New Research Reveals Why Candidates Are Abandoning Your Recruiting Process

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Feb 23, 2022

With the nation’s labor shortage showing no signs of abating, talent acquisition teams are under enormous pressure to keep qualified candidates from abandoning their recruiting process prematurely. This is becoming a difficult challenge, as job seekers are increasingly demanding roles that enable them to work on their own terms.

The first step that many TA teams have taken to combat candidate abandonment is streamlining, simplifying, and shortening their application process. While this has chipped away at abandonment rates, studies continue to peg them north of 65% at many organizations.

The fact is that significant numbers of candidates drop out at every stage of the recruiting process, not just during application. A CareerBuilder survey, for example, showed 31% of employers lose candidates during background screenings, and research from the professional social network Blind found that nearly 30% of candidates abandon potential employers during the interview stage.

New data from Talent Board’s 2021 Candidate Experience Benchmark Research Report shows that regardless of the stage at which candidates voluntarily exit, they do so for a few key reasons. Topping this list of reasons in North America are:

  1. Their time was disrespected (especially during interviews and appointments)
  2. The recruiting process took too long
  3. Salary didn’t meet their expectations

These three issues crop up in every region we survey, although the order changes a bit. In Latin America and EMEA, for example, salary tops the list. In APAC, salary drops off the list and is replaced by “poor communication with the recruiting team.” Despite these fluctuations, the top reasons for candidate abandonment remain remarkably consistent globally.

Frankly, salary-related abandonment is to be expected and doesn’t really speak to the quality of a company’s candidate experience or to the efficiency of its recruiting team and processes. But those first two issues speak volumes.

Disrespecting Candidates’ Time

Talent Board has surveyed over 1.25 millions candidates over the past decade from over 1,200 companies. The mix of candidates we survey changes from year to year but, even so, one of their most consistent complaints has been that recruiters and hiring managers don’t always respect their time — a failure that occurs at every stage of the recruiting process.

The most common occurrences include:

  • Overly complex or repetitive applications with assessments
  • Screenings, tests, and/or assessments that take too long or that require unreasonable amounts of time and/or effort to complete
  • Recruiters or hiring managers schedule interviews but never show up (ghosting), or reschedule several times, or are disruptive during the interviews themselves
  • Job offers that take weeks or months to materialize
  • Lengthy and arduous onboarding practices (which get worse in heavily regulated industries)

Another less obvious but no less critical way that employers disrespect candidates’ time is by keeping them in the dark about where they stand during the recruiting process. For instance, just 36% of North American candidates were able to view a progress indicator when applying for a job, and only 29% received a reminder about next steps after completing their application. 

Post-interview, 76% of candidates said the hiring manager never explained next steps. And 43% of candidates said it took two weeks or longer to receive an offer letter (6% waited more than four weeks). The results are similar around the world. 

All of these missteps contribute to a candidate’s impression that their time isn’t valued. It’s probably not surprising that companies with the highest-rated candidate experiences in our research do better than other companies at keeping candidates apprised of their status throughout their journey, no matter how long or short it might be.

Bottom line, candidates are generally quite patient with the recruiting process because they understand how busy recruiters and hiring managers are (and they want that job). But their patience isn’t unlimited, and in today’s talent market, where the power is shifting to candidates rather than employers, their patience definitely isn’t as abundant as it used to be.

An Overly Lengthy Recruiting Process

Again, candidates fully accept that the recruiting process takes time — time that ultimately might not even pay off with a job offer. However, they also understand their own value, particularly in today’s fiercely competitive labor market. As a result, they’re much less willing to endure long, arduous recruiting processes. Plus, in the current recruiting environment, TA teams that move slowly are going to lose desirable talent to nimbler teams with streamlined processes.

As previously noted, an overly complex or repetitive application can contribute significantly to candidate abandonment. While 54% of the candidates we surveyed in 2021 said it took them less than 15 minutes to apply, the process still took longer for nearly half of them and times varied widely. 

Also, our data shows that the longer an application takes — 30 minutes or longer — and then still waiting to hear back after one or two or more months, the less likely candidates are to apply again or refer others to the company. Their likelihood to apply again decreases 73% and their likelihood to refer others decreases 64%. Quite a dramatic drop. 

When it comes to pre-employment assessments, there’s plenty of debate around whether they actually lengthen or shorten the recruiting process. In Talent Board’s experience, using the right assessments in the right ways (which varies from company to company) definitely helps employers more quickly determine the best possible candidates for a role. 

But assessments do lengthen the process for candidates, which may be an important consideration, especially when there’s little to no context as to why they have to take them, and when they get no feedback from the results, which is usually the case. 

What constitutes a “reasonable” amount of time and effort for completing an assessment is also a source of debate, but one thing is sure: While candidates don’t generally object to assessments, they have their limits. 

According to a survey by assessment provider ThriveMap, 47% of candidates don’t like pre-hire assessments because they take too long; 37% are unclear about why they’re taking the assessments; and 30% feel the assessments don’t relate to the jobs they’re applied to. All of these issues lead to higher candidate abandonment, and they contribute negatively to candidates’ perceptions of an employment brand and its candidate experience.

Looking to Tech

The good news is that employers are taking steps to streamline and speed up their recruiting processes. One key way they’re doing this is by investing in AI-based recruiting technologies such as resume-screening software, chatbots, online assessments, video-interviewing solutions, candidate-survey systems, and recruitment marketing software, to name just a few. These technologies handle many of the repetitive, labor-intensive tasks that make up recruiting — and they hasten the process for both the TA team and candidates.

Indicative of this investment in recruiting tech, Talent Board has seen a 40% global increase in the use of chatbots since 2019 and a whopping 380% increase in mobile text messaging campaigns since 2018. In addition, AI-based video interviewing and assessment rose in the U.S. from 48% in 2020 to 58% in 2021.

It’s worth noting that companies with the highest-rated candidate experiences are more likely than their competitors to be using some form of AI-based tech to improve sourcing, candidate communications, and their overall support of recruiters and hiring managers. Indeed, most of the top CandE Award-winning organizations around the world last year used some form of AI-based recruiting tech.

Obviously, recruiting is a complex process, and the time and effort it demands varies across job types and industries. Also, not every candidate who enters your talent pipeline has the same value or is a potential fit for your organization. You actually want a certain amount of voluntary abandonment (aka, self-selection) to occur. 

But retaining qualified candidates — those with a comparatively higher value — is imperative, especially in a labor market as tight as the current one. It’s also crucial to hang onto candidates with future-fit potential — even those who’ve been rejected — as they have the highest value to filling your pending talent needs.

By making sure you respect candidates’ time and by streamlining your recruiting process, you’ll not only hang on to these high-value candidates more effectively, you’ll also boost the overall impression job seekers have of your employment brand and candidate experience.

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