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Where in our client's recruitment pipeline do applicants drop out? Why do they drop out of the process?

How can we help candidates complete the application and prepare for the client's training program?


YearUp Chicago, a national workforce and education nonprofit that helps high-potential young adults overcome the opportunity divide wanted help recruiting more applicants into their program.


In this intensive five day design sprint, I worked with a team of 5 other social scientists at CivX (a University of Chicago civic innovation program) to investigate their recruitment pipeline and recommend a solution. In a series of in-context, "guerrilla" interviews, we showed up at various sites around Chicago to find and interview individuals who could provide insight into the perspectives of YearUp's target audience.


User & Stakeholder Interviews

  • Interviewed students, alumni, and staff

  • Interviewed students at a GED Prep Center

  • Interviewed high school guidance counselors

Researching Analogues

  • Interviewed a recruiter at a local military recruitment center


  • Mapped out applicants' user journeys to identify moments of friction

  • Generated insights from research


  • Ideated solutions

  • Created and field tested assumptions through a prototype

  • Presented recommendations to client


After spending two days listening to our client's students, alumni, employees, and staff of the client's partner organizations, we put together the two main paths that Year Up's applicants take to become a part of the program.


From these two user journeys, we saw:

One user journey is a smoother path than the other because partner organizations provide support, removing many of the barriers found in the independent user journey.

Applicants aren't really sure what it means to be a 'tech professional.' This information gap causes the quality of applicants to vary.


The recommendation was made with ease of implementation in mind. Referrals, we believed, would be both a low-cost and high-impact solution.

A year later, the data was in: the client reported that the recommendation had been so successfully implemented locally that they shared it with YearUp's national network – spreading our work to 15 cities nationwide.

In order to replicate the Partner user journey without needing the involvement of a partner organization, we recommended a Nomination Process where individual trusted mentor figures (like teachers or counselors) refer candidates to the client's program.

The candidate can turn to the mentor whenever they need a hand working through the application process – so that they are more likely to make it to the Open House.

The mentor passes along information and clarifies what it means to work in 'tech.' Both the quantity and the quality of applicants improve.


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