If you've watched much television in the last fifty years, you've probably come across the legendary (and perhaps only) Tootsie Pop commercial. You know, the one where a young, poorly animated boy poses this question to a number of talking animals: "How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?"
Ultimately, Mr. Owl, the authority on all woodland matters, steals the candy from the little boy and eats it. This is followed by the little boy walking off, hanging his head in despair (i.e. the typical candidate experience today).
Originally aired on television in 1969, the voice of the little boy is played by Buddy Foster, the older brother of actress Jodie Foster. If you're unfamiliar or in a nostalgic mood, here is the full 60-second original commercial in its entirety.
At this point, you're probably thinking to yourself, "What does any of this have to do with a company's career site?" Let me explain.
Think of the little boy as today's job-seeker. His resume is the Tootsie Pop. Mr. Fox, Mr. Cow, Mr. Turtle, and Mr. Owl represent individual career sites. What does the little boy want from them? He wants to easily find the answer to his question - just like a job-seeker wants to easily complete a job application, and hopefully land an interview.
After all, that's all our job-seeker is asking for when they visit a career site. However, few career sites offer the type of candidate experience that will allow a job-seeker to cut through the fluff and quickly find what they need.
Now, here's the bad news. It's your fault, not the candidate's fault.
Old-fashioned talent acquisition leaders hide behind this idea that they need to shrink the attention-span of today's job-seekers. However, that isn't the right approach for every unique candidate's journey. The right job might be hiding deep in the 15th page of their ATS search results, but the little boy doesn't know exactly what he wants to do. Perhaps he'd like to browse through some different categories to see what jobs are available.
Career sites like Mr. Owl know that they need to take more of an outside-in approach to their technology, enabling candidates to easily search for opportunities and content that matters to them. After all, companies don't want to limit their talent pool with a poor career site that provides a sub-par candidate experience.
When a candidate begins an application, it's clear that their intent is to apply for a job. However, according to Phenom People research, the average click-through rate on career site applications is roughly four percent. Of that four percent, it is estimated that roughly twenty percent of those candidates actually finish an application. So, only about 0.8 percent of the candidates visiting your company's career site will fill out an application.
Doesn't that seem low?
Take the example of Mr. Owl. He gets the Tootsie Pop, because he immediately engages the little boy with an "answer" in his path to enlightenment. Mr. Cow, Mr. Fox, and Mr. Turtle could have easily taken advantage of the little boy's naivety, but they weren't wise enough.
AppCast Founder, Chris Forman, states in an article that, "Lengthy, complex, and time-consuming applications are the primary cause of job-seekers quitting partway through an application." With every click, each bit of information that has to be entered along with added steps - you are increasing the possibility of application drop-off.
According to the same article, the click-to-apply ratio refers to the number of candidates who begin an application versus those who complete one. It shows that too many questions can cut your conversion rate in half. The drop-off rate is even more staggering when it becomes an issue of how much time it takes to actually fill out an application.
Simply put, when you send a candidate into the woods with no direction and no end in sight, they may get lost.
Candidates today are used to exceptional experiences that are easy, such as getting an Uber versus hailing a cab or streaming Netflix versus making a trip to Blockbuster. Technology has created streamlined and convenience experiences, giving us time back in our lives for other things.
This is true to the extent that we simply have no tolerance for a bad user experience. We will move on to something better and easier. Corporate America is beginning to catch on, but why is shopping for shoes still so much easier than finding a job?
Let's head back to the forest to sum it all up.
Like Mr. Cow, Mr. Fox, and Mr. Turtle, if applying for a position at your company begins to waste any of the candidate's time, you might as well just tell them to go somewhere else. On the other hand, Mr. Owl does what the others fail to do, providing a quick and easy answer to the little boy.
At the end of the day, does the little boy fulfill the requirements of the job? Will he get an interview? Is he ever going to hear from Mr. Owl's recruitment team? To quote our friends at Tootsie Pop, "The world may never know," but he will at least have a shot.