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‘Quick apply’ and filters are not the answer to finding great candidates

Three to four hours. That’s how long the average candidate actually spends preparing and submitting an application for a position that is of interest, according to a 2016 study from Future Workplace and Career Arc. Nearly 60% spend an hour or more researching the opportunity and working on their resume before they even start the online application process.  

Compare that to the 70% of employers surveyed who believe job seekers spend an hour or less in total researching, preparing, and submitting their job application. There’s a clear disconnect.  

Common wisdom dictates that the application process must be quick and easy to avoid discouraging candidates from applying. That’s why countless companies have either embraced or resorted to the “quick apply” button—but as we’ve seen, this approach ultimately harms engagement while inviting unqualified candidates to apply, flooding the process with useless resumes. All the extra (useless) resumes bury the qualified candidates in the proverbial haystack, thereby increasing the HR Managers workload in time as well as the inherent associated costs.  

The “quick apply button” was intended to help candidates apply for a job in seconds – i.e. “improve the candidate experience”. But, strong candidates don’t take seconds, they take hours rewriting their resume and crafting a tailored cover letter for each application before hitting the ‘quick’ submit. For them, the “quick apply” is just forcing them to spend more time tediously rewriting their resume with specific words and phrases to get past the ATS filter or risk slipping through the cracks. 

On the one hand, it’s great that candidates spend time applying for a position. But on the other, it forces strong candidates to rewrite resumes and cover letters to get “past” the ATS. Is this really a good use of their time or yours, to say nothing of the candidate’s experience, with such a tedious task?

Imagine if they spent that time showing you how great they are for the job instead?

I know, I know - “We can’t ask candidates to do more – they will abandon the process!”

Perhaps… but, by using ‘quick apply’ and keywords, are you really retaining the right candidates through the process? And remember, they are already spending over an hour before they even start the application process.

Good candidates reject a bad process 

Statistically, for every two candidates that begin the application process, only one will actually complete it; an average abandonment rate of 50%.  

Why is it so high? 

What would you do after the 1st, 5th, or 50th time completing the same process full of pointless steps and irrelevant questions? Most likely, you would become frustrated at having to do the same thing, over and over, to try to get to an interview, right? So do your candidates.

The repetitive process might not seem like a big deal – after all, it is just copy and paste relevant parts of their resume into an application. But… 

It is a big deal

From the candidate’s perspective, a pointless step like this communicates three messages. First, employers don’t respect their time as they ask candidates to attach a document, then copy and paste the content of that document into a form. Second, employers care more about their key words and phrases than they do about the candidate’s background and experience as automatic filters remove all but those who bother to keyword load. And lastly, employers don’t respect them as they leave candidates in the dark, communicating little to nothing in return for their time. 

Some employers make it even worse – adding impossible questions on top of the irrelevant and repetitive ones. Visit virtually any online jobs forum and you’ll see candidates airing their grievances about frustrating questions they’ve encountered. Who remembers the exact day you started and ended a job. What about required references for employers that have since gone out of business (or were bought by another company), with no option to write in an explanation. 

Questions like that provide little value – nothing about the candidate’s strengths, abilities, or what they can bring to your company. Honestly, should a candidate really have a better chance of getting an interview because of the start date November 17, 2008 versus November 2008? Or that they used the words “Directed a team” versus “Led a team”? 

Under these circumstances, is it surprising that so many candidates give up and are so frustrated with the job application process? 

So, great candidates grow frustrated with a tedious application filled with pointless steps, like keyword loading, copy paste, and impossible questions. But, they still do it (at least half the time) – so again, what is the big deal?

It is a big deal with bad results

The process that uses keywords has shifted to become a test for keywords, not for great candidates.

According to the Future Workplace and CareerArc study, 40% of employers rely on tech to pre-screen or pre-select candidates based on data they’ve submitted, such as an ATS-driven resume keyword filter. This is an excellent technique for measuring a candidate’s knowledge of keywords and ATS-driven filter processes, but not so much for finding great candidates.

Consider highly qualified candidates for the position (experienced, bursting with desirable soft skills, etc.) but are not aware of how keywords work. What do you think the odds are that their resume will find its way to your desk?

Now consider candidates in high-demand (and who know it). They don’t have to waste effort on a job that doesn’t respect their time, so they are not going to waste their time rewriting their resume to load it with key words. What do you think the odds are that they will apply for your job?

Then there are the cheaters. Those candidates who are wise to how it all works, and are perfectly happy to load their resumes with keywords (which may have nothing to do with their actual skill or experience). Some have even pasted the full job description into their resume in tiny white font – which looks great to an ATS which dumbly searches for keywords. What do you think the odds are that you want these resumes on your desk?

According to the same study, a whopping 62% of employers admit that their pre-screening tools have probably overlooked qualified candidates. I wonder how many unqualified candidates the tools have let through – wasting your time and money.

Clearly, ‘quick apply’ and filters are not the answer to finding great candidates.

Invest time in the things that matter—and so will your candidates 

If you want to create a great candidate experience and avoid being flooded with unqualified applications, ask valuable questions that respects a candidate’s time and abilities in a transparent, engaging process.  

By asking the right questions and giving candidates a chance to shine, an employer makes it clear that a candidate is investing their time into conveying meaningful information about themselves —not just feeding the ATS’s keyword filter. 

Focus questions on skills over experience so they showcase what they can do. This will provide more insightful information about the candidate – showing how a person will perform on the job, work with the team, and how they will add to the corporate culture.

Don’t be afraid to engage with candidates to see their true value – you won’t scare away the good ones, you will engage them in a valuable process that will lead to a great hire.

That’s what we do at Our software solution gives candidates the opportunity to show what they’re made of, without tedious and wasteful steps and resume rewrites that do nothing to show an employer that they are qualified—all while filtering applications based on the things that matter. Engagement and the candidate experience is positive, candidates feel heard, and employers end up with a shortlist of the very best candidates for the job before ever seeing a resume.  

Discover the advantage for yourself. Get in touch today. 

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