92% of People Never Finish their Job Applications: The Reasons Why and the Steps HR Can Take

As a seasoned HR pro, you already know that competition is fierce for finding qualified job candidates and getting them to apply online. But according to recruitment data provider Appcast, 92 percent of job seekers never complete their applications. Why might this be, and how can you encourage job applicants to follow through?

Person filling out a job application on a laptop in a well-organized workspace with stationery items.

Make Your Application Process Quick & Easy

Extra steps in your application process will likely eliminate candidates you would like to interview. We live in a world where providing minimum information and making a few quick clicks approves applicants for thousands of dollars in credit. Phone conversations—even emails—have been replaced by people’s preference for less time-consuming texts. 

Quick and easy processes that produce immediate results have become daily life for most, with fewer people adhering to the belief that good things come to those who wait, including job seekers. Today’s candidates are less willing to spend time completing job applications that require excessive information and have repetitive or overly complex questions.

Streamline Your Process for Recruiting Success

The faster you get candidates into your application pipeline, the sooner you can evaluate and hire them before someone else does. A high application dropout rate negatively impacts all recruitment metrics. Conversion-to-hire, time-to-fill, cost-per-application, and cost-per-hire rates all take a negative hit–and so does the quality of talent you end up hiring.

The best way to improve dropout numbers is to streamline process flow. Develop an application that’s easy to complete in five minutes or less, with ease being the key component.

Eliminate Extra Steps & Clicks

According to Recruiter,  job applications that take longer than 15 minutes to complete have a 365%  drop-off rate. In many cases, auditors had to click nine more times after hitting “apply” before getting to the actual application, and each application averaged 51 total clicks! 

To help eliminate applicants’ frustration, eliminate these “don’ts” from your process: 

  • Don’t make applicants create user accounts and passwords before applying.
  • Don’t ask candidates to answer the same question more than once.
  • Don’t ask applicants to re-enter data that’s included in their resumes.
  • Don’t make candidates authenticate their identity via email before logging back in to complete their applications. 

Make Your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) User Friendly

Even if security concerns keep log-in requirements a mandate, make sure your ATS vendor’s site mirrors the look and feel (branding) of your company. When the ATS site looks different, applicants can become distrustful about being transferred to a different company and—you guessed it—drop out of the process.

How to Improve Your Application Process

As a streamlining starting point, conduct an internal audit that involves a focus group of your company’s recruiters and hiring managers experiencing your application process firsthand. During their evaluation, have participants note areas that need improving, opportunities for better engagement, and any components that prompt a personal desire to drop out.

Have Your Auditors Complete a Two-Part Evaluation

First: Have them fill out the application as any job seeker would, logging how long it takes to complete the process and their overall feelings about the experience. 

Next: Have them re-examine the process step-by-step, noting the existence of common frustration builders like these: 

  • Too much jargon. Avoid using internal “corporate speak” or acronyms that alienate applicants. Keep job descriptions authentic. Be clear about the skills and responsibilities desired/required and let your company’s brand, values, and personality shine through. Give job seekers a real sense of why they should want to work for you.
  • Too interrogative. Too many questions in the initial application process can increase dropout levels by making the process long and tedious. Only ask for info that’s critical for making the first screening of applicants, and pare down your questions to the minimum necessary. Dig for deeper details later, during your interview process.
  • Not mobile-friendly. The majority of job searches and application submissions take place via mobile devices, so make sure your process is optimized for mobile phone and tablet views. To decrease dropout rates, ensure that everything from the length of your job descriptions to all steps that follow “apply” are mobile-friendly. Be sure your internal audit evaluates both your company’s desktop and mobile application experiences.
  • Too redundant. Do you ask applicants to upload their resumes, then have them re-enter that same info into another format? Scrutinize how many times/ways applicants must enter their addresses, contact info, skill sets, career goals, and desires. In addition, how often do you redirect candidates to a subsite? Each additional step increases job seekers’ risk of opting out. 

Compiling your focus group’s data will provide valuable insights for developing an applicant-friendly process that results in more submissions and a greater pool of talent to fill your jobs. NOTE: Before making any changes to your process, track your current applicant drop-out rates and recruiting metrics to establish a baseline for future comparison. 

Further Resources

When evaluating your application process, put yourself in today’s job seekers’ shoes, with ease and efficiency as your top priorities. Personally explore the process to determine areas of frustration or redundancy that might cause candidates to lose interest and opt out. 

Aim for an application that takes five minutes or less to fill out and submit, including the fewest steps and number of clicks possible. 

Use KnowledgeCity’s Learning Library as a valuable resource for gaining ongoing new tools to grow your HR and recruiting needs from good to great, including courses like these:

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