talent leaders at organizations with developed design thinking say they’re effective at building sustainable talent pipelines – compared to 16 percent in the overall pool, and just 12 percent in the group that uses no design thinking.

57 percent of of talent leaders at organizations with developed design thinking say they’re effective at aligning talent acquisition strategies to business priorities – compared to the average of 36 percent, and just 27 percent of organizations which use no design thinking.

I could go on… but this is the point at which I politely encourage you to download the full report to get those details :). As a bonus, you’ll also get a clearer understanding of what design thinking entails and how you, too, might apply it to improve your talent acquisition team’s effectiveness. By the way, expect more from us in the coming weeks on this topic – given our own design thinking DNA, we’re pretty passionate about it.

Finally, a massive thanks to Jenna Filipkowski, head of research at HCI, and her team for partnering with us on this piece of research, which we hope will ultimately benefit talent teams everywhere.