Your guide to creating the right job application process

Last updated:
February 26, 2021
December 23, 2021
min read
Brendan McConnell
|Candidate interviews should be calm
Table of contents

Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced a poor job application process. You know the type: it’s too long, overly complicated, and asks the same questions over and over again. They’re annoying, and they leave a sour taste in your mouth about the company.

Think about that job application process, and then ask yourself how that compares to the one candidates face when they apply for positions at your organization. If you’re seeing parallels, then it’s probably time to start making some changes to your hiring process.

A negative job application process reflects poorly on your company, and will inevitably lead to lost applications. In fact, 3 in 5 job seekers are lost at various stages in a typical application process, especially if that experience is inefficient, and offers a poor user experience.

In this article, we’re going to share some tips on how to improve your job application process. But first, let’s step back and take a high-level look at what this typically entails.

Example of a job application process

Before you can start improving your job application process, it’s important to take a step back and visualize what steps a candidate will face when they apply for a job. To help you with this, here’s a breakdown of a typical hiring process.

  1. The recruitment team identifies a hiring need, creates a plan, and writes the job description.
  2. An application page is created for the position, and recruitment ads are sent across various platforms.
  3. Applicants find the job ads, and click through to the application page.
  4. They answer a series of questions, upload their resumes and cover letters, and complete any assigned tasks.
  5. Applications are reviewed, and qualified candidates are shortlisted.
  6. Recruiters pre-screen selected candidates with phone interviews, skills questions, and so on.
  7. Selected candidates are invited for in-person or phone interviews.
  8. Top candidates are assessed, and a decision is made on whether to move forward with them.
  9. Background and reference checks are completed, and an offer is extended if everything checks out.
  10. If the offer is accepted, the candidate becomes a new hire.

Each of these steps contain numerous technical, communication, user experience, and process considerations that all work together to create a positive job application process.

Improving your job application process will require you to take an honest look at your current experience. Use data to identify where applicants are dropping off to help give you an idea of where to start. To get you thinking, here are some tips to improve the candidate experience during your job application process.

7 ways to improve your job application process

Improving your job application process means making tangible changes to the way you communicate with candidates, and the user experience you’re providing.

Here are some sure-fire ways to improve your job application process.

1. Make it user friendly.

If there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s that your job application process should be as user friendly as possible. It shouldn’t be difficult, annoying, or overly time consuming to apply for a job at your company.

A user-friendly application process is easy to navigate, and simple. You should also make it clear how long the process will take, and how far along the candidate is in the process. Adding a progress bar to the job portal will allow candidates to track their application, and prompts and instructions on each page will ensure they know exactly what needs to be completed.

2. Make it easy to access.

Job seekers have more options than ever when searching for positions, which can be both a blessing and a curse for recruiters. On the one hand, it means you can send your job ads to more places than ever, but on the other hand it means applicants generally have less time and shorter attention spans.

To combat the noise, it’s important that your application page is as easy to find as possible. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of clicks to start the application once a job seeker finds your recruitment ad or job posting. Remove as many barriers as possible to help make your application portal easy to access.

3. Make it quick.

You should also strive to make your job application process as quick and efficient as possible so that job seekers are less likely to drop off halfway through. A great way to accomplish this is to only ask questions that are absolutely necessary to pre-screen the candidate. Your goal at this stage is to determine if a candidate meets the base requirements needed for a phone interview.

70% of job seekers say that they want an application to be less than 5 pages, and 83% say that they want less than 15 questions. It’s also a good idea to shorten the text and answer requirements for each question to make them as easy as possible to answer. This can be accomplished with multiple choice or drop down questions.

To help give you a benchmark of how long an application should take, here are some of the companies with the fastest processes:

  • Netflix: 1 minute
  • Salesforce: 3 minutes
  • Intel: 4 minutes
  • Apple: 5 minutes
  • Facebook: 8 minutes

4. Make sure it’s mobile friendly.

With Millenials fully integrated into the workforce, and Gen Y following closely behind, mobile optimization is expected among job seekers. These candidates are most likely to be researching jobs on their mobile devices, and want to be able to complete an application from that same device.

Ensuring that your website and application portal are mobile optimized is a mandatory user experience requirement. Additionally, you can also consider allowing applications to upload content directly from popular apps and platforms like DropBox, Google Drive, and LinkedIn.

5. Keep your instructions clear.

A common complaint among job seekers - 93% of them, to be exact - is that the instructions included in the job application process aren’t clear enough. More often than not, that’s because the application page isn’t giving clear indicators of what a user should be doing next, or not explaining what will be required.

To ensure your candidates are getting the information they need, you can add:

  • Clear calls to action on your job ad and landing pages.
  • Links to resources and company information up front.
  • Include a page that spells out requirements at the start of the process.
  • Give an overview of the entire process up front.

Being transparent about what is expected of the job seeker will help to ensure that applicants don’t drop off because of surprises or lack of information.

6. Give options for how to apply.

In the past, applying for a job was a rather cookie cutter process. It usually involved sending a resume and a cover letter to the attention of a recruiter, and targeted to a specific job. Thanks to platforms like LinkedIn, this process is evolving.

Today, one click applications through your LinkedIn profile, video resumes, any various other forms of non-traditional options are becoming more common. By giving your job seekers options for how they apply to your jobs, you both make it easier for them, and allow them to showcase their creativity.

7. Follow up with every applicant.

Last, but certainly not least, you should ensure that you have processes in place to follow up with every applicant who applies for a job at your company. This is critical to ensuring a positive candidate experience, and a positive reputation for your brand.

You should provide clear communication from the start of the application, through to its conclusion. That means sending a prompt confirmation email when a candidate applies, and providing regular updates on the status of their application. It’s also important to ensure that you send notification of rejection (or acceptance) as soon as a decision is made so that the candidate is able to move on with other plans.

Lastly, it’s good practice to provide feedback to applicants if they aren’t selected for the job. This will keep the lines of communication open, and reflect positively on your company. You never know if that rejected candidate will be the perfect fit for a different position down the road.

Of course, improving your own job application process means understanding what your applicants are looking for, and identifying where your current gaps are. It’s important to regularly take an honest look at your process and flag areas that could be improved.

Ask job applicants for feedback on your process, and recruit co-workers to try your user flow and give suggestions. The more input you have from real users, the more informed you’ll be about where you need to improve.

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