Two Step Application Process

by Ryan Kohler

I’ve read quite a few blog posts recently by job seekers complaining about how hard it is to apply for jobs or how long it takes when applying for a job with an employer using an applicant tracking system. Generally speaking, employers love applicant tracking systems and job seekers dislike them. What we have found is that most of the negativity comes because it takes the job seeker a significant amount of time to apply for a job and then they’re quickly filtered out. Their frustration doesn’t come because they are rejected. They are upset because they were forced to invest a significant amount of time applying for a job, providing an insane amount of information then they are quickly kicked out and told that they were no longer being considered.

As an applicant tracking software provider, I’ve taken this to heart and looked at how the industry itself is trying to fix this issue. It seems to me like everybody else is focused on the wrong things. What most providers are focused on is how to make it easier for the job seeker to fill out that application. Things like resume parsing, applying with Linked In, Indeed, or Facebook. Basically the idea is to grab information from profiles already created and enter that information into the application in order to make it faster to apply. Although this certainly has some value and has been proven to increase the speed, simply put, there is no easy way to quickly fill out an application that is asking 400 questions. These profiles don’t have the answers to many of the questions asked. An applicant will still need to answer questions that will help HR understand why somebody left a job, why they don’t have the title of manager at their last position. It won’t tell you whether they have a legal right to work in the United States or whether they’re willing to submit to a drug test or a background check. All of these questions will still need to be answered.

At ApplicantPRO we have taken a different approach and we look at what caused this long arduous online application in the first place. If you remember back before you had an Applicant Tracking System, the application process looked something like this:

  1. Job Posting: An employer posted a job, including a fax number or an email address.
  2. Resume: Job seekers submitted their resumes either via email or by fax.
  3. Research: Employers then went through those resumes. This was very time consuming because they had to read through each resume to decide who met the qualifications.
  4. Screen: Maybe they conducted a phone screen or had the person take a test.
  5. Interview: HR would choose a few of their top candidates and call them in for some initial interviews.
  6. At the point an applicant then filled out the long paper application.

It was still long and arduous, but the job seeker had a reason to fill it out. They had made it through the initial application process. They were actually being considered for the job.

The problem with this model is that it is very ineffective for a large applicant pool. That is the beauty of an applicant tracking system. There can be a process in place and screening question that each applicant answers. That way the hiring manager can look at the top applicants simply and easily. We have noticed a problem lately with screening questions. Most companies are loading up their full application with all screening questions at the time of initial application. Our data suggests that this is a deterrent for applicants. So, the more questions asked, the fewer people apply.

There is the challenge, we want to know the information but we don’t want to scare away our most qualified applicants. At ApplicantPRO we have approached this a little bit differently in what we call a two step application process. It answers all the issues HR had with the old process but it doesn’t cause unneeded problems or pain for the job seeker. What this means is that when a job seeker sees a job on a job board and decides to apply they’re only going to be asked to fill in a short three to five-minute application or what we call an expression of interest. This includes uploading a resume. It includes answering a handful of job screening questions specific to the job. It includes a collection of race and gender information for compliance and it includes asking them how they heard about the job. Now to make it even easier we’re going to auto populate most of this information or as much as we can including source, resume, Facebook or LinkedIn profile if they choose to use those to help them apply. We will also store their data so if they want to apply in the future, we can pull from that. Thus making it easy for them to apply but ensuring the employer has the information they need to conduct initial screening. Once HR has their top applicants, a full application can be sent to gather the remaining information needed. Such as, references, previous employment history, etc. By letting them know that they've moved further into the process the candidate will be more likely time to answer all of the questions that you want to ask them. This is because either they’re going to be interviewed within the next day or they were just interviewed recently. This is the proper way to find a happy balance that makes job seekers able to apply for jobs quickly but allows HR and employers to collect the information they need. We’ve found time and again this increases the applicant pool by as much as two to three times where it was before. It increases what we call conversion rate. Job seekers are more likely to apply.


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