By: James La Brash, Founder and Managing Director, InFlight

There’s a good deal of hand wringing about candidate experience today. It seems like every TA leader I speak with is trying to solve this very complex problem. But, as Peter Drucker once said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”  “Candidate Experience” is an umbrella concept, and entirely subjective, so let’s focus on a key art of it that we can measure: the apply conversion rate.

This is the part of the experience where we lose the most people. Up to 92% of people bail on an application based on Appcast data. Meaning for every 100 people we drive to the application from our extensive marketing spend, only 8 complete the application. EIGHT! Out of 100!

Isn’t it a bit ridiculous to talk about improving “Candidate Experience” without considering that more than 9 out of 10 are wholesale rejecting the one we’re offering today?  We need to make some pretty drastic changes, to be sure, but candidate behaviors will actually tell us exactly how to improve, if we look at them the right way.  Read on…


Where we are: The apply flow is a broken transaction

Imagine, if you will, being bombarded with ads for a great coffee shop in your town. After dropping the kids off for school, you decide to give them a try because you are out of coffee at home. You go in ready to place your order, money in hand, and you stand there. The barista is looking at you sideways. The store manager is tapping their foot behind the counter.

You ask for a coffee, and they just continue to stare at you. After waiting for a few scant minutes, you finally get frustrated and you leave. As you’re walking back to your car, they come chasing after you, asking loudly for you to place your order now.

You are completely shocked and begin texting your friends about the insane coffee shop you just visited.

This is precisely what we are doing to applicants. We are creating needless friction in the transaction.


We’ve been treating the symptoms, not the cause

We are advertising jobs like mad, when they get to our site to transact, we make them jump through so many hoops that they leave. And then…we chase them down with emails, texts, and digital remarketing to get them to come back.

If we would just allow them to transact, we would not have to spend so much time and effort to get them back, but we do. We are spending copious amounts of money on recruitment systems and advertising to get them back when all we really need to do is fix the transaction in the first place.

What is brilliant about application conversion? It is completely trackable, and therefore fixable. The challenge is understanding how this data point is collected, and what we can do to improve this key component of the TA funnel and candidate experience.

Fixing Application Conversion

Before we fix the application conversion (the transaction), we need to define this key data point. Here is the math:

Applicant Conversion Rate =
# of submitted applications / # of times Apply Now is FIRST clicked

Now, I’m sure you’re looking at this going … awesome! We all have a good handle on the number of applications that get submitted over a given time period. The second part (# of times Apply Now is FIRST clicked) is a bit more tricky.  To get this information, work with your agency, media partners, and website team. They should be able to share the number of times that Apply Now button is FIRST clicked.

The first click is THE critical piece of the puzzle. Many times, job seekers are seeing your jobs on a job board. When they click on the Apply Now button on Indeed, for example, they’re expressing intent. This is the first click. However, in most instances, this initial intent is met by landing on a career site with a replay of the job description and ANOTHER Apply Now button. This is click two of expressing the same intent the expressed one click ago when they thought they were going to actually “Apply Now”. Then, we take them to a screen that asks for a username and password that they don’t have and a third Apply Now button.  Add one more if you have a talent network form in the mix!  This is incredibly frustrating to the job seeker. One of the many reasons we’re only converting 8 people out of 100 is simply because we’re asking them to express the same intent repeatedly. Again, would you be OK with ordering the same cup of coffee 4 times before getting it?

When you have both numbers, you can just do the math to see where you are. Trust me, sit down when you do this math. It’s rarely good. Which means we have something to fix, exactly what I love doing!

Remember, where you are today is one thing, but (with the exception of disqualification questions served upfront in the process) your benchmark should be 100% conversion from that first click. They’re expressing intent; every hurdle we put up after that gets the candidate farther away from their next great job, and you from your next great hire.


The cost of doing nothing

If our goal is to generate the best slate of candidates for our hiring managers to review, application conversion is key. We’re missing the best candidates for our hiring managers because we have a broken apply process. We’re consistently spending more money to attract people back to our website and jobs to get them to try again.

The net: we lose money, our hiring managers miss out on great people, and we end up irritating 92 people out of 100, just like in our coffee shop parable. Think about what happens to the people we just alienated. They’ve gone to our competitor to apply for the job if that apply process is easier. We’ve lost them, and we really didn’t have to!

There are solutions to this problem that are neither time consuming nor expensive. All it takes is will. The will to have the conversation. The will to change the number one fail point in your candidate experience. The one that’s costing you the most in terms of time, money, and brand affinity. It’s all right there in the conversion.  It’s the metric that matters most because it best captures your biggest opportunity to improve.

Take the first step; look at the number of applications you are generating against the number of times that the Apply Now button is first clicked. With that benchmark in hand, you can quantify your candidate experience and make meaningful progress to improve it.


What to do now? Complete our job ad savings calculator

Fill in your information and find out how much money you could save by increasing application conversion.

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