Oxbow Bend, Snake River

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

It’s Time to Rethink Your Application Process

Matt Moore

Out of all the elements of a job seeker’s journey, from initial awareness of a company to the experience of working at that company, perhaps no step along the way has come under as much criticism for being outdated, cumbersome, and ineffective as the application process.

As technologies have improved and competition over every candidate has increased dramatically over the years due to a wide range of circumstances, conversion rates – the percentage of potential candidates who view your employment landing page or online employment ad and continue on to complete your job application – have continuously dropped for employers who haven’t updated their application process over the years.

Here are a few strategies that employers are using to help them connect with more candidates and increase on-target conversions to help them fill more of their vacancies with job seekers that are a great fit for their organization.

Remove Gatekeeping ASAP

This lesson from the world of e-commerce is especially applicable to the world of job applications: gatekeeping crushes conversion rates. In this context, gatekeeping refers to imposing requirements before an applicant is able to view your application. The primary culprit for many online application tools is requiring job seekers to create an account before they can view or submit a job app. Unless a candidate is already extremely determined to apply for a position with your company (which you can count on a very high percentage of them will not be at this point), many are not going to take the time to create a login simply to view – not to mention complete – your online application. This is especially true if they are using a mobile device, which the majority of them are.

If your job application begins with a gatekeeping requirement, it should not be the first step that an applicant has to complete in order to express their interest in joining your team. Your recruiting efforts and investments would likely see much greater returns if you added a preliminary step before asking candidates to create an account where they could easily demonstrate their interest, and you could obtain some basic information that would allow you to determine whether or not they would be a good candidate before inviting them to complete the next step. Which brings us to our second point…

Break Up Your Process into Smaller Steps

Try to imagine the profile of your average candidate who has just discovered your employment website or an employment advertisement. There are some very likely commonalities among this audience that should shape how your application process is structured. Let’s look at a few likely shared traits:

  • They are on their phone
  • They are quickly moving between different information sources (web browsers, apps, text messages, etc).
  • They don’t have a lot of time right now (they may be in between classes in school, riding public transit on a commute, on their lunch break, etc).
  • You have their attention RIGHT NOW, but probably not for long

If the first and only step for them to lodge their interest is to jump right into a 7 page job application with full work and education history, personal and professional references, personally identifying information so you can run a background check, etc., you can assume you are immediately losing 50% or more of potentially interested and qualified candidates.

You likely need all that information eventually, before you extend a job offer, but you don’t need it right now. You just met – don’t squander the introduction by asking for a blood sample and social security number before the first date.

Instead, consider creating a short intake form that interested candidates can complete in 3 minutes or less. For example, ask for contact info, what position(s) they’re interested in, and a few short assessment questions that allow them to briefly speak to their skills, experience, and personality (or optionally attach a resume if they have one), while allowing you to gather information and make a preliminary decision on whether or not they may be a good fit. If so, then you can follow up and invite them to complete the longer form application or answer a few more questions to learn more about each other.

You have a short window to capture job seekers’ interest, and they likely have a short window to express it. By allowing candidates to engage with you quickly and easily, without unnecessary barriers, you can dramatically increase the number of applications you receive and the opportunities to find great candidates that will go on to become valuable members of your team.