Applicant Expectations Report: What Do Job Seekers Want From an Application Process

Employers may fondly remember the days when you could just post a job online, sit back and watch the applicants roll in, have your pick of the litter, and ignore the rest. 

But as you may have noticed, hiring isn’t quite as easy these days. 

In today’s competitive job market, it takes a lot more work to fill open roles, and every part of the hiring process matters in your ability to attract and convert applicants. 

One thing you may not have put much thought into is the application experience. But since job seekers currently have so many options, the application and other earlier stages in the hiring process may actually make or break your ability to make the right hires for your team. 

At CareerPlug, we like to go straight to the source to gather hiring advice, so we surveyed 500 recent job seekers to learn what they expect in an application process and what they want from potential employers. And we’re breaking it all down for you. 

It all starts with your job posting 

You can think of your job posting as your first impression with job seekers, and we all know that first impressions count. So what is it that job seekers are looking for when applying to jobs? 

We asked job seekers to choose the top three things that make them most excited about a job posting. 

what gets job seekers excited to apply to jobs

Benefits and perks ranked #1 as the most exciting thing for job seekers, with compensation right behind it. This isn’t totally surprising; job seekers don’t want to waste time with companies that aren’t up front about what they’re offering. 

As one job seeker shared, “Compensation and benefits are rarely, if ever, mentioned until the applicant has been put through a grueling and purposely inconvenient interview process. Employers need to be upfront about what matters most to the applicant … salary, benefits, and work conditions, including upward mobility.”

A few more job seekers mentioned upward mobility and the opportunity for learning and growth as well. 

One job seeker said, “The chance to work on challenging projects and collaborate with like-minded professionals is a strong motivator for me to pursue new opportunities.” 

Another job seeker shared this sentiment: “As I am eager to pursue higher goals in my career, I get excited if a job offers a sustainable career path and opportunities for advancement.”

Skills-first hiring 

Skills-first hiring involves taking into account a candidate’s skills when evaluating for a job over specific educational requirements or working history. Focusing on skills in your job postings can help you attract and convert more applicants, and the job seekers in our survey back this up! 

Here is what they had to say: 

job seeker quotes on skills-first hiring

Job seeker expectations: The importance of the application experience 

A great job posting attracts more applicants to apply to your open role. The next step in the process is the application itself, which is also an important part of converting job seekers into new employees. 

A poor application experience could discourage job seekers (even good ones) from submitting their application. It’s important to keep in mind that candidates are busy just like you! They want an application process that’s quick and simple. But don’t just take our word for it; let’s hear from a recent job seeker: 

job seeker quote on the application process

In other words: job seekers want an opportunity to speak to their strengths with a conversation, not a lengthy application. 

Reasons why candidates abandon applications 

We wanted to know what specific parts of an application turn job seekers off of an opportunity. For example, we know that it can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience to fill in information about your work history on an application when you’ve already uploaded a resume. And it turns out, requiring applicants to do this could make you miss out on over half of your potential candidates! 

why applicants abandon applications

Below are some of the top reasons applicants in our survey have quit filling out an application. 

reasons applicants abandoned applications

How to improve your application process 

There are some steps that you can take to combat the main reasons job seekers abandon applications. As mentioned, your application process should be quick and uncomplicated. Here are some tips: 

  • Keep the application short. You can find out additional information about candidates in later stages of the hiring process. 
  • Use just a few pre-screen questions to eliminate unqualified candidates quickly, but don’t overwhelm job seekers with too many. We recommend including around two or three pre-screen questions.
  • Don’t make applicants create an account just to apply. When you post your job on CareerPlug, anyone can apply directly from a job board or your careers page without creating a brand new account. 
  • Think about what you really need for candidates and consider cutting unnecessary qualifications. To attract and convert more applicants, you can remove degree or cover letter requirements from your application. 
  • Consider removing resume requirements as well – or at the very least, don’t make employees fill out an application that asks for the same information that’s on their resume. 
  • Since 86% of candidates use their smartphones for job searching, make sure your application is mobile-friendly. An applicant tracking system like CareerPlug can provide you with job applications that are already optimized for mobile. 

What should you do after the application? 

hiring process steps

A consistent and repeatable hiring process can help you provide candidates with a smooth experience from application to job offer. Another way to keep candidates engaged during recruitment is to send them assessments after speaking to them for the first time. 

We’ll say it again, job seekers are busy, too! Many of them won’t want to take the time to complete a full assessment without ever speaking to someone about the role. 

Our data backs this up. We found that 68% of job seekers said they want to speak to an employer (either by phone or in person) as the next step after applying, and only 13% said they wanted the next step to be assessments. 

job seekers want to speak to an employer after applying

We recommend making a quick phone screen interview the second step in your hiring process, so that you can speak with your candidates, gauge their interest in what you’re offering, and tell them a little bit about the role. This helps both of you decide if you’d like to move forward. 

Want to learn more about how to conduct phone screen interviews? Check out this blog to see some example questions and learn all the do’s and don’ts.  

Applicants want responsive employers

When it comes to communicating with applicants, two things matter most: speed and consistency. We found that though many applicants expect employers to get back to them within a few days, they’d rather hear from them quicker – within 24 hours. 

job seekers want to hear from employers within 24 hours

Keep in mind that it’s important to contact all candidates – not just the ones you want to interview. This creates a more positive candidate experience and strengthens your employer brand. Plus, we found that over half of job seekers would be unlikely to apply to a company again after never hearing back from them the first time.  

Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes: If they’ve taken the time to apply to your company, it can feel discourteous to never hear from the employer at all. And as an unresponsive employer, you’ve inadvertently cut your repeat applicant pool in half! 

Become a more responsive employer 

We recommend reaching out to candidates within 24 hours of their initial application (and candidates prefer it) and scheduling your first interview within 48. At first, this might sound impossible without being glued to your phone or computer all day, but an applicant tracking system (ATS) like CareerPlug can help you automate your hiring.

How to move quickly on top candidates 

Let’s be real: we understand that most employers are far too busy to reply to all applicants lightning-fast. That’s why we recommend using tools to automate candidate communication for you like text recruiting and automated interview scheduling. Let’s take a closer look at some of these features. 

Text recruiting 

Text recruiting from within your hiring software can be a professional and safe way to reach candidates right on their phones. 

  • 68% of recent job seekers said that they’ve been contacted by an employer via text message during the hiring process. 
  • 84% of those job seekers said their experience with text recruiting was positive. 
  • 83% of applicants believe text message communication with a potential employer is equally as professional as email communication in a hiring process.
positive experience with text recruiting

Automated interview scheduling 

With an automated interview scheduling tool like CareerPlug’s Autopilot, candidates receive a link to schedule interviews with you on their own time. As the employer, automated interview scheduling also saves you time and hassle. Just let the interviews show up on your calendar automatically, based on your availability. It’s win-win!

Stats for CareerPlug clients that use automated interview scheduling

Send courtesy rejections to other candidates

For those applicants that you don’t wish to move forward, an applicant tracking system can send automated rejection emails so candidates are left with a positive impression of your company.

One job seeker in our survey had this to say about receiving a rejection: “​​Recently, I applied and was denied. At least the employer had the common decency to tell me why I wasn’t the correct applicant for the job and that they wished me luck. It made me feel like I was still important.” 

Tackle interview ghosting by making it easy for candidates to communicate with you

Job seekers also appreciate easy ways to communicate with you throughout the hiring process, and making it convenient for you to contact them can actually prevent interview ghosting – when a candidate schedules an interview with an employer, but then never shows up.

We asked job seekers in our survey who admitted to interview ghosting why they didn’t cancel or reschedule instead. Here are those results: 

why don't job seekers reschedule interviews

The verdict: employers need to make it easy for job seekers to cancel or reschedule interviews. Doing so could save a lot of headache for both parties! Consider finding ways to automate the interview scheduling process and give candidates the flexibility to schedule and reschedule interviews themselves.  

Automated interview scheduling calendar
Setting your availability with Autopilot, CareerPlug’s interview scheduling tool

To sum it all up 

These days, job seekers have more options than ever. When combing through their choices and trying to decide which opportunities seem right for them, they have certain expectations of employers when it comes to the job posting and application experience. 

Job seekers want a job that aligns with their skills and interests, as well as great benefits and perks, good compensation, and flexible work schedules. 

They expect the application process to be easy, and to hear from employers within a reasonable amount of time, though many would prefer employers to contact them even quicker than they’ve come to expect. They also want interview scheduling to be quick and convenient. 

Making changes to your application experience is a simple way to get more applicants and create a strong introduction to your company from the very beginning of your hiring process.

Automated Interview Scheduling: The Complete Guide to Hassle-Free Interviews

Learn how to schedule up to 8x more interviews and move your best applicants through your hiring process faster than ever with our free e-book. Download your copy by clicking the button below.


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