Companies are getting better and better at creating rich and compelling job posts that attract their ideal candidates. But there's one aspect of the job post that's commonly overlooked: the application process.
Does that look familiar? If so, then you've probably struggled with what to do with a heap of applications ranging greatly in format, content and quality. You're either missing essential information or you're at a loss on how to systemically and unbiasedly evaluate applications. It's not easy when they all have different information in different formats, scattered among email convos, pdfs and docs. Ugh.
By not being specific about what information you need from candidates, you end up trying to compare apples and oranges. Not only that, but by not having a consistent format you're comparing apples baked into a pie with oranges that've been juiced and mixed into a mimosa...forgive this tortured metaphor. You get the point.
This application process isn't great for candidates either. They get lost through the cracks and may be waiting for a reply for weeks. And unless they're applying for a copywriting position, it's unrealistic to expect candidates to wow you with a cover letter and CV without knowing what information you're looking for.
You end up getting generic applications that are horrendous to read and that don't reflect someone's skills, motivation or personality. Rather, they reflect an outdated application process — a '90s remnant along with faxes, floppy disks, Rolodex's and a much more formal work culture.
Application forms are the way to go. Really. We realize they get a bad rap from candidates who have had terrible experiences with endless and tedious forms that end up being a huge time investment. All just to receive a generic rejection in the end....This is not the way to go.
When done right application forms do not need to be at the expense of a great candidate experience. In fact, they can ensure one.
Application forms do not need to be at the expense of a great candidate experience. In fact, when done right they can elevate the experience a candidate has with your company. Not to mention that application forms make it way easier to get the information you need in a digestible format.
What an application form has to have in order for candidates to have a good experience filling it in:
- Keep it short.
Some of the biggest pains for job seekers are applications that are too long, have too many steps and are a huge investment of time and effort. It doesn't make sense to ask candidates to make such a big investment in this early stage of the hiring process. At this point they are interested in the job but probably want to learn a bit more about it before knowing if it's worth their time investment.
There's something to be said for a longer application if you are receiving too many applications. You can add a couple more questions to get candidates who are not serious about the job to self-select out. Be weary however, that the more of an investment you ask of candidates, the more you have to do to make sure the application is still a pleasant experience.
The other biggest pain job seekers experience is spending a lot of time on an application and then receiving a generic rejection with no feedback. If you ask for a big time investment from candidates consider spending just as much time on evaluating each candidate and providing them with thoughtful feedback.
- Make it as easy as possible to fill in the apply form.
This basically means your apply form should look clear and work well. It also means automating where possible. For example, allowing candidates to pre-fill an application form with the information from their LinkedIn profile is a great way to get the information you need with minimal effort from candidates.
- Don't ask for information you don't need.
Go easy on asking for personal information. This is simply courteous but also good practice for privacy reasons. For example, GDPR does not allow you to ask for information you don't have a good reason for needing. For more on hiring and GDPR have a look here.
- Manage expectations.
If your application form has multiple pages, allow candidates to view the entire form without having to fill in any questions first. It can be quite frustrating finding out that you have to provide a link to a portfolio you don't have at the very last page of an application you've spent an hour on.
- Make sure it works well on mobile.
60% of job seekers are doing so on their phone. Don't make it hard for them to apply on mobile because you'll miss out on the majority of talented candidates. A mobile friendly application form is a must.
- Try and stay away from assignments for now.
As mentioned before, don't ask for a huge time investment from candidates in the application stage of the hiring process. For most roles it's best to save assignments for a later stage when candidates have been able to get all the information they need to judge how well this role could be a match for them.
⚾️ Create a mobile first application form that's modern, friendly and customizable with Homerun. Homerun's apply forms follow the guidelines above so that your candidates will find applying to be pleasant and simple. Try it out here.
How to ask the right questions to get the information you need:
Follow these guidelines to get the information you need so that you can easily figure out which candidates to move forward with.
- Ask questions that candidates want to fill in.
People like to share their views and opinions. Make use of this in order to get your candidates to show you who they are and if they are a value fit for your company.
- Give a word count limit.
To help candidates be concise, let them know how many words to use in their answers. It also clears up any ambiguity about how much you're expecting in an answer. The less candidates are unsure about the more likely they'll apply.
- Throw in something light.
Just like a good movie or book you want to hold your candidate's attention and keep them motivated to finish the application. It can help to throw in a breather: a light fun question that will put a smile on their face.
- Ask questions that allow candidates to show their personality.
This will help candidates to tell their entire story, not just the story of their career path. It's a useful way to see if your candidate is a good value-fit for your company.
- Ask questions that are open enough to allow candidates to tell you what they want you to know.
People applying for a role have a good reason to think they might be a great match. Whether it's because they have the experience or they are a huge fan of your company. Give them ample opportunity to let you know what's relevant for you to know.
- Don't forget practical questions that might be deal breakers.
Is a drivers license a must for this role? Ask if they have it. Do they need to live in you city? Be sure to be clear about this in your job post, but ask in your application form to be sure. This will keep you and your candidates from wasting anyone's time.
- Ask if candidates have any questions for you.
You've had your chance to ask them what you need to know. Give candidates that opportunity too. Make this the last question in your apply form. It might give you interesting insights into what's missing in your job post. If you want to move forward with a candidate be sure to answer their questions when you contact them.
For more inspiration on what questions to ask, have a look at our list of 50 questions you can ask candidates in an application form here.