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Is the length of your job application affecting the amount of responses?

Kate Allen, Managing Director, Allen Associates

Eight seconds. That’s the average human attention span in our digitally-driven society. Within this short space of time, businesses are expected to convince their target audience to read more, click through and buy now. Now consider your job application.

In an increasingly Candidate-led market, first impressions are everything. Admittedly, job-seekers are likely to allow more than eight seconds for an application, particularly if the initial ad has succeeded in enticing them to the role. However, if the number of applications to an open vacancy remains minimal compared to the influx of interest you had imagined, it may be the case that your job application is putting people off altogether.

If this all sounds too familiar, it’s time to take a good look at your job spec from the eyes of the Candidate, and consider what you can do to boost your response rate.

Start with ‘why’

Spoilt for choice, talented professionals won’t waste time jumping through hoops when an exciting opportunity arises elsewhere – nor will they be eager to read the War and Peace of your values and principles. You may have more than eight seconds, but that’s no excuse to create unnecessarily long job applications. When it comes to attracting the best available talent, size really does matter: the longer your description, the more likely your Candidates are to click away, close the tab and go straight to your competitors.

With this in mind, you must use your space wisely. Within a few bullet points or short sentences, you must be able to summarise exactly what makes you an Employer of choice and the advantages of joining your company: is it the culture, the career progression opportunities? Perhaps it’s the flexibility you offer, the travel that comes with the role or the positive impact your work has on the community. Keep it short, but make it count.  

Focus on performance

With this in mind, your job specification should be clear and concise; you should use the small space you have to convince your Candidate to put themselves forward for the role by only listing the core requirements. A few nice-to-haves can be included, but bear in mind that the more boxes you force your Candidates to tick, the less responses you will receive.

The most effective job descriptions specify what an Employee will need to do rather than what they need to have; they focus on what a Candidate should aim to accomplish in their role. By taking a performance-based approach to your job specification, you attract high-potential, ambitious Candidates who are on the lookout for a new challenge.

Build a bigger picture in a smaller space

The best Candidates are those who have a clear interest in making a difference, not those who meet a shopping list of requirements. As the old adage goes, you can train for a skill, but you can’t train for attitude. In order to attract the most passionate problem-solvers, you should use your job specification to describe how the successful Candidate can have an impact in the business and how they will play an integral role in the team.

This may be a good time to list the business-critical projects they may be working on, the objectives they will be working towards and the challenges they will be expected to tackle. By describing specific inter-dependencies, you paint a clear picture of how the right Candidate could drive organisational success.

Break it up

A wall of text is intimidating at the best of times: imagine how an eager Candidate feels when they’ve clicked on your ad and come face-to-face with paragraph upon paragraph about what an Employer wants. Unless they have the patience of a saint and a spare half an hour on their hands, your prospective Employees are unlikely to read through the novella you’ve written on what makes for a perfect Candidate.

Bullet points are easy on the eyes; headers allow job-seekers to gain a quick overview of why they should apply, what they can expect and the experience/attitude they should bring to the role. It may be a simple stylistic point, but it really can make all the difference.

Over the last 20 years, we have grown as a business to become one of the leading independent Recruitment agencies in Oxfordshire, and in 2018 have opened our first London office, to service Clients in the capital.    

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