Attracting fewer job applicants is a good thing

Attracting fewer job applicants is a good thing

Most companies really don’t give a shrug about candidate experience. Yes, it’s a topic that’s been making the rounds of HR and recruiting conferences for five-plus years, but only the most sophisticated consumer brands (e.g. Starbucks, Kraft) and companies with persistent talent shortages (e.g. companies in tech, accounting, engineering) manage to do it well. And even many of those fail.

From candidates’ perspective, the most critical problem is the application black hole. To quote a recent gripe posted on Reddit by a job seeker, “The biggest frustration about [applying for jobs] is completing the long-ass form for a job you are definitely qualified for, if not overqualified, and then never hearing back.”

In response, another Redditor replies, “Got ya beat ... long-ass form plus a lovely six-hour round trip drive for an interview. Never heard a single thing back ... No turndown, no nothing.”

This phenomenon—asking job candidates to apply for jobs and then failing to respond to any but a tiny few of the total—is in most cases an intentional strategy. Yes, intentional. After all, applicant tracking systems have an auto-response feature that must be turned off.

And responsiveness is but one side of the problem. Another big complaint: Endless forms and hoops to jump through ... only to enter the soul-crushing black hole. Again, Redditors explain:

“You apply to three jobs and it feels like you have been applying to jobs all day!”

“It’s like they can’t decide if they want just written CV and job application or you to fill out forms. So why not both? And then it just feels stupid to copy paste the same things. Actually it’s even worse when sometimes after you do everything [you get an email], “HEY WE CREATED ACCOUNT FOR YOU. USERNAME:29448289 PASSWORD:UDKL2134. PLEASE LOGIN AND FILL SOME MORE DETAILS ABOUT YOURSELF!”

“[Long application forms] definitely filtered me out from a few places where I would have been a great employee. I just didn’t have time for their extra-Special Application. In the time it would have taken me to fill out their Special Application, I could send off four others to equally enticing jobs that just required a cover letter and resume.”

“Those forms are a great way for companies to weed out highly employable people.”

Aside from the application black hole and tiresome online forms, myriad other problems plague candidates. Poor communication about the application process and timeline is a huge source of frustration. For example, to save time a recruiter may schedule an in-person panel interview for a candidate, but the candidate may be surprised (and put off) to learn they’ll be speaking to five people at once. The situation is particularly regrettable because anyone scheduled for a site visit is most likely a strong candidate, and therefore someone you should be trying to impress.

A poor mobile experience is also common. Particularly with the under-30 group, mobile job information should be the norm. (Though job applications via mobile aren’t all that necessary, as few want to fill out so many fields on their smart phone.)

The biggest challenge recruiters face is volume. If a single recruiter is responsible for 35 open positions at any given time, and for each role on average the company receives 75 applications... that adds up to an untenable position for recruiters. And yet, companies can take specific steps to improve candidate experience with a mix of process updates, automation, and common sense. The first of these is simple: attract only the candidates with a real chance of getting the role.

Make it your goal to attract
fewer job candidates

We can all agree the resume is a sadly impotent tool to evaluate an individual’s job suitability. It’s simply an inventory of academic credentials and previous work, but communicates little about true ability, knowledge, or personality. LinkedIn offers a bit more: references and endorsements from colleagues, as well as a greater understanding of what issues interest a candidate. And yet, a hiring manager needs much more to pull out one talented candidate from a sea of hundreds.

In time, I believe the very notion of an application process will become outdated. If artificial intelligence can analyze the credentials of large pools of people, and select an individual based on (a) knowledge, (b) skills, (c) personality fit, and (d) availability, it’s easy to see how the traditional application process is obsolete.

And while it may seem counter- intuitive, attracting fewer job applicants is actually a good thing. Technology will winnow the field of attractive candidates such that only a dozen perfectly suited candidates will apply for a job—and that bodes well for both applicants and hiring companies. Why invite someone to apply, after all, if you’re extremely likely to reject them?

For tips on improving your candidate experience, plus a round-up of all the best advice and insights from the past 12 months of all the #Tru events around the world, download the full report here.