They Don’t Want a Relationship, They Just Want an ‘Apply Now’ Button

Steve Boese Candidate Pool, HR Tech, Job Boards, Steve Boese

Each term, I survey the new students in my Human Resources Technology class about their experience with, and attitudes toward, many of the commonly found workplace tools and technologies that we cover in the course, and that they are likely to encounter in their professional HR lives. With each class, the survey results are reasonably consistent – one or two students have some corporate experience with an ‘Enterprise grade’ technology like PeopleSoft or SAP, someone in the class with a recruiting background may know how to poke their way around Taleo, and the majority of the students have no real exposure to workplace technologies save for one notable exception.

Apply-nowAlmost all of the students report fairly recent experience dealing with the corporate online application process, from the perspective as a candidate. And when asked for details about their perceptions of these various online application processes across a wide range of companies, local and national, large and small, the same kinds of responses get reported semester after semester:

  • Too long
  • Too confusing
  • Why does the process ask me a bunch of questions that can be easily found in my resume?
  • Once I hit ‘apply’ I never hear anything back from the company
  • Once I start the application process, I can’t look at the job description unless I cancel and start over

No big deal you say – these are the kinds of complaints that job seekers have been making for ages about online application processes. Certainly the designs and architectures of the largest Applicant Tracking Systems vendors in use by almost all large companies these days have not done much to address these concerns. ATS systems, especially larger ones, have definitely fallen into the trap of piling on more features, capability, and complex process support often at the expense of the candidate experience.

If you are really a savvy organization or recruiter though, you are not worried all that much about the online application experience, since the world of recruiting is undergoing a major shift.  In 2010, and in the future, recruiting is turning ‘social’ and stalking sourcing candidates on Facebook and Twitter are the order of the day.  The online application to the company is really only a final step in this new social, interactive, and enlightened process.  Candidates are not just candidates, they are now part of your talent community, some kind of new and exciting construct consisting of you, what your organization may be able to offer, and an increasing (and increasingly desperate) collection of job seekers hoping that somehow they can arise from the ‘talent community’ and enter the ‘employed community’.

Forgive me for thinking at first glance the ‘talent community’ concept seems a little feudal, maybe one or two of the ‘community’ of loyal subjects will actually make it into the castle one day, and the rest can hang around the fringes until and unless they are ever needed.

Getting back to the students, one additional and open-ended question I always ask them is this: ‘What is your preferred method to seek out opportunities and apply for positions?’.  Every semester and for three years running now, the most common answer is ‘The big job boards like Monster or CareerBuilder’. When pressed for details, ‘Ease of use’, ‘one click to send a resume and apply’, ‘no need to re-enter the same information over and over’, and  ‘lots of jobs all in one place and not just for one company’ are the most frequently mentioned. When asked about learning about organizations and engaging with company recruiters on social networks like Facebook or Twitter, almost all of them recoil. No way they say, Facebook is for me and my friends only.

These students are generally a pretty attractive set of candidates, most are already working HR or business professionals, all are pursuing their Master’s degree, and many bring a wide range of experiences and diversity to the table.  In short, they are a strong talent pool – but they just don’t seem to want to be a part of your talent community. Would you have ever figured that?

Where was that ‘Apply now’ button again?