Job boards: making fast applications is not a good thing

Sam Franklin
Otta
Published in
3 min readJun 4, 2019

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1 million jobs is unheard of. ONS estimates 846,000 jobs in the UK (Feb-Apr 2019). Even Indeed only has 475,000 jobs listed in the UK!

I saw an advert today for a job board where the headline was “Apply to 1 million jobs with 1 tap!”. Obviously this is an exaggeration, but the clear message is that you’ll be able to apply to lots of jobs quickly.

I worry because even the big players such as LinkedIn and AngelList are moving in the direction of enabling application submissions within 30 seconds. I can apply to a job on AngelList without even uploading a CV or answering any questions. (I’ll call these fast applications)

I’ve experienced job boards from both sides. First as a hiring manager, and now through helping candidates at Otta. I believe that fast applications are not helpful for anyone in the job market.

Why are they bad for hiring managers?

By design, a fast application won’t include any mandatory, substantial questions set by the company (e.g. What excites you about this role at Monzo?). I think this is a terrible idea as this leads to applications being more bland. With only a CV, how are hiring managers supposed to determine which candidates have done thorough research and have decided they’re really excited about the role?

The lack of friction when applying makes this even worse, as candidates don’t have to think twice about their decision. The application piles simply fill with unmotivated or unsuited candidates in a matter of days, and it becomes more painful to spot the best people. I’d wager 75% of CVs have not been tailored for a specific role.

Why are they bad for candidates?

It’s quite simple: you’re not putting your best foot forward. You may think “I can show them at interview” but chances are you won’t be progressing that far. Usually a fast application isn’t the only option, and the company has a careers page where you can enter a more detailed application. Therefore, there will be other candidates out there putting more effort into perfecting their application, and they will be the ones invited to interviews.

Perhaps your CV is exceptional and you get through to interviews regardless of a fast application. However, chances are you’ve now got too many interviews lined up (because it was so easy to apply). This leads to a stressful week of preparation and soul-searching to figure out which roles you’re really excited about. Whilst applying for jobs is a numbers game, there is a balance to be struck. Interviews are one-shot games — you don’t get to repeat them — and so I recommend applying for a sensible number of jobs to make sure you’re prepared and ready to shine.

There is something quite special about having friction in a job application. Candidates have to think about whether it’s worth their time. Once the best candidates have decided it is, they will work to give off a solid signal that makes the selection process easier. “Faster and easier” may be better in a lot of industries, for example booking an Airbnb, but I don’t think this is a trend we should be excited about in hiring.

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