An Honest Assessment of Your Company’s Online Application: From a Usability Perspective.

In Part I of this series, we took a look at Corporate Career Sites and discussed some of the usability issues that can frustrate and confuse potential applicants. For this blog entry, Part 2, we’ll go one-step further and address the online application itself.

My investigation begins on, where I search for and find a great job. Once I view the opening and opt to “Apply Now”, I am prompted to begin the application process. At which point I am told that I will be transferred away from Career Builder and to the company’s online application.

I must admit, my initial impression is good. The process is smooth and user-friendly; not at all disorienting, as can sometimes be the case. However, we have Career Builder to thank for this and not our company’s online application.

Note: This company is using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) vendor to host their process.

Still On CareerBuilder – Prompted To Begin Online Application Via This Modal Window

Modal windows are one of my favorite things! A modal window (shown above) is a child window that requires the user to interact with it before they can return to the parent/main window. Why would you want to do this? Primarily, when you want to transition people away from the main site/task to a secondary site or task, and then allow them to return to the primary site or task, thus guiding them through a predefined workflow. They’re great usability tools, so kudos to Career Builder.

Transitioning Away From

This is nice. Not only am I told I’m leaving, but I’m given the option to return or to close this frame at the top of the Company’s Career Site (upper right). I select “Remove Frame” and continue with the online application on the company site.

Immediately, I fear the love-fest is about to come to a gut-wrenching end as I am presented with the dreaded “profile” form. I feel my stress-level start to rise as I count no less than 6 sections containing 67 form fields on a form the length of the Great Wall of China!

Screen Shot of Section 1 of 6 – GIGANTIC FORM FROM HELL!

First Impressions:
a. I’m gonna be here a while. How much do I want this job?
b. As I scroll down the form (which obviously does not fit on one screen), all of my navigation (traffic signs that tell the user “You are here”) & instructions (…”and here’s what you can do here”) disappear. I’m driving blind people, and there could be casualties! Seriously though, for an applicant who has likely never been to this site, this is potentially disorienting and confusing. They’ve taken the trouble to show you the steps at the top, why not take it one step further and persist the navigation & instructions?
c. Is it me, or are the field labels breaking to two lines making it difficult to read them (above screen shot)? I’m not a fan of this form layout for a number of reasons. Section 1 has no label, Section 2 does. Section 1 is a different font size than Section 2. Section 1 has different input field alignment than Section 2. There seems to be no consistency in layout from section to section, or is it my browser and they did not test for browser compatibility? (I’m using Mozilla Firefox.)

Section 1 & Part of Section 2 (My eyes hurt when I try to vertically scan this form. Anyone have an Advil?)

d. However, this one is the most disturbing of all. Some of the field labels are red and others are not. Are the red fields required? We may safely assume, but can we?

Required Fields Are All Marked Red, Right?

Side Note: “Future Access” is their sneaky way of saying you are creating an account and will need to remember this information when you return.

Yet, when I submit the form, I find that many of the not
red fields are in fact required. Notice below that First Name, Last Name, Address 1, City, State, and Zip Code are all required. We would know this how? The labels for those fields are not red; there are no red asterisks, so we have zero indication prior to submission.

I call this the “You-Make-A-Me-Wanna- Scream” Form Validation Message

Overall, I give this online application form a Usability Grade of C- or D. Here’s why:

1. Too Long! Of the 67 fields, only 14 are required. This tells me they are collecting a bunch of stuff they don’t actually need, at the applicant’s expense. (My opinion here is that of a usability person by the way, not an HR person. 😉 Reality is this – the longer the online application process, the lower your completion rate. Collect what you need – when you need it.
2. Lacks instructions, clear user feedback, and intuitive form validation.
3. Poor formatting and layout – this creates a lot of visual load on the user.
4. Disorienting to the user due to disappearing navigation and instructions, and the need for excessive scrolling.
5. Forces the user to create and remember their account information to return. (Sadly, without even disclosing this to them.)

There is one redeeming factor. At the top of the form (although I think it could be more obvious) you are given the option to upload a resume.

Upload Your Resume

This pre-populated 8 of the 67 fields for me, leaving me with a mere 59 fields. Sigh…I’m starting to think employment is overrated.

Melisa is the Product Usability Manager for myStaffingPro applicant tracking system.  For more information on myStaffingPro, please go to

3 thoughts on “An Honest Assessment of Your Company’s Online Application: From a Usability Perspective.

  1. Excellent article it is without doubt. We?ve been looking for this content.

  2. {I can see|I can tell} that {you are|you're} putting {a lot of|lots of|plenty of} {time and effort|determination|effort and time} into your blog and detailed articles! {I am|I'm|I enjoy} deeply {in love with|excited about|gets interested} {every|each|each says:

    I can tell that you are putting lots of determination into your blog and detailed articles! I’m deeply excited about each single bit of facts you post here (you will discover not several quality blogs left .

  3. I extremely enjoyed this! I would have to say this is an precisely informative post that deserves mentioning elsewhere.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.