Hays UK blog


Time is of the essence in the search for talent

By Simon Winfield, Managing Director, Hays UK & Ireland

Our lives today move faster than ever before. We expect speed, convenience and efficiency in every element of our personal and work lives. Our free time is stretched between work and home, we expect web pages to load in seconds, to be served in minutes in shops and restaurants and for public transport to arrive right on time, every time.

Candidates are no different, and today’s digital natives demand a highly intuitive, efficient, functional experience from job application platforms. But many employers are burdened by overly cumbersome and long winded application process, and these processes are actively deterring candidates from pursuing roles, according to our new What Workers Want research. Recently we discussed the factors in your job adverts that could be putting candidates off, but the process is far from over once you have caught a candidate’s attention through your advert.

According to our research a significant 71% of candidates would consider abandoning an online application if it takes over 15 minutes to compete.

That may come as quite a shock to some employers who incorrectly assume applicants are prepared to dedicate a sizeable slice of their time to a job application. In fact, 40% of employers have an application process lasting longer than 15 minutes – reducing their available talent pool to just over one in three potential applicants.

I would expect most leaders of organisations with an online presence would be concerned if half of their customers rated their online experience as neutral to poor. Yet 50% of job applicants give this rating to their experience of applying for a job directly on an employer’s website or portal. And don’t forget, not only are job applicants your future talent, but they may well be your customers too!

The main complaint around the online application process for the majority of applicants is these long and lengthy processes with too many requirements. Applicants expect websites and career portals to offer the functions to make the application process as easy as possible, like editing and submitting a CV, saving job search criteria for another time, and creating job alerts and applicant profiles.

So what can you do to improve the experience you provide to applicants?

1. Test and time your journey

Go through the application journey from start to finish, time the process and see how long it really takes. Benchmark this time against the expectations of applicants, if you’re passing 15 minutes you should be trying to speed up the process.

2. Review your requirements

Is every request you make during the application process necessary at this stage? Are you asking for the same information twice? Ask if every piece of information is really needed at this point in time. You have a small window of opportunity to retain the enthusiasm of the applicant, could this information be provided later on?

3. Be prepared to invest in this experience

Look at your current online portal and determine if there are small functionality improvements that you could make that could improve the system – from basic sign posting to expected personalised features. Investing in your online portals could be costly, so consider third party providers that can support with employer branded sites to applicant tracking systems. A seamless, best-in-class experience can be possible (and cost effective) by looking at providers that offer either holistic recruitment solutions for the process end-to-end, or bespoke service offerings that can fill gaps in your existing journey.

Too many employers have been very slow to recognise the applicant’s user experience as a key tenet of their recruitment strategy, and by extension, the potential it has to paint either a very positive or negative first impression of the company. In neglecting to invest in the applicant’s user experience, many employers may be undermining their ability to compete for the best talent.

You can hear more about improving your hiring processes in our latest podcast.

About this author

Simon joined Hays in 2006, having commenced his recruitment career in 1993. Initially responsible for our businesses in Western Australia and Northern Territory, Simon relocated to the UK in 2014 where he was responsible for our operations in the West & Wales and Ireland, before being appointed Managing Director of the UK & Ireland business in 2018.


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