The Pros and Cons of Using Electronic Employment Applications

How does your organization collect applications when it needs to fill a new job opening? Do you solicit résumés to be sent in the mail? Do you use online application software that collects applicant data for you? Do you use a recruiter? Perhaps you have some hybrid of these examples?

Today we’re discussing the many—and there are many!—pros and cons to solely using online software to collect applications from prospective employees. You may be surprised at just how many considerations go into this decision. Let’s take a look at both sides.

Pros of Electronic Employment Applications

Here are some of the many pros to using electronic employment applications:

  • They can be easier to process than paper applications because the information can be sorted and searched digitally.
  • Consistent information is obtained from each applicant and in a consistent format, which is easier to review and compare.
  • Data in the applications can be tracked and analyzed.
  • The system can force all mandatory fields to be completed, thus reducing the amount of incomplete applications.
  • It makes it easier to collect information that assists in future postings, such as asking where applicants found the job posting.
  • It allows for easier applicant sorting, such as by education level or years of experience.
  • Employers can easily keep applications on file that could be considered for multiple listings.
  • Allowing electronic applications may open the job to a wider pool of applicants (both geographically and practically speaking) since applicants do not need to travel to the company site during business hours to apply.
  • Online applications can sometimes save time and money for both employers and applicants.
  • The system can be configured to send notifications to applicants to confirm receipt of their application, which applicants appreciate. It can also be configured to automatically inform applicants who were not selected for interviews.
  • The employer can receive applications 24/7.

Cons of Electronic Employment Applications

The list of pros is long, perhaps making it seem like a foregone conclusion that online applications are the way to go. But, unfortunately, the list of cons is long as well:

  • By limiting applications to the Internet, employers may inadvertently exclude otherwise qualified applicants who do not have easy access to the Internet or who are intimidated by an online-only process. This is especially relevant for jobs that do not require online work, in which applicants do not need to be Internet-savvy to do the job.
  • Some applicants may be unfairly rejected by the software if the controls are too limited. For example, if the system defines experience levels and types too specifically, it could exclude someone with related experience who would have been qualified. This is also a problem for systems that use specific keyword searches to prequalify applications or résumés.
  • Often, when allowing online applications, companies get far more applications than they’re equipped to handle, which can increase processing problems and time. (This is especially true if there are no controls that limit applications to only those who are qualified—but implementing such controls effectively is a difficult balance to achieve.)
  • Implementing a software system to accept online applications typically requires an up-front investment to get started. The software must be set up properly, tested often, and kept secure, which entails more costs.
  • There is some risk of applications being completed by someone other than the person who shows up for the interview. This is especially a risk for applications and assessments completed at home. In other words, it may make it easier to scam the system.
  • Online systems introduce a whole host of potential technology issues. Websites malfunction. Data get lost. People forget passwords. There are browser incompatibilities. Some computer configurations may not display the data properly or may not allow individuals to complete the application. The system could time out. The Internet connection could be lost. The laptop battery might die. There are any number of reasons that applications can be lost.
  • Applicants can get frustrated and leave the system if they encounter errors, thus possibly losing an otherwise great candidate.
  • These types of systems introduce a personal data security risk and, therefore, an obligation on the part of the employer to keep it secure and backed up.

With so many aspects to consider, employers need to look at their specific situation to see which of these pros and cons will carry the most weight in their decision process. Many opt for a hybrid system in which online applications as well as paper applications are accepted. Which has your organization chosen?


About Bridget Miller:

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.