Computers No Longer Needed to Apply for Microsoft Jobs

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 12.49.05 PMIt has been a year since we checked in with Microsoft, and talked about its work in improving its mobile phone application so that applicants would have an easier time applying.

“It really was a mechanism for showcasing content,” says Microsoft’s Heather Tinguely, “but for all practical purposes it stopped short of apply.”

In other words, unless you wanted to start researching carpal-tunnel doctors, you needed to go to your desktop to finish up your application.

No longer.

Around the time I wrote that post mentioned above, the Microsoft team kicked into high gear its effort to build a better way of applying with a smartphone. Last fall and this spring, a wide variety of Microsoft teams, and external folks, worked on it. There were, among others, recruiting operations professionals; staffing marketers; developers; and the firm Punchkick Interactive, which was focusing on design.

The goal, and what took up a lot of the time, was to have the new “apply” process work seamlessly with the company’s applicant tracking system, from SAP. “We wanted everything to be a fully integrated experience,” Tinguely says.

A company that’s moving from a little-known to a major player in recruiting technology was also brought on to work on the “apply” process: Jibe.

About a month ago, a new Microsoft site launched. Candidates go to the site and “authenticate” using a variety of social media accounts. Authenticate means what you think it does. It’s a way of signing in and Microsoft figuring out that you are who you say you are.

A little thing — actually, I think it’s a big thing — is that if you sign in through Facebook, you get this notice:

Don’t worry! We won’t tell any of your friends or followers that you were here.

I’ve seen that elsewhere, but rarely so clearly stated.

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Anyhow, from there, a candidate can apply for a Microsoft job using a LinkedIn profile, by emailing a resume, or through a “cloud” website like Dropbox. Or, they can use a resume already on file with Microsoft, if they have one.

If you apply using LinkedIn, you just apply. That’s it. In other words, you don’t monkey around with your LinkedIn profile to your liking. People have very small amounts of time and very small phones, Tinguely says, so editing profiles could be a hassle. “The hardest thing is making really hard decisions about user experience. How complex do we want to make it? We want to make it simple.”

I asked Tinguely why I can only share a job via email with the new mobile site, rather than sharing it on social media sites, something every startup and their brother has been launching companies for. Regarding sharing jobs on social media, she says, “There’s more hype than reality.” If you want a job, she says you want it for yourself, not someone else. “We just did not see the best performance out of that,” she says, about social job sharing. Microsoft may indeed resurrect such a feature, but it wasn’t priority one.

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 12.30.50 PMMicrosoft is getting about 160-175,000 visits monthly to its mobile careers site. Data on the new “apply” process list is limited, since it’s early. But in the first month about 10,000 people started applying and about half of those finished. That doesn’t include tablet users, who right now are counted as desktop users. In about a month, tablets will redirect to mobile, which will sharply increase the mobile numbers. Tinguely expects about 50,000 applications over 12 months on mobile.

There is that debate, one that went on in Redmond, about the whole optimized site vs. separate mobile application thing. Tinguely, for one, isn’t a big proponent of a separate app. “Candidates don’t hit hundreds of job boards anymore,” she says. “Instead they’re going to job aggregators. It’s the same way with apps in our space. A hundred different employer apps on their phone? They prefer optimized sites.”

The smartphone site that the Microsoft team has built is not the end of its mobile plans. Microsoft wants to build something (leaning toward cool and exciting, not just simple and streamlined) for candidates at hiring events, or for interviewees, and new hires.

Tinguely says that “our industry sometimes gets stuck … I hope we as an industry start talking about things that go beyond foundational layers.” What she’s saying is that debates over such things as having a mobile-optimized site or a separate application can waste time. Soon, everyone should and will have a mobile careers site, and the real challenge will ultimately be about branding, messaging, a value proposition, whether the job is a good one, and so on. “Candidate experience is a differentiator,” she says.


9 Comments on “Computers No Longer Needed to Apply for Microsoft Jobs

  1. Todd, not to get caught up in semantics, but is this a true apply function? Does the mobile app allow for the collection of voluntary EEO data? Does it allow the candidate to sign off on background checks? Does it allow for entry of requested criminal information?
    We are are working towards a mobile apply function, but, semantics again, the best we are finding is a mobile expression of interest. We don’t want candidates to feel they have “applied” and then still later need to complete an application via a computer, but so far as an org. that falls under the OFCCP, it’s where we are at, so I’d love to know if MS has truly created an mobile apply tool.

  2. Jim — As the vendor helping Microsoft achieve this mobile apply functionality, we can report that this is a “true mobile apply” solution, with all those boxes you mention checked. If any solution claiming to offer “mobile apply” sends a candidate back to the desktop, it isn’t “true.” This is a big point to be aware of when evaluating solutions on the market today, as you rightly point out. Give us a shout if you want to learn more. Thanks.

  3. @Jim – Take our “apply” for a test drive and you’ll see that we do require all information via mobile that we take in via desktop. The only difference is that we do it in a simplified way. For example, in 2 clicks, the user (applying to U.S. position) gives us the EEO info we need and we remember what they’ve told us so when they come back again, they don’t have to re-enter it. The same holds true for agreeing to our terms and conditions and uploading CV’s. Given the quantity of applicants to our company, we do not conduct background checks or request criminal info at “apply” and I would argue that it’s a great thing to strip out of a mobile experience until your company truly plans to run the checks.

  4. Today’s phones are computers. They do have chips in them, and an OS, etc…

    Perhaps the real issue that the process of mobile applications is bringing up is why do so many employers demand applicants retype their resumes 1-50 times just to signal interest in a job.

  5. @ Richard:”why do so many employers demand applicants retype their resumes 1-50 times just to signal interest in a job.”
    Because they CAN….

  6. Keith,

    That’s the reason, yes. It was more of a rhetorical question. In my experience the application processes in place at most companies are ridiculously convoluted and to what end, I have no idea. When we put ours in place I did what I could to deliberately keep it as simple as possible. The only thing demanded was EEO info be collected, so that’s included. Otherwise it would be entering your name, address, and attaching a resume, and you’re done. It’s not perfect for mobile at this point because file management on some of those devices make that process problematic, but you can also apply via LinkedIn or Facebook, so that’s a decent workaround for now.

  7. @ Richard: I’m glad to hear that, and rather surprised (from what you’ve said before) your bosses would allow something so practical.


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