The statistics are jaw-dropping: According to a CareerBuilder survey, 60 percent of job seekers have abandoned an employer’s application process because it was too complicated. A staggering 82 percent said there were simply too many steps involved for what is often a very low return on their investment of time and effort. In an era when employers are desperate to find and hire qualified candidates, overly complicated application processes ensure they won’t.

This problem doesn’t only affect the number of applicants who arrive on your desktop (or tablet, or phablet, or smartphone); it also undermines the quality of your new hires. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than four out of every five members of the workforce are what we consider to be “passive” prospects. These people are employed and often willing to consider career advancement opportunities, but unlike active job seekers, they will not tolerate application forms only the IRS could love.

Now, I realize that application forms are often the mangled product of too many hands.  By the time the lawyers, the HR department, and the occasional overzealous recruiters get done with them, applications can require everything from complete salary histories and lists of references to even a candidate’s social media passwords (hard as it is to believe, this has happened before). It’s no wonder that the flow of top quality talent has slowed to a trickle

So, what’s the better practice here? I call it “speed applications.” Like speed dating, it’s not a commitment to a long-term relationship, but rather, an expression of interest on the part of two parties to get to know each other a bit better (at another time and place).

In other words, speed applications aren’t applications at all — so the lawyers can relax. They’re nothing more (or less) than simple agreements to communicate some more.

JetsHow Do They Work?

The traditional application process has become so freighted with legal requirements and information gathering that it has lost its original purpose. At its most basic level, though, an application has always been an offer for further communication. Evaluation, while important, is not necessary in the beginning. Instead, what’s most important in the early stages of an application is for two parties simply to determine whether it makes sense to talk some more … kinda’ like speed dating.

For that reason, speed applications use an application form that is stripped down to its barest essentials: name, address, phone number, and email address. In addition, the speed application should present the requirements stated in the original job posting as a simple, concise list and ask the candidate to check the items they meet. That way, the candidate and the employer can more easily decide if they are potentially good fits for one another.

That’s it. Time invested by the candidate? Maybe five minutes. Probability they’ll drop out? I’d guess between 15 and 20 percent – not because they can’t stand the form, but because the uncomplicated list of requirements makes it unblinkingly clear when people are not qualified to apply. Benefit to the employer? More expressions of interest from top candidates who can then be contacted for additional information and vetting. Ultimate outcome? More interaction with top prospects, enabling recruiters to sell them on the value proposition of an open position and thus increase their willingness to complete a formal application that will make the lawyers smile.

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