Candidate Experience Recruitment Marketing

How To Know If Your Careers Site Isn’t Converting Applicants (And What to Do About It)

How To Know If Your Careers Site Isn’t Converting Applicants (And What to Do About It)
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Written by Aaron Schwartzbord

Your careers site is the hub for your employer brand and the gateway to apply for your jobs, but is your apply flow discouraging candidates from finishing the application? We spoke with Skuid’s Karl Wierzbicki about how to identify if your apply flow is causing a negative candidate experience and how to fix it without replacing your ATS or careers site.

How To Know If Your Careers Site Isn’t Converting Applicants (And What to Do About It)
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Each month, hundreds (if not thousands) of people are coming to your careers site to learn about your careers and view your job descriptions. For many of these people, you are spending money to get them there with the hope (maybe even expectation) that they apply to your jobs. So what percentage of them are converting into applicants? 

My guess: not as many as you’d like. 

According to one programmatic job ad provider, 90% of candidates who click an Apply button don’t finish the application. Which means that if you spent $1 per Apply click and 10 applicants clicked, $9 of your recruiting budget  was wasted since they didn’t actually finish the application!

And the reason for this is predominantly the quality of the candidate experience you provide (managed by your ATS). The process could be too complicated, too confusing, takes too long or requires the user to re-enter information over and over again. All of these issues create friction in the candidate experience. After enough friction, people drop off.

This is a widespread problem and fixing it is crucial to generating the applications you need to meet your hiring goals. To help you solve this, we sat down with Karl Wierzbicki, VP of Marketing at Skuid, to learn more about how to identify if you’re delivering a poor candidate experience that’s keeping people from completing their job applications, along with Karl’s pro tips for fixing these problems without completely overhauling your ATS or careers site. 

Continue reading to get Karl’s top tips that can make a big difference in your candidate experience!

Meet the expert: 

Karl Wierzbicki, VP of Marketing, Skuid

Karl Wierzbicki, VP of Marketing, Skuid

Karl Wierzbicki is the VP of Marketing at Skuid and an expert in apply flow and candidate experience. 

Skuid is a software company that helps improve the candidate and employee experience from a company’s existing applications. They help their customers get more value out of existing applicant tracking systems (ATS), human capital management (HCM) applications, and other people-facing platforms with a solution that enables you to take full control over the candidate and employee experience.

How to uncover the problem is with your apply flow

In our conversation, Karl noted “I think the first step of solving any problem is really understanding the cause of that problem. If you don’t have a good understanding of the root cause of what you’re experiencing, you’re not going to be able to solve it.”

So let’s begin with figuring out how to uncover that your lack of qualified applicants is caused by the apply flow. 

Karl recommends you start with data (assuming it’s available to you) from your applicant tracking system and your careers site to see where you stand.

Careers Site Conversion Rate

The first (and easiest) calculation is the careers site conversion rate, which will show you how much traffic you’re sending to your jobs, versus how many people are actually completing applications for those jobs.

Start just by looking at your career site traffic, specifically unique visitors who are looking at your job postings, and compare that to the number of applications you see in your ATS. If you’re not seeing a number of completed applications that satisfies you, do the math to calculate the careers site conversion rate: the number of completed applications in your ATS (over a specific period of time) divided by the number of unique career site visitors during the same period. This number will tell you what portion of people that came to your careers site are submitting completed applications. 

Application Conversion Rate

The second calculation to help you is the application conversion rate. This can be slightly harder from a data sourcing perspective, but it enables you to pinpoint how many people have the intention to apply for a job at your company compared to the number that actually complete the application. 

To calculate this, take the number of completed applications, again, measured by your ATS, and the number of apply button clicks. Those clicks should be the first time a candidate clicks the apply button because it’s their first stated intention to apply for the job. Divide those two numbers to come up with your application conversion rate. 

Rally Note: To learn more about measuring apply button clicks and all other forms of measurement, download our Recruitment Marketing Measurement Kit.  

careers site conversion rate and application conversion rate

The careers site conversion rate (number of applicants divided by the number of unique site visitors) and the application conversion rate (number of completed applicants divided by the number of applications started) will give you a good sense of whether your apply flow is causing a problem in your candidate experience.

Karl thinks, broadly speaking, if your site conversion rate is below 25% or your application conversion rate is below 50%, it’s a pretty strong indication that something about the job application experience and apply flow you provide is preventing people from completing their application.

Now data can be difficult to collect and understand, and not everybody has the same level of maturity with it. If you don’t have the data to perform these calculations, don’t worry! Karl recommends you do some qualitative research and analysis.

One idea is for you and your colleagues to apply for a few jobs at your company and think about how you’d feel about the experience if you were an applicant. Was it easy, fast and clear? Did you have to enter in the same information multiple times or answer an excessive amount of questions? Did the experience look and feel cohesive? 

Another option is to directly ask candidates who are applying for jobs to share their feedback by adding a short survey during the application process and use that as a data point. You could even ask questions about the apply flow during an interview to understand how they felt about the experience. 

These qualitative methods aren’t scientific, but they’ll give you a good feel for how talent is experiencing your apply flow and a good place to start in fixing the problems.

Fixing your apply flow without starting from scratch

You’ve now identified that there is a problem with your apply flow. Now what? 

The answer isn’t to rip out your ATS or careers site and start over! Karl recommends focusing in on the following 4 areas: 

1. Disjointed branding

Imagine how you would feel if you walked into a beautiful 5-star hotel lobby with all the perks and all of the luxuries you’d expect. But then when you open the door to your room, you see something you’d expect in a cheap motel. You would feel deflated and disillusioned.

bad candidate experience during your apply flow like walking into 5-star hotel lobby having room look like motel

Having a bad candidate experience during your apply flow is like walking into a 5-star hotel lobby and entering your room which looks like it should be in a motel.

The same thing can be said for a person who goes to your careers site and sees a beautifully and thoughtfully designed experience to then click the apply button and be taken to an out-of-the-box ATS user experience that’s stripped of your logo, fonts and colors. There are no images or videos and the navigation is completely different. This makes candidates question if they’re still applying to the same company, or can give them the impression that your company is behind the times. 

branded careers site vs. out-of-the-box applicant tracking system

Branding is an important element of the candidate experience and having someone go from a fully branded careers site to an inconsistent or unbranded ATS page will make users lose trust in the process.

Branding challenges even occur when using a modern cloud-based applicant tracking system. They control the appearance, the look and feel, and everything else. And, even if you’re able to add some customization (like colors or fonts), if you look closely the ATS vendor brand is still being referenced more times than the actual company whose job application this is. The ATS vendors has their product name in the URL, their logo and copyright in the footer. Karl noted, “you invest a lot of time and energy in creating an employer brand and an identity that’s unique and authentic to your company, and then you share the stage with your ATS provider?”

Make sure you’re providing a seamless transition from the careers site to the applicant tracking system. Focus on extending the unique and authentic employer brand that you have throughout your careers site into the ATS pages, creating consistency from the first impression on the careers site through the end. Your company should “own” the browser icon, the address bar, the copyright, all of the branding, all of the flow, all of the layout, all of the look and feel.

2. Requiring talent to create user accounts

The second challenge that talent experiences as part of the candidate journey through the apply flow is having to create an account. Those user accounts are a hurdle for candidates to overcome. They have to fill in their name, fill in their email address, choose a password, confirm their password. Potentially they have to do that once for the talent network and another time for the ATS. And potentially even more times for assessment tools and other various means of collecting data. 

typical apply flow requiring user to create multiple accounts

A map of a typical apply flow where the user must create an account (or multiple) to get through the process. This is big reason for candidate drop off.

It puts a lot of onus on the candidate to enter that same information over and over again, and all these extra hoops add friction to this process. Karl noted that his research has shown that the upfront account creation step represents 60% of candidate drop-off. 

So, how do we fix this?

Aim to get the user into the application as quickly as possible. Instead of putting account creation up front, look for ways to either defer it to the end or eliminate it entirely. Start the application with the basics: name and email address. Then, instead of having two forms for the ATS account creation and the talent network, just have a toggle field asking the user if they also want to receive job alerts or other email content. 

The farther you could get people through the application, the more committed they are to completing it. So the goal should be to drive people through the application as quickly as possible, so that they build momentum and maintain their commitment to complete it. Review all the various systems and platforms that are necessary to complete your application (whether part of your tech stack or not) and lace these systems together in a way that saves candidates time and makes their experience easier.

Two easy ways of making this easier for the user is by harvesting information from their social media profiles and letting them upload a resume that they’ve got stored somewhere else (like Google Drive or Dropbox) all as part of the apply flow. Just adding this one step to your apply flow will actually reduce multiple steps that cause frustration to candidates.

Karl Wierzbicki, VP of Marketing at Skuid, explaining how to fix the issue of requiring talent to create user accounts. 

3. Simplifying the apply flow

The third area that causes a challenge in the apply flow is when the application takes a long time to complete. Karl says that while it seems like a no-brainer it’s a very common mistake. Every minute you add to the process makes people less likely to complete it.

This comes out of a practice that started when applicant tracking systems were first configured and deployed. It was great to be able to collect all the candidate data you wanted right into the system at the start. Over time, new questions get added, nothing gets taken out, and it all accumulates, getting longer and longer.

And that’s totally out of step with what the candidate’s actual expectations are for how much time they’re willing to invest in a job application. We’re all tempted to add pre-screening, knockout, or eligibility questions into the flow up front but the length, and the added questions is hurting the experience and turning away candidates who don’t want to spend that time.

So start by simplifying what you’re collecting. Look at your questionnaire in the application process and eliminate anything that’s unnecessary. What information is unnecessary for recruiters to know immediately to assess whether a candidate is a good fit or qualified for a role? Can we get it later through another means or as a follow up? Do we even need it at all? 

For absolutely business-critical roles, create the most simplified apply flow, like a one-page, single-form application. Karl said one of his customers did this to hire registered nurses. They were able to get everything they needed to assess whether the applicant was somebody they wanted to talk to on one page – taking a 25-minute application down to 2 minutes. 

4. Improve and optimize the mobile experience

According to data from Rally Inside, 83% of engagement with Recruitment Marketing content happens on a smartphone or a tablet. So if talent is starting from a social site, for example, clicking on through to your career site to read your blog or to learn more about one of your team roles, and then continuing on to apply, they’re most likely doing this from a mobile device. 

Since the entire internet has flipped over to mobile people don’t want to move from their mobile device to a desktop just to complete your application. They want to apply as soon as they find a job they like. And if you can’t catch them at that moment, you could potentially lose that candidate. This is especially true if you’re trying to recruit  demographics like Gen Z, who are mobile-first, or certain job functions, like truck drivers, since they’re always on the road. 

There are two types of mobile experience: mobile friendly and mobile optimized. Many companies now have a mobile-friendly version, where it’s just the desktop site paired down. The elements of the design and the navigation disappear and some branding may go away. The screen layouts usually feel a little bit cramped or clunky to use, but it does work on a mobile phone. 

On the other hand, a mobile-optimized experience is responsive and redraws itself dynamically to make optimal use of whatever screen real estate it detects (whether a desktop, a tablet or a mobile device). You get all of your logos, all your fonts, your colors, your branding, etc. Instead of little radio buttons, you have nice big touch targets with toggles or more gesture-based controls, like sliders, making the form really easy to complete on a mobile device.

Karl explaining the difference between a mobile friendly vs. mobile optimized candidate experience.

It’s important to not overlook mobile because it may require deeper changes to the back-end code of your apply flow. If you do it well, it will have a phenomenal impact. 

Karl told us one of his customers got 620% more qualified applications from mobile devices after creating a mobile-optimized candidate experience. Another customer went from getting less than 1% of their total number of applications from mobile devices to more than 30% within two weeks of creating a mobile-optimized experience. 

His recommendation: if you’re not seeing more than half of your job applications coming in from a mobile device, chances are you’re missing out on candidates.


To end our conversation, Karl reminded us, “this strategy is all about building the business case, getting alignment, prioritizing the tasks and then just getting started in making changes to your apply flow.” 

The biggest takeaway is that making these improvements are within your control – whether it’s effecting change by simply scaling down the questions you ask for the application or getting a third-party solution to improve the candidate experience provided by your applicant tracking system. If you are not getting enough qualified candidates today, start by fixing your apply flow! 

To hear even more of Karl’s insights and pro tips, watch our Webinar On Demand, 4 Fixes That Will Generate More Quality Applicants

How To Know If Your Careers Site Isn’t Converting Applicants (And What to Do About It)
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About the Author

Profile photo of Aaron Schwartzbord

Aaron Schwartzbord

Aaron Schwartzbord is the Director of Marketing for Rally Recruitment Marketing. A data-driven marketer with 15+ years of experience, he is passionate about helping companies of all sizes and industries grow with creative strategies and efficient, streamlined processes.

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