how to increase your application rate in 6 easy steps

All recruiters know three universal truths:

  1. talent is hard to find 
  2. the rhythm IS gonna get’cha  💃
  3. candidates have more jobs available to them and less time to apply to them

If you’re finding that enough talented people are applying for your vacancies, then you’re luckier than most. Much luckier, in fact. Chances are, you spend far too much time fretting over a lack of quality applications.

If you want to lower the drawbridge to your ATS castle, making it easier for candidates to apply, then read on… but be warned! Some of these tips will require courage and conviction to push through, and you could be shot down by a few timeless classics:

  • But this is how we’ve done it for years (well that’s what the CEO of Blockbuster said… )
  • We need all those questions (really, why?)
  • Our ATS can’t do that (probably time to change it, then!)
  • Everyone else has a long application form like ours (so surely this is an opportunity to gain an advantage over your competition?)

We guarantee that some of you will be put to the test with one or two of the above, but now you’ve got the perfect answer for each! Let’s dive in with the first of our 6 easy steps to an increased application rate.


1. keep it simple

Confusing application processes will put people off, so make sure that yours is clear. Show applicants how many steps there are and where they’re at in the process.

Make it super easy to find the jobs page on your website, too. If your applicants are already irritated when they eventually find the job they’re after, they’ll enter the last step with little to no patience left. Integrations with your job boards also help with this part - having candidates land on your careers page with their basic details already filled in and their CVs attached will make everything easier (especially for applicants on mobiles). We've added a screenshot of our application form below to show you the kind of thing you should be aiming for. 

Only ask the essential questions. For example, most app forms ask for a CV and a full address, but we’d recommend just asking for the candidate’s first line and home postcode. 99% of the time, people put their address on their CV anyway. Sure, you want their address all nicely added into your ATS to make things easier during the offer stage, but is it worth inconveniencing every applicant for a tiny benefit?

2. no more websites, please

Similar to our last point, but important enough to warrant its own space: you need to let your candidates apply on the same website they found the job.

If you’re forcing them to walk a long, winding road through link after link, tab after tab, their interest is going to wane pretty quickly. Keeping people in one place for their job application means that they’re less likely to get confused, and removing confusion is a great place to start when you’re looking to boost those application rates.

Take a look at how Anchor Trust does things; the team there has created a Facebook page to manage applications and keep any potential candidates in one place. No broken links and no maze of tabs means less potential for disaster.

For Indeed and Reed, it’s their ‘easy apply’ option - and customers who used our very own Indeed ‘easy apply’ integration noticed a 400% increase in their application rates. How’s that for a stat? It makes sense; if people have to spend time tracking down a job to apply for it, they’re far less likely to make it all the way. Give people a big bright button and a couple of simple instructions, and they’ll find it much easier.

Pro tip: ensure that you have a mobile-friendly application process. We've added a screenshot of ours below here for reference:

screenshot mob

3. get specific

Being specific isn’t about asking more questions. It’s about being relevant. Just be sure to have different application forms for your vacancies; high-end tech roles that tend to get fewer responses should stick to short forms, while your popular graduate vacancies can make use of more specific grad app forms. In the first instance, you’re looking to get people past that first step. In the second, it’s all about giving the better candidates the chance to shine.

It’s also worth mentioning that, sometimes, removing steps from the application process just isn’t an option. Some public sector and not-for-profit organisations will always require applicants to fill in a lot of information. In these cases, how about splitting the application process into several steps? That way, you can shortlist candidates after reviewing their CVs and then invite them to complete the form. They’re much more likely to play ball if they know they’re on your shortlist.


4. employer brand

Yes, this point appears on every blog post we write, but there’s a reason for that. A strong employer brand is important for so many reasons - in this case, great advert copy and other, accessible content on your careers page helps you tell your employer story. You’ll hit a far higher application rate if you can tell your story well.

Employer brand is a long-term strategy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t perform a few quick fixes to help you along the road. For example, having a candidate charter on your website can give your applicants an early window into your company. Showing people in through that window will help build trust in your business and lead to more applications.


5. get stuck into Google Analytics

Google Analytics is great. If you’re not using it to track how candidates are interacting with your careers page and app form, you definitely should be. Google provides us with a veritable smorgasbord of data, so knowing what to look out for is key.

an image of a Google Analytics pie chart, showing different channels of acquisition
  • Bounce rate tells you how many people have landed on your job advert and not interacted. If your bounce rate’s above 60%, think about making your advert more engaging. 
  • Acquisition in Analytics will tell you where your website’s visitors are coming from. Knowing whether someone’s found your careers page through social media, organic search (typing something like ‘sales roles’ into Google), or a link from another website can tell you which channels are working best for you. 
  • Also, the Devices report offers insights into how people on laptops, tablets, and mobiles differ in their interactions. If one device is pulling through far more applicants than the others, ask yourself why that might be happening. 

Just remember to check that you’re looking at your careers page specifically - Analytics will likely be set up to track your whole website, so refining the data is important. Head to behaviour, site content, and all pages for the low-down on how your different pages are performing.

For more on using Google Analytics to improve your candidate experience, we have a dedicated webinar. If the date isn’t working for you, be sure to sign up anyway. Just let us know if you miss it and we’ll share the recording with you instead.


6. an inconvenient truth

No matter how hard you try to perfect the application process, there will always be some candidates who run into a problem or two. These issues will occasionally prevent people from completing an application, so you need a contingency plan.

Make sure your process includes clear instructions about what to do if you get stuck. People need to know where to go if they’re unable to submit an application, or they’ll probably just give up. That alternative should be simple and fail safe (something like ‘please email john@example.com’).


summing up

Most recruiters we know are very focused on data and stats, but few actually know their application form completion rate. An application process is a gateway - a little window into your company, if you will - for candidates, so it has to be spot on. 

It’s also not enough that hundreds of applicants apply every week unless they’re the right people. But good applicants are headhunted constantly. They don’t need to apply to your vacancy, or to any vacancy for that matter. They can simply engage with the recruitment consultants who are hounding them, or they’ll pick and choose their applications by some other means. Our advice is to be brave in how you approach your application form design. Less is more, and flexibility is essential. 

Oh and remember - no way, you can fight it every day, but no matter what you say, you know it the rhythm is gonna get'cha...

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