Improving the Mobile-Application Process

Almost half of all respondents in a recent survey of job seekers point to problems when applying for a job via a mobile device. How can HR help streamline the process to keep talent moving through the pipeline?

By Lin Grensing-Pophal

While HR professionals have benefitted greatly from improvements in technology that allow them to streamline many processes -- including recruitment -- challenges persist.

A recent survey from Glassdoor, a career community and talent solution provider, found that, while nine in 10 job seekers surveyed say they search for jobs via a mobile device, almost 49 percent of these job seekers are finding it difficult to apply for jobs via a mobile device.

If you consider your own mobile-device usage, this is perhaps not so surprising. Who hasn't had the experience of inadvertently introducing errors into their emails or texts when attempting to send messages via these small devices? In fact, seeing the appended comment "Sent via my mobile phone; please excuse errors" is an all-too-common occurrence these days.

That comment may work for interpersonal communications, but job seekers may be a bit more hesitant to risk inaccuracies when seeking a job, which poses some challenges for HR professionals who are understandably interested in the latest and greatest ways of reaching and attracting candidates for their organization's open positions.

"People are replacing mobile with desktop in more arenas than just job seeking," says Ryan Aylward, Glassdoor's chief technical officer. "Folks use their mobile phones for banking, email and even online dating -- so it's no surprise that more and more people are using mobile devices in the job hunt as well."

Employers that prioritize making it easier for prospective talent to apply to their job listings via mobile will have a clear advantage when it comes to winning the war for talent, he says.

And the use of mobile applications for recruitment, says Gerry Crispin, co-founder of CareerXroads, an international consulting practice based in Kendall Park, N.J., is "one of the core discussions going on right now."

The issues, he says, relate not so much to the availability of apps that allow job candidates to do everything -- from search for and find positions to apply to, and even take online assessments to determine their viability for the job -- to their ability to successfully use these apps with a minimum of frustration and difficulty.

The big disconnect for applicants, Aylward says, is "between finding jobs on their mobile devices and being able to actually apply to those jobs via the same device."

But it's not necessarily just the apps themselves that are problematic, says Jim McCoy, vice president and practice leader with RPO North America at Boston-based ManpowerGroup Solutions, but often the devices job seekers are using.

"As the devices get easier to use," he says, "I think we'll see more willingness to start and complete the application in one swoop, or start the application on the device and complete it on another device."

Still, employers need to take steps to provide a "responsive" career site, Aylward says, one that provides a similar user experience across all platforms -- desktop, mobile phone and tablet.

And, importantly, adds Crispin, it's not just the candidates who are impacted by these mobile options. Recruiters and HR professionals are as well. For instance, they may need to use mobile devices to access their databases of all the jobs they're responsible for from literally anywhere they are, he says, adding that hiring managers also may need similar capabilities.

All of these factors, he says, push the work of recruiters and HR professionals outside the realm of the traditional 9-to-5 workday in a cubicle or office.

"Mobile almost implies that you are not working in the office," he says.

So what does all of this mean to HR? According to Crispin, it means "there is no going back" to the old ways of recruiting. The question becomes one of not whether to embrace mobile, but how -- and how to do so in a manner that minimizes frustration on the part of job candidates.

As with any form of online or mobile application, ease of use is critical. Today's consumers are increasingly impatient and have an expectation that online or mobile communications will be quick. If not, they'll give up. The two key attributes to keep in mind, says Aylward, are streamlined candidate experience and compelling content.

Jay Floersch, a Kansas City, Mo.-based RPO solutions architect with Aon Hewitt, says candidates want to take action immediately when they find a job they like. If they're using a mobile phone and have accessed an app which led them to believe they will be able to quickly apply online only to be met with barriers, delays and frustration, they're likely to simply give up.


One of the elements here for HR to consider, he says, is what information is absolutely essential. For instance, "for some hourly positions you may not need a resume; you may just be looking for some work history and references," he says. If that's the case, the process can be simplified. There really aren't any "one-size-fits-all" solutions and, as with other forms of communication, he says it's unlikely that mobile will ever be a complete replacement for traditional modes of applying for jobs.

This is an important point. Mobile is not a one-stop shop for the application process. But by teasing out various elements of the process, with the candidates' needs and lifestyles in mind, the experience can be improved, McCoy says.

"Instead of having a traditional application," he says, "enable the application process to start by taking use of social media as a way to populate information." Job seekers widely use LinkedIn in their search efforts and the information on their profiles generally reflects the elements of a traditional application form. "In my opinion, that would be one of the simplest things that HR could do to streamline the process right away."

Exploring ways to navigate seamlessly across mobile and laptop or desktop environments can also ease some of the angst that applicants may feel.

"What we've seen in emerging markets around the world," he says, "is that candidates will use mobile devices and [apps] such as Whatsapp to find information about jobs, but then what we would find is that, even if they didn't have access to a PC at home, they would go to an Internet café to actually submit their application."

One key for HR is considering new and different ways to engage and interact with job seekers.

For certain types of jobs, suggests Crispin, a Q&A or checkbox option might be offered via an app to help candidates provide some early indication of their qualifications for a position. Through an automated process, the system could then generate a message to those who meet minimum requirements to invite them to submit a more formal application. Various types of assessments could also be part of the app providing valuable information to both the hiring organization and the candidate.

Tapping talent communities can be another best practice for HR practitioners, says Floersch, which work in much the same manner as consumer sites including New job postings or other information can be delivered to them based on the past activities of those engaged in the community.

"By offering choices to candidates they can choose the option that is best for their situation," says Crispin. "What corporations that are offering multiple choices and a quicker application process are finding is a significant rise in the number of individuals who are searching and applying from mobile devices."

Different job families or types of positions will have different needs, Crispin says, which means HR needs to take a look at these different job families and determine what the mobile needs and preferences of applicants -- as well as recruiters and hiring managers -- may be.

Adoption of innovative recruiting policies among corporations has been slow, says Crispin, but it is a trend that is not going away. "We can only expect that mobile devices will become more diverse, and more capable of doing a variety of different things -- we will have the Internet with us wherever we are and that is not going to change."

McCoy emphasizes that HR professionals do not need to design systems from scratch, and that they can rely not only on the experiences of other HR professionals, but others as well -- perhaps within their own organizations.

"Most organizations have a mobile strategy somewhere," he says. "See how the other parts of your organization have adopted the technology, and use their learnings to really hone your strategy and thinking about mobile."

May 28, 2014
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