Anyone who works in recruiting can tell you that competition for talent is the most intense it’s been in years. As a result, most applicants can afford to be choosier about who they will even consider working for, leading to an across the board decrease in apply rates. These two circumstances combined may be pushing some recruiters and hiring managers to the brink of panic, but all is not lost! There are, in fact, a number of steps that businesses can take to combat low apply rates and strengthen their talent pipelines in the process.
1. Define your EVP
It should come as no surprise that most of the suggestions in this article will have to do with the way that your business presents itself to the world, from recruitment marketing to candidate experience. Thus, the crucial question to ask yourself before diving into the rest of these strategies is, “how should my business present itself?” To answer this question, it’s crucial to first determine your EVP, or employee value proposition. This includes all non-monetary ways in which you offer employees value, and can range from career advancement opportunities and conference budgets to swanky offices and high degrees of autonomy. Once you’ve figured out what unique value propositions set you apart from the competition, you can use your EVP as a guidepost in all of your messaging. Are you a mission driven company working to change the world? Make sure that everyone who encounters your employer brand understands that. Do you offer career stability and great benefits? Shout it from the rooftops. Not everyone will be interested in what you have to offer, but those who are will learn to associate your employer brand with their needs.
2. Go after passive job candidates
Once you’ve taken the preliminary step of defining your EVP, it’s time to get that messaging out into the world in the form of job ads. While established wisdom suggests that your best bet is posting your jobs on traditional recruitment platforms like Indeed and Craigslist, doing so can actually have an adverse effect on your apply rates. The reason? Essentially, by limiting your promotions to online job boards, you cut yourself off from the 80% of candidates who are not actively job seeking. Though these passive job seekers aren’t intentionally seeking out new employment (hence their absence from Indeed and Craigslist), that doesn’t mean that they’re not open to switching jobs. In fact, most of them would be willing to take on new employment if the right opportunity came around. In order to reach them, however, you have to go where they already are: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, and a host of other platforms that people use daily whether they are job searching or not. By seeking these people out rather than waiting for them to come to you, you’ll significantly broaden your pool of potential applicants, boosting your apply rate in the process.
3. Improve your job landing pages
Now, while the first two suggestions in this post have been about enticing potential candidates to apply, the remaining sections will largely be about doing the inverse: preventing people who would otherwise apply from dropping out of your application process. To wit, imagine this scenario: you’ve caught the eye of a passive job seeker with a job ad posted on Facebook. She clicks the link to fill out an application, but instead of being redirected to a page dedicated to the job in question, she’s sent to your general career page, where she has to scroll through endless open positions in order to find what she thinks is the one she was interested in. Some candidates, following an experience like that, will apply anyway—but not all. In the past, this might have been considered a useful technique for weeding out applicants, but today it’s more likely that it will be the most in-demand (and therefore choosiest) applicants who abandon ship due to poor applicant experience. Conversely, if our hypothetical candidate had been directed to a landing page specific to the job itself, and had been able to navigate to the application without any added headaches, she would likely have applied for the position.
4. Have a mobile friendly career site
Fun fact: Only 35% of Fortune 500 companies have a mobile friendly career site. In the modern era, when most folks are more or less inseparable from their phones, and a large proportion of young job seekers use their smartphones to search through job listings and even apply to positions, failing to be accessible via smartphone is assuredly going to cost you applicants. If you offer candidates the ability to engage with your employer brand and your business via whatever method they choose, they’ll respond by applying in greater numbers. Better still, if you can offer candidates a streamlined online application process (rather than the clunky, redundant, and time-consuming online forms that have been dominant for years), you can both keep them from dropping out of your process and demonstrate that you value their time and efforts—two factors that will effect how they think of your company when it comes time to make a final decision.
5. Try A/B testing
If you’re struggling with low apply rates, the strategies outlined above will almost certainly make a difference in terms of building awareness of your employer brand and encouraging candidates to apply. But, of course, there is no one size fits all solution that will apply to every company or every HR department. For that reason, it’s important to experiment with both your application flow and your employer branding in order to see what’s effective and what’s not. Try running A/B tests to see whether calling positions by different job titles affects apply rates. Then, do the same for your calls-to-action and job descriptions. By establishing a sense of what works and what doesn’t, you can chart a clear path forward towards improved apply rates and build a stronger talent pool.