Job applicants jumping through hoops to land an interview

Ask an HR Pro: Should I Ask Applicants for Cover Letters, Salary History, and Whatever Else I Want?

Lisa Shuster, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP​ and iHire's Chief People Officer answers your tough job search and hiring questions.

ask an hr pro lisa shuster

I often hear hiring managers talk about their requirements when hiring:

“If they don’t send a cover letter with salary history, I don’t consider them.”

“I always ask for a writing sample with the resume.”

It’s not uncommon to see job postings requiring a plethora of information as well, such as references and responses to essay questions. Assuming these requests are not made in a discriminatory manner, hey – it’s a recruiter’s or hiring manager’s prerogative, right?

This mindset makes me shake my head. I am a big fan of making the application process as simple as possible. The applicant doesn’t have an updated resume? That’s okay; a LinkedIn profile will do. I don’t ask applicants to complete employment applications until later, either. I am intentionally respectful of my applicants’ time so that I may turn them into viable candidates! And, by putting up as few barriers as possible (especially during the early stages of the application process), you, too, will fare far better than your counterparts who are asking applicants for their first born children before they even come in for an interview.

In fact, an Appcast study found that job applications that take longer than 5 minutes to complete have a 50-75% abandon rate. And, 60% of job seekers abandon online applications due to their length or complexity. So, the longer and more complicated your application process, the less applicants you’re likely to get.

You might think, “Well, if they don’t follow instructions (and jump through my every hoop), then they aren’t committed to working here.” But, the real question is: why should they be? You’ve likely only provided a small amount of information at this point yourself – a thumbnail sketch of the job and the company. It is now your challenge to get a qualified candidate in the door for an interview, learn more about them, and generate excitement about your opportunity. This is no easy task in a job market that is stronger than it’s been in decades and close to full employment.

So, limit the number of hoops through which you make applicants jump. Accept a LinkedIn profile as an expression of interest; they can complete an employment application later. Use your initial phone screen to assess salary alignment. Wait until you know that the candidate is a good fit for your culture and the job before asking them to submit a writing sample (if appropriate; hopefully you don’t make this request of your web designers) or make a presentation to your leadership team. 

While these seemingly small requirements may not faze you, the simplicity of your application process will become increasingly important as the war for talent continues to wage on. Employers who are smart, deliberate, and respectful of applicants, candidates, and future employees and their time will reap the rewards.

iHire created their Choice Employer program to reward employers who provide a positive candidate experience. If your application process is 10 minutes or less, you may be eligible to join the program and benefit from boosted job postings. Take the Choice Employer pledge to gain more exposure to qualified candidates and showcase your best hiring practices.

By Natalie Winzer, iHire | March 03, 2020