With the number of job seekers using smartphones and tablets growing daily, it’s little surprise that creating mobile-friendly career sites is a top priority for recruiting leaders.
Although much of the focus on optimizing mobile recruiting centers on the device interface—fitting content to different screen sizes and ensuring that navigation is touch-screen friendly—experts say more attention should be paid to critical matters such as creating job applications that are easy to complete on mobile devices.
As mobile recruiting evolves into its next stage, recruiting experts believe that organizations need to make changes to better engage top candidates and keep pace with competitors.
The Content Challenge
Forward-thinking companies are modifying the amount and type of recruiting content they deliver via mobile, believing they can’t just "lift and shift" desktop-based processes to untethered environments. Asking candidates to complete five- or 10-page application forms on smartphones or tablets naturally leads to high drop-off rates.
Although many organizations divide the application process between mobile devices and desktop computers—enabling applicants to start the process on one device and finish it on another—some experts believe it’s a matter of when, not if, the application process becomes fully mobile-compatible.
“That is forcing more HR and recruiting leaders to ask, ‘What do we really need to be collecting from job seekers at first contact on a mobile device?’ ” said Ed Newman, vice president of strategy for iMomentus, a mobile technology company in Horsham, Pa. “When it comes to job applications on mobile, it may only be name, e-mail address, phone number, and most recent employer and job title, most of which is on LinkedIn profiles. Until things evolve, most other application questions can be pushed to the desktop for later completion.”
Wen Tian, founder and CEO of Snaphop, a provider of mobile talent management technologies, encourages his clients to scour desktop-based job applications to eliminate anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Tactics like allowing mobile job seekers to autopopulate fields by using their LinkedIn profiles, drop-down menus and check boxes can help reduce data-entry requirements on mobile devices, Tian said.
“You want to think of it more like prospecting, rather than gathering all of the applicant data, assessment or background-check information you need at one time,” Tian explained.
Recruiters should seek to collect only enough information on mobile devices to determine if candidates are worth interviewing—a practice that doesn’t always require a full resume, advised Steven Rothberg, founder and president of CollegeRecruiter.com, a niche job board for college recruiters and graduates.
“Do you need to know every last detail about someone’s previous job? Typically no,” Rothberg said. “If it’s a new college graduate, you want to know school, degree, GPA, graduation date and any job experience. For many employment situations, that’s enough to determine whether someone is worth a 10-minute phone interview.”
Companies can limit data-entry hassles for mobile users by integrating job-application processes with cloud storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive, according to Kristen Fife, a senior technical recruiter at digital media company Real Networks in Seattle.
“Candidates can store their resumes in Dropbox and upload from there as they apply to different jobs,” Fife said, which reduces the amount of keying they have to do.
Adam Eisenstein, manager of employment branding and marketing at McGraw Hill Financial in New York, said two of his top goals for mobile recruiting are to limit application-abandonment rates and create a one-stop mobile application process.
“We don’t want to lose people when they search our jobs through mobile; so we make them part of our talent community even if they aren’t able to complete a full job application over a smartphone or tablet,” Eisenstein said. “The ultimate goal is to make the mobile apply process so seamless that people don’t have to go back to a desktop to complete an application.”
Talent communities are online networks that keep their members abreast of job openings, encourage career networking and provide company-specific updates, among other things. These communities are typically filled with prospective candidates, past job applicants, current employees and recruiters.
Google’s Change a Motivator?
A fully mobile-based application process may be inevitable, but change is coming slowly. A recent CareerBuilder survey found that only 20 percent of the Fortune 500 had mobile-optimized career sites. Of those 99 companies, just 14 had processes that allowed candidates to apply for jobs via their mobile devices. In the latest Corporate Mobile Readiness report from iMomentus, only 26 of the 180 Fortune 500 companies that responded said they allow applicants to apply using a mobile device.
Some believe that Google’s recent shift in its page-rankings practice will accelerate change on the mobile-recruiting front. Google announced this summer that if career sites or job-posting pages aren’t optimized for mobile users, it will start ranking them lower in its search results. In essence, the change penalizes webpages that aren’t built with a responsive mobile design.
Navigating Compliance Issues
When using shorter or modified application forms on mobile, recruiters also have to consider compliance issues associated with federal agencies like the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), to ensure they’re collecting all of the applicant data that they’re legally required to report.
Newman said one way to remain compliant and still use a candidate-friendly mobile process is to collect applicant data in phased steps. So HR would enter data into an applicant tracking system only once candidates have filled out a complete, fully compliant application, usually after recruiters have made initial contact with them on mobile devices.
“Instead you first map the applicant’s basic information into a candidate relationship system or talent community, which means these people aren’t yet official job candidates,” Newman clarified. “Since this is all preapplication, it allows you to still make the initial information-gathering process candidate-friendly on mobile, then ask people to fill out a compliance-friendly process later on desktops, which will officially make them candidates.”
Because top candidates often abandon job applications that are too lengthy or when they are short on time, it’s crucial to capture their contact information this way for later follow-up, emphasized Chris Brablc, a marketing manager at SmashFly Technologies, a recruiting technology company in Boston.
“Capturing that information in a candidate relationship system is valuable, because you can receive an alert when someone hasn’t finished an application and send them an e-mail 24 hours later with a reminder and a link to complete the application on whatever device they choose,” Brablc said.
Make the Connection
Snaphop’s Tian said it’s also important to include contact information, like “click to call” phone numbers and e-mail addresses, or Q&A features. Fife agrees that mobile recruiting today requires a human touch: “As mobile and social continue to merge, top candidates are expecting a more personalized approach to being recruited. They want to be able to talk to someone. They want more detail in job descriptions and a better sense of what it’s like to work at your company.”
Too often companies create microsites for mobile that have just job listings and few or no details about the company, Newman said. Although that approach may work in the short term, it may fall short as the mobile recruiting space grows more competitive.
“You want to make sure information about your corporate culture, work-life balance, community involvement or other attractive features is delivered on mobile as well as main sites,” he advised.
Dave Zielinski is a freelance writer and editor in Minneapolis.
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