What's important to job hunters?

Report by:
Kohlrabi Consulting
Commissioned by:
If You Could Jobs
Prepared by:
Dr Jo Blodgett and Dr Fran Harkness

Searching for a new job can be a challenging and stressful process. Although there are constantly new roles for new applicants, the practicalities of appraising an advert, navigating diverse application processes, and waiting for responses and feedback, can be arduous and discouraging.

We wanted to better understand what type of adverts are going to catch an applicant’s eye and what makes someone take the time to apply. Ultimately, we wanted to provide insight into how employers can make the job application process a more positive and transparent process. We've put together our key findings from the survey and a list of tangible suggestions that companies may wish to incorporate for future recruiting.

Money Matters

  • A third of individuals ranked salary as the most important factor when searching for a job with another third ranking it as the second most important factor.
  • Individuals were much more likely (>95%) to apply for jobs that transparently advertised the salary, rather than job postings that described the salary as undisclosed (50%), competitive (69%), or had no description (50%).
  • Lack of salary disclosure was the most common frustration when applying for jobs.

Hiding specific salary ranges even after the first interview. In ways, it flags up negative aspects of the company in terms of transparency to staff, my impression of their willingness to help them progress when I join, and what their standard of communicating is. Unless I have a huge interest in the company (99% will not), I would completely ignore those opportunities without salary numbers mentioned.” - Senior survey respondent, aged 31-39.

Requirements Have a Minimal Impact

How well individuals met the job criteria had minimal impact on their likelihood to apply.

  • Nearly 75% of individuals said they would still apply for a job in which they did not met 30-50% of the job criteria.
  • 88% of individuals said they would apply for a job they overqualified for. This practice became less common with increasing seniority, decreasing from 90% of entry-level employees, to 47% of seniors with no directors willing to apply for a job in which they exceeded the job criteria.

Diversity and Inclusion Statements Have a Positive Impact

Inclusion and diversity statements have a positive impact on job seeker’s likelihood of applying.

  • Most individuals (>60%) are more likely to apply to a job if the advertisement promotes equal employment opportunities, family friendly working arrangements or actively encouraged applications from BAME and/or disabled applicants.

Lengthy Application Processes Have a Negative Impact

Lengthy application processes with creative project-specific tasks negatively influence perceptions of the company and willingness to apply for these roles.

  • Individuals were much more likely to apply if only a CV and portfolio (66%) was asked for, compared to jobs additionally requiring a cover letter (32%) or online form (19%).
  • 75% of respondents thought job applications should take less than 4 hours.

“Some companies have too many stages, ...CV and portfolio, then some sort of activity to tell them more about you, then [an] interview, then a task, then another interview. I hate this kind of thing. It’s not the worth the amount of effort that goes in.” – Junior survey respondent, aged 18-29.

Communication is Key

Job seekers are frustrated by the lack of communication from potential employers during the application process.

  • The majority of job applicants expect to receive some sort of communication at all stages of the application process; this includes a) acknowledgement that the application was received, b) notification they were not shortlisted, c) the reason they were not shortlisted, and d) feedback after an unsuccessful interview.
  • In reality, less than a third regularly received acknowledgement of their application while just 8% were regularly told they had not been shortlisted.
  • Only 1% of individuals reported that they usually received feedback on why they weren’t shortlisted, rising to 9% after interviews.

“Notifications and clear communication throughout the progress. Some of the best companies I’ve worked with [have] put in a huge amount of work in their software and HR to make the flow incredibly streamlined and that gives me the impression that I’ll be looked after when I join.” – Senior survey respondent, aged 30-39.

Recommendations Moving Forward

We identified important factors that influenced individuals’ willingness to apply for jobs and gained insight into job seekers’ frustrations with the application process. In order to improve the job application process and encourage the best applicants to apply, we propose the following recommendations to employers:

  • Be upfront about the salary by providing the range or specified amount in the advertisement;
  • Consider adding inclusivity and diversity statements to the advertisement (e.g. equal opportunities, family friendly, active encouragement of applications from minority groups);
  • Create job application requirements that do not require more than 4 hours to complete;
  • Provide a clear overview of the entire job application process in the advertisement to include dates, number of rounds and an overview of tasks involved;
  • Provide acknowledgement that applications have been received and notifications that applicants have been unsuccessful;
  • If capacity and time permit, provide meaningful feedback as to why individuals haven’t been shortlisted or were unsuccessful at an interview.

There were very little differences in opinions on the job application process across current job level, age, gender, ethnicity or current working situation. This indicates that each of these suggested changes will have a positive impact on nearly every individual searching for a new job – and ultimately for companies on their recruitment success.

Featured Companies

Learn more about our featured companies

  1. Inktrap

    London, GB

    We're Inktrap, an independent product design and development team based in London. We thrive on solving complex problems in elegant and practical ways.

  2. Anyways Creative

    London, GB

    Anyways Creative is an award-winning creative agency based in London and working globally. Its purpose is to impact culture through creative collaboration.