How To Lose Applicants and Alienate Potential Employees

In May, I decided to leave the glamour and glory of 60% travel and 100 hour work weeks in favor of staying close to home with our new, cuddly baby. The baby is wonderful, but she really doesn’t pay well. So, for the first time in over 5 years, I began the hunt for a “real” job. I’ve been through a series of laborious online application programs, and I am shocked and horrified by the shear crappiness of this software market.

In the past two months, I’ve encountered:

1.  Ridiculously out of date systems. My favorite said, ”Netscape, AOL and other non-standard browsers can sometimes result in problems completing the form.”

2.  Innumerable fields with no formatting requirements noted, which choke the system at submission because the data is not in the expected format. If you want the date in yyyy/mm/dd format, set the field appropriately!

3.  Forms that clear all data when a single field error is encountered. There’s nothing more fun than spending 15 minutes filling out a form to have it wiped because you didn’t know that the salary requirement field shouldn’t include comas (and the programmer was too lazy to write code to strip the comas.)

4.  Systems that require the applicant to retype a resume in a text field, rather than allowing attachments or imports.

These are not occasional occurrences. I run into at least two of these issues every day.

These companies are supposedly “high tech” businesses looking for the creme-de-la-creme of tech employees. Well folks, you’re not going to get anyone decent running subpar job submission software. Think about it — this is the first impression that you give a potential employee, and if it’s sucky, you will most likely get sucky applicants. “So what?” you say, “We really only hire through referral and networking anyway.” Right…  Think about this — to be considered, the networked / referred employee must get into the HR system through your crappy job application software. Before the interview, before you show them the cool cafeteria, before you talk about your free, onsite gym, the applicant sees your pathetic, shoddy system, which says 1999 AOL is your idea of “standard”. Any programmer, DBA, project manager, or designer worth their salt will immediately want to run. Even if you can woo the applicant back with other cool perks or a lot of money (doubtful if the person is any good), the red flag is up. It’s going to cost you a lot more time, effort, and money to convert that kick-ass applicant into an actual employee.

I strongly encourage hiring managers who care about the quality of their future employee to take a couple of minutes and walk through the application process themselves. Is it giving the impression that you want? Will it attract the type of employee that you want?

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