Online Applications: Beyond Thunderdome

I didn’t know what it was like out there until I started looking for a new place to hang my hat. It’s a long story, but basically it involves a long and fruitful career, facility relocation, my decision not to relocate, and a retention bonus plan for a smooth transition.

So, for the first time in a number of years, I’m an active career seeker, reading job postings, visiting career pages, and clicking on <Apply Here> buttons.  However, a lot of what I’m finding out there is Mad Max-like, a barren wasteland–a plethora of apocalyptic approaches to online applications. Okay, maybe I exaggerate, a little.

But really, after a few hours of reading postings and applying online, I needed a Visine flush.  Once I could see again, my wife talked me out of clicking over to Netflix and watching Beyond Thunderdome and back to Google to continue my active search.  And while I roamed, I made a list of fourteen online application stutters and obstacles we talent acquisition leaders should fix.  Here it goes:

  1. Can’t find the careers link. Why bother having a career page if it can’t be found?
  2. A dreadfully long application process. Anyone have a sharp stick?
  3. Career page search engines that don’t quite work right, (I typed “human resources” and got “plant engineer”) or search tools that only return a few jobs at a time when the company has over three hundred positions posted. Again, if I can’t find it…
  4. Here’s one that bugs me… not asking for my resume early in the process and/or no resume parsing into demographic fields. Passive and even actives don’t want to have to recreate their resume (work and education history).
  5. Asking for references. This should come later after interviews. I mean, come on, we haven’t even had a first date yet.
  6. Asking for my SSN. Really?  How do I know you’re not going to open a credit card with it and order ShamWow’s for the whole office.
  7. Asking for my birthdate.  Eh hem, age discrimination anyone?  Or, the subtler version of this:  requiring a college graduation year.
  8. Session time-outs. Need I say more?
  9. An online application with so many fields arranged willy-nilly on the page that I can’t keep track of which required fields I completed and which ones I missed.   It’s a game of find the red asterisk.
  10. Complicated login and password requirements like: No symbols, one capital letter, and eight characters, except when the moon is full, and then we need nine. Or so asking for many security password retrieval questions that I forget my mother’s maiden name by the time I click submit.
  11. No separate page for the voluntary EEO request, or no specification that it is voluntary.
  12. An online application not enabled for social networking and/or mobile device users.  Why can’t I play Angry Birds and apply at the same time?  I can handle it.
  13. Asking too many qualifying questions. A few are okay for some high volume positions.
  14. A job page versus a career page. Hey, I’m in this for a career… not just a job.

As a best practice, put your applicant eyes in and audit your career site periodically.  Or even better, have one of your employees apply online and then have them walk you through what they see. Don’t be afraid of what process and system poltergeists they may find. Run toward the light!

Also, get with your ATS provider and get stats on your career page opt-out rates. And then after your improvements have been made, re-audit in a few weeks/months.

Overall, make sure your process is clear, simple, easy to navigate, and inviting.  Oh, and make it inclusive.  We passive and active applicants alike don’t stick around long for much less.

Any you would add to the list?

FOT Background Check

David Anderson is a senior HR/Talent leader who builds successful organizations through employer branding, attracting and retaining top talent, performance management and leadership development. David is an SPHR with over fifteen years of experience in software and high tech and is a graduate of Indiana University. He is actively seeking a leadership opportunity in 2014 with an organization that is ready for growth and realizes that closing the talent gap is the key to innovation and business success.


  1. Saniyyah says:

    I too am frustrated with the online style of applying. I am looking to change careers and get into the HR field and it is a chore just to apply. This article is so on point. I have asked myself some of the same questions and thought, “Maybe its a way to deter individuals from applying. You know like weeding out those who are not serious?” There has to be a reason for the details…..I do think more time is spent applying the company should pay us for enduring the many fields of information they want! Because it sure is a job……LOLOLOL

  2. Renee says:

    I love this post/article. I do not understand why I suddenly have to be an expert in ATS to apply for an open position. It is beyond frustrating when all I hear is how hard it is to find hard-working, qualified applicants. Some companies just don’t see the irony.

  3. Ella says:

    This is right on point! Post this on every social network.

  4. Rob says:

    Here, here! This is just one of the many reasons why HR is generally looked upon as the “DMV” of most companies. Any other department from Finance to Marketing would never be allowed to get away with these types of obvious oversights and commonsense ignorances.

  5. Don says:

    How about the one where the site takes you in a never ending loop from sign up page to job search page with no explanation or help. (feels like you are in the twilight zone lol) Turns out you need to have “cookies enabled” or this is your punishment. Would have never known had I not called and asked. Without naming names it seems like the “biggest” companies have the least user friendly websites!

  6. Jacob Rhoades says:

    We’re at the mercy of the ATS we use – with the older ATS systems put into place, I think the emphasis was on how this was “new” and would save recruiters so much time by getting the job applicants to fill out a lot of the file information. The emphasis has definitely shifted to making it as easy as possible for the job seeker, but putting money into a job application experience isn’t high on a lot of companies’ lists (especially those that have no problem attracting applicants).

    My own gripe would be “mobile optimized” job pages that requires a resume upload. How many people have resumes on their phones?

  7. Joan Stack says:

    Kris, you made me LOL! Sadly true that we in HR seem to buy into the “make them jump through hoops” approach to recruiting, and its evens adder cousin, “they’re lucky to have a job.” The fact is top talent does not have to put up with antiquated systems and processes, and smart people, and especially the Millennial generation spots them and runs in the other direction without a second thought. Then we wonder why the best people are not working at our companies, why we don’t have innovators and thought leaders — whatever the unemployment rate numbers may be, the best talent goes where their time and effort is valued and will be among other smart people. Bad,time-consuming on-line ATS processes, and tired career pages, signal what it would be like to work at the companies who have them!

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