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Recruitment of top talent and skilled workers these days is undoubtedly getting harder. Recruiters and managers blame it on the quality of the labor pool—and many job applicants so lack the necessary skills. But that's only one aspect of a complex problem: the real enemy might be your online job application.

A recent study found that companies with 45 or more fields to complete on an application lose a whopping 88.7 percent of potential candidates who abandon the process before completion. If 45 sounds like a lot, consider that Indeed revealed the average Fortune 500 company's application includes 62.8 questions—and takes an average of 52 minutes to complete.

In today's tight labor market, companies can't afford to lose the best candidates before they even apply. Here are five things you can do to streamline your online job applications, and successfully funnel top talent through the process.

1) Treat Job Applicants Like Customers

Employers don't rule the labor market roost anymore, especially when it comes to recruiting qualified and competent workers. Cut-and-paste job descriptions masquerading as job postings don't cut it either. Applicants desperate for a job may respond to a “classified ad" but top talent is more selective and have more choices. If your company isn't attracting quality candidates, the problem may not be poor recruiting—it's poor marketing. Job applicants are your customers, too. Treat them that way.

Tip: Market job applicants with the same voracity and creativity that you do customers who purchase your products and services. Who knows—they could become your customers too!

2) Optimize Your Website

It's 2017, people! Your website matters. While an eye-catching, attention-grabbing website is important, it's not enough. It also needs to be fast, responsive, and easy to navigate. People are often researching jobs from a public WiFi network, or scrolling through opportunities on a mobile device. If your web pages take too long to load, or job seekers can't find the information they want fast enough, they are likely to just swipe left—and leave.

Tip: Make sure your website (including all career pages) is fast, responsive and mobile-ready.

3) Make the Application Easy to Find and Fill Out

There is nothing more frustrating to a potential employee than wanting to apply, but not being able to find the application. And yet many online job applications are buried under hard to find careers page or included as a link in the footer. In fact, 56 percent of Fortune 500 companies' application processes are not mobile-friendly; and the number is much higher for small businesses.

Tip: Don't make potential applicants play hide and seek. Ensure your online application is mobile-friendly and prominently displayed on your website.

4) Respond Quickly to Applicants

The HR black role isn't a myth. It's painfully real. After clicking submit on an online job application, more than half of applicants sit and wait like abandoned lovers waiting for the phone to ring. Many companies seem to have adopted the foolish practice of “ghosting" (or ignoring applicants) when it comes to dealing with potential candidates. When skills are in short supply and positions are increasingly difficult to fill, ghosting and black holes are talent pipeline killers.

Tip: Respond quickly and often to all interactions with online applicants (including a simple application submission or resume drop).

Photo: Creative Commons