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As a new employee entering the job market, I recently applied to more than 30 jobs, and the process had its ups and downs. The experience of applying made a big difference. A bad candidate experience changed my opinion about several companies I had been interested in previously. Equally, positive interactions swayed me to apply to companies I had not originally considered. Here are three main themes I found:
1. First impressions matter, especially for job seekers early in their careers.
Fresh college graduates are on the hunt for an employer who emphasizes work-life balance, and a career site can easily make or break this notion. What caught my eye was the content each company provided; I was more excited about the companies with inviting career portals than those without.
However, in most cases the search experience and career portals behind the ’apply’ button caused me frustration. The search process was tricky to navigate and searching by keyword sometimes left me with either no results fitting my skills or odd job titles that seemed unrelated. To find jobs that fit my skills and interests, I had to browse through different departments, deciphering (or trying to) industry jargon sprinkled throughout the descriptions.
In particular, I was drawn to a multinational hospitality company’s career site, which had links to their social media accounts showing passionate employees, charitable initiatives and growth opportunities for employees. This content showed employees who looked genuinely happy. I was even more curious about learning more and visualizing myself in the culture – so I hit “apply.”
2. 60-plus clicks to apply – that’s crazy!
Most career portals are so similar that the sites that stood out even a little bit – whether it was an unusual color or format – kept my interest longer. I abandoned several applications for being redirected to a different page, false job availability, slow page load speeds and the time it took to automatically parse my resume. Most of the time, my uploaded resume would not parse into the required fields, leaving me to manually enter the same information over and over again. This killed my motivation and excitement every time it happened. It was a weight off my shoulders on the rare occasion my job experience, education and resume transferred properly.
If I am investing my time and energy into an application, why doesn’t an employer do the same and invest resources in making this process easier? Some applications took over 100 clicks to apply. Even with an average of 60 clicks, I was holding on by a thread. Somewhere between 20 to 30 clicks is reasonable and highly appreciated.
3. The black hole of communication is pretty deep – it took several weeks to hear from some employers, if at all.
The longer and more complex the application process is, the more I expect from a company in return. Most of the companies I applied to sent an automatic thank you email after I submitted my application. This would have been appreciated if it wasn’t often the last time I heard from them.
When companies ‘ghosted’ me – especially the ones whose application took a long time – it left my image of them tarnished. A sensible “we’re interested” (or not) goes a long way. In one instance, a company was very prompt to schedule a phone interview, using text messaging to get in touch, and keeping me in the loop throughout the process. While I wasn’t overly interested in the company when I applied, their communication was so personal and swift it changed my entire view on the role and organization.
The career search is exciting for young job seekers. The candidate experience should reinforce that feeling. As a member of Generation Z – the demographic now graduating and entering the workforce – I grew up with constantly evolving technology. My expectation as a job candidate is to be able to use current technology to explore and connect with professional opportunities.
This was one of my first encounters applying to jobs; a positive first impression makes all the difference and is the key to building a strong relationship. To better the overall candidate experience, I hope companies invest in updating their career sites, providing valuable information on what the company stands for, and creating easy applications and timely communication.
For more ways to engage young job seekers like me, check out the iCIMS Roadmap for Engaging & Hiring Gen Z.
By Haley Gold – Virginia Tech, Class of 2020
Major: Marketing Management
Summer Intern – iCIMS
November 23, 2021