The 5 Things Driving Online Applicants the Most Crazy

Half the U.S. job candidates who participated in our study this year say they have quit an online application. This is an increase of 6 percent compared to 2017. What are the causes? What challenges do candidates face? How can you increase your chances of finding the right talent? See below … and spoiler alert: It’s not about being more popular.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all candidate experience. Candidates live in a hyper-connected world with better access to information than ever before. They also have the possibility to search and apply for jobs anywhere, at any time.

They may start reading about you while sipping their morning coffee, then visit your career website on the way to the university, and fill in an application during lunch time. Multiple devices might be used during this process. As an employer, you want to make sure you’re reaching out to the right talent, as well as checking that your application process runs smoothly every step of the way. After all, more than half (56 percent) of the candidates who quit an online application did it because of poor functionality of the site.

One of the hurdles you may be actively trying to reduce is the technical issues that candidates face when filling out your application. This year’s study confirms this as one of the biggest frustrations for candidates. However, you’d be better off addressing other concerns that ranked higher in their list.

These are the top five frustrations for candidates in the U.S., according to data from the 2018 Potentialpark Study (37,000 responses, wide range of industries).

Not Knowing How Long the Application Takes

Candidates ranked the lack of clarity in the application process their No. 1 frustration. Fifty-six percent of U.S. candidates experience frustration about not knowing what happens from the moment they send in their application till the moment they get a response. While operational challenges complicate standardized recruitment processes across departments and locations, you’d go a long way by not keeping talent in the dark, given the risk that other employers act more quickly than you. If you can’t share the way you process applications, give some idea of what the candidate can expect. There’s no need for secrecy.

How Long the Application Takes

Returning to transparency of the application process, this information should be available before they even apply. Almost half of the candidates (44 percent) want to know how much time they will invest in their application before they even get started. Perhaps the candidate you’re looking for is commuting and wants to send in an application immediately when they come across your job opening on LinkedIn. But does she or he have enough time to fill it out? Give a time estimate and you’ll be surprised at how many dropouts you’ll avoid just by letting them be prepared.

The Application Takes Too Long

Not knowing how long an application will take is more frustrating than the length of the application itself. However, as many as 35 percent of candidates in the U.S. who have quit an application reported that the reason was its length. This percentage has decreased as employers have improved their applications and applicant tracking systems. However, over a third of candidates still get frustrated by lengthy applications. Does it really need to be spread over 10 pages? Are there any questions that you can ask later in the process? What are questions or fields in the ATS could you remove to save the candidate some time and still get the information relevant to you at that stage of the recruitment process?

Unnecessary Questions 

With 30 percent of candidates doubting the relevancy of your questions, this frustration comes in fourth. How much sense does every question make in your application form? Results from the study show it is not uncommon for employers who are among Fortune 500 companies to ask candidates to fill out their work history after they have already chosen to apply through LinkedIn or CV parsing. Duplicate questions can cause candidates to lose focus on completing their application. If you have many other questions which are not duplicate, don’t hesitate to briefly explain to candidates why the question is relevant in the process. Remember: Transparency!

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Suddenly Requesting Documents 

While conducting the Study, we’ve seen a wide range of applications from the minimalist “Apply through LinkedIn” to those that require a CV, cover letter, university diplomas, references, and GPA. Only you know what works best for your process, but make sure to prepare the applicant for a smooth candidate experience. What do you expect in a cover letter, how many references do you need, what additional documents should be prepared? And remember to tell the candidate before starting the application process!

Bonus No. 6: The Application Doesn’t Work!

Technical problems experienced during the application process are only sixth on the frustrations list.

With most processes online becoming more intuitive and personalized, candidates expect a certain kind of experience when applying for jobs, even if they use different pathways. Their journey is paved with challenges, and the critical moments must be defined and mapped by the employers to avoid losing candidates along the way and to reduce the costs of recruiting in the long run.

Stephan van Calker

Stephan van Calker has his roots in The Netherlands, where he has been living, studying, and working before moving to Sweden in 2015. For Potentialpark he works together with top Fortune 500 employers in the U.S. and The Netherlands.

A strong employer brand is needed more than ever in the "war for talent," and he hears the companies' needs for data on creating business cases and getting buy in. Working at Potentialpark as an independent research company, he speaks the candidates’ language from an unbiased perspective. He enjoys deep discussions on what candidates are looking for and is passioned about speaking at conferences and engaging audiences on hot employer branding topics.

Last but not least, he enjoys having coffee with typical Swedish cinnamon buns, so he might bring you one of these when you meet him!

Follow Stephan on LinkedIn or Twitter @svcalker, or e-mail stephan.vancalker@potentialpark.com