Candidates Want Simplicity and Status Updates When Applying

Half of applicants give the process a low rating, Talent Board finds

By Roy Maurer Mar 7, 2016
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The job application process is still a challenge for many candidates, according to research drawn from the 2015 Candidate Experience Awards.

Nearly half of 75,000 candidates surveyed in the process of determining the winners of the CandE Awards—as they are popularly known—said they never received status updates for their application. Additionally, 51 percent rated the overall application process between 1 and 3, with 1 representing a very negative experience and 5 representing a very positive experience.

The awards are given to employers that exemplify the best candidate experience. The research was conducted by Talent Board, a San Diego-based nonprofit organization dedicated to measuring and improving candidate experience. Talent Board’s CandE Awards and the underlying research that results from determining the winners are eagerly anticipated each year.

Application Process of Successful Companies

Consistency and transparency in the application process are what sets successful companies apart from their competitors, said Madeline Laurano, co-founder at Aptitude Research Partners, a Boston-based analyst and advisory firm. “The online application process was originally designed for the recruiter to help manage an influx of applicants. The candidates, on the other hand, find the process to be time-consuming and cumbersome. Not to mention, they [often] receive little to no communication about their status through the process,” she said.

According to candidates’ responses, they also disliked not having the option to save their application to complete at a later date and not being asked to input their job-specific skills or take assessments.

Additional findings from the research included:

  • 59 percent of all 2015 employer respondents said they offer the ability to apply via a mobile device (56 percent of award winners offer a mobile-apply option).
  • Only 10 percent of 20,614 candidates who applied to the top 50 award-winning companies said they used a mobile device to apply. For each company, the percentage of applicants that applied via mobile was between 3.5 percent and 22.8 percent.
  • Winning organizations had candidates that were twice as likely to apply for other positions within the company over other participating companies.
  • About one-third of all employers say they are considering implementing technology aimed at improving the application process, including systems for candidate relationship management and handling employee referrals.
  • Only 15 percent of candidates said they were asked for feedback during the application process.
  • 43 percent of candidates said the application process took 30 minutes or more, and 12 percent said it took 60 minutes or more.

One Winner’s Story

CandE Award winner AT&T realized in 2014 that it was losing over 40 percent of prospects who were not applying because it took 30 minutes to complete the application. Another 27 percent dropped out after beginning the application. “We also knew mobile was an issue, as 40 percent were applying from a mobile device,” said Jenn Terry-Tharp, executive director of AT&T’s Talent Attraction team.

Terry said that the company shortened the application from 75 questions to 31, which helped to reduce the application drop-off rate from 27 percent to 12 percent one year later—and also resulted in a 15 percent increase in completed applications.

AT&T went further and acted on candidate feedback to initiate a candidate pipeline management team.

“This team’s sole responsibility is to watch how long candidates sit in each step of the process, and make sure they are getting adequate communication,” Terry said. “Depending on our process, it could mean completing an application or prescreen, finishing a test, scheduling an interview or dealing with a variety of other self-service items. The team’s job is to make sure the candidates know where they are, prompt them if we are waiting for them to do something and answer any questions they may have.”

What HR Can Learn from the Winning Companies

More communication with candidates, greater transparency, and having a simple and user-friendly application process are practices that differentiated the 2015 CandE Award Winners, according to Kevin W. Grossman, vice president at Talent Board, who is responsible for the Candidate Experience Awards for North America.

Organizations looking to improve their own candidate experience during the application stage can use these takeaways:

  • Simplify the process.
  • Ask applicants for their skills and experience. “Candidates want an opportunity to showcase their skills and experience. They want their information to reflect a specific job rather than completing a basic form or general background screen,” Grossman said.
  • Provide status updates.
  • Ask for feedback on the process.
  • Communicate often. “Candidates want more than a simple ‘thank you’ for completing an application,” Grossman said.

Registration for the 2016 Candidate Experience Awards begins this month.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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