So your customer service representative and retail associate jobs have been posted for weeks on end…but you still don’t have enough applicants to satisfy the general managers at all your retail locations.
What’s a recruiter to do? Maybe you should come to grips with the excuses your organization has been telling itself about why it keeps its lengthy, increasingly-obsolete job application.
You say, “but this application used to be a gold mine – ten years ago we were flooded with job applicants!” Well, ten years ago the recession gave you an employer’s market that made it easy to nurture your “woobie blanket” of an employment application.
It seems obvious that employers should regularly evaluate the effectiveness of their hiring process (and more frequently than once per decade); nonetheless, many organizations don’t put it at the top of the HR priority list…until their candidate pipelines have dwindled to a trickle.
Let’s examine the excuses that keep employers preserving their lengthy job applications.
1 – If they really want the job, they’ll complete it.
Once upon a time, this was more true. And, perhaps it will be sort of true once again as economic factors shift over time. In the meantime, your organization–however beloved it is in the eyes of your community–will never be so precious that it engages all of the top talent to complete a 52-question job application in a climate where unemployment is so low.
In fact, according to an Appcast study referenced by SHRM, job application completion rates plummet by nearly 50 percent when an application has 50 or more questions rather than 25 or fewer questions. Others say the impact is worse–Indeed research suggests that employment applications with just 20 screener questions lose 40% of candidates, with abandonment rate increasing as more questions are added.
2 – It’ll be too much work to screen later.
Recruiters and HR professionals understand that if you ask fewer questions up front in the job application, then you have less information to go by when it comes to screening candidates. You may be concerned that it will take too much time to ask these repositioned questions at the interview stage of the hiring process.
However, your lengthy job application is going to dramatically decrease the number of candidates you will put through your hiring process–so, you may have some free time for extra screening on your hands.
In this market, you must decrease your application complexity because the opportunity cost of a long employment application is more time sourcing more candidates because there isn’t enough talent in the pipeline.
3 – Our application “isn’t that bad.”
You agree that a 50+ question application is ridiculous and are giggling alongside me as you read this blog. Of course we can’t expect reasonable job seekers to waste their time on that fool’s exercise!
But wait, when was the last time you actually pretended to be a job seeker and applied to your own company? Hmmm….
Have you ever counted all the fields and questions in your employer’s job application? Go do it now, I’ll wait.
What’s that you say? There are…28 questions for the cashier job at your store?!?
Test your own job application with regularity–at least once per year, if not more frequently, as you notice significant changes in your application rates.
4 – We don’t have that many mobile job seekers.
Should no one in 2019 say ever. You’re in denial about the massive application abandonment rate you experience with mobile job seekers until the Google Analytics statistic of 70% is staring you in your face. Yes, at ExactHire we’ve seen abandonment that high with prospective employers who have not yet implemented a mobile-friendly, reasonably brief, job application.
Remember, an already lengthy application becomes an absolute beast on mobile and tablet views with smaller screens and ample finger pinching, scrolling and zooming.
By reducing the length of your application to appeal to the mobile job seeker, you also stand to improve your diversity and inclusion efforts. According to Pew Research done in the past 5 years, “black and Hispanic smartphone owners are especially likely to use their phone for job-related activities – more than half (55%) used their phone in the past year to find job information, compared with about a third (37%) of whites.”
5 – HR will yell at me.
You think your job application has to be long because Dolores Umbridge in human resources will stalk you if you deviate from the standard.
While certain industries and organization sizes require specific compliance-related questions, there aren’t so many requirements that your application should be painful to complete.
You should absolutely stick to applicable employment law when it comes to questions related to criminal history, pay history, employment eligibility, required licensure, voluntary self-identification, etc. (it will vary depending on employer size, location, contractor status, and industry).
But, that doesn’t mean you need to collect references on the first step of the application. Remember, your job application helps to form the first impression of your organization…do you want that impression to be one riddled with red tape and inefficiency?
6 – Everyone gets the same job application.
“Well, this is the way we’ve always done it.”
You feel compelled to have every job seeker, regardless of position interest, complete the same, one-size-fits-all application. It feels safe, right?
You can have different job application versions to meet the needs of different job categories and locations. And, our ExactHire applicant tracking software makes it a cinch to customize and manage application templates. After all, not only do questions sometimes vary depending on state, but the knock-out questions that you’d present an hourly worker are probably different than for a white collar executive.
7 – I don’t know which questions to ask at which step.
You’re starting to relent in your desire to preserve your lengthy job application. Fantastic!
Now you must figure out which questions to ask at which stage of the hiring process. First, examine your existing job application and consider questions that you really don’t need to ask in the initial step. Keep only the deal-breaker questions.
Deal-breakers for hourly positions at a retail location may be as simple as evaluating
- which shifts the candidate may fill,
- whether the candidate is available to work overtime, and
- whether the candidate has reliable transportation to and from work.
Don’t be afraid to go to your general managers and ask them for the short list of questions that actually matter when they consider someone for this type of position. Of course, your short list will likely vary quite a bit when considering questions for your general manager positions.
No more excuses for your employment application
Be aware of these seven excuses so you can keep your organization from falling back into the trap of the dreaded, lengthy job application.
By regularly evaluating your application fulfillment rates and testing your own application versions for different job categories, you’ll increase the number of qualified candidates in your recruitment pipeline. You’ll improve your employment brand, too.
Optimize your job application
Schedule a demo of ExactHire to see how you can customize and manage multiple employment application templates to suit different job categories.
When an HR team is seeking the golden candidate for a vacant position that desperately needs to be filled, it is important that the employment application contains all the necessary items. These items will determine if the applicant is initially a good fit for the organization and should progress to next stages of the hiring process. Depending on the job and the organization, there are many key questions to answer and crucial information to collect from the applicant. Learning about the applicant’s skills, education background, ability to travel or relocate, general job schedule availability…those are all key, non-invasive questions that can help Human Resources decide whether to pursue an applicant further.
A Question You May Not Need
One question that is asked occasionally is, “Can a Social Security Number (SSN) be asked on a job application?” ExactHire does not provide legal counsel, so any questions regarding SSN collection need to be directed to your company’s legal team, but the answer is technically, yes, a SSN can be collected on an employment application; however, it is highly recommended NOT to ask an applicant for this highly sensitive piece of personal information on the applicant’s initial application for multiple reasons…
- SSNs are typically collected from an applicant in order to conduct a background check, which tends to be when an offer of employment is extended to an applicant.
- SSNs may also be collected as part of the employee onboarding process, when applicants have formally become new employees.
- In general, applicants understand that submitting an employment application does not indicate a promise or offer of employment, so there is greater hesitation by the applicants to complete an application for employment that initially asks for SSNs and/or DOBs. This results in a lower application completion rate for a company.
- Applicants tend to have heightened fears of identity theft and general privacy concerns since they do not know the number of company employees who will be reviewing their submitted application with the SSN and/or DOB information readily accessible.
Assessing Your Needs
According to SHRM, there is no law that prohibits an employer from asking DOB; however, how the employer uses that information must be in accordance with the The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). In an extremely rare occasion, due to the nature of the position where there is a legal need for it, such as with driver and commercial transportation related job positions, SSNs might need to be collected at the time of application. (Please consult your company’s legal team to determine your company’s eligibility for this.) If so, some applicant tracking systems like HireCentric can support multiple applications so that you can have a position-specific employment application for use in special, rare cases where you might need to collect unique information such as SSNs.
If you feel there is a need to collect SSNs on the job application for purposes of background checking , answer this question: Will you be conducting background checks on every applicant? If not, it is highly recommended that you not collect the SSN from all applicants, as that puts a heightened responsibility on you and your team to limit access to the large volumes of applicants’ SSNs. Typically, the background check disclosure/consent is completed by the applicant once a job offer is made, so the company can then collect sensitive information (i.e. SSN) for a limited number of applicants. ExactHire offers the opportunity to integrate background checks within HireCentric ATS, so please let us know if you want to explore the benefits of this integration.
HireCentric Security Features
While HireCentric job applications are completed on a secure site, if your company decides to collect SSNs from every applicant, internally as a company, you and your executive leadership team will need to devise a thorough method of ensuring individuals who should not view SSNs do not see SSNs. This will help protect you and your company from potential legal action resulting from any improper use of the applicants’ personal information.
Even if you do not include a question about SSNs, nor plan on ever including a question of the sort, HireCentric offers the ability to make certain Standard Questions viewable to HireCentric Administrators only as a means to ensure sensitive questions have limited viewing access. In the employment application’s Applicant Statement / Disclosure section, providing a thorough explanation of why SSN and/or DOB is collected in reference to particular legislation is strongly encouraged as a way to help explain to the applicant why this sensitive, personal information is being asked in the initial phase of job application without a pending job offer.
Building a Secure, Legal Hiring Process
In the HR world, legal adherence is a top priority. You and your company’s legal team can create the internal process to recruit and retain talent that is best for your organization. For your employment needs, ExactHire offers a variety of options to help you and your team implement that internal process you construct and a support team that is ready and willing to help guide you with those solutions in your employment processes. For more information about any of our employment solutions or questions about HireCentric, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Useful Employment Application Guidelines
Whether the positions an organization is seeking to fill are temporary or permanent, it is important for Human Resources representatives to reflect on the content included in their organization’s employment application(s) to determine if the content is within the scope of fair hiring practices. In this blog, I’ll identify a few employment application audit ideas to help you determine whether you need to eliminate or rephrase any questions that could lead to discriminatory hiring practices. Please note: ExactHire does not provide legal counsel. If you are in doubt about the compliance of your employment application, please speak with your organization’s legal team.
Background Check Guidance
Many companies complete background checks on the individuals who have been offered employment. For a background check to be completed accurately, the social security number and date of birth are necessary to properly identify the individual. However, an individual’s social security number and date of birth should NOT be included in the application in any format; this highly sensitive information can be collected from the individual at the time of background check consent. If a minimum age is necessary for employment in a particular position, an organization may ask if the applicant is 16, 18, 21 or older (or whatever the legal requirement may be for that position type). No questions regarding the years of attendance should be asked on an application or in an interview.
Avoid Questions Related to Religion
Religious affiliation is one element that should not be asked or discussed in the hiring process. Even though many religious organizations have events and practices which occur regularly throughout the year, for certain religions, there are increased numbers of worship activities in the winter season. An employer can specify the hours/days/shifts for the vacant position but also include that the employer provides reasonable accommodations for religious practices that do not pose an undue hardship towards the employer.
Language Fluency and Employment Applications
Another component that needs careful phrasing within an employment application involves any questions related to language(s) spoken. If relevant to the position for which the applicant is applying, an employer can ask about language(s) spoken, read or written. If speaking, reading or writing another language(s) are irrelevant skills for the position, there is no need to ask for that information so it is best to omit that question. One of the many features of ExactHire’s HireCentric applicant tracking system is that you may create groups of job specific screening questions where an organization can ask applicants questions focused and relevant to the particular position.
Asking About Prior Military Experience
Military veterans offer a tremendous amount of knowledge and skill that can provide long-term benefits to your organization. These brave men and women are seeking to use their skills to enhance an organization’s growth, and if you are looking to start a veteran-focused hiring initiative within your organization, the Department of Labor is ready to help. Organizations can benefit directly in the social and interpersonal capacity, along with the financial capacity, when veterans are on the organization’s payroll. On an employment application, an employer can ask if an individual was in the military but dates and type of discharge should not be asked. An applicant should include the training and skills acquired through the military as professional experience.
Restrictions on Applicant Criminal History Information
With the Ban the Box movement, many cities and states have enacted some form of legislation that affects how and when an employer can ask an applicant any questions related to convictions. The following states listed below have enacted both public and private sector Ban the Box legislation which means an applicant typically cannot be asked about convictions on an employment application or prior to the interview stage of the hiring process.
- Rhode Island
- New Jersey
- Connecticut (Effective January 2017)
- Vermont (Effective July 2017)
There are exceptions within the legislation that may allow an employer to ask an applicant about convictions early in the hiring process so please consult your organization’s legal team to see if you qualify. To keep abreast of the Ban the Box movement, visit the National Employment Law Project (NELP).
Professional Organization Membership
Many employers view membership in professional organizations as beneficial to the growth of an individual. It is important to encourage individuals to pursue lifelong learning opportunities; however, these opportunities should not negatively impact an applicant’s pursuit of employment. On an employment application and during the interview process, it is important for an employer to seek only job-related memberships and service and avoid asking anything about memberships that could reflect ethnicity, gender, religion and other protected information.
Test Your Own Employment Application
Organizations periodically need to take a moment to reflect on the content of their current employment application(s) and peruse it from a potential applicant’s eyes. We encourage our clients to periodically test their employment applications so they can determine if any changes need to be made. Changes to the content of your HireCentric ATS employment application(s) must be made by a member of the ExactHire Support Team.
ExactHire: At Your Service
At ExactHire, we take pride in doing our best to ensure our clients’ satisfaction. After you speak with your legal counsel, and if you and your legal team decide changes need to be made to your employment application(s) for compliance, the ExactHire team will work with you to create a new application with the verbiage you specify. Also, one of the benefits of using ExactHire’s HireCentric software as your applicant tracking system is that you can create multiple employment applications, each specific to your needs or hiring practices within a particular state. If you are an existing client looking for more information about updating your current employment application(s) and/or creating additional employment applications, please email email@example.com, and let us know your needs.
We live in an age of distraction and it’s wreaking havoc on your talent applicant sourcing process. Despite your efforts to write engaging job descriptions, post them far and wide and publicize your amazing corporate culture, your click-to-apply ratio is dismal. So what gives?
While the aforementioned items are undoubtedly important factors in the talent acquisition game, another critical component is the length of your job application. The likelihood that you’ll make your very next priority about researching your ideal application length will depend on the supply and demand for job categories in your local market. However, know that the very best candidates always have options, so even in a seller’s…ahem…employer’s market, top talent still won’t fill out your 50-question job application.
The proof is in the numbers, and it’s pretty staggering on both desktop and mobile devices. Check out this statistic from a study referenced in an ERE post:
“For every 100 candidates who click through from a job advertisement to a recruitment portal on a desktop device, an average of 8 will complete a job application. For mobile click-throughs, the completion figure is just 1.5 percent.”
I was curious about how the same numbers would stack up across all of our own HireCentric applicant tracking software client job portals. During the last six months, our own click-to-apply ratios for site visitors who make up the referral traffic category* are listed below.
- desktop – 9.23%
- mobile – 4.96%
- tablet – 3.34%
*Referral traffic category visitor = visitor referred to a client’s HireCentric ATS portal from a link on another site like a client’s corporate website or an external job board.
While our ratios come out slightly more favorable than those referenced in the study, it’s still pretty disheartening to think about the fact that out of 100 job seekers referred to your careers portal, only three to nine of them will actually finish the application process, depending on their device. So how can you improve your own job site’s click-through numbers?
Ditch Traditional Job Application Length Thinking
Start to ask yourself the tough questions about what you really need to know from applicants at the onset of the hiring process. Then, dump traditional thoughts like these:
Employer thinks: “I want my application to be long enough that I won’t get overwhelmed with unqualified applicants.”
High potential job seeker thinks: “This is taking too long…I won’t be applying here now…or ever.”
While there is some logic to making your process long enough to be a speed bump to candidates that are just looking to claim their next unemployment check, if it’s too lengthy you run the risk of disengaging the best potential applicants from finishing your application now…or anytime in the future.
Employer thinks: If someone wants to work here badly enough, they’ll jump through whatever question “hoops” we present.
High potential job seeker thinks: If the employer cared enough about its employment brand, they’d only ask the deal-breaker questions early, and save the other stuff until later.
Evaluate your own application process to determine what works best for your organization and job market. And, remember to consider how the applicant might feel while completing your employment application. Use the following sections as a checklist to help make adjustments…and know that what works for one job category may not be ideal for another.
Make it easy to apply from a mobile device
The statistics don’t lie–the conversion rate for job seekers viewing your site from a mobile device are even worse than from a desktop. Smaller screens make lengthier applications appear even more intimidating and stop potential applicants in their tracks. Implement these enhancements to improve your odds for success.
- Mobile-friendly jobs site – make sure your careers portal is developed with responsive web design so that your employment application automatically adjusts to the size of the screen on which it is viewed.
- Mobile apply integrations – Look for an applicant tracking system that integrates with well-established sites from which candidates may pull application information.
- Apply with LinkedIn – can your candidates authorize their own LinkedIn profile to populate some of the fields of your application?
- Indeed Apply – Is your application set up in such a way (including responsive web design) that Indeed can empower job seekers to use their Indeed profile to push application info to your ATS? The key to making this setup work is collecting only basic information in the first step of the application process (e.g. applicant source, resume and job screening questions, for example).
- Dropbox/Google Drive – Candidates can’t necessarily upload a resume file to your jobs site from their phone/tablet. Mobile job seekers will count on your system to allow them to pull their resume files from a cloud-based file storage site like Dropbox or Google Drive.
Do not put the cart before the horse
Do you really need to have a candidate’s references in the first step of the hiring process? After all, only a tiny percentage of all of your candidates will have those come into play at the end of the selection process. And, you don’t really need the full employment and/or education histories right away if you get a resume up front.
Look for an ATS provider that offers employment application options such as the two-step application. This feature allows you to ask only the absolute need-to-know-now questions of applicants in the very beginning of the recruiting process. Then, once applicants are pre-screened and a few top candidates are identified, you can always ask those top candidates (who are now more motivated to respond having been identified) for more robust applicant information in the second step of the application.
Additionally, limit the number of essay questions in your application, and instead opt for multiple choice questions to facilitate informative, quick answers that don’t lengthen the time it takes to complete an application, but at the same time, do allow your staff to use answers to automatically score and/or disqualify applicants. In fact, the aforementioned study found that the length of time it takes one to complete an application is an even bigger driver of applicant drop-off than the number of questions asked.
Identify the information you need in each job category
Help job candidates help you. That is, customize their application experience to be hyper-specific to the information you need early on to assess their potential qualifications for a position. For example, if you are sourcing applicants for an exempt position, then don’t make them answer an application question that asks whether they are willing to work overtime…as that would only be applicable to non-exempt job candidates. This can be accommodated either through job screening question groups customized for each of your job categories; or, via multiple application layouts for different hiring needs (e.g. executive-level, different geographic locations, etc.) that are set up by a trusted applicant tracking software provider.
Think about other potential considerations to ease the candidate experience. Do your graphic designer job applicants have a designated place on the application to reference their online portfolio? Does the application associated with the recent college graduates’ hiring track allow candidates to link to a copy of their student transcript?
Paint a clear picture of the path to employment
Many effective writing styles preview a piece of content’s focus before getting into meaty topics. In a sense, you’ve got to tell readers what you’re going to tell them before you tell it. Redundant or not, a lot of people like to know what they are getting themselves into to determine if it’s worth their time in the first place. Job seekers are no different.
Create content that illustrates not just your employer’s application process, but the entire hiring process including interviews, background/reference checks, the offer letter and employee onboarding activities. Here are some communication strategies:
- Job description length – If you want more qualified candidates to apply, then you generally need to describe the position in more words than found in one short paragraph. However, your job listing should not be a novel either. Look to recruiting metrics available in an in-app ATS dashboard to help you start to diagnose which of your job listings are performing best when it comes to organic search results…this could be a partial clue into which of these descriptions have a more optimal, keyword-savvy, length.
- Career-focused content – Include pages within your jobs site that share Q&A narratives about what candidates can expect from the hiring process. Incorporate video and images as often as possible as it makes it easier and more entertaining for job seekers to process the information presented.
- Clear application instructions – Take another look at the actual directions listed at the start and end of your application process. Do they set expectations that additional information may be collected later, if applicable? Could they be lengthened (or shortened) to be more effective?
By heeding these guidelines for converting more job applications, your organization can make strides toward improving your hiring efficiency.
As we approach the final quarter of 2015, it is never too early to start preparing for new legislation that will affect hiring practices in 2016. Effective January 1, 2016, Oregon will become the newest state to implement “Ban the Box” legislation for both public and private sector employment. Other states that have already enacted this practice in both public and private sector employment are Illinois, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Hawaii and New Jersey.
Oregon governor, Kate Brown, signed House Bill 3025 on June 26, 2015. This law, H.B. 3025, will take effect on January 1, 2016 and prohibits an employer from requiring an applicant to disclose a criminal conviction on an employment application or prior to an interview. If an employer does not conduct an interview, the employer is prohibited from requiring an applicant to disclose a criminal conviction prior to a conditional offer.
Employers are able to notify applicants that they will later be required to disclose convictions or that a criminal background check will be conducted as part of the hiring process. This legislation does include the caveat that an employer may still consider convictions when making hiring decisions. For additional information on what this legislation includes, visit the Oregon State Legislature and The National Law Review.
Upcoming “Ban the Box” Legislation
To keep abreast of states and cities who enact “Ban the Box” legislation, the National Employment Law Project (NELP) has an interactive map that provides an overview of the current legislative status. For the actual legislation, you will need to go directly to the state or city government website to access the passed law(s) in its comprehensive language.
Employers need to be aware of the legislation that exists and what legislation is pending to be prepared for the potential impact on their organizations. If your organization currently has hiring practices in multiple states and cities, or posts job listings nationally, it is important to be cognizant of the locales’ legal expectations and determine if you need to alter verbiage on your employment application(s) and/or change specific steps in your hiring practices to be compliant with “Ban the Box” legislation.
Please note: The ExactHire team is not legal counsel, and we do not offer legal advice, so any questions regarding your company’s eligibility for exemption with the “Ban the Box” legislation and/or proper verbiage for your company’s employment application(s) should be discussed with your company’s legal counsel. To learn specifically how Oregon’s H.B. 3025 affects your organization’s hiring practices, please contact your company’s legal team.
At ExactHire, we take pride in doing our best to ensure our clients’ satisfaction is the highest possible. We do whatever we can to resolve clients’ current needs and identify potential needs. After you speak with your legal counsel, and if you and your legal team decide changes need to be made to your employment application(s) to comply with legislation, the ExactHire team can work with you to create a new application with the verbiage you specify for compliance. Also, please know that one of the benefits of using ExactHire’s HireCentric software as your applicant tracking system is that you can create multiple employment applications, each specific to your needs. If you’re an existing client looking for more information about updating your current employment application(s) and/or creating additional employment applications, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, and let us know your needs.