Which Parts of The Application Process Can Scare Job Candidates?

Scare Job Candidates

Assembling a coherent process for hiring, from start to finish, takes a lot of work. A candidate pipeline requires optimization and refinement, and it typically needs to be engineered for the specific roles and levels you’re seeking. The hiring process for an entry-level receptionist will be very different from the process used for an executive sales leader.

A poor hiring process can be actively detrimental to your company as a whole. Every red flag that scares off a candidate lowers the quality of your overall candidate pool, reducing the quality of your workforce and leaving you with lost potential.

Unfortunately, misidentifying and poorly configuring a hiring process can scare away some of your best candidates. The trick is knowing why and determining what you can eliminate as non-essential. Examine your hiring process and look for any of these issues.

Your Hiring Process Takes Too Long

Taking too long at any part of the hiring process, mainly if the applicant is waiting on you to reply to them or schedule them, is likely to drive them away. Many candidates will have dozens of applications in with different companies at any given time. It’s entirely possible that if it takes weeks or even months for your company to respond to an application, they will write you off completely. A long delay increases the likelihood of the candidate accepting another offer before you’ve even made your decision.

Taking too long is unlikely to scare away a candidate; it’s more likely that the delay means that they will have better offers lined up before you get back to them. After all, how invested in them are you if you can’t respond to them right away?

Long Hiring Process

“Top professionals are increasingly in high demand. If you find the right person for your job, communicate how much you want them and pull the trigger! Too many things can happen when you delay in getting out an offer.” – Amtec.

Delays can drive candidates to look elsewhere at any time during the hiring process. That includes processing their application and calling them back, scheduling an interview, discussing the interview results, planning further interviews, and extending an offer. Ideally, in many cases, the entire process shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks. Of course, this varies depending on the role; some have steeper requirements and thus require more intensive interview processes.

Poor Communication Between Your Company and Your Candidates

Imagine a candidate has applied to your job. They gave you a cover letter with the wrong manager’s name attached, their resume is disorganized, and they have to call to reschedule their interview three times. Would you hire them? Probably not.

Yet, candidates frequently need to deal with long periods of silence, miscommunications, poor organization, and poorly-conveyed job expectations. To a certain extent, this is even expected since traditionally, the employer holds all the power. However, with candidates in short supply, the balance of power is shifting. Many companies are now discovering that skilled applicants are no longer putting up with disorganized and poor communications from potential employers.

Communicating with Candidate

“Failing to keep in touch consistently, providing unclear or inaccurate answers to their questions regarding the position or the business, and lacking sincerity or conviction in your engagement with them are all important examples. From discovering your brand to completing an interview, they should be as impressed by their experience with you as you are by their suitability for the role at hand.” – Summit Search Group.

Consistent, responsive, and organized communication is crucial to the modern hiring process.

You Surprise the Candidate with Essential Information

Your job posting should include all of the necessary information that a candidate might require to make a decision.

Information to Include

This information includes:

  • Job requirements. Remember to keep this list to actual requirements! One common factor that scares off many candidates is listing physical lifting requirements for jobs that don’t have physical demands. It shows a lack of care for the accuracy of the role – and the possibility of being forced to do tasks outside of their skillset when short-staffed.
  • Job duties. The candidate should know what they will be doing in their role. If you surprise them in an interview with an unexpected requirement, it can make them uncertain about what they’ll be doing. Some may find the additional duties beneath them, and others might find them above their skill level; both can drive off otherwise excellent candidates.
  • Salary ranges. While there are many pros and cons to listing salary publicly in your job posting, it is vital to be up-front about it. More than a few candidates have reached a point where they’d be willing to accept an offer, only to decline when the salary is much lower than they expected.
  • Information about required time spent in the office required meeting and other details that affect culture, work/life balance, and other side-effects of employment. For example, a candidate expecting to work from home might not be happy to learn that there will be weekly mandatory in-office meetings.
  • Background checks, credit checks, past salary history, and other such information. Many of these categories are protected in some jurisdictions and can be used to be discriminatory. Even if a candidate has nothing to hide, they may still want to avoid working for a company with mandatory drug testing or asking for credit history. It varies from location to location and from candidate to candidate, however.

Consider the process from the candidate’s perspective. What aspects of the job, the company, or the expectations you have for them would make the candidate re-think whether or not they wanted to work for you in that role? Make sure anything that can “change the paradigm” gets presented up-front so that a paradigm shift doesn’t force the candidate to withdraw from the process.

Remember that surprises in the hiring process can also earn you a reputation for hiding unsavory information. Surprising candidates at the last minute with burdensome duties or a sub-par salary is a recipe for driving away the best candidates. People do talk amongst themselves, after all.

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Your Role Requirements are Too Steep

Time and again, employers will ask for the moon from their candidates, above and beyond what is actually necessary to perform the job adequately. There are three problems with this.

Employer Examining CV

First of all, listing steep job requirements can be seen as demanding more from a candidate than the role is worth. A well-qualified candidate might hesitate to apply because you’re asking for senior-level expertise for an entry-level job. Among other things, this implies that you’re intending to over-work and underpay them for the role they’ll be performing.

Secondly, steep job requirements can be inflated beyond the point of parody. This inflation is seen commonly in tech/developer roles where companies ask for more years of experience in a programming language or interface than the age of the language. This betrays that your company isn’t giving attention to the real needs and requirements of the role, and you’re simply listing formulaic requirements with no context. If you fail to account for something so simple, what else do you miss?

Third, overly steep job requirements can have an adverse impact and lead to discriminatory hiring practices. It’s well-documented that, for example, men will apply for a job when they only meet some of the requirements, while women will apply only when they meet all of them. Similar effects can be found between nationalities and across other protected categories. Unnecessarily steep job requirements can thus be found to be discriminatory, which can lead to lawsuits about adverse impact in the hiring process. Needless to say, this is the worst of the three reasons to avoid creating unnecessarily high requirements.

Your Application Process is Outdated, Inefficient, or Non-Functional

Every job applicant who has ever had to submit a resume to a web form, and then fill out all of the same information by hand, before then taking a 50-question personality test, just to apply to an entry-level position, knows the feeling of struggling with an inefficient and outdated application process.

Outdated Application Process

Unfortunately, global hiring is still continuously filled with these kinds of processes.

“While it may make sense to have some pre-employment qualifications before making an offer, be careful not to require too much in the very first interaction with the organization. If the application process takes too long to complete, it may turn great candidates away before they even finish the process. If multiple types of screening are helpful, consider adding them after the first interview instead of before.” – HR Daily Advisor.

Many parts of the application process are outdated and no longer necessary, redundant with more modern tools, or prone to breaking. Watch for problems such as:

  • They are forcing candidates through a personality screening. While these can be useful for specific roles, all they do in most cases is test the candidate’s ability to lie consistently. There’s always a clear, correct answer to these screeners, and there are numerous web resources for answering them correctly. They don’t screen anything meaningful.
  • They are asking for a cover letter, especially for sub-management roles. The cover letter is dead, or mostly dead. Many applicant tracking systems discard extraneous documents or file them away where the hiring manager never looks at them anyway. Moreover, since many of your best candidates will come from referrals and similar sources, cover letters have no place.
  • They are using a generic, faceless, non-branded application process. A lack of company branding in the application process removes any attachment the candidate has to your company.
  • They are using an application process that requires an out-of-date web browser. You’d be surprised how often companies use poorly-engineered solutions that need Internet Explorer, trip modern security protections, or don’t use SSL security.
  • They require resumes to be submitted as PDFs. Some companies still use this process, but PDFs are prone to issues and are difficult to use in many situations. There are better modern formats for resume information.

Most modern applicant tracking systems have ways to harvest data from resumes or a LinkedIn profile, eliminating the need to ask a candidate to plug in all of the information manually. In general, it’s well worth your time to verify that the application process isn’t overly arduous or broken for some users.

You Use Euphemistic Phrases to Hide Shortcomings

This is common, particularly with companies in highly competitive niches or that know they don’t have the budget to adequately compensate the people they hire.

Using Euphemistic Phrases

Examples include:

  • “Must be passionate and looking for fulfillment, not compensation.” This phrase usually means the pay is low, but the company isn’t willing to admit as much.
  • “Can’t sleep until a problem is solved.” This phrase often means that deadlines are tight and overtime is to be expected, which, in turn, means that work/life balance is ignored.
  • “Unique office benefits, such as arcade machines and a full restaurant.” Often seen in silicon valley, these kinds of perks make it seem like office culture is laid-back, but what they might mean is that employees are expected to be in the office all the time, such that even their food and leisure takes place on company grounds.

There are dozens of such phrases, many of which are warning signs for skilled and experienced candidates.

Navigating the hiring process as a company can be especially tricky because the negative impact these issues have is primarily invisible. You may think you simply aren’t getting talented candidates, and you might even believe the top candidates you find are the top in their industry. However, the reality is that these warning signs and problems drive away the best candidates before they would ever apply to your company. When you don’t know what you’re missing, it’s hard to miss it. However, auditing your overall hiring process to look for and remove these issues can help increase the quality of your candidate pool and, consequently, your workforce.

If you have any comments or questions regarding the application process, please leave a comment down below! If you need help optimizing your recruiting process, please feel free to reach out at any time, and we’ll get a conversation started!

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