Candidate Experience Stories: The Problem with Long Job Applications

In our series of “Candidate Experience Stories”, we speak to current and past job applicants and ask them what is something that they wish HR would take into consideration during the recruitment process. Today, we’re going to be talking about a rising occurrence in the hiring process: lengthy job applications. If you’re interested in checking out the last installment, read here.  

We’ve talked about the lengthy hiring process as a whole and how a concise strategy creates a better hiring experience, but the process won’t start without candidates applying. And if your online application is too lengthy, complex or has one too many steps to it, it might not be benefiting you the way you think it is. 

“It’s Always Been Done This Way” 

Traditional thinking holds that lengthy applications help screen out apathetic candidates and that only quality talent will be dedicated enough to fill out the entire form. In fact, 50% of employers think the length of application processes is a positive because it “weeds out” applicants. 

Yet, in reality, the opposite is true. 60% of job seekers quit in the middle of filling out online job applications because of their length or complexity and candidates are 365% less likely to submit an application that takes more than 15 minutes to complete. A candidate we spoke to about this issue said:

“Why have a resume and LinkedIn page if I need to fill out your 15-page application with all the same information? It’s very redundant. The worst part is that companies will expect you to go to all this effort, but they’re not going to return the favor. Sometimes you go through all these phases and then they just ghost you. Or your rejection is clearly just a form letter with no feedback.” 

Talented candidates know that their time is important and that they have plenty of opportunities in the job market. So what can you do to increase the odds of applications being completed? 

Revisiting the Application

Your applications should balance what’s convenient for recruiters and hiring managers with what’s user-friendly for applicants. Appcast, a recruitment company, did a study on how application length affects candidate responses. The study tracked 500,000 job seekers and more than 30,000 completed applications over diverse platforms. 

  • Completion rates drop by almost 50% when an application asks 50 or more questions compared to 25 or fewer questions;
  • Using specialized platforms for recruiting can cut your cost-per-applicant by up to 250% by reducing the time it takes to complete an application form from 15 minutes to 5;
  • Job descriptions between 250 and 2,000 words deliver conversion rates five times higher than job descriptions of 170 to 250 words. 

Decide what information you need upfront to screen candidates for interviews and make it right the first time. If you believe you’ll have issues screening candidates, consider revisiting other areas of your hiring process including any pre-hiring assessments, skills tests, or interview questions. The loss of top talent may not be the only price you pay as you and your team will have to accommodate for positions open for longer and more time spent on recruiting. Save your time and the time of your candidates.