Why Make Applicants Jump Through Rings of Fire?

I attended a recruiter networking luncheon in Dallas about a year or so ago and sat down next to a well-dressed corporate recruiter who was having an animated conversation with the person across the table from him. The recruiter was saying “if a candidate doesn’t want to take 45 minutes to fill out our online application then they’re not interested enough in the job!”

He. Actually. Said. That.

I did not say anything to him, mostly because I was so stunned, but also because I didn’t want to be rude and probably wouldn’t have been able to think of anything polite to say.

Applicants aren’t really required to jump through actual rings of fire to apply for a job, but most online applications are almost as painful. In case you have never had the pleasure, it is quite an experience to fill out online applications that require you to cut dates, company names, locations (including the street address), titles, job descriptions, salaries, reason for leaving, and more from your resume and paste it into little boxes for every job you have held your entire career.  I have even seen applications that ask for the exact day when a job starts and ends and not just month and year.

And let’s not forget about having to create an account for each of those applications too.  Better use a spreadsheet to keep track of all those usernames and passwords if you plan on making applications to very many companies.

What does a company gain by having applicants go through all that? I get that those online applications pretty much force candidates to give recruiters all the basic information needed to decide if someone meets the minimum qualifications for a job and would be worth the time to talk with in more detail. But isn’t it part of a recruiter’s job to read resumes and talk to candidates to find out if they are qualified for a job? You are either going to have to read the resume provided by the candidate or the application they filled out at some point anyway, so why not find a way to make it easier for everyone?

Let’s get rid of all those little boxes! Instead, requiring applicants to fill out a brief questionnaire, no more than five multiple choice questions, with their resume submission, is a good way to strike a balance between making it easy to apply for job seekers and recruiters not having to spend time chasing down applicants who don’t meet minimum qualifications such as needing a sponsor, four-year degree, or whatever it is for the particular company or position. Some ATS systems can even score an application based on a person’s responses to the questionnaire and you don’t even need to open the resume and read it if the score is below the minimum amount you have set.

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If you don’t have the ability to set up a questionnaire for applicants to fill out, using an ATS to do keyword searches on applicants is another way to quickly sort through a large volume of resumes. You can use the ATS to search for keywords on just the resumes attached to a particular requisition. After all, if an applicant does not bother to put basic information on their resume that is relevant to the job they are applying for, then I don’t feel bad about rejecting their application. In fact, it seems like a pretty good way to me to eliminate a lot of unqualified people right from the start.

After an applicant has been selected for an onsite interview is a better time to ask them to fill out a detailed job application if an application is required by your company. By that time, the candidate is more invested in the process and will probably not view it as an imposition of their time.

For a lot of professions, it is a candidate-driven market, and not many qualified people apply to jobs to begin with, so why do anything to run off the very few qualified people who do apply? Is that really the company image you want to project to a potential employee?  Better to have the application process a person has with your company be quick and easy rather than annoying and tedious, which risks someone not completing the application.  You don’t want qualified candidates abandoning the application process, which only increases the amount of time it will take to fill the position.

Yes it would make all our lives a lot easier if candidates sent us better resumes. It is frustrating when candidates send me horrible resumes that leave off most of the information I need to have and what they do put on there is vague or so badly formatted I can barely read it. But better screening of applicants with brief questionnaires and ATS key word searches should help narrow down the search. Making it easier to apply will no doubt increase the total number of applicants but hopefully it will also increase the number of qualified applicants. And that is good news for both recruiters and candidates.

Charlene Long is a corporate recruiter with RPO and agency experience who specializes in IT and engineering positions. She lives in Dallas, Texas, and has over 20 years of technical recruiting experience. Previously she was an analytical chemist for environmental labs in Florida and Texas and then for Texas Instruments in Dallas for four years.

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7 Comments on “Why Make Applicants Jump Through Rings of Fire?

  1. Right on, Charlene! But it is even worse than that, because I (and most of the recruiters I know) never actually read any of those entered boxes of employment history and such in the ATS…we just look at the resume after seeing from the prescreening questions that they meet the minimum requirements (via the ATS).

    Because this is the case (for me and many recruiters), I see little reason why we just don’t ask for the resumes alone and then our prescreening questions. Then we get exactly what we need (at a minimum) to decide if we will interview them further or not (at least as a recruiter to determine their true fit).

    Now the background check needs a filled out formal application to test on (I am told)…so fine, ask for that towards the end of the process…not at the beginning. I think asking for an application on the front end (especially paper ones – yes I still see them) is a mark of being outdated and being something out of the prior century.

    Unfortunately, I too have heard HR people and recruiters say something similar…if they are interested, they will fill it out. However, this is totally naive and unrealistic when it comes to the top candidates (who are likely passive) and when they see this they don’t apply. Unless you are desperate, would you take 45 minutes to an hour and a half to fill out application after application? I have been between jobs (and so desperate) and have filled them out…but when I am passively looking at times, I don’t fill them out unless the job really speaks to me (most don’t).

    1. “I think asking for an application on the front end (especially paper ones – yes I still see them) is a mark of being outdated and being something out of the prior century.”

      Yup, and they are very, VERY common still. I remember one I filled out a while ago, I was pretty sure the company wasn’t worth my time but I only figured that out the night before after talking to an ex employee, so I went to the interview anyway. I asked the ‘recruiter’ why they were concerned about having the name and address of my high school on the application, no answer was forthcoming.

  2. A great article! Completely agree with the statement ‘Making it easier to apply will no doubt increase the total number of applicants but hopefully it will also increase the number of qualified applicants. And that is good news for both recruiters and candidates.’ We at Jobtunity spoke to many HR managers and what we identified as a challenge is to increase the number of qualifies applicants (the quality), without necessarily increasing the number of total applicants (quantity). This is beceause we need to take into consideration the costs of hire. Reviewing applicants could take up to 23.5 hours and make an average cost up to $587.50 (Recruiterbox.com).

    Inspired by this we have taken upon a challenge to skip the formality of sending CV and having a 1st round interview and make the recruitment process much more practices, hands-on driven. Would really appreciate your opinion if you as recruiters would find a platform that connects you with qualified only applicants useful?

    We are building the platform and your feedback would be more than welcome. Subscribe at http://jobtunity.com/ so that you can test is and help us improve it. And if you are up for a Skype call so that you could share your direct feedback DM us @jobtunity:disqus

  3. “I did not say anything to him, mostly because I was so stunned, but also because I didn’t want to be rude and probably wouldn’t have been able to think of anything polite to say.”

    Mistake number one. Call morons out for what they are, it’s the only way they, and the profession they’re a part of, will ever improve.

    “For a lot of professions, it is a candidate-driven market, and not many qualified people apply to jobs to begin with, so why do anything to run off the very few qualified people who do apply?”

    Because regardless of actual job conditions, companies in the US think they are entitled to a workforce. They think they are owed employees. They are entrepreneurs, don’t you know? Tantamount to saying they are unquestionable gods in the US. And they don’t, under any and all circumstances and conditions, ever think that they might have to attract or earn employees. As far as they’re concerned, the world itself should be tripping and falling all over itself to come and worship… sorry, work for them, and if they decide to pay them a pittance for doing so, that’s just them being generous. This is what decades of Sales! oriented recruiting and compliance obsessed HR has brought our profession to.

    This reality exists because they don’t give a damn. HR is just concerned with every little nuance that might lead to a millionth of a billionth of a trillionth of a possibility of a lawsuit ten years from now, and recruiting is dominated by a bunch of Sales! people who are experts in making you feel like they’re doing you a favor by ‘allowing’ you to interview for a position which pays one fifth of what you currently earn, because it’s a great Opportunity!, as they like to say. Just what’s so great about it, and what qualifies it as an opportunity, is never really fleshed out. Employees barely matter to their employers in this world, the majority of companies view them as disposable and replaceable, regardless of what lip service they give to PC attestations to caring about them, and employees being their greatest and most valued assets, so why would candidates be worth more?

    One might ask why they’re so unwilling to pay for their supposed greatest and most valued assets, much less treat them decently, but we musn’t ask such questions in our profession. It gets in the way of more Sales! by interjecting objective reality into a profession dominated by BS artists, charlatans, hucksters, liars, frauds, and thieves. And you’ll get the usual people saying that’s not the way they do it, but it’s hard to square the nearly unanimously negative view of recruiters with what members of our profession routinely claim is just a few bad apples. The more you look into the HR and recruiting processes of most companies, the clearer it becomes that they are just machines to chew people up and spit them out with nary a care for the damage caused, and recruiters by and large facilitate this process, which is why they are almost universally reviled.

  4. It’s an HR thing, recruiting is not HR’s number one priority. They aren’t measured on that. So why is recruiting still in HR?

  5. > Yes it would make all our lives a lot easier if candidates sent us better resumes. It is frustrating when candidates send me horrible resumes that leave off most of the information I need to have and what they do put on there is vague or so badly formatted I can barely read it.

    People who teach writing resumes teach it poorly, and they have never been able to tell me how to make my resume better because quite frankly they have no idea what I do. That said, if people are leaving stuff off, why don’t you put something that says please include the following details on your resume. Also have an example, maybe have the hiring manager write said example.

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