Hays UK jobs and employment blog


4 ways public sector employers can streamline their application processes

By Matt Lewis, Director, Hays Public Services



‘Lost time is never found again’ is a mantra that we increasingly live by in today’s modern world. Our lives move fast, and we are constantly looking for the most convenient way to get somewhere, or the quickest way to complete a task.

For public sector employers, finding the best candidates to join your organisation can be a challenge at the best of times – but the one thing you do not want to lose top talent to is a slow and poorly thought-out application process.

What does our research say?
The findings of the Hays What Workers Want Report, which examines what candidates want from the applicant journey, show that 70% of public sector applicants say the reason for their below average experience when applying through an employer website was an overly long process with too many requirements, and 31% of public sector applicants would be deterred by an online application process that took longer than 15 minutes.

Yet over half (55%) of public sector employers admitted to having an online application process that took over 15 minutes to complete, clearly falling short of candidate expectations.

So what can public sector employers do to streamline processes and keep top talent engaged?

1. Only ask candidates for what you really need
Nothing kills interest in a role quicker than a repetitive application process. You don’t have long to retain the enthusiasm of your applicant, so question whether the detail you’re asking for is necessary, or if there are any open-ended questions that can be left for the interview rounds.

Although it may be tempting to ask for as much information as possible at the initial point of contact, keeping questions succinct and relevant will help keep the ‘time to apply’ short enough to keep candidates engaged, and therefore more likely to complete the application.

2. Respond to applications promptly
Half of public sector employers take over a week to confirm if candidates have made it to the interview stage, a timeframe which over three quarters (76%) of public sector applicants find unacceptable.

Sustain candidate engagement by streamlining this process as much as possible, and although limited resources or time pressure might mean that it isn’t possible to invite them to interview within a week, staying in communication and keeping them updated on the status of their application on a frequent basis will help make sure their interest in the role is maintained.

3. Provide speedy and detailed interview feedback
Only 19% of public sector applicants believe employers are good or very good at providing feedback post-interview, and 62% would only wait up to three days for an offer post-interview before accepting another job.

Keeping timelines between interview and offer stages as short as possible and providing detailed interview feedback is key to public sector employers being able to sustain engagement with applicants who might be in high demand from other organisations.

4. Conduct a self-audit of your application process
As with any good product, user testing of the applicant journey is vital. Time and processes are key components that have huge influence over whether a candidate could be deterred from completing their application. Do you know how difficult it is to apply to job on your website, or how long it takes for their application to be processed?

Assessing and refining your applicant journey will be key to consistently presenting your organisation in the best light to potential candidates.

If you would like assistance promoting your current public services vacancies, contact your local Hays consultant at

About this author

Matt Lewis, Director Hays Public Services, has worked in specialist recruitment since 1994, the last 10 years of which have been spent working specifically with the public sector. Matt’s role has developed into leading MSP and RPO recruitment solutions to best position organisations to attract and retain high quality talent.



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