These days finding high quality employees is harder than ever. There seems to be a constant battle to encourage folks to apply, then get them to stay engaged through the application process. This is why it’s so important that every employer does their best to create a positive applicant experience. Creating a positive applicant experience will help get more applicants into your pipeline and keep them there throughout your hiring process.
What exactly is applicant experience?
Applicant experience is basically how an applicant feels about your company. It’s the attitude they have about the company and their feelings about how they are treated by your company.
Every interaction that you have with applicants shapes the applicant experience. The more positive an applicant’s feelings toward your business and your hiring process, the more likely they are to stay engaged until the end.
The great thing about applicant experience is that you have complete control over it. You can shape the experience that applicants have with your business into whatever you’d like.
In this article we’ll share a few ideas that can have a big impact on applicant experience. This will be a good starting point, but the possibilities are truly endless.
Avoid things that irritate job seekers.
A good place to start an effort to improve applicant experience is with the things that irritate job seekers the most. If you can eliminate or at least nix a significant number of the top offenders, you’ll go far in improving your applicant experience. So what are the top offenders? Here are a few.
Requiring personal information like social security numbers and Driver License numbers.
How to Fix It:
Only ask for information that is actually needed for you to move on to the next phase of the application process. Let’s say you’re hiring a delivery driver for your floral business. The applicant may need a driver license, but do you really need to know the driver license number at this point? Probably not.
Instead you could ask: Do you have a valid Florida Driver License?
This question gets the information that you need to decide if this applicant can move further in your process. Also, the applicant doesn’t have very sensitive information floating around in cyberspace and being seen by who only knows. Applicants worry about identity theft just like the rest of us. So any action you can take to limit the amount of personal information required to apply for a job, the more comfortable applicants will feel about applying.
Requiring that applicants type information that’s provided on their resume into an online application form. This is made even worse if the applicant then has to upload a copy of their resume. Applicants really hate this.
How to fix it:
You may have applicants manually enter their work history and other information because you need these details in your applicant tracking system. Or maybe it’s because this is what you did when you have applied for jobs in the past. But it isn’t written in stone that this has to be how the application process works.
Technology is on your side in this case. If you’re using an applicant tracking system (ATS), put the resume parse feature to work for you. Resume parse allows applicants to upload their resume. Then the system will extract the information and place it where it needs to go within the ATS.
This simple feature creates a less frustrating, less time consuming experience for applicants while still giving you the information needed in your database.
But what if your company does not currently use an applicant tracking system, but maybe uses an online form to collect applicant information? A possible fix could be to allow applicants to apply by email. Instead of filling out an online form, the applicant could email their resume to a designated email address.
Offender # 3
Super long job applications when short and sweet would work. Applicants are constantly weighing a time reward equation. Applications take time to complete, but for the applicant there is no doubt that they will receive any type of follow up for their time investment. So when applicants see a long application that will take an hour to complete, a good number of them will bail.
How to fix it:
Keep applications as short as possible. Your application should only ask the critical information that you need to decide if you can move this individual forward in your hiring process. Remember, the application is merely an introduction. You can ask more questions and dive deeper into the applicant’s work history or qualifications later. Ask only what’s needed to pass through the first evaluation. The shorter and more relevant your application is, the more applications you’ll ultimately receive.
Be mobile friendly.
These days people do a lot more than text their friends and scroll Instagram on their smartphones. They also search for and apply for jobs from their mobile devices as well.
The rise in the number of job applications done on smartphones could be due to the fact that some applicants do not have traditional computers and internet at home. Or because we all spend a significant amount of time on our phone in general, so it’s a seemingly natural thing to do.
Whatever the reason, not having a mobile friendly employment application or job site can create an avoidable barrier for would be job applicants. If a job seeker has to go to a library, career center or wait until they get to a friend or relative that has access to a computer and internet to apply for your job, they simply aren’t going to apply.
Creating a mobile friendly application process is pretty painless. If you share your jobs on Jacksonville Works, your jobs site, job posting and application process is already mobile friendly. It’s also a good practice to check any online application forms that you use to make sure they can be completed on a mobile device.
Follow up with applicants
There is a lot of ghosting going on in the hiring arena. And a good part of it is on the side of employers. Ghosting is when either the employer or candidate disappears from the hiring process without explanation. Communication just stops.
This may look like an applicant not returning your calls or emails. Silence when you reach out to schedule an interview or accept a job offer. Also more and more common is being stood up for job interviews.
While it's irritating when applicants do this, they are not alone. Employers do it too. Neither is right. And it irritates job seekers, serious job seekers just as much.
That's why the simple act of communicating regularly with applicants will have a great impact on the applicant experience.
You can choose how to communicate with applicants and how by means you’ll do it. Just let them know at the beginning how you will follow up with them. Let’s say you prefer to do all communication by email because it’s efficient, then just tell applicants that. You can include this tidbit of knowledge on your application form or jobs page. So long as they know, you’re good to go.
So when should you communicate with applicants? Great question. Put yourself in the applicant’s shoes. Think about when you, as an applicant, would want an update on your application status.
Also, think about when applicants have called you to follow up. Did they call to make sure you got their application? Did they call to see if you had made a decision on their interview? Thinking through your communication plan this way will not only keep applicants informed and happy, but reduce the number of “application follow up” calls to your office. Win-win!
Consider starting with these touch points in your applicant communication plan:
If you do any testing, screening, background checks or have other steps in your process, throw in a contact when your process reaches that point. These communications can be set up as templates to save time as well. However you choose to communicate with applicants it’s well worth the time investment. Remember, informed applicants are happy applicants who stay engaged with your hiring process.
Be flexible when scheduling interviews.
Applicants can be juggling a lot. That juggling act may include kids, and another job or two. That’s why it’s so important to give some flexibility in the options you give applicants to interview with your business.
Let’s say you’re interested in interviewing an applicant, but she works during regular business hours. If she can’t get off work without sending a red flag to her current supervisor that she’s going on an interview, well she might decline the interview or not show up. That means you could have missed out on a great new hire. So what can be done?
Have a conversation with applicants when you want to schedule an interview. Ask them for their availability. Then make it work with the times that you’re available to interview. It could be that a lunch appointment or meeting after work would be a doable option.
Take some time to think about how you can build some flexibility into your interview scheduling process. Applicants will appreciate having their time and life situations valued by your company.
Creating a positive applicant experience will reap significant benefits for your business. Your efforts will increase your business’ ability to hire the talented, high quality employees that your business needs to thrive, even in times when it’s challenging to hire.