Why We Must Simplify the Job Application Process

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 08/19/2015 in Recruiting articles |

When was the last time you applied for a job?

Have you tried applying to a job in your own company lately?

Thank you to William Warby (CC BY 2.0)

Thank you to William Warby (CC BY 2.0)

I ask because the length of time it takes to apply for a job has become ridiculous.  I hear about (and have experienced) 1/2 hour, 1 hour, and 1.5 hour long or longer application processes.  Then if there is a technical error or the system times you out, you sometimes have to start over.

In a survey last year by Jibe and Kelton Global, which polled more than 1,000 job seekers, they found 3 of 5 respondents said job applications are more difficult to fill out than other common applications, such as those required for a mortgage, student loan or health insurance.

Why is all this information needed?  Is it any wonder why we hear of such high application submission drop off rates (people who start the application process, but then give up or stop).  I have seen some figures showing over 50% of applicants not completing the process; and I have seen articles saying research shows 34% of candidates who try to apply for jobs don’t complete the application process.  Do you keep track of your drop off rates?

Often, we ask for a bunch of information that isn’t even needed or not needed right away.

For example, the employment history and education.  You often need your entire employment history cut and then pasted from the resume into the job application forms.  Sometimes it is not just month and year, but applicants are asked for the specific day (full date) of the beginning and end of each event. As a recruiter, I can say I have never looked at this information that is entered…and most recruiters I know also do not look at it.

The ATS system is often set up (probably default) to ask for references, which really are not needed until the end of the process.

Thank you to theilr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Thank you to theilr
(CC BY-SA 2.0)

What do we look at?

I am sure I am not the only recruiter who does this, but the first thing I look at are the prescreening questions that were filled out by the applicant.  I want to make sure the applicant meets the minimum requirements.  If there are a lot of applications, the preferences and weighting will show me who fits the needs the best.

Secondly, I open the resume and skim the resume.  This is what is forwarded to the hiring manager, and I need to make sure the skills are shown.  Also, I need to review it to form my questions about their history for our first conversation (if I decide to move forward with the applicant).

After processing and interviewing the candidate, I forward the resume onto the hiring manager and they interview further.

At no point is the work history that the applicant so diligently entered even reviewed in the applicant tracking system.  Also, I rarely read cover letters.  I know I am not the only one who sees months pass without reading one.  The information I need is found on the resume and gathered from a conversation with the candidate.

So why do we ask for this long application to be filled about and a cover letter attached?

No idea.  It is a waste of the candidate’s time.  I hear that a completed application is used for the background check, but if you need a paper or online application for the background check…that could be asked for at the end of the process…right before an offer is coming.  By then the candidate is much more invested in the the process and excited to work for you, and so will gladly complete the application.

What are the effects of a lengthy job application?

Thank you to Tiffa Day (CC BY 2.0)

Thank you to Tiffa Day
(CC BY 2.0)

Candidate application fall out.  People don’t complete the process.  This is especially true of A-players and passive candidates who are somewhat interested but not really sure they want to change jobs.  A lengthy application convinces them it is not worth the effort (unless it is a company they singled out to work for).

Also, lengthy application processes make the candidates experience much poorer.  To put in all that effort and time, and then just receive a standardized rejection email (assuming you hear back at all).  What a slap in the face!

As a recruiter, I would be happy to just see the answered prescreening questions and an attached resume.  For future search capability, maybe also enter in the city, zip code, or locations they are willing to work at; professional category; highest level of education; employment type desired; and the basic fields that recruiters use all the time to search resumes on job boards. For the automated communications ability, the email address should be entered as well.   Much of this can be pulled from the resume automatically by the system and then ask the applicant to confirm it is right.

It would take 10 minutes or less to apply.  That is how long I think it should take to apply to a job…10 minutes or less.  You have all the information you need (as a recruiter) to determine if the candidate is a fit for this job and decide to interview or not, use the system to send automated messages, and be able to search for them on the ATS in the future.  Only what is needed and necessary…no more…no less.

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  • Jay Powell says:

    Great post and topic! I hope corporate HR departments read your post and take heed.

    HR in corporate America needs to revisit and know first-hand how poorly they connect with the best talent due to their online website applicant process for their thousands of open positions that go unfilled or even better yet filled by less talented individuals due to the application process.

    It doesn’t appear that company stakeholders responsible for candidate attraction and acquiring the best talent understands and have gotten the message loud and clear the it is a sellers market!

    The best and top talented people are just not going to subject themselves to submission process and laundry list of information they are being asked to far in advance of even knowing for certain they are really interested in the position.

    User id’s, passwords, and the shear time required to complete the pages of information due to poorly interpreted and/or executed compliance processes that HR collects for EEO, AA, and OFCCP has largely been implemented out of fear and not truly knowing when a person is actually an applicants.

    I would speculate corporate online web site automated candidate abandonment rates are as high as 75%. This means that the best people the corporate talent acquisition teams should be speaking with and recruiting will never work for these company’s because they have removed any attempt to humanize and personalize how they attract to tier talent. All this occurs without one word being verbalized!

    Much of the information being “collected” creates this barrier between those responsible for recruiting and talent acquisition and the people they really need to be “speaking” to. How can a person know if they are really interested in a new career opportunity when all they know is the information in a generic template job description posted on corporate web sites and job boards? It’s ludicrous to believe this is working in the best interest of everyone involved.

    I routinely see what it is like to be in the shoes of an applicant and attempt to apply to their open posted jobs. I apply to see how easy and generally it is not to, 1) see how much time it takes to work through all the applicant process, 2) normally abandon the process due to how invasive the information they want to collect in advance of knowing whether I would even be interested or better yet “qualified” for the position, and 3) 90% of the time never hear anything from an internal recruiter responsible for delivering on the open jobs.

    I have not seen anyone be recruited for any job without ever being spoken to determine whether a person has the experiences and qualifications needed to meet the expectations for performance expectations required. My professional opinion is that company’s are entirely too dependent on the automation of screening as opposed to personalizing the candidate experience from the first moment shows any interest in joining a company.

    I suggest that HR walk in an applicants shoes and put themselves through all the paces of applying for a position on their own web sites. They will quickly see how manually intensive it is and why they have open jobs that continually go unfilled due to their automated application process. If anyone believes this is the right way to implement and be in compliance while at the same time being in the best interest of the company and candidates they need to recruit they are sorely mistaken.

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