In my dealings with organizations around the country, I occasionally (though not as often as in the past) hear concerns about moving the hiring process online for positions that are entry-level or blue collar in nature. I especially run across this objection when speaking with individuals from manufacturing companies. When digging a bit deeper with these organizations, the concerns typically boil down to two things:
- Do their applicants have internet access readily available?
- Are their applicants tech-savvy enough to complete employment applications online?
The first question is probably a bit easier to evaluate than the second. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent publication on the topic, “Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2018,” around 85% of American households had internet access in 2018. That means three out of every four applicants (on average) have internet in their home. Beyond that, we also have to consider how many people have access to the internet through their smartphone or tablet device? While there may not be any solid statistics to bring clarity to that question yet, I’m a believer that some reasonable percentage of the 25% population without home internet access do have access through one of these alternate devices.
Strategies for Applicants Without Internet Access
However, let’s look at this from a more pessimistic perspective. To be fair, if I’m recruiting for positions that are more entry level or blue collar, I don’t want to potentially miss 15% of my applicant pool because they don’t have internet access. If you subscribe to that theory, below are some things our clients have done to make our applicant tracking software more accessible for those who may not have regular access to the internet:
- Set up kiosks so applicants may apply on-site. Going this route doesn’t mean you have to purchase new laptops or desktops (or even tablets). Instead, simply have your IT staff (or an outside group for very few dollars) repurpose older computers so that they may be used in a lobby or office for just this purpose.
- If applicants do not have a current email address, then make sure your web-based employment application includes a link to a free email provider within its instructions – so that the applicant may create a new email account on the spot and then use it to complete the required email field on the application.
- Suggest to applicants that they may access your career portal for free from most libraries. All they need is a library card (also free), and they may apply like any other applicant.
- Partner with your local Workforce Development office. Given that its mission is to help create and/or fill jobs for local organizations, the staff there may be happy to allow applicants to complete your online application from their office.
- As a last resort (if none of the above work), suggest to applicants that they use the computer of a friend or family member. While I don’t anticipate it would come to this often, it does virtually guarantee that they’ll know someone with internet access.
Applicants Who Are Not Tech-Savvy
Now, on to the second question from above — are the applicants tech-savvy enough to complete online employment applications available through your applicant tracking software? The reason this is more difficult to answer is because there are a handful of things that can influence the answer. Chief among them are:
- How user-friendly is the paperless application you’re using? If designed properly, a good ATS should walk applicants through the process of finding and applying for the right job in a very simple, intuitive way.
- What is the typical demographic you’re hiring for these positions? There are some groups of people where access to internet and overall computer usage is lower than the national average. Again, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s data, examples include households where the median age is above 65, and households located in rural areas with limited availability to purchase/use internet services. If you happen to target these demographics, you may need to have manual options available on very limited stand-by for cases where accessing a web-based application doesn’t work for applicants.
So, if you hire entry-level or blue collar staff regularly, please take a look at your hiring landscape. Feel free to use the guidelines above to help determine whether the advantages of applicant tracking software may be realized for your company, despite any initial concerns regarding affecting your applicant flow.