Some hiring managers subscribe to the outdated idea that long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
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
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
Improve the mobile experience for applicants by following these
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
Allow candidates to upload resumes and other documents directly from
Eliminate unnecessary login screens. A prospective candidate
shouldn’t need to create a dedicated account just to fill out an
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
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
Pages that don’t load correctly on certain browsers or mobile
Required fields that don’t work correctly or require confusing
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.