There is an elephant in the room that Talent Acquisition professionals at most organizations have yet to address: their application process.

While it’s important to spend time optimizing for every stage of your candidate journey in today’s hyper-competitive market, the application process is worth prioritizing as it will likely have the biggest business impact.

The application process is a real missed opportunity area for most TA teams. They’re losing out on a ton of interested candidates during this stage! Since most TA teams have yet to address this issue, fixing this process can be a major advantage for companies that are willing to take control here.

First off, you might be wondering just how many candidates you’re losing in this “leaky” part of the recruitment funnel? SmashFly reports that an average of 74% of candidates start but never complete an application process.

The reason for this shockingly high drop-off rate is that candidate expectations have changed drastically when it comes to application processes. According to ERE, today’s candidates are 365% more likely to drop out of your application process if it takes more than 15 minutes to complete.

As you might then suspect after hearing these stats, improving your application process can have a significant impact on the number of candidates you’re able to pull into your ATS.

The challenge to improving your application process though is likely that you have limited resources. Your team is probably focused on more visible projects, like careers site updates, optimizing sourcing tools, implementing new platforms, and employer brand innovations.

But if you can persuade leadership that it’s worth dedicating time and resources to application process optimizations as well (or even instead of other priorities!), you can anticipate seeing some major improvements in terms of application numbers.


Improving your application process can save you money – fewer drop outs means more completed applications with less job advertising spend.

See how much you could save with the Job Ad Spend Savings Calculator


Here are seven steps you can use to build awareness and secure buy-in to improve your application process:


1. Discover your current application process drop-off rates

You can find out your drop-off rate by calculating the number of finished applications submitted into your ATS, divided by the total number of candidates who started an application.

You can access these numbers by taking a look in the backend dashboard of your ATS or HCM software. If you’re having trouble locating this piece of information, reach out to your account manager and they should be able to show you where to find this data.

In terms of benchmarks, as mentioned, SmashFly reports that as many as 74% of candidates drop off during the application process. If your drop-off rate is less than this, you’re likely doing better than average (well done!).

Realistically though, even if you’re performing better than average, you’ll likely still have lots of room for improvement. The lower you can get that drop-off rate, the higher the advantage you’ll have over your hiring competitors!


2. Go through your application process yourself and document your experience

To get your leadership team’s buy-in you’ll need to showcase the current state of your application process. To start off, submit a test application on desktop and another on mobile for a role at your organization and record your experiences.

Here are some things to look out for as you test your application process:

  • How long did it take you to submit an application from start to finish?
  • How many questions were asked? For every additional field your application has to fill out there’s an additional drop-off rate of 50%, reports Beamery.
  • Do you need to log in or create an account? If so, how long does process this take?
  • Were some fields able to auto-fill?
  • Could you submit an application using a social network like LinkedIn?
  • Are there any technical issues in your process?
  • Is the application process clear and intuitive?
  • Were there any other frustrations encountered along the way?


3. Compare with your hiring competitors’ application processes

Consider who some of your biggest hiring competitors are and go through the same mobile and desktop test to see how your organization’s application process stacks up against theirs. Record the ways they might be topping your process and the elements of their approach that you could adopt (or even improve upon) as you work on your own application process.


4. Research how you can make improvements to your application process

What software solutions can help you streamline and improve your application process?

If implementing a new ATS/HCM or building out a new careers site platform sounds intimidating and costly, there are alternative options. You can consider upgrading the look and performance of your application process instead, while keeping the same trusted systems in place.

InFlight Aura is a software that allows you to put a new and improved design on to the front of robust HCM and ATS systems like Peoplesoft, iCims, SAP SuccessFactors, Taleo, and others. This way you can achieve the candidate experience you’ve always dreamed of at a much lower risk, effort, and cost than you might suspect.

You might also consider what careers site optimizations you can make, in partnership with the right software tools, to encourage candidates to see their application through to the end. You could, for instance, provide more culture and employer brand content on your site to show people why it’s worth getting excited about opportunities with your organization.


5. Create a pitch deck and scorecard based on key findings

This will be the deck that you socialize with your leadership team to persuade them to invest time and resources into an application process upgrade project.

The deck should start off by describing the current state of the talent landscape. Many tenured professionals haven’t had to go through a job hunt experience in years and may not have a full understanding of how much the TA space has digitized and matured over the past decade.

Include a scorecard in this deck that lists out your current drop-off rate and some of the opportunities for improvement that exist within your own application process. Showcase some of the areas where hiring competitors are beating you out to drive the point home.

Finish up the deck by including the list of solutions you researched that could help to address and improve issues with your application process.


6. Challenge leadership to apply for one job at your company from their smartphone

Need extra fuel to persuade leadership beyond the pitch deck? Encourage those listening to your presentation to submit a test application for a role from their mobile phone.

Ask them for their feedback and information on how long the experience took for them. Did they experience any pain points? Putting themselves in the candidate’s shoes should help to convince leadership to invest time and resources in application process optimizations.


7. Record, adjust and report back

Once you’ve received leadership buy-in, make sure to track improvements on the baseline drop-off rate that you recorded initially. This way, you can report back with any improvements to showcase that leadership’s trust and buy-in was worthwhile.

This reporting loop will also keep the doors open for you to pitch for future candidate experience process improvements on a continuous basis as the TA space continues to evolve.

We hope these steps help you to achieve buy-in at your organization to start improving your application process. If you’re looking for more insights or want to understand how InFlight can help boost the performance of your application process without the high price tag and risk of implementing a new HCM, feel free to book a demo with our knowledgeable team members!


About InFlight

From pre-hire to retire, you want HCM user experiences that impact employee behavior for the better, enhance your brand, and maximize your HCM software investment. InFlight is the HCM user experience platform that works with everything you already have to give you absolute control over end-user behavior and experiences. It’s your technology. InFlight ups the ante on what it can do.

Want to learn more, check out our resources page for videos, webinars, and case studies.

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