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Feb 19, 2021

Shopping-cart abandonment is the term for when a customer starts a purchase but then bails out. Marketing professionals hate this for obvious reasons and will do everything they can to prevent it. 

The equivalent in recruiting is when a candidate clicks on a job ad and then fails to complete the application. What’s not equivalent is what recruiters do about it. 

They typically don’t do much. 

In fact, unlike marketers, many don’t even capture metrics like application abandonment. Metrics that have become second nature to marketers are still often overlooked by recruiting professionals.

The Problem of Application Abandonment

How big a problem is application abandonment? Really big. A study by Appcast shows that about 95% of candidates who click on a job ad don’t follow through to complete the application. To add injury to insult, if the employer is using a programmatic tool to manage their ad spend, each of those clicks costs money. At 71 cents per click, the cost of a single click is negligible — but if 95% of clicks go nowhere, then the costs add up.

According to David Bernstein of JobSync, the reasons for application abandonment would be obvious to anyone in the online shopping world. When applicants click on an ad on a job board, instead of seamlessly being shifted into an application process, they are often ported over to a completely different system, often an ATS where people are expected to create an account and re-enter information they have previously entered at the jobs site.  

An online shopping site wouldn’t risk shifting people on the verge of buying over to another system, only to have them first create an account and re-enter their credit card and shipping information before they could complete the purchase. Not allowing the buyer to check out  directly on the marketplace is a major cause of shopping cart abandonment. The same is also true when it comes to application abandonment.

You would think that with job boards’ “one-click” application process, organizations wouldn’t try to port candidates over to their ATS, but the problem is that if they want to include the necessary pre-screening questions and leverage automation, then they need to do so. 

Rita Kelly, senior director of talent acquisition at Acelero Learning, put on her tech hat to find a solution to this problem. She used a data-integration tool that allowed her to ask candidates the pre-screening questions she needed without leaving the job board. This reduced the number of applicants abandoning the process so much that she got three times as many applicants from Indeed for the same spend.

Kelly shows that addressing candidate-acquisition problems like application abandonment requires thinking like a marketer, gathering data like a marketer, and having the tech-savvy to recognize that one can find a tool to solve the problem.

Addressing Abandonment

Aside from finding the right tech solution, there are three broad lessons here: 

  1. The mindset, skillset, and toolset of marketers are extremely relevant to recruiting. Marketers have had more time (and more budget) to look into how to optimize the customer pipeline. Recruiters would do well to find ways to tap into that expertise. They should pay attention to the metrics (such as return on ad spend, or ROAS) and terminology (such as programmatic advertising) of the marketing team.
  2. Technology integration is a big deal. The application abandonment problem is caused by a lack of integration between two technologies: the job board and the ATS. However, that’s just the tip of the integration iceberg. As thought leader Gerry Crispin says, “The large companies I work with have an average of 28 talent acquisition technologies. It isn’t any wonder that integration and overlap, efficiency, and productivity tend to be the major concerns rather than results.” Talent acquisition departments need tech-savvy to be familiar with what integration tools can do (e.g., Zapier, MuleSoft, and JobSync).
  3. The rapid evolution of TA tech must be matched by the rapid evolution of the capabilities of TA teams. New technologies keep pouring into talent acquisition with attendant opportunities and problems. TA teams need to have the resources to continually update their processes, not just the resources to run their processes.

Want to future-proof your career in talent acquisition? Then learn about marketing, get skilled at technology, and develop the ability to drive continuous change.

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