How to Build an Application Experience That Prioritizes People

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HR is tasked with the most critical role in any business: taking care of the company’s people. Successful people management starts with getting the right people in the door and making sure they have what they need.

For far too long, however, HR technology and tools have been built around processes rather than for the people they serve. That’s especially true in the case of tools built for high-volume hiring scenarios.

With companies battling it out for a limited pool of talent, it’s time we start thinking about things differently. To stop losing good candidates to bad processes, we need to build a job application experience for real people.

Mobile-First, Not Mobile-Optimized

Recent data from Appcast says the number of mobile job applications has overtaken the number of applications submitted through any other channel. If your legacy experience uses systems created when desktops ruled, you are leaving a significant portion of your talent pool dissatisfied with your application process.

Many HR technology companies tout that their platforms “work on mobile devices,” but in reality, this usually means they have adapted a native desktop experience for mobile devices, ignoring how completing a task on mobile can be vastly different from completing it on a larger device. When it comes to hourly and high-volume workforces in particular, the need for a truly mobile-first application process cannot be overstated. Often, a mobile device will serve as a candidate’s primary access point to your online application process. Any friction potentially means a lost candidate. Let the quality of the candidate be what narrows down the field, not a bad mobile experience.

Make It Fast, Make It Easy

The point of an application process is to identify the qualified candidates among a broad pool of interested applicants and move them through the pipeline quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, many application processes fail at this job. Indeed research shows that applications with 20 screener questions lose 40 percent of candidates, and abandonment rates climb right alongside application length.

Problems also arise when applications are too text-heavy. Using quick, visual-based assessments instead can help accelerate the process and create a more positive candidate experience while still garnering valuable insights. In my experience, many workers in hourly and high-volume roles also complain about redundancy in the application process, such as when applications require a resume and also ask them to manually enter their work histories.

Refine and streamline the application process, retaining only the elements necessary to identify right-fit candidates. To keep candidates from dropping off, your application should transition seamlessly between mobile and desktop devices.

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Keep the Applicant Engaged

Speed and efficiency help reduce drop-off, but some candidates will inevitably take a pause during the application process. Don’t let that pause cause you to lose a qualified candidate.

Conversational hiring, a recruitment model that emphasizes staying in touch with candidates at every step in the process, can help. That means more than just adding a chatbot on the front end of your application process; it means turning the process as a whole into a conversation. For example, you can engage candidates with personalized content based on their personality, including tips on managing stress during the job search and how to best prepare for an interview. Conduct regular audits of your application funnel and follow up with candidates.

If your outreach fails to keep candidates engaged, the issue might be in the communication itself. Make sure your emails or texts clearly state what candidates ought to do next. Have hiring managers take a proactive stand. Reaching out to a candidate and asking, “Are you available this week?” puts the onus on them to schedule a follow-up. Instead, offer specific dates and times as well as a clear expectation of what a first, second, or final interview will look like.

Aim to Reduce Bias Across the Hiring Process

Certain aspects of the hiring process have long been susceptible to bias. Interviewing, a practice almost universally used to identify right-fit candidates, is highly subjective. The most pervasive bias of all is the positive social response one gets from interacting with a person like themself. If you are an energetic extrovert, it is easy to empathize more with people who reflect that same energy back to you during an interview. This common flaw of human perception is the very reason why many companies are turning to HR technology to reduce bias in the hiring process.

Assessments can play a key role here. For example, visual-based assessments can remove the barriers created by lengthy written assessments while reducing inherent bias and improving the experience for applicants. As Traitfy’s Chief Psychology Officer Heather Myers writes in Scientific American,

[I]mages not only tap into conscious processes extremely quickly but they also access the unconscious and elicit faster and stronger preferences. Responses to images are more likely to be definitive. … [I]mage-based assessments are easier to digest for those who have difficulty reading or understanding text. This should make them more accessible to those with learning difficulties, less education or language barriers.

Technology alone is not a solution to every ill in the world of HR, though. Policies and processes set the tone for any organization. To build an application process focused on the candidate experience, executives must put people first in their thinking. An application should meet candidates where they are and engage them in ways that encourage them to complete the process.

Ensuring applications are designed for mobile devices is a good first step. Next, aim to reduce the length of the application. Work with assessment providers, background-checking services, and other vendors to increase speed and efficiency. And be sure to engage the candidate through continuous communication. With these changes, you can create a candidate-focused hiring process that helps keep bias out of the recruitment process.

Joshua Spears is cofounder and chief product officer of Traitify.

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Josh Spears is an entrepreneur and technology business leader obsessed with work tech and the future of work. He cofounded and serves as chief product officer for Traitify, a human insight platform for enterprise HR departments. The platform measures personality data to radically improve candidate and employee experience, inform data-driven hiring, and give value to both workers and companies across the employee life cycle.