Rev Up Your Recruiting: Removing Application Roadblocks

January 24, 2024 | 898 Views

Rev Up Your Recruiting: Removing Application Roadblocks

Patrick Yearout, FMP, CHT

Director of Innovation, Recruiting, and Training | Ivar's & Kidd Valley Restaurants

The months of January and February tend to be the slowest of the year for most restaurants and hotels – the holiday celebrations are over, it’s cold and dreary outside, and many folks are trying to stick to their New Year’s resolutions of watching their wallets and waistlines. But even with fewer guests right now, there is always a laundry list of items that hospitality business owners and managers should be tackling to prepare for the crowds that will return this spring and summer, including long-overdue cleaning and repair projects, staff member training and development, and one that often gets overlooked – evaluating their application processes.

In these times when it can be more and more challenging to find good workers to add to your team, it’s imperative that candidates don’t get frustrated, confused, or overwhelmed trying to apply for one of your jobs and simply give up before completing the task. Thoroughly testing your in-person and online hiring systems allows you to work out any inefficiencies or pain points and ensure you’ll be strategically equipped for later in the year when the demand for hospitality workers spikes.

In-Person Application

Let’s begin with in-person applicants. These jobseekers may have seen a “Now Hiring” post online or on a career center bulletin board, heard about an opening from a family member or friend, or are just applying to businesses near their home or school. Whatever the reason, they have decided to walk into your hotel or restaurant and either drop off a resume or fill out an application, and the experience they have will set a critical first impression of your organization and its working environment. Here are five impactful ways to make sure it will be a positive one:

  1. Review your application – First, how long has it been since you’ve taken a close look at the applications your company is using? Are they clear and concise? Are they current with newer laws, such as those that ban asking about wage histories or criminal histories? Have you eliminated any invasive or unnecessary questions that could potentially reveal information about an applicant's protected characteristics, such as marital status, gender, or birthdate? Does the overall look of the application seem dated or old-fashioned? Now it a great time to go through each section of the application with your HR Department or company attorney to ensure you don’t get into any trouble down the road, and with the creatives of your Marketing Department to see if anything can be done to improve the look and feel of the document.
  1. Create a scorecard – Think about all the different aspects that candidates might notice when they come in to apply for a job and list them on an evaluation sheet. Items to rate should include conditions of the parking area (safe, clean, well-lit, and well-maintained), the ease of finding the entrance, the friendliness of the greeting, and the knowledge of the front-line workers who the candidates ask about the open positions – for example, do they know which jobs are available, and do they know the starting pay of these positions? You might also consider adding the amount of time it takes for the employees to find an application, if any instructions are provided for turning it in, and does one of the location managers connect about scheduling an interview before candidates leave the building.
  1. Select application times – You should pick both slow and busy times to test your locations, as well as both daytime and nighttime (especially if you have late or overnight shifts to fill).
  1. Select a trusted proxy – As much as you’d like to believe you can be impartial, it’s better to send someone unfamiliar with your hiring process to request and complete a job application in-person so they can assess how welcoming, organized, efficient, and clear the experience is through fresh, unbiased eyes. If you don’t have a friend who’s available, consider asking a colleague in the industry if you can reciprocate these services by having them review your locations and you review theirs. When you have found someone to take on this challenge, go through the scorecard you developed, answer any questions they have about what to look for, and make sure they have the list of locations and times you would like them to visit.
  1. Don’t ignore the feedback – It may not be easy to hear the results, but it's paramount to pay close attention and take immediate action to address the concerns your “applicant” finds. Start by looking for patterns that emerge across all your hotels of restaurants, as these system-wide issues should take priority, and then address obstacles found at the individual units. Making these adjustments will help to set the stage for a positive employment relationship and attract the talent you will need for the busy season ahead.

Online Application

In addition to the in-person process, you (or again, a proxy that you select) should follow up with a test of the online application. Your website’s careers page, along with any hiring sites to which you post ads, will be extremely convenient and scalable avenues to reach jobseekers, so it is vital to evaluate if they will work for a wide array of candidates. Here are five areas you should be paying attention to:

  1. Welcome – What is the first thing candidates will see when applying online for your open positions? Is it a well-written greeting that reflects positively on your brand? Or are there typos, grammatical errors, or overall sloppy writing? Or even worse – is there no greeting at all, and instead it’s been replaced with a stern warning like YOU MUST SET UP AN ACCOUNT BEFORE PROCEEDING? Those first few moments matter, as applicants will develop opinions about the company culture, management, and work environment based on these initial cues, so think about what changes you might make to create a more hospitable atmosphere.
  1. Length – Was the application a slog to complete? Were there times you felt like giving up? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” do your best to eliminate unnecessary questions (using input from hiring managers about what they really need to know) so that promising jobseekers don’t get frustrated and never finish. You should also look for ways to potentially shorten the process – for example, with regards to job histories, are candidates required to laboriously type in all their previous work experience into a bunch of empty fields? If that’s the case, partner with your IT team to see if the website can be updated to allow candidates to easily attach a pre-written resume instead. Additionally, if you use an external vendor for your recruiting and hiring software, reach out to your rep to see if they can run a report showing the places where candidate drop-off most frequently occurs so you can make improvements at these junctions.
  1. Functionality – First, you will obviously want to make sure all the online links and/or buttons still work, so try testing the application site on various browsers. Second, with over half of all website traffic now coming from mobile devices, you should submit a test form on both iOS and Android smartphones to catch any formatting issues that may appear on smaller screens. And third, if you have a QR code for applicants to scan so they can apply on their phone, or a number they can text to get to the application site, you will want to make sure these shortcuts are still operational as well.
  1. Accessibility – Scan the online application for accessibility standards like low color contrast ratios, timeout restrictions, or confusing/complex navigation. You don’t want to miss out on potential superstars just because they had issues getting through the process (especially considering those issues would most likely have no bearing on their actual ability to do the job) .
  1. Notifications – Everything I have mentioned so far in this section has been on the candidate’s end, but it’s also important to find out if or when the hiring managers for the open positions are receiving the notifications of the applications submitted online. Time is of the essence these days when it comes to contacting candidates before another company reels them in, so any delays in notification could be costly. Connect with these managers and ask questions about how long it takes them to either be notified, if they have encountered any problems (such as emails getting stuck in spam filters), and how long it takes them to reach back out to set up interviews with candidates.

Using this annual fresh start window in January and February to remove the roadblocks from your hiring processes can yield major dividends in applicant conversion and talent acquisition results. Taking the time upfront now to carefully confirm your applications are accessible, efficiently designed, technically sound, and strategically aligned with your employer brand will set you up for hospitality recruiting success later in 2024.

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