It’s Time to Re-evaluate Your Application Process

According to The Little Grey Book of Recruiting Benchmarks, candidate applications are the largest origin of hire — accounting for around 50 percent of all hires — but they are the least efficient. Only one in 152 applicants is hired, compared with one in 16 referred candidates, one in 22 agency candidates, and one in 72 sourced candidates. This lack of efficiency is due, in part, to many applicants being underqualified. Fifty two percent of applicants are found to be underqualified, compared with 22% of sourced candidates, 30 percent of referred candidates, and 41 percentof agency candidates. If you find your metrics to be consistent with these benchmarks, or if you find that you fall behind, it may be time to re-evaluate your application process to appeal to more qualified candidates.

Walk yourself through your application process and ask yourself the following questions to see if there are opportunities for improvement.

Is your career site easy to navigate?

Your employer branding and employee advocacy efforts may drive top performers to your career site to explore open opportunities. Top performers have many options when it comes to where to work, and won’t waste time navigating a clunky website. Candidates should be able to find relevant opportunities quickly and easily. Make sure your career pages load quickly and are well organized, and that all buttons and links work properly. Top performers also want to be able to find information about your company, culture, team, and benefits before applying, so make that information readily available.

Are your job descriptions compelling to top performers?

Performance-based job descriptions can encourage the right candidates to apply and may detract underqualified candidates from applying. Rather than presenting a laundry list of skills and experience, a performance-based job description focuses on the results the candidate will be expected to achieve. A job description for a recruiter, for example, might start begin with, “You will recruit and hire 40 candidates in your first year, effectively doubling the size of our team. You will build and optimize our recruiting process to ensure the best quality of hire.” Illustrating the impact the candidate would make at your company will get top performers excited to apply.

How long does it take to complete the application process?

A long application process doesn’t just weed out the worst candidates, it weeds out the best candidates as well. Top performers are often busy in their current role, and have many opportunities to consider. If your application process takes too long to complete, top performers will simply move on. Eliminate unnecessary fields and steps in your application to prevent great candidates from dropping out.

What does the application process look like from a desktop versus a mobile device?

If you walked through your application process on a desktop, run through it once more on a mobile device to see if your answers to the above questions change. Forty five percent of job seekers use their mobile devices to search for jobs at least once every day. Make sure the job discovery process is simple on a mobile device, that your job descriptions are readable, and that it’s easy to apply.

Do you communicate well with applicants?

Following application submission, the candidate should receive a success message so they know their application was received. It’s also a good idea to communicate next steps so candidates know what to expect, and when. Deliver on your promises, or send an update to let candidates know you need more time to review their application. Once you’ve decided not to move forward with an applicant, let them know.

What happens after the application process?

Take into consideration how long your entire recruitment process takes to complete. Our research indicates that applicants had the slowest time to hire — 34 days, compared with 26 days for agency candidates, and 32 days for sourced candidates (referred candidates also took 34 days). When top performers are actively searching for new opportunities, they won’t be on the market for long. Move the best applicants through your recruitment process as quickly as possible so you can hire them before your competitors do.


You work hard to attract great candidates. Don’t lose them because of a bad application process. Walk through your process on a regular basis to uncover areas for improvement, and optimize for qualified candidates. While you may always have underqualified candidates to screen out, as with any source of origin, you will be able to attract more top performers and move them into your recruitment process.

For more recruiting data, download our Little Grey Book of Recruiting Benchmarks.