How to boost your application completion rate

Is your application form driving away potential new hires? According to Appcast, the average application completion rate—the number of people who start filling out an application, compared to those that submit a completed application—across industries hovers at around 10% on desktop and 5% on mobile. That means, at best, only one out of ten people who click on your job listing and open your application eventually submit their information.

Not only are you losing candidates, but you’re losing money. Whatever you spent on creating, publishing, and publicizing your open job listings won’t matter if applicants give up before sending you their resume. The more qualified candidates that are submitting applications, the more efficiently your hiring dollars are being used. You’re spending less money to recruit each new applicant, which means a lower cost-per-applicant.

The application process is also most candidates’ first interaction with your company’s hiring process, so you want to provide a good first impression. If your application form is long, repetitive, or frustratingly glitchy, it makes your company look out of touch. This could drive potential candidates away and negatively affect candidate experience.

Several factors can cause candidates to leave your application before pressing “submit,” and most of them have to do with convenience. Making your application succinct and accessible across devices is the easiest way to improve your application process, limit candidate drop off and boost completion rates.

Shorten your application

The biggest reason that candidates desert an application midway through is that the form is simply too long. In fact, CareerBuilder found that 60% of job seekers quit in the middle of filling out online job applications for this reason.

Some hiring managers subscribe to the outdated idea that long applications are an effective tool for weeding out applicants who aren’t serious about wanting the job. The theory is that only truly dedicated applicants will take the time to go through an onerous application process.

In reality, a lengthy application is just as likely to deter good candidates as bad ones. Job hunting is extremely time-consuming, especially for candidates who are already employed full-time. Employment seekers with good time management skills will not want to invest a huge chunk of time on any one application and will simply move on to the next listing.

How long should your application be? The CareerBuilder study found that 20% of candidates said they are not willing to complete an application that takes them 20 minutes or more. Meanwhile, Appcast found that companies can boost their application completion rate by up to 365% by reducing the length of the application process to five minutes or less.

Not every company can, or should, limit their application that drastically. Just remember that a good application should be long enough to gather all the pertinent information you need to make a decision about proceeding to an initial screening, and no longer.

One of the easiest ways to shorten your application is by avoiding asking repetitive or unnecessary questions. Don’t force candidate’s to re-enter education and work histories that are already clearly spelled out in their resume. Transcribing this information a second time is time consuming and frustrating, and may cause candidates to simply abandon the application altogether.

CareerBuilder also found that 76% of applicants want to know how long it will take them to finish an application before it starts. Consider timing how long it takes an applicant to complete your form and posting that expectation at the beginning of the process.

Make your application mobile friendly

Completing an employment application on a mobile device may not seem appealing to everyone, but increasingly people are job hunting and submitting applications via their smartphones and tablets. CareerBuilder has observed a significant trend towards mobile applications. Between 2016 and 2017, desktop application rates fell 11%, while mobile rates increased 18%.

Think about the candidate experience—you’re scrolling through social media on your smartphone, and see a tweet or LinkedIn post advertising a new job posting that you think might be a great fit. You want to apply now while it’s top of mind—not wait until you’re in front of your computer.

The ability to apply via mobile is also important to younger candidates. The same study found that one in ten millennials said they would drop a company out of consideration if they couldn’t apply to a job via their mobile device. This trend will most likely continue as people become more and more dependent on their smartphones.

Improve the mobile experience for applicants by following these guidelines:

  • Use a responsive design that can adapt to phone and tablet screens. Don’t make candidates try in vain to fill in forms that aren’t formatted for mobile use.

  • Keep your application short, as outlined in the previous section. Long application forms are even more annoying to complete on a mobile device.

  • Allow candidates to upload resumes and other documents directly from their phones.

  • Eliminate unnecessary login screens. A prospective candidate shouldn’t need to create a dedicated account just to fill out an application form

Mobile job hunting is going to become increasingly important, so make sure your application process is mobile friendly now. Doing so will also help you attract technology-savvy applicants instead of actively drive them away.

Perform user testing

Application forms that are repetitive, confusing, or prone to malfunction can frustrate applicants into giving up, no matter how interested they are in the position. The only way to root out these problems is through periodic user testing.

Do you know what your company’s application experience is like firsthand? Unless you were hired very recently, the answer is probably no. Only 1/3 of employers have applied to one of their companies’ jobs to experience the process themselves. This is a great exercise for getting a firsthand look at what the application experience is really like.

As you go through this exercise, be aware of your own employee biases. Of the employers above who did attempt their company’s application process, nearly half (46%) say the process was “very good.” Conversely, only 32% of candidates rate their most recent application experience as “very good.”

For this reason, it’s also a good idea to perform user testing with non-vested parties. Do this either through a professional user testing company or by asking your own contacts to go through the application and report their experiences. How long did the application take? Was it straightforward and easy? Were they confused or frustrated at any point? Also consider testing on various job boards to ensure the quality is consistent across different sources.

User testing can also help you identify design and technological issues that are hindering applicants. The answer to an unusually low application completion rate could be as simple as a broken form or a technological glitch. Be on the lookout for issues including, but not limited to:

  • Forms that time out before the user can finish answering the questions.

  • Pages that don’t load correctly on certain browsers or mobile devices.

  • Required fields that don’t work correctly or require confusing information.

  • Broken and misdirected links.

  • Extremely slow loading pages or pages that can’t handle the volume of traffic you are expecting.

You can also survey previous job applicants about their experiences with the application, but remember that this pool is limited to people who actually completed the process. The ones who got frustrated and left before completing the application can’t be surveyed using this method.

Use an applicant-friendly ATS

An ineffective applicant tracking system can cause a poor application experience that drives away potential candidates. Make sure that your chosen ATS helps boost, and doesn’t hinder, your application completion rate by providing a seamless experience for candidates.

A great ATS should make it easy to create short-but-effective application forms. Hire by Google caps applications at 20 questions and allows you to customize applications by role, so you’re not asking for any unnecessary information that’s not applicable to the particular role the candidate is applying for.

Outdated ATS software can freeze up on applicants or time out while they are in the midst of answering questions. A modern ATS should also not require users to create an account with them to complete the application, as this is an unnecessary and annoying extra step.

Boost your application completion rate, find more great applicants

There are many reasons you should want to boost your application completion rate: to increase candidate experience, reduce cost-per-hire, and to make sure you’re not driving away potentially great applicants.

The goal is to attract the right people, and make sure they get over the initial hurdle of applying, rather than being deterred by a faulty website or repetitive form. This will increase your chances of finding a greater volume of fantastic candidates, and that you’ll impress them from the beginning.

About Hire by Google

Hire is a recruiting app by Google that uses AI to make the hiring process faster and simpler. Because it is designed specifically for G Suite users, with Gmail, Google Calendar and other G Suite integrations, Hire streamlines administrative tasks so that your team can hire the best people, faster.