Many organizations, caught in the cross-hairs of compliance, have inadvertently made the online apply process a real chore for candidates. Taking somewhere between 20 minutes to over an hour to complete candidates are often left with little more reward than an automated email acknowledgement (if that). What started as a simple resume and cover letter submission is now a lengthy form which can also include a registration process, data privacy consents, pre-screening questions, online assessments, EEO data collection, reference gathering, educational and experience data, background check consents, and a slew of other seemingly important information to gather about an applicant.
Why are candidate’s bailing?
Every step in the flow is an opportunity for candidates to bail from the process. And depending on the approach, recruiters may not get to see anything about prospective applicants who stall out for one reason or another. Why might candidates not finish the process?
The reasons vary but could include:
- Their casual interest in changing jobs waned upon seeing yet another registration page
- Their casual interest in changing jobs waned upon seeing the 15 pages ahead
- They are applying from work and their boss just stopped by
- They left to better tailor their resume to the job
- They got frustrated by a bug or confusing step in the apply process
Statistics aggregated from our clients indicate ATS apply flow drop off rates occur both up front and later in the process. The initial up front registration drop off is 30%, and another 30% drop out somewhere during the application flow. Many employers hold onto the belief that the masses not completing the flow is a good thing by screening out unwanted candidates. But there is no data to back up this belief. Reason stands to argue that the casual applicant who is interested but needs to be sold on the job position will be screened out with this approach as well.
Smoothing the path for prospective talent
I’m going to discuss several options to consider to let prospective talent more easily indicate their interest in your organization and open positions. Just because you CAN, does not mean you SHOULD ask everything conceivable up front in the initial application flow. The key is to ask yourself, is there a justifiable business reason for what you capture in the initial apply process. Remember, candidates are still screening you while they apply. Companies do not get to start screening until there is a record to screen.
Work with your compliance department to see if you can capture a first pass of data needed to determine if someone is potentially qualified. With this initial pool, you can leverage additional tools to help with the screening and data population where and when it’s needed.
With this in mind, here are some practical ideas to simplify the apply flow:
1. Do you prompt for an Electronic Signature, Background Check, Military Background or Address History in the initial apply flow? While these elements may be essential in your hiring process and even for officially “completed” applicant files. Consider if they can be removed from the “initial” application flow.
2. Do you gather Work Experience and Education as fielded elements today in your apply flow, as is the most common practice? Ask yourself, is this absolutely necessary to gather in a fielded format up front? The data is already present on the resume and may even be auto-populated partially via a parser. Companies who have analyzed their flows know that these pages in particular can have high drop off rates. Managers may be confused if the parser incorrectly populates the data, but this can be overcome by focusing on the resume for what is shared with the manager.
3. Do you prompt candidates to indicate where they heard about you allowing them to provide self-reported source data? Many systems today enable this data to be passed behind the scenes so that you can disable the presentation of these fields to the candidate. This not only makes for an easier apply process, but also will increase the data accuracy of your recruitment sourcing metrics.
4. Do you ask for references in the initial apply flow? If so, consider if you would ever talk to a reference before interacting with the candidate. Consider gathering this information later in the process, rather than up front in the apply flow.
5. Do you prompt for candidates to take pre-employment assessments in the initial job apply flow? As long as the position is one where there is healthy applicant flow, perhaps this is appropriate. But evaluate position by position if this is truly necessary or if it should occur at a later step in the hiring process.
6. Do you have a fallback option for those who don’t complete the apply flow? Consider the population of people visiting your ads, reading your job descriptions and clicking to apply. On average 60% do not make it into the ATS as completed applicants. Most sourcing channels cost money, so it’s best to maximize their return. Newer solutions support building communities based on business card capture before the longer ATS based apply flow. This is especially important to consider if your compliance department is mandating a very lengthy apply process and you have positions that are hard to fill. This topic will be explored more thoroughly in my next post.
7. Does the process work end to end? Make sure you test what you have implemented and that it works well for you. Sometimes issues can be uncovered in the apply flow that you would not see unless you are sitting down as the candidate and looking at it from their perspective. Test it and tweak it to make it better!
Keep it simple and increase your return
The key is to use tools that make the process as simple as possible. Reducing the friction for candidates as they apply means you will have more potential candidates to consider when looking to fill key positions.
In an effort to simplify your process, evaluate your current state and determine the bare essentials (in terms of information) you need to make an educated decision on a candidate. Now that you have the data you need to move forward, you will have the opportunity and permission to gather more information and data on the candidate.
With a simpler apply process; you will make it easier for qualified individuals to engage with your organization, providing greater opportunity to fill current and future job positions with quality talent.
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