Online Applications: Beyond Thunderdome

Guest: David Anderson HR, Online Applications, Recruiting

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?