While there are many differences between making an online purchase and submitting an online job application, the concept of “abandonment” applies to both. Because “shopping cart abandonment” is perhaps more frequently discussed than job application abandonment, it’s worth considering the former in order to better understand the latter.
The Concept of ‘Abandonment’
In the online retail world, shopping cart abandonment refers to potential customers’ exiting a vendor’s online portal before completing a purchase. Estimates place the shopping cart abandonment rate at around 70% on average across industries. Retailers’ frustration is obvious: The sale is so close but lost at the last second.
There are many reasons for shopping cart abandonment, including customers’ wanting to take time to think before pulling the trigger and price issues. These are understandable consumer behaviors.
But one reason for shopping cart abandonment that shouldn’t be ignored is frustration with the vendor’s online portal. Many potential customers may get frustrated and leave a site before making a purchase because it takes too long for them to get to the point of making a purchase, there is too much information to fill out, the process is repetitive over the course of multiple purchases, online forms are clunky and confusing, or a host of other reasons.
Abandonment and the Application Process
Those who have spent time applying for jobs online no doubt have had experiences with online application portal frustrations.
For example, websites often ask applicants to upload a résumé and then ask them to manually enter that same information in the company’s online form. Or, the website may attempt to translate the résumé into its form but doesn’t put the information in the right place, requiring tedious manual corrections from the user.
Some companies require users to answer long questionnaires with questionable relevance to the position. And while sites like LinkedIn have taken efforts to streamline and standardize the application process through tools like LinkedIn Easy Apply, this tends to be the exception rather than the rule, with each company having its own process and online forms for applicants to muddle through when applying to multiple positions.
The labor market is cyclical, and at times, employers have the luxury of picking out the very best in a talented pool of labor looking for any job they can get. But in the present labor market, with unemployment at historic lows, that is certainly not the case, and the shoe is truly on the other foot.
“The application process is a two-sided offer,” says Vartika Manasvi, founder and CEO of StackRaft Inc., a predictive tech hiring platform. Historically, says Manasvi, companies have expected candidates to take the time to put together an application if they want a job badly enough, even if that process includes filling out long forms.
But top candidates are now more mindful of their time; they evaluate the interview and decision-making process of the companies they’re considering applying to, Manasvi says.
While many companies focus on building a big applicant funnel and getting more and more applications, “The reality is more applications mean nothing if they are not quality applicants,” Manasvi says.
During the application process, employers rightfully need to capture certain information to help them make sound choices and comply with various laws and regulations.
At the same time, they must be cognizant of the competitive hiring landscape and the growing impatience of job candidates who are increasingly less likely to engage in tedious online processes.
“When it comes to the application process, employers need to strike a balance. It needs to be comprehensive enough that the employer gets the information they need to determine if the person is a fit and to comply with all applicable laws, and short enough so that it doesn’t turn off the applicant,” says Brian Zawikowski, vice president and general manager of the military group of executive recruitment firm Lucas Group. “Also, while it’s somewhat counterintuitive, some applicants will be turned off by a super-short process anyway, since it will appear that the employer will accept anyone for the job.”
Zawikowski recommends recruiters only include items in the initial application that must be there by law and that are absolutely critical to the initial screening process. “The objective is to get unqualified candidates to self-select out of the process before time is wasted, while also making it simple and easy for qualified candidates,” he says.
He adds that the position being filled is also relevant in this respect, as—generally speaking—the higher up the chain the position is, the less tolerant applicants will be of a tedious process.
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
There may be some good news for applicants and recruiters alike. As artificial intelligence and other technologies continue to improve, it becomes increasingly easy for websites to pull relevant data—i.e., education, employment history, etc.—from an uploaded résumé instead of forcing applicants to enter them themselves.
With the economy in the midst of one of its longest expansions in U.S. history, employers are doing pretty well for the most part. But while the sales team and finance departments relish a strong economy, it can create big headaches and challenges for HR and recruitment teams, who are hit at both the supply and the demand sides of the employment equation.
As their companies expand, there is a greater need for more talent to fill key positions. But as long as the labor market remains strong, there is also a shortage of talent, with intense competition.
In this environment, companies need to pull out all the stops to attract great applicants. This includes recruiting efforts at college campuses and job fairs; increased online and social media activity; and generous incentive packages that include salary, benefits, sign-on bonuses, and other enticements.
But these efforts can all be thwarted if an applicant begins filling out an online application and abandons the effort because the process is too cumbersome, confusing, or time-consuming.
What roadblocks exist in your online application process? Maybe it’s time to find out and seek the right balance to meet your—and your applicants’—needs.