Is your application process shooting you in the foot?

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Finding and hiring top talent is challenging, but finding and applying to a top position isn’t exactly easy either. Trawling the job market can feel like an endless task for recruiters and candidates alike, often frustrating, always time consuming and last but not least, exhausting.

Fortunately as recruiters, we have hundreds of ways to speed our side of the application process up; Online application forms, pre-selection tests, web assessments and application tracking systems make our lives easier and essentially help us find the right people. However what works for us, doesn’t necessarily work for our candidates.

In a bid to find that perfect employee you might end up setting up more hurdles than they’re willing to jump. It might seem like a good idea to stringently filter the wheat from the chaff at the start, but put yourself in your candidate’s shoes: Based on your application process, would you apply to your ad?

Have a closer look and you might just find that your application process is shooting you in the foot.


The Right Start

Target audiences apply to certain companies more than others because they enjoy the experience, and an enjoyable application process begins with a great ad.

A candidate won’t spend 15 minutes reading an essay, they need facts, bullet points and it helps if it’s pretty. Corporate colors, logos, and photographs representing the company are always a winner. Got a coffee machine? Mention it in the ad. Remember, you’re not just advertising a job – you’re selling the experience of working at your company.

With this in mind take it a little step further and include staff testimonials. Got nothing to hide? Link to and let your employees do the talking for you. Least of all you want to make sure you include links to your social networking sites. If someone is genuinely interested in applying this will be his or her first stop (alongside your website) to scout out your company brand. Make sure you use this to full advantage with a well-groomed Facebook or Twitter account.

Spot the careers section

If a job seeker has opted to head straight to your website, as opposed to stumbling across you on an online job board, then the chances are that he or she are seriously interested in working for your company. So make the application process easy for them and anyone else that lands on your site. The people who are taking an active interest in your business are the one’s who you want to encourage, so don’t hide the jobs section somewhere down in the footer.

Ideally your careers section will be easy to navigate with a simple search tool to look for jobs in different categories. If there doesn’t happen to be any jobs available in a particular field, then why not suggest an open application? Most people with an interest in your company will relish the opportunity, plus it will boost your talent pool, it’s a win-win situation.

Where do I apply?

When it comes to job boards, most candidates spend about 30 seconds scanning an ad to work out if they’re interested or not. Hopefully, that first 30 seconds will have someone hooked but there’s one foolproof way to ensure they slip the net and that’s by hiding the Apply button.

The Apply button needs to be the shining star of your application process. It’s the first step through the gateway to your company and it sounds obvious, but this happens all the time: Placing the Apply button somewhere at the bottom of the ad will result in you missing out on potential candidates.

As much as you’d like them to, don’t assume that your candidates will read every single little tiny detail of your description. Job seekers scan ads the same way we scan resumes so make sure the Apply button is temptingly lingering nearby at all times.

Question Time

In an ideal world we’d post an ad, sit back and wait for an influx of top talent to apply, the hardest part would be choosing one of the many candidates who fit the bill. In reality, it’s a pretty mixed bag and this is why pre-selection questions play such a vital part of the application process.

The trouble is, as great as it would be to filter out the perfect candidate from the very beginning, the amount of questions and tests it would take would result in a 3 hour long application process. In reality, it needs to be less than 10 minutes (max).

First of all, you want to make sure your candidates can apply with their LinkedIn and Xing profiles, this takes about 2 seconds. Secondly, strip your application form down to the bare essentials. Every extra step a candidate needs to take is an opportunity for them to bail, so put your applicants on the fast track by getting rid of the pointless questions and save others (such as references) for later.


It should really go without saying, but some of us still haven’t got around to creating an automated response. The top biggest peeve for job seekers is not being acknowledged, quite rightfully so. We’ve all been there and it’s super frustrating especially after you’ve spent 40 minutes crafting a perfectly written cover letter.

Unfortunately most of us don’t have the time to personally respond to each and every application so the easiest way to at least acknowledge your applicants, is to simply set up an email account specifically for the job ad. Next, write a friendly auto-response to assure your candidates that their application arrived and let them know when they can expect to hear from you next.

We all know that merely cherry picking the candidates we want and ignoring the rest leads to a bad rep, so acknowledgement is crucial. Secondly the auto response is great opportunity to include links to your social media channels and other open vacancies, which will help you fill your pipeline for future positions.

Don’t forget that your application process is just an extension of your employer branding so make sure it doesn’t let you down.

A streamlined application process

Essentially the gist of it all is to make your application process quick and easy. Some may argue that a hard grafter will be willing to go the extra mile, if a 20-minute application process is too long then how will they survive in an office? However, it’s all too easy to forget that the war for talent is just that, we’re all battling for the same candidates.

If your competitor is offering a faster track to getting a foot in the door, can you really blame a candidate for choosing them over you? Even a tech superstar who’s used to spending a fair amount of time in front of the screen isn’t going to want to spend hours filling out yet another application.

Make it attractive, make it quick and make sure your application process isn’t shooting you in the foot.

selina Kerley


BIO: Selina Kerley is a blogger living and working in Berlin. She spends her days researching the world of online recruitment, in order to bring the latest news, hints and tips and recruitment strategies to the world. Selina is currently working for recruitment software specialists

2 thoughts on “Is your application process shooting you in the foot?

    joannaholman said:
    April 10, 2014 at 10:27 am

    The job hunting process would be a lot more pleasant if all recruiters followed your advice.

    Another thing I wish recruiters did consistently is to remove their job listings as soon as they get to the point that they probably won’t look at more applications. It is so frustrating to spend a long time preparing an application only to discover that my time was wasted because they’d closed applications early but had been too lazy to take down their ads. Such lack of courtesy makes me think less of the company and wary about buying from them or applying for other jobs with them in the future.

      suzchadwick responded:
      November 7, 2014 at 10:00 am

      I hear you Joanna. There is a lack of communication and general management of information online by many recruiters (not all, but many). I think there is an opportunity for improvement when it comes to how roles are advertised and how candidates are managed. I’ve had family and friends who have just never heard back after taking the time to apply and send a cover letter etc. thanks for stopping by!

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