01/06/2016 Molly Moseley

Application mistakes that turn away your candidates

shutterstock_264940502We think this year should be all about improving the candidate experience, in fact, it’s our biggest recruiting resolution of 2016. Of course, the most logical place to begin is where a job seeker does, the employment application. It’s simple, if a job seeker is turned off by the length of your application or an arduous process they are going to bail and you are not even going to have any candidates to consider.

We reached out to Liz D’Aloia, CEO of HR Virtuoso, a mobile recruiting company based in Dallas, TX, for her expertise on the subject. In this post we go back to the basics asking her thoughts on the purpose, common mistakes and what makes a perfect application. Next week we’ll get more tactical with Liz’s perspective on which questions to include and avoid, as well as how to reduce application abandonment.

Q: What is the overarching purpose or goal of a employment application?

A: It’s twofold. From the candidate’s perspective, it’s an expression of interest and qualifications for a job. From the employer’s perspective, it’s the first step in the screening process and it acts as a source of candidate contact information.

Q: What are the most important components of a employment application?

A: An employer needs to gather contact information, understand the candidate’s qualifications, ask some basic screening questions, and convey legal statements.

Q: Job application vs Resume? What are the main differences from the employer and candidate perspectives?

A: Savvy employers are beginning to realize that they need two different application processes: one for exempt, and one for non-exempt candidates. For exempts, it’s not unusual to get sourced on LinkedIn, submit a resume, and fill out an application later in the process. The resume is more important than the job application since it details experience, accomplishments, etc. in a way that it’s hard to convey on an application.

Non-exempt candidates are in an entirely different arena. Many don’t have resumes. And even if they do, those resumes often reflect the entry-level nature of their jobs. They don’t offer much value to employers, and candidates struggle to write them. So why ask for them when you can get the information you need through a short, mobile-enabled application and some screening questions that are very job specific?

Q: What is the biggest mistake employers make on job applications?

A: Employers make 4 major mistakes on their job applications.

1. Failure to provide a truly mobile experience. Pew published a research paper in November 2015 that highlighted the challenges that candidates — and employees face with job applications. From a practical standpoint, the first mistake employers make is assuming that their online application (usually through an ATS) will translate into a mobile experience. This is the number one complaint we hear from our clients who are using a “mobile” enabled ATS. Consider the data from Pew:

– 28% of Americans — including 53% of 18-to-29-year olds — have used a smartphone in one way or another as part of a job search

– 50% smartphone job seekers (representing 14% of all adults) have used their smartphone to fill out an online job application

 We’re at full employment in the US, and any recruiter will tell you how hard it is to find talent. Companies can increase their candidate pool by making it easier for people to apply online and on their smartphones. Consider:

Nearly half of smartphone job seekers have had problems accessing job related content because it wasn’t displaying properly on their phone or had difficulty reading the text in a job posting because it wasn’t designed for a mobile device.

 More than one in three job seekers had trouble entering a large amount of text needed for a job application or had difficulty submitting the files or other supporting documents needed to apply for a job.

2. Lengthy applications with questions that don’t relate to the job applied for. This is a very easy fix if you use the right software. Don’t forget that candidates will abandon a lengthy online process. According to the CEO of Snagajob, a whopping 97% of applications are abandoned when companies only offer a lengthy online process that candidates try to complete on their phone.

3. Asking for sensitive, personal information (social security number, DOB) on the employment application. Many candidates will abandon an application process that requires this information

4. Requiring a resume to apply. First, most ATSs don’t parse resumes well. Also, according to Pew, 17% of Americans indicate that it would not be easy to create a professional resume if they needed to do so. But here’s where employers really find themselves in a bind, they have one process for all candidates from senior executives to entry-level hourly roles. Consider:

– 6% of college grads report that they would have trouble creating a professional resume
– 30% of those with a high school diploma or less would have trouble creating a professional resume
So, when you demand a resume upload as part of your application process, you’re driving away a significant part of your candidate pool.

Q: What makes the perfect job application?

A: The “perfection” of a job application can really only be measured by its completion rate. Most companies either don’t measure this, or are struggling to increase it. This is a tough fix for companies since many have spent millions of dollars on complex ATS systems that aren’t mobile friendly. We’re starting to see a shift away from the “old school” ATS platforms that are bundled with other talent management and HRIS modules. The customers and HR pros I regularly speak with understand that it’s really hard for technology companies to do a lot of things well, and they’re starting to separate their ATS, HRIS, on-boarding, and talent management systems.

One thing I kept in mind while building the HR Virtuoso System is that companies usually have a lot of time, effort, and expense associated with their current systems. It’s a big leap for them to change their application process, but the job market has changed quickly, and they have to evolve in order to remain competitive. So, the perfect job application is short, mobile-friendly, and will integrate with whatever system the employer chooses.

Stay tuned next week for more insights from Liz on constructing the perfect employment application!

Liz D’Aloia is the founder and CEO of HR Virtuoso, a mobile recruiting company based in Dallas, TX. She is an HR professional, employment attorney, speaker, and blogger. Prior to launching HR Virtuoso Liz worked at national transportation companies and at a global retailer. Connect with Liz on LinkedIn and follower her @hrvirtuoso.

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