Mobile Recruiting: Ignore the Waffle and Just Do These 4 Things

Before you leap to hire those mega-expensive web developers to work oh so hard on a mobile-optimized website on your behalf, stop and read this and save yourself a lot of money. There are just four simple things you need to do.

Because of the business we’re in, we are constantly looking at company careers sites to see what ingenious ideas have appeared. One of those has been to optimize careers websites so they can be used on a mobile phone. There’s no doubt that a lot of searches for jobs are now done on mobiles. Sitting on the train or bus going to work, or waiting to pick up the kids in the school parking lot, it’s just so tempting to look around and see if that dream job has appeared at you major competitor yet.

So the message to corporate recruiters is a resounding “Yes.” Yes, you need to make your site work on a mobile, but radical changes are not required. In fact, whatever you do, don’t listen to those expensively hired consultants who tell you that you need to radically alter the look, feel, design, etc. of your site. You don’t!

Nor do you need an app in the iTunes store. An app is good for someone who is going to use it constantly, like maps. How many times a year will someone apply to you? It’s just an unnecessary expense. Save your money.

We’ve looked at over 30 major company sites, including some really big names, on both a computer and a mobile device (screen size varied from 4 – 5.3 inches). Many of them had very attractive and generally excellent careers sites packed with information to attract potential candidates, but were a total disaster if you’re using a mobile. Take the example of one well-known retailer we looked at. Its careers site looks exactly the same on a laptop as it does on a small mobile device, and that’s how it should be. The details, look and feel are identical. So far so good. The reality is in the next 12 months almost everyone will be using a device with a screen size in excess of four inches. Typically the smartphone sweetspot will be 4.5 – 5.5 inches (all phones are getting bigger, not smaller) and with easy pinch and zoom functionality that’s easily enough screen real estate to browse around even the most packed careers site and view pretty much everything.

So: You do not need to alter the design of your career site. Don’t let them lure you into thinking you need to spend a fortune redesigning everything.

Anyway, back to the retailer’s careers site. It also allows me to apply with my Linkedin profile, extracting bits of information. That’s good, but this is where is starts to go wrong. Remember, we were testing on a mobile phone. When I saw the LinkedIn symbol I thought, “Ah, this is good. They will simply look at my profile on Linkedin and the application process will be a matter of seconds.”

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How I wish it was that simple. Drop down after drop down, boxes to fill in ,and this, that, and the other, not forgetting the box to upload my resume … which I don’t keep on my phone. If you don’t have your resume on your phone (does anyone?), then applying is near impossible. Why so many boxes to fill in, check, and generally muck around with? Can’t you see I’m on a 4.3-inch mobile? It’s too fiddly. Stop making me do things that are physically awkward, if not impossible. Make life easy for me. I’m the applicant, so make it easy for me to want to join you and stop putting barriers in my way.

We also looked at a well-known online retailer. Will they do a better job? Marginally, in the sense that you can extract your CV from online sources like Google Drive and Dropbox, but again, way too many boxes to fill in and stuff to do. If I can’t apply in under 30 seconds, it’s too complicated.

And so it went on, big company after big company making me complete detailed application forms and asking me to upload a resume that I don’t have stored on my phone. In short, applying for a job with these companies was a non starter on a mobile. Now all of these companies are using an ATS, so the blame should at least partly be allocated to the ATS. But come on corporates: demand they put in place a mobile friendly application process.

Here’s how.

  1. Don’t worry about adjusting the design or layout. All modern smartphones above four inches can handle it.

  2. Get rid of lengthy application forms. It’s just impossible to complete them on a mobile. A few simple drop-down questions or yes/no is fine (that should cover EEO questions) but no big text boxes. If you need them to complete more, get an automated email after their initial quick application to include a link so they can return later to fill in the remaining details on a laptop.

  3. Don’t ask someone to upload a resume. Most won’t have it on a mobile. Instead, add in links to Google Drive, Onedrive, SugarSync, and Dropbox so they access a resume from where it’s stored online.

  4. Add in quick apply buttons from Indeed, Monster, and Linkedin allowing the user to apply with an online profile already created.

Nick Leigh-Morgan is the CEO and founder of iKrut, the world's first free enterprise-level applicant tracking system. He has more than 18 years experience in the recruiting industry, covering staffing firms, direct employers, and now web-based recruitment software. You can view iKrut at


8 Comments on “Mobile Recruiting: Ignore the Waffle and Just Do These 4 Things

  1. Nicely said, Nick.

    The only quibble I would have is with your recommendation to add links to Google Drive, Onedrive, SugarSync, and Dropbox so candidates can access a resume from where they’ve stored it in the cloud. Those are great options for the candidates who (1) use those services and (2) have a resume saved in their accounts and (3) have a current resume in those accounts and (4) don’t want to make any changes to the resume to customize it to best communicate their credentials to the company to which they’re applying. That means these services are a good option for the very small number of tech savvy people who are very, very actively seeking a new opportunity.

    Your fourth option — what is often referred to as a social apply — is going to be much more functional for far more people yet still is only a good option for those who are very actively seeking. Other than those in recruiting and sales, there’s a low percentage of people who (1) have LinkedIn accounts and (2) have a complete profile and (3) have a current profile and (4) are inclined to apply to a job using that profile. Those with current resumes on Indeed and Monster are only going to be the most active of job seekers.

    My suggestion is to make #3 and 4 optional. Let people start the application process. For those jobs which truly require a resume in order to start the application process then kick out an email to them to remind them to upload their resume when they’re next at their laptop or desktop computer. The reality is that very, very few jobs actually require a resume to start the application process if the employer spends some time thinking through the questions they need to assess whether the candidate is likely someone who is qualified and then builds a series of questions which can be answered through drop downs. Those work very well on mobiles.

  2. Nice read, Nick. I don’t think you can just tell organizations to not worry about redesigning their desktop careers sites, however.

    There’s a reason you’re telling companies to use a “mobile application” – because their desktop application is a mess. If a company’s desktop careers site is also a mess, it’s also not going to look or perform well on a mobile device.

    You’re right that a site should look the same on a mobile device as on a desktop or laptop computer. The question is, how do companies get there? With the proliferation of mobile devices today, companies should be designing with smartphone and tablet best practices in mind.

    Using a “mobile-first” approach is the best way to ensure uniformity and functionality across all devices. If it works on a mobile device, it will work on a desktop or laptop. The opposite is not necessarily true.

  3. I would agree with Andrew. I don’t think it necessarily requires a complete overhaul of their website, but all career pages should be optimized for mobile devices. It’s not hard. Also, they should be optimized for ease of submission, period. No questions, no forms. The initial contact should always be as simple, quick, and painless as possible. Top candidates do not have the time to sit around and retype their resumes, whether it’s on a mobile device or not. It’s ridiculous to request, it’s a practice recruiters should be actively against, these overly long application processes. If it takes more than a couple minutes to apply for a position, you’ve set up your process wrong.

  4. @ Keith,

    Unfortunately no, wish I did. I know some ATS systems offer it as an option/default, and you can take a regular portal and pare it down rather easily so it scales easy to mobile. It’s honestly not terribly intensive. You’re usually dealing with formatting of the elements more than a full redesign.

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