5 Job Application Tips to Help You Find the Strongest Candidates

Author Mike Marschke Date Sep 25 2020

5 Job Application Tips to Help You Find the Strongest Candidates

The best application forms are ones that provide enough information for recruiters and HR professionals to differentiate between strong and weak applicants. Here at Fountain, we’ve analyzed several million applications for hourly jobs, and through this experience we’ve identified design patterns for application forms that translate to meaningful results when screening applicants.

Below are the five best practices for creating meaningful application forms.

1. Identify your company’s hiring priorities

There is a fundamental tradeoff between the volume of applicants that flow through a screening process and the quality of the applicants (in terms of job performance and retention). Understanding this tradeoff is the key to designing an application form that is best-suited to your screening process.

For example, if your company needs to fill thousands of open positions immediately and can tolerate some worker churn, then the application form should be lightweight and quick to complete, presenting a low barrier to entry for each new applicant. On the other hand, if your company requires a high-performing workforce with particular skills, or if your company is trying to minimize worker churn in an effort to reduce labor costs, then the application form should serve as a strong filter to identify the candidates that are most likely to succeed. Usually, this means a longer, more involved application form with several qualifying questions and additional stages.

2. Avoid overly broad personality testing

Years of scientific research show that personality tests (e.g. Myers-Briggs and Five-factor model) are highly unreliable predictors of job performance. Furthermore, the use of personality tests can be risky when it comes to compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity laws, as there have been several high profile lawsuits contending that personality tests can discriminate based on disabilities such as depression and bipolar disorder.

For customer-facing roles, it is best to design a survey that narrowly tests for 1-2 specific traits that are required for the job. For other roles, we recommend omitting personality questions altogether.

3. Split forms up into short sections

Applicants are often frustrated when they encounter a long application form. We’ve found that splitting up the form into short chunks across several pages can increase conversion rate by as much as 15-20%. In practice, this means collecting the applicant’s contact information on the landing page, and putting the role-specific questions later in the process.

Applicants are also more likely to complete the application if they are provided a visual indicator of progress, or are told at the start how long the application process will take to complete.

4. Help your applicants disqualify themselves

The most common reason that workers quit is that their expectations around pay or the work itself do not match reality. One effective way to boost retention is to be upfront about what your job really entails in terms of schedule, pay, and the day-to-day routines. Workers who are not a good fit will then opt out themselves, saving you time and money.

5. Regularly measure your screening performance

Every screening process is different, so the only way to truly know whether yours is working is to measure key indicators, such as the conversion rate and duration of the overall process. Additionally, we suggest measuring the conversion and timing performance for each stage within the process. For example, identify bottlenecks by finding the stages with the longest durations, and see if there is a pattern that can explain why applicants are getting stuck or taking a long time to complete that stage.

Additionally, we recommend tracking the rejection reasons for every applicant that doesn’t make it through the process. Be sure to consider both intrinsic factors, such as the time it takes your team to complete a phone screen, as well as external factors, such as the number of new applicants from week to week.


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About the Author

Director, Strategic Programs

Mike Marschke

Mike Marschke is Fountain's Director of Product who has a passion for innovation and optimizing talent acquisition strategies, enhancing candidate experiences, and driving organizational growth.