First up, full disclosure. I have never “applied” for a job. I’ve started businesses and moved from opportunity to opportunity either working for myself or others over the last 20 years. Up until recently I’d never clicked on an apply button. On paper this should probably disqualify me from writing about candidate experience but it’s not that simple.
In hindsight candidate experience played a big part when I was trying to figure out what to do after leaving college even though I didn’t know it at the time. Looking back I think the main reason I started my first business was because it felt easier than putting myself through the anecdotal pain of job applications, interviews and rejections.
Fast forward 20 years…
In the last 12 months I’ve pressed plenty of apply buttons in the name of figuring out a better way to attract and engage the right candidates and deliver great candidate experiences.
But here’s the problem, despite some amazing technology I am not sure it’s changed that much. Success seems to be measured by the number of applications we get for a position. And that’s bad for everyone, candidates and employers alike.
I’ve had a range of careers from professional sailor to shopkeeper over those 20 years, however I did find retail in particular pretty interesting. I enjoyed the instant gratification of hearing the cash registers ring on a busy day. Now that was a real conversion, the customer got what they needed and I got their hard earned cash.
If we had a busy shop full of customers looking for things and not buying because we didn’t have what they wanted it wasn’t a lot of fun for either side.
Luckily it only happened occasionally.
But the busy shop with customers looking for things and neither side getting what they want sums up recruitment quite well. Thousands of people visit jobs, many apply but most get rejected by the process.
By one account a large global employer rejected 16 million applicants in a single year. Back of the envelope estimates that allow $10 for the time spent to make the application indicates $160 million dollars of economic waste on the candidate side alone.
And that’s before you even consider the employer side, as my friend who gave me the stat then commented, “You should have seen how much time and money we spent sorting through these applicants and then rejecting them.”
It’s even worse when you start to consider the emotional distress rejection has on the applicants and perhaps their close ones when they don’t make it.
It’s a big problem no one really talks about that is costing companies and candidates serious time and money.
So why measure success by the conversion rate of visitors to applicants? The real measure of success is the number of suitable, productive hires a campaign delivered.
Reading a blog post celebrating how some piece of technology had increased the conversion rate for a job application by 15% reminded me of this recently.
Digging deeper it turned out that the application rate had indeed increased but there was no mention of the hiring rate. Depending on the role and the number of applications already being received that may or may not have been such a good thing…
By making the application rate a metric of success we risk driving unwanted applications and wasting everyone’s time. Why not spend more time giving potential applicants better information on what a company is really looking for so they can make better decisions before clicking the apply button?
Maybe an employer branding initiative should be considered successful when it helps a bunch of people who weren’t going to make it take the decision not to apply?
I recently attended one of the Candidate Experience Awards workshops in London with Clinch to discuss and learn how companies can improve the candidate experience. Lots of great ideas and tips to improve the candidates experience of the hiring process were discussed and we’ll be incorporating some of them into our own application processes.
However I would still argue that the best possible candidate experience someone can have is not to apply for a job they are not going to get. The more we can do to help people self select out as early as possible the better.
I saw a great presentation by Mike Bailen at ATC in Sydney last year and I came across it again the other day here. The essence of the presentation that made a big impression on me is captured on slide 10.
“The Dream, Reject 1% Hire 99%”.
Now that’s a candidate experience to aspire to as an employer.