Facing a Shortage of Applicants? — Losing Applicants Explained With 5 Ugly Numbers

It’s an almost universal complaint across both corporations and small businesses around the world. “We aren’t getting enough applicants and it is hurting our business.” This shortage of applications is probably occurring despite the fact that your corporation is well known and that your jobs are exciting. Find out the precise underlying reasons why no one is applying. But, unfortunately, you’ll never know why until you shift to a data-driven approach to recruiting. So if you haven’t made that shift, let me save you some time and reveal how data and what I call “five ugly numbers” will clearly show you the top reasons why you’re not getting enough applications.

5+ Ugly Numbers That Explain Why You Have a Shortage of Applicants

Let’s begin with the assumption that most potential qualified applicants start out with a positive view of your firm, that they find and read your job postings, and that they at least initially fully intend to apply. But then for reasons unknown to you, they reconsider and never actually apply. And because they fail to complete the application, all of the recruiting marketing dollars that you spent are lost, as well as your firm’s opportunity to hire them. The data that I have aggregated here clearly shows that there are multiple reasons why applicants are driven away. This article contains dozens of numbers revealing the problem. However, the five ugliest numbers that best reflect the cause for those lost applications can be found in bold. Those factors (those with the most impact are listed first) include:

  1. An unwieldy application process scares away applicants — how is this for an ugly number, “9 out of 10 qualified applicants” at Fortune 500 companies drop out of unwieldy application processes (Source: Indeed). And SmashFly found that 7 percent of candidates from all firms drop off before they complete the application process. Yes, that means that you may be losing 90 percent of your initially interested applicants solely because your application process is frustrating. Part of that frustration comes from the time it takes to complete an application. For example, data from across ¼ million applicants (Source: Appcast) “shows that 385 percent fewer prospects will submit an application that takes longer than five minutes to complete.” And every additional five extra minutes that you add to the application process, will cut your applications by 50 percent. Completion rates also drop by 50 percent if you move from 25 questions on the application to 50. More data (Source: Jibe) reveals that applicants would be deterred from completing the application “if they encountered tech hurdles (60 percent), couldn’t upload their résumé (55 percent), or if they couldn’t follow up on the application’s status (44 percent)”. So if you are one of the recruiting leaders that actually espouse the view that longer applications effectively drive away the “disinterested” you are inadvertently damaging your firm’s recruiting.
  1. Not being able to apply on the mobile platform drives away applicants — Because “77 percent of job seekers use mobile job search apps” (Source: Beyond), it makes sense for them to be able to complete their job search by applying on their phone. However, only 56 percent of elite award-winning firms provide for mobile applications. (Source: Talent Board). Other data (Source: Jibe) reveals that 20 percent of applicants would be deterred from completing the application if they “couldn’t complete the application on a mobile device.” And when you examine traffic that comes from mobile, the data (Source: Appcast) reveals that “98 percent of mobile candidates abandon their application due to poor mobile application processes.” So the lesson to be learned is to have a mobile job application process, but it also needs to be well-designed and user-friendly.
  1. Negative company ratings drive away applicants — your ratings on company review sites are also critical because “55 percent of job seekers who have read a negative review have decided against applying for a position at that company” (Source: CareerArc). And “1 in 3 job seekers reported having shared at least one negative review of a previous or prospective employer.” Job seekers rank “online reviews from job applicants and former employees as the second- and third-most trusted sources” of information. And even though “99 percent of firms believe managing their employer brand is important in attracting top talent, “55 percent of employers neither monitor or address negative comments on social media and review sites” (Source CareerArc). And if you’re focusing on top performers, they “are 46 percent more likely to choose a job based on a company’s good reputation than other job seekers (Source: Indeed). So, if you ignore company reviews or fail to attempt to manage them, you are unnecessarily driving off applicants.
  1. Poorly composed job postings drive away applicants –75 percent of candidates say that “the appearance of a job posting” affects their choice to apply (Source: CareerBuilder). Specific content errors will directly drive away applicants. Data reveals that “64 percent said they would not apply for a job if they didn’t understand the title” and “57 percent of respondents said jargon in job ads puts them off applying for a role” (Source; Monster). Including a question in the opening paragraph of your job posting (Source: Smart Recruit Online) “consistently generates 10 percent more applications” because it stimulates the thinking and engagement of passive prospects. Other data shows that ads that include company logos or slogans in job descriptions “can increase the number of submitted applications by 8 percent”. And that embedding a video “results in a 34 percent higher application rate” (Source: CareerBuilder). The lesson to be learned if you want to increase the number of applicants than the content of your job postings needs to be written more precisely based on market research data. And then “blind tested” among other postings to see if yours draws the best.
  1. If your prospects don’t see your job postings, you will receive fewer applications — where you source or physically place your job postings is critical because if your applicants don’t see or hear about your jobs, they obviously won’t apply. Therefore post your jobs on sites that attract the highest volume of qualified applicants (i.e. those that qualify for an interview). Data reveals that referrals are the best source for the quality-of-hires (Source: LinkedIn). But if your posting on public sites, those that produce the most-interviewed applicants across all jobs (Source: SilkRoad) include Indeed 52 percent, Careerbuilder 8 percent, Craigslist and LinkedIn 5 percent, Monster 2 percent, and print advertisements and social media 1 percent. Vary the site where you post your jobs based on the type of job that you have open and your recent success rate with that site. Even if you use the right site, you must use optimization techniques to ensure that your postings remain highly visible and findable by a job search engine.

Final Thoughts

There is an abundance of available recruiting data that reveals why even well-known firms are not getting enough applicants. We know firms like Google get close to 3 million applications a year. We also know that if you take a data-driven approach (as Google does); it is possible for your firm to increase your number of applications by up to 50 percent. The secret is to focus on ease of application, having seamless mobile phone application processes, managing your firm’s online ratings, improving the content of your postings, and placing them where the most potential applicants will see them. With this abundance of data, it’s time for recruiting leaders to stop complaining and instead to take decisive action in the revealed high-impact areas.

 

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Dr. John Sullivan

Dr. John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions. He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ERE.Net. He lives in Pacifica, California.