Blog Post

Every Job Application Should Stick to 4 Questions

Ira S. Wolfe

President, Success Performance Solutions

Is your company struggling to attract enough job candidates? Stop blaming the job boards, recruiters, HR or even the jobseekers. Maybe it's time for a job application makeover.

The traditional job application form is a relic from the 1940s. Even with the shift to online recruitment, many organizations merely took the archaic paper application and digitized it, providing little room for companies to distinguish the most skilled and ambitious from the slacker.

The last thing you want to do in a tight job market is make it unpleasant to apply. Qualified candidates leak out of the recruitment funnel at an excruciatingly costly rate. It's a significant, but unaddressed problem.

Traditional management and HR thinking holds that lengthy applications will screen out apathetic candidates and good talent will be dedicated enough to fill out more information. That is logical and it used to worked... but not in this era.

Job Applicants Have Evolved

According to CareerBuilder, 60 percent of job seekers quit in the middle of filling out online job applications due to length or complexity.

Speed and responsiveness is imperative for a good candidate experience. HR needs to take a lesson from sales and marketing. I can apply for a mortgage, get an insurance quote and even speak with a doctor in seconds on my smartphone. But when it comes to applying for a job, I have to enter my entire life history into an online application.

So what can you do to make your job application appealing to the modern workforce?

Start with this question: What information do we absolutely need to know that would automatically disqualify an applicant or identify a potentially good employee? Do you really need a name? Does knowing if the candidate is named Mary Smith, Jose Lopez, or Mohammed Abdul help you qualify him or her? No. It more likely allows unconscious bias to creep in.

Here are the four things you really need:

1) Identification

A phone number or email address is good enough. Having both is convenient but not essential. All you need is a means to contact the applicant if he or she is qualified based on his or her responses to the questions.

2) Education

Every single one of your questions should help determine if the candidate meets your minimum job requirements. You can simply ask "what is the highest level of education you completed" with a checklist from GED to graduate degree. Isn't this really what you want to know? You can get the names of schools, types of degrees, and dates of graduation later if they meet your minimum requirement.

3) Experience

Do the position require a minimum number of years or a specific type of experience? You can simply ask a yes-no question for each one, such as "Do you have a minimum of 5 years experience?" or provide fill in the blank if you require special skills.

4) Licenses or Certifications

Again, focus on the "need to know." You can just simply ask "Do you have a valid license to practice medicine or drive a vehicle?" A simple yes or no does it.

And there you have it, the four questions that get you exactly what you need to know to screen out or move forward with an applicant.

For the successful candidates that pass the first filter you can now send an email, set up a phone interview, request a resume, or ask them to submit additional information. After that first interaction, applicants will be much more receptive to completing a lengthy application and providing the information you need.

Before I end, let me address the elephant in the room. After reading this many recruiters and hiring managers will undoubtedly reject the short application because even more jobseekers will apply, flooding their inbox and making more work. But that's what good applicant tracking software does. It helps widen the recruiting funnel, but lessens the need to touch unqualified applications.

Photo: Twenty20

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