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The Candidate Application Experience

Tags: Candidate Experience

We know the moral answer to this, of course we care what people think about us, but does it really make any difference to how businesses recruit? Evidence at the moment would suggest not. Go to any recruiting conference and there’s plenty of people wringing hands and bemoaning the situation that nothing ever changes. The history of this lies in the evolution of e-recruiting, and the sudden influx of candidates.

Where volumes had been quite low 20 years ago, with the need for written applications in response to press advertising, recruiting and communication was much easier. Lower volumes meant recruiting was based on relationships. Come the internet, job boards and e-mail, and applications went through the roof. Recruiters couldn’t cope with volumes and built a wall around their desks, hiding their contacts and removing access. The application process was designed to be cumbersome where only the strongest (or most desperate) stay with it.

I remember Gerry Crispin of Career Crossroads speaking a few years ago about how he had submitted a resume in to the ATS of 120 of the top fortune 500 companies, and only 3 had responded. Last year I ran the same experiment in the U.K., targeting 100 household names, to see if anything had changed. The response was slightly better with 5 acknowledgements of receiving a CV, and no further communication. Is that really acceptable when the process could be automated?

To give you some examples of how this impacts real recruiting rather than hypothetical thinking. A corporate client I visited recently found that over 70% of the candidates details were being kept by recruiters in either word documents or excel. The ATS showed close to 100% success rate because only candidates who were close to being hired were regretfully requested to complete the on-line application because it was the only way to get an offer letter. Another client had an application process that did not enable search in the format it was submitted. Whilst they have close to half a million candidate records in the ATS, there is no way to search them. The application processes have been designed to design to get people to drop out or find reasons not to interview them rather than interview them.

Most recruitment systems are designed as deselection platforms, or to ensure a legal or internal admin process is followed. This fits the company from a process point of view, but does it fit the candidate? The problem with this is that with a shortage of certain categories of talent, recruiters are having to be proactive. There’s also plenty of potential candidates who want to talk and connect, but aren’t yet committed enough to apply for a job. When you’re in a job, applying for a job is a big commitment.

Referrals as source of hire are increasingly becoming important. The candidate application experience is one of the big barriers to making referrals work. If the process is hard, or feedback is poor, who will tell their friends to apply? The application process has to be quick and simple, with the opportunity to register interest as an alternative to only applying.

Take another look at your candidate application experience. Is it helping you or hindering you? Make the process simple and responsive. Make data searchable, progress easy to track and feedback simple for both the candidate and the recruiter. When your designing process, talk to your recruiters and find out what they need. You will reap the rewards.

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