7 Ways Your ATS Apply Experience Kills Application Completion Rates

7 Ways Your ATS Apply Experience Kills Application Completion Rates

Mike Roberts

ats trackingThere’s a reason people refer to the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) as the backbone of recruiting. By automating, centralizing, and standardizing a range of recruitment tracking efforts, it’s proven invaluable to companies of all sizes—especially large ones. But there is a catch: the apply experience provided by most large ATS that job seekers interact with is more fitting for an old technology museum than a career website in 2015.

Why? As we’ve discussed numerous times before, the ATS is a system of record, not engagement. The abundance of legacy deployments (even at the world’s biggest companies today) were not designed and engineered to attract and entice applicants. No, most out-of-the-box apply experience job seekers are navigated to after initiating the application are simply a necessary but underwhelming aspect of the solution.

In a very competitive job market, and at a time where the career site is emerging as one of the main—if not the top—source for applicants, having an outdated apply experience is like racing across the country with a flat tire. It’s a disadvantage, and it’s killing your application completion rates. In this post, we’ll dig into a number of ways the ATS is hurting your candidate experience and turning applicants away.

1. Your Branding Changes During the Process

This is an important aspect of the candidate experience that’s too often overlooked. When job seekers hit “apply,” everything changes. Branding. Colors. Fonts. Everything. What’s interesting is many job seekers are now familiar with ATS apply flows and either buckle up for the ride when they see that logo change or abandon the process entirely.

2. There’s No Responsive Web Design

Responsive design is becoming the web standard. Basically, it’s a design type that enables a webpage to adapt to whichever device the user is using. Sometimes when the applicant hits “apply,” she goes from a responsively designed career site to the archaic ATS apply flow. If she’s on mobile, she’s probably jumping ship.

3. Applicants Must Finish from a Desktop (Not a Smartphone)

Imagine selecting something on Amazon.com via your smartphone, hitting checkout, and then getting prompted to go to a desktop to put in your credit card information. That would absolutely hurt sales. This happens on ATS apply flows, only instead of credit card information, job seekers can’t upload their resume from mobile.

4. Your Application Is Incredibly Long (with No End In Sight)

At companies with consumer-facing websites, dedicated designers and engineers are constantly optimizing the user interface and experience. This is a complete afterthought with most ATS experiences, and many companies are stuck with an apply flow on a single webpage that takes way too long, asks an inordinate amount of personal and assessment questions, and provides no indication of when the application will be completed.

5. There’s Way Too Much Manual Data Entry

There seems to be this thought process in some cases that “if an applicant really wants to work here, then she’ll fill out the application regardless of how long it is.” That’s not a good strategy for improving application completion rates, and it’s definitely not going to help attract passive candidates to skilled positions. ATS apply experiences that don’t offer resume parsing or the ability to apply with LinkedIn are missing out.

6. Some Parts of the Apply Flow Are Just Broken

It’s not totally uncommon for something like a dropdown menu to stop working for one reason or another or for the design to all of the sudden not align on some browsers in an ATS apply flow. Coupled with the outdated look and feel of most ATS apply flows, flaws in the process are often the last straw for applicants as they move onto the next company’s career site.

7. Your Applications Are Timing Out

Performance issues are yet another aspect of technology for which today’s modern job seekers have no patience. In some cases, the front end of the apply flow is not communicating with the back, and logging in is just not possible. In others, the application crashes during the process and candidates without the ability save have no choice but to start over. In either scenario, frustrated candidates will generally abandon the application.

Do You Know Your Own Apply Experience?

A few weeks back we asked a simple question: When was the last time you went through your own apply flow? No surprisingly, so many recruiters and managers couldn’t remember if they ever actually applied for one of their own positions. With the rising importance of the career site as a talent acquisition asset, this is concerning and highlights the need for an apply flow audit.

The “apply” button doesn’t have to be a time machine that leads back the late ‘90s, where so many websites were mundane, slow, and poorly designed. Although the candidate may be entering from the career site into the ATS, it really should be just another step in a seamless process. But it’s important to know you don’t have to be a victim to the limitations of ATS apply flows—just read our recent post on ATS integration.

Interested in learning more about what it takes to build a modern candidate experience? Check out our new eBook,“9-Point Checklist for Building a Next-Generation Candidate Experience.”

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