What's the Scoop on Mobile Job Applications?

Published: Jul 20, 2011

What's the Scoop on Mobile Job Applications? By Suvarna Sheth, BioSpace.com

The big question in recruiting these days is whether or not mobile job applications will take over the traditional job application process. With predictions that mobile devices will take over PCs as the most common web access device worldwide, many believe the mobile job application process will be inevitable. We speak to two experts in mobile recruiting for their insight on this topic.

Desktop versus Mobile?

Mark Mergler, founder and CEO of mResource, a provider of mobile services, solution and technology, says the power of mobile devices already makes it possible to apply for jobs, using a combination of text and mobile web services to gather data. And, he says companies are already enabling the process for people to apply for jobs on their smart phones versus over a computer.

"There are over 285 million U.S. mobile subscribers and the increase in mobile internet usage is telling us that by 2020, mobile devices will be the primary means of accessing the internet globally," Mergler states.

With the backing of these statistics, Mergler says the future of job applications lies in mobile because it gives applicants the ability to apply anywhere, anytime and that is a perfect solution for many of the millions of sales people, retail, hospitality, call center and customer service workers who do not have access to their computer during the day, plus all the professionals you see at the airport or at conferences using their mobile out of necessity or choice.

"Mobile is about to solve many problems for employers who rely on offline job applications," the mobile expert says, "and candidates who either prefer to use a mobile device, or are forced to because of lack of online access."

Mergler says the Gen Y and Millennial groups who have grown up using text, social media and mobile web to communicate will prefer to use mobile methods of applying to jobs. For this reason, he says employers and recruiters should be engaging with them now using text to establish the link to their mobile device and connecting them to their employment brand.

In contrast, Michael Marlatt, a recruiting consultant at Microsoft says while the ability to actually complete the apply process is not yet available on the mobile device, this capability will become an important part of how future job seekers will apply.

"With the workforce becoming increasingly mobile, it will be important for companies to figure out how to create a seamless apply process regardless of what computing device may be used," he comments.

Marlatt says in the near future, job seekers will have the ability to log into a mobile career site, or careers app, run a search and apply with one click. In order to do this, he says the application tracking systems (ATS) will need to have enhanced capabilities that recognize when a user has logged into their mobile careers site (or app).

"It is no different from logging into your Facebook or Twitter app before you post a comment or check your messages," he explains, "similarly, job seekers will be able to log into their career site or app of choice, run a job search and easily click to apply to a specified role."

Mobile Phone, Start to Finish?

Mergler says the entire job application process from start to finish is already possible now on mobile phones. "Mobile phones are very powerful devices which can be used for voice, text, mobile internet access and applications or apps," he says, "we are currently using video job ads and mobile career sites to enable candidate registration and start the application process using text and mobile web forms."

As more people start using their phones as mobile wallets and accessing their resumes from the cloud, he says we will see true mobile applications. Currently, he explains, the mobile system sends an email directly to the applicant to upload a resume, follow an OFCCP compliant process and apply.

That final step, he notes, will also be impacted by the user experience and adoption rates influenced by mobile data costs, and adds that 90% of the phones in the U.S. market have the capability today.

Marlatt agrees that the entire application process will one day take place on a mobile phone, but he says the application process over the mobile device (smartphones, tablets, etc.) still needs time to mature.

"We are still very much in the early stages of understanding what is important to the job seeker when they are searching on the go," he says, "we have not yet developed the actual ability to apply via the mobile device."

How is it Possible?

So how will job seekers be able to apply for jobs over their mobile devices swiftly? According to Mergler, there are over 5,000 different devices in the U.S. market that use voice, text and mobile web.

What is different about them, he explains is the way in which they display the mobile web – we are not dealing with one screen size like a computer, and one browser or operating system.

Therefore, he says specific applications need to be built for the Blackberry, Android, iPhone and iPad – these devices being only 30% of the US market – or you build a mobile web based career site to ensure the user can view and use the functionality to interact with your employment brand and apply.

Mergler says his company has built such an infrastructure on one platform, integrated it into the ATS, and his clients are already expanding the use of the text and mobile web application process in multiple countries now.

What Challenges Lie Ahead?

Mergler says mobile data plan costs and the ability to access or store an applicant's current resume are the obvious issues on the candidate side.

On the employer side, discoverability and access to a mobile career site or application process is a big issue and companies will need to find solutions to these limitations.

According to Marlatt, fixing the apply process on the mobile device is the core challenge of employers, job-boards, and ATS providers today.

How Should Recruiters Prepare for the Change?

Mergler says recruiters and employers need to think about their audience. "Be aware of how a potential candidate is able to engage with their organization and build a mobile communications and marketing plan -- this should include text, mobile career sites and potentially apps -- to allow candidates to register and apply," he states.

He says if a company has a large offline employee base then it's likely the best candidates are offline when you want to connect with them during working hours. He suggests connecting with candidates by opting them in with text and geo-location.

And he says if companies are continually using recruiting events, press ads and kiosks in their retail or manufacturing facilities or paper applications, then they should start using mobile now. "It will solve many of your problems, speed up the process and probably reduce your costs," he advises.

For employers and recruiters, Marlatt says education is the key as well as gaining a deeper understanding of what is available. He reports there are many options as it relates to how users leverage mobile technology today (e.g., location-based services, proximity marketing, mobile messaging, augmented reality, QR codes, visual recognition, mobile video, mobile social, mobile web, native apps, gaming, etc.). "Understanding the business needs is a critical component of determining which of the options noted above will work best for your target audience," he states.

For example, if you are a diversity recruiter targeting African Americans, Latinos, and female applicants, research shows us that text messaging is an effective channel for engaging this audience. If you are targeting college campus candidates, you may want to consider integrating a "gaming" mobile social or location-based component to your recruitment strategy such as Foursquare.

Like Mergler, he says the key is to understand your target audience, then build a solution that caters to what is most relevant for that audience.

Marlatt says companies that are contemplating where to start should first consider the question: what do they hope to accomplish through the use of mobile? Second, they should explore the technologies that will help them achieve their stated business/recruiting objectives.

Third, at a minimum, he says all companies should consider developing a mobile optimized version of their careers site that allows users to easily and seamlessly search for jobs while on the go. This, he advises, will soon become the standard as more smartphone users engage with brands (future employers) on the mobile device.

About the Author

Suvarna Sheth researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for BioSpace.com.

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