The UX of recruitment: how to improve the user journey for job applicants
With coronavirus-related redundancies and a recession looming, many more people will be applying for jobs than usual and under very heightened circumstances, so everyone needs the application experience to be as optimal as possible, for both recruiters and applicants
Here’s some guidance on how to make an already stressful and laborious process, a little more user-friendly.
It’s estimated that, on average, before you get a new job, you’re going to have to interview for 10 jobs you won’t get. To get 10 interviews, you need to apply for 100 positions.
It’s tasking enough to fire off 100 copies of your CV, but recruitment agencies are now advising you to write a unique, customised CV and cover letter for each individual job you apply for.
That is ONE HUNDRED versions of your CV, and it can’t just be a list of your previous positions – oh, no.
You see, even before the sudden increase in unemployment, our expanding population and improved automation led to around 250 applicants for every available corporate role, according to Glassdoor. You have to stand out from that enormous crowd somehow. This means that each of those 100 versions of your CV needs to be a work of art.
It’s a wonder anyone ever gets a job at all.
That isn’t to say it’s any easier on the other end. As I said, there are 250 applicants for every role, on average. That means you have to read 250 CVs and cover letters each time you recruit.
Surely there has to be an easier way? In this age of technological marvels, there have to be online tools to digitise this painstaking process.
Well, yes; there are. Unfortunately, most are inadequate.
Clicking ‘apply’ on a job posting normally launches a long, boring questionnaire that requires your applicant to type out their CV over again from scratch, but this time, in a set format into which it may simply not fit.
While many of these application wizards will allow your candidate to upload their existing CV document so it can be scanned and then used to auto-fill the generic questions, it’s still a pain for the candidate to have to complete the gaps and tweak the formatting for every application they make, as well as ensuring no mistakes have been made by the automation.
One CV to get the job
The optimal user experience would allow the candidate to create one, single digital CV and then just wait for the interviews to come rolling in.
This is where LinkedIn comes in handy – a free account can provide a formatted CV that can be sent to anyone who advertises on LinkedIn, and will include your references.
Unfortunately, LinkedIn still requires you to find jobs to apply for, with a sub-standard search engine.
Some job sites are now taking things further and will allow you to upload a CV once, then will auto-apply to jobs matching your criteria, so neither you nor your potential employer need to search for each other.
This makes the application process tolerable, but still doesn’t make it any easier for you to filter through the stack of CVs that come across your desk as a hiring manager.
An algorithm is only as good as its keywords
Certain recruitment companies offer an algorithm that will scan through the responses to your job advert and only send you the good ones, but how accurate is that?
I know someone who worked as a senior claims investigator for an insurance company. She decided she wanted to move into underwriting within the same company and spoke to the team manager about applying.
A job came up and she applied, only to receive an immediate ‘no’ without even being offered an interview, despite it being company policy to interview internal candidates.
She approached the manager to ask what happened. As it turned out, the manager had thought she’d changed her mind as she never even saw her CV. It had been filtered out by the keyword scanner, as HR had chosen a very odd combination of keywords.
What are the fixes?
Ultimately, the recruitment industry seems to have fallen down into the gap between the pre- and post-digital ages, and someone needs to come along and rescue the whole thing, dragging it fully into modern times.
With remote working and social distancing likely here to stay for some time, we can’t rely on networking at events to land us work any more. It’s time for digital recruitment to get in shape.
So, strap on your capes and get ready to use your UX superpowers to save the day.
It really won’t take much. Just have your teams make a few simple tweaks to their job listings:
1) Use plain English
You aren’t hiring internally, so don’t talk in company lingo.
Don’t explain your company values; don’t tell them the job is pay band F; don’t tell them the name of the department they’ll work in; and don’t talk about your brand.
Tell them in simple terms what they will be doing day-to-day, what skills they need to have and what the benefits of working for you are.
Imagine a friend asked you in a bar what you do for a living – give them that version.
2) Use skill keywords, not titles
On a related note, if you’re hiring an “online marketing and digital change management specialist” don’t set that as the only keyword in your CV scanner.
Instead, add the skills they will need to do the job: marketing, IT, SEO, Photoshop, etc.
Don’t expect applicants to know what your internal name for the position is. Target generic words for the capabilities you’re looking for and you’ll find people with those skills.
3) Value their time
Believe me, I know how annoying it is to be reading through a pile of 250 CVs and come across one from a random chancer with nothing like the experience you’re looking for.
It can be tempting to try and whittle those out by making candidates jump through extra hoops to show their dedication, but remember this means making the candidates you really want go to extra effort.
You’re more likely to dissuade busy professionals who don’t have time for your bad UX than the unsuitable candidates who haven’t read your job description properly.
4) Don’t make them repeat themselves
Your candidates have spent a long time developing an appealing CV that showcases their talents and makes them stand out.
If you force them to type out the same details over again into your UI, you’re removing any chance they have at creativity and making all the time they spent composing their CV a waste.
Someone who can make up their own resume is far more impressive than a candidate who needs your UI to do it.
5) Be transparent about salary
Manager, as an example, can mean anything from the head of an entire company to a junior position with some organisational function.
The only universal indication of seniority is pay. Still, for some reason, recruitment sites are refusing to post salaries on job ads at the moment.
I don’t know if this is some misguided attempt to make out that the job is more important than the money or if it’s a cynical attempt to underpay people, but either way, it’s frustrating.
If you’re trying to speed up trawling through CVs, why allow people to waste their time in applying for positions that are £10k below their current payscale?
6) Be transparent about location
Likewise, companies seem to be cagey about their office location.
In part, this is recruitment agencies not wanting to give away what company they’re hiring for, but direct recruiters are following suit.
Once lockdown is all over, you need to let your users figure out their commute before they decide whether to apply. LinkedIn is trying to do this, but it only works if the recruiter provides the information.
Even with remote working becoming far more common and commutes likely to filter out, home workers still need to know what country you’re based in for tax reasons, so don’t make them guess.
So, putting this all together, what do we need?
- Have your job ad specifically describe the experience needed and what the successful candidate will be doing on a daily basis
- Set a salary level and tell them where the job will be located
- Ask them a few basic, specific questions, such as ‘how many years’ experience do you have in a people-management role?’, to let you filter out people who haven’t read the advert
- Once they’ve ticked the boxes to show they have what you need, let them upload their own CV in whatever format they like
You may still get a lot of CVs to go through, but at least you can be sure all of the candidates have the experience that you need and there will hopefully be some creative, beautiful applications that will immediately stand out, allowing you to reward the creativity of people who take the time to demonstrate their skills.
It’s not hard. As you all know, a simple UI and a simple output will make a streamlined process that works for everyone. Recruitment is certainly an untapped area for UX specialists to work on and applicants and hiring managers will be grateful for your work.
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Neil Sheppard has been a UX copywriter and content strategist for nearly a decade. Starting out as a pharmaceutical stock markets journalist, Neil quickly moved into digital copywriting, managing a team optimising product content for a busy commercial website. Nowadays, Neil helps companies create easy-to-use internal websites and digital employee manuals that make complex processes simple for everyone from CEOs to service desk agents.