Beware of the Dark Side of ‘Mobile-Apply’

Everyday more people are using their mobile devices in every facet of their lives, from back-to-school shopping, to reading the news, to buying tickets for an upcoming hockey game, to looking for work. So whether they’re using a smartphone or a tablet the expectation of candidates is that the experience of job searching is flawless.

Because mobile is becoming increasingly important to recruiting and the employer brand, it’s critical to have a solid understanding of how mobile should ideally work throughout the recruitment process.

If you go to any organizations’ career site on your smartphone ask yourself what specific things should happen to maximize your interest. Perhaps you mention ease of navigation, mobile responsive design (i.e. you don’t have to squint your eyes or enlarge the screen to read the text), integration of social media channels (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), and an easy way to see open jobs. Each of these things positively impact the candidate’s experience and influences their perception of the employer.

Enter Mobile-Apply

Recently the likes of LinkedIn, Indeed and some applicant tracking systems (ATS) are offering a “mobile-apply” option which is impressing mobile-conscious HR leaders everywhere. The feature allows candidates to more easily view and apply for a job from their mobile devices by using their LinkedIn profile instead of a uploading a resume. This is intended to reduce the number of “drop-offs” (i.e. those that start an application process and don’t finish it), thereby increasing the number of applicants. The theory is that this process would attract more passive candidates because of its ease of use. But there is a dark side to mobile-apply.

In my opinion, mobile-apply is great for fast moving temp or entry-level positions, where speed is of the essence. But when it comes to permanent, professional positions the mobile apply feature can do more harm than good. Here’s why:

  1. Ultimately, hiring is about quality candidates. An increase in the number of applicants does NOT guarantee an increase in the quality of candidates. The opposite may be true because mobile apply encourages applicant spamming. If the recruiter is using the resume instead of predictive applicant tracking, it just means more unqualified resumes to go through, and less time to find the great applicants.
  1. The best candidates are the ones who really want the job. Because they are truly interested, they are willing to commit time to put together their application before submitting. The requirement to invest a reasonable amount of time researching the position and tailoring an application is a way to discourage the “resume bombers” who believe it’s a good idea to apply to as many jobs as possible (even if they’re not qualified).
  1. Mobile-apply increases applicant volume but does not help with evaluating applicant hard and soft skills (in fact it limits assessment, as there are no cover letters or custom responses involved). Why would you want to increase volume while at the same time make it more difficult to assess your now bigger applicant pool?
  1. The job market is improving, resulting in a shift in power from organizations to job seekers. Talent has more choice now so recruiters need to shift their tactics to that of a successful salesperson representing their organization’s employer brand – influencing, persuading, marketing, communicating and sharing. Mobile-apply does the opposite.

Putting up a reasonable gate within the application is a win-win for both candidates and recruiters. Making the application too easy with mobile-apply hurts everyone because of the flood of unqualified applications.

This doesn’t mean that mobile isn’t important. It definitely is. Instead of focusing on mobile-apply, recruiting managers could focus their attention on mobile optimizing the initial stages of the recruitment process – promotion of jobs on social media, referrals, mobile-optimized job boards, and mobile-optimized career page content. That would get target talent interested in taking the time to tailor their application to your company.

We live in a global marketplace where identifying and hiring top talent is increasingly competitive. The right people are out there and are more accessible than ever before, so our focus should be on developing tools that help recruiters attract and evaluate candidates. Mobile is a great opportunity to improve the quality of your applicants, not the quantity of them.

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