What if applying for a job was as easy as applying to college?

This question has been on my mind for weeks, I am knee deep with my daughter in the college application process.  Feeling half mad, we're in the midst of sending SAT scores, filling in multiple applications, maybe the common app and at some point she's writing essays as well.  As a sourcer, fully entrenched in the recruiting industry, this experience is really eye opening.  Sure we’ve done the tours and the research and we’ve read all of the many instructions on the application portals.  Some schools have said they’ll disregard SATs if you have outstanding grades, others say the essay is of the utmost importance and yet others say they’ll look at grades and tests but essays and recommendations play no role.  Okay…..nothing like variety…and confusion.  I imagine job seekers face much the same thing, every company with different rules and preferences about how to apply. And those college admission folks get it.  At least some of them do.I can see this first with the Common App that many schools participate in. One so-called universal application with essays that you in theory complete once and can ship off to any number of schools (and they number in the 100s).  I’ve heard there are some college students that will only apply to schools with the Common App.  Makes sense, its multiple screens requiring an extensive amount of data and sans essays probably a 2-4 hour time investment to complete.  Can you imagine if we had a common app for applying to jobs?  If you were looking for a job you could easily upload your data and ship it off to whomever you desire.  Not have to spend time on 27 different ATS’.  Everyone would get the same information.

Sounds good.  Time consuming on the short term, but good.

It gets better, in a really great way.  There are also “VIP” applications.  Yep, VIP. Now who isn’t going to fill these out? “Gee kid, you’re so special we want to hand you your own easy button.”  With a quick click the kid can fill out a shortened application form, skip the essay, skip the app fee and get early consideration for merit scholarships. And, depending on the school, they will have her informat

ion pre-filled for her as well.  Even better, she'll know within 21 days if she's “in”.

Holy crap.  This is swell!  She knocked out 4 of these in 1 night, all to schools on her preferred list.  A beautiful thing to watch her choices and easy application process coincide.

Can you imagine if I could do this for candidates I source?

Dear Joe,

I have this super fabulous opportunity at company XYZ for a professional with your experience.  I've reviewed your basic biographical information online via (insert your choice here…LinkedIn, About.me, Pinterest, Quora, whatever!).  Based on this information, I thought this position would be of interest to you and truly enhance your career. I'd like to get this process started as smoothly as possible, so I have a pre-filled application ready for your review, the last thing I want you to have to do is spend an inordinate amount of time completing an application to have a conversation.  Of course,  I'd welcome additional information from you, like a resume, but to start a conversation with our Hiring Manager, Ethel, within 24 hours, just login with the information below and we'll get started.

Also, did I mention that should you elect to start the interviewing process with Company XYZ you'll become immediately eligible for a $2000 sign-on bonus?  It's one of the perks of completing our VIP application within 24 hours of receipt.

I look forward to hearing from you.  If you have any questions, please reach out to me at kelly@……com, or give me a call at 800-555-1221.”

Could it work? It's got to be in violation of something right? Is it too stalkerish? Or would it be flattering? Is it an unfair advantage? I don't know – could be amazing engagement, and colleges are getting it done.  Some offer both, the common app experience and the VIP experience.  Your choice.   Could we make that magic happen for job seekers?  That’s kind of any interesting question.  


FOT Background Check

Kelly Dingee
Kelly Dingee is a Senior Manager, Global Talent Acquisition for Marriott International. She has extensive sourcing experience having worked for Staffing Advisors (retained search), AIRS (training!) and Thales Communications, Inc., (cleared/telecom) and got her start in the profession while a full life cycle recruiter at Acterna (now known as Viavi). Lucky for Kelly, she had a boss who could see the potential of sourcing candidates from the web, and in 1998, she stepped into a newly created sourcing role. No truth to the rumor that she has a side business to help you push your resume to the top of Google search results…


  1. Kelly O says:

    Completely agree with you on this one. As someone who has been passively looking for several months and more actively looking now, I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to have to fill out endless applications online, submit them, and not have any sort of response. There is nowhere to show your personality (and I would be so fine with an essay question on an application if it helped sort you out a little better) and nowhere to find a real human connection without having an inside track or knowing how to get around that.

    For me, it’s sort of amazing how much time and effort a company puts into vetting its vendors, searching for new locations, or even choosing a new office supply vendor, but the thing that makes the most difference in how the company performs – its employees – goes through this unwieldy ATS that wants to know what my GPA was in high school, but only gives me a few characters to tell you what I’m doing at my current employer.

  2. Josh Tolan says:

    This is a really interesting idea! Having candidates apply to jobs like students apply to college would certainly cut down the amount of time applicants can sometimes spend on endless applications without any answer. Another shortcut which can cut down on the traditional hiring process is online video. Using video interviews, employers can get a better feel for candidates faster in the process. Between applying like you would for a college and the power of online video, the application process could be greatly shortened for candidates looking to spend less time applying and more time learning about the position.

  3. Paul Kohlenbrener says:


    Liked your article and the concept – “What if applying for a job was as easy as applying to college?”, but having four kids that went through the college application process, I can tell you that it wasn’t easy.

    Paul Kohlenbrener

  4. Kelly Dingee says:

    Hey Paul…

    It all depends…my oldest has just gone through the process and it varies incredibly from school to school. One of her top choices is very matter of fact that they will only consider test scores and grades – that essays and references are incredibly subjective and may not always be an accurate predictor of future success. That school also had rolling admissions so she had an answer within 30 days of applying and first consideration for merit awards. Others it is a much more detailed process, although several have offered shortened applications. It all depends on what your kid is looking for. I have a feeling this process will be completely different for the next two…

  5. Loved the description of the VIP college process…especially “Even better, she’ll know within 21 days if she’s ‘in'”. Wondered why you hadn’t included that critical little piece in the recruiting scenario?

    Absolutely nothing preventing any of a dozen better application methods.
    As Pogo once said, “we have met the enemy and he is…”

  6. Kelly Dingee says:

    Gerry –

    Good point – because we know if they’re moving on in the process or not pretty quick…Also sets the expectation with the candidate that life may change within 3 weeks, get ready. But you’d have to be able to offer that consistently…great food for thought.


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