The reason 70% of the U.S. workforce is disengaged is because the apply button is too small and too easy to push. 

I’m working on a number of loosely related projects regarding how user experience (“UX”) design concepts can be applied to the candidate experience (“CX”). The common goal of all of these projects is to better match more people with better jobs.

At one of these meetings someone asked me how to redesign the apply button. I suggested to add a time delay feature based on how good people look for and evaluate new job opportunities. Done properly this redesign would open up the pool to a broader group of highly qualified people who were never seriously considered before. I then sketched the following version of this type of time-phased apply button on the whiteboard. As you'll discover, it's actually a metaphor for completely rethinking the current job-hunting and matching process.

This CX-inspired apply button is designed from the perspective of a fully competent person. (FYI - fully competent means the person can do the work, it's not related to skills, but comparable accomplishments.) It doesn't matter if the person is actively looking or not. Instead it's based on the multi-step “get to know each other first” process I advocate.

Explore Ring: The person agrees to an informal exploratory conversation about the career potential of the position. This is a 10-15 minute conversation with a real person, typically a sourcer or recruiter. (Note: Getting the person to find the button is an entirely different process.)

Consider More Seriously Ring: The person is somewhat convinced that a more detailed conversation is required with someone who fully understands the real job requirements. This should be a knowledgeable recruiter. This second conversation is about 30 minutes in length with a dual purpose. First, determine if the person is basically competent to do the work and second, it gives the person a chance to find out if the job represents a career move.

Meet the Hiring Manager Ring: The person agrees to have a phone conversation with the hiring manager. This is an exploratory call only. The purpose is for the person to better understand the job and determine the manager’s style. In parallel the manager needs to determine if the person is worth recruiting and inviting onsite. This step forces the hiring manager to engage early and take full responsibility for recruiting and hiring the best person possible.

The CX-redesigned Apply Button: The person agrees to become a serious candidate for this job and participate in the interviewing process. There is full disclosure early in this process including an in-depth discussion of the performance objectives of the job and any potential challenges that could prevent a person from being successful.

Getting to this inner button takes about 60-90 minutes spread over a few days. This is how much time it takes for any person - whether looking or not - to recognize the potential career opportunity in a new role. Rushing it precludes this initial evaluation process from taking place. Here's why this go slower process is so important:

  1. A poorly designed, skills-laden apply button eliminates 90% of the best possible candidates. These are all of the people who could do the work but are eliminated by ill-defined and uninteresting job descriptions.
  2. The center apply button as currently designed requires people to be perfectly qualified, be open to accept a lateral transfer and have a need to move fast. Very few strong people are in this situation.
  3. When you sell commodity jobs in a transactional “Apply Now” fashion, you compete on price rather than opportunity.
  4. The reason 70% of the U.S. workforce is disengaged is because the apply button is too small and too easy to push.
  5. The best people have a different mix of skills and experiences. That’s why they’re the best people.
  6. The current apply button is designed to clone the average of your existing workforce, not improve it.

During this CX-modified apply process these two big things need to happen:

  • Define the size of the career gap. The purpose of the exploratory discussions is for both parties to see if the candidate is motivated and competent to do 80-85% of the job. This also allows the candidate to determine if the other 15-20% represents a potential career move.
  • Get the candidate to socialize the idea with his or her support team. Candidates always seek the advice and counsel of others before making any important decision. If this is done without some insight regarding the career opportunity, the advice is always to go for the most convenient job offering the most pay.

In order to expand your candidate pool to include more diverse candidates, non-traditional candidates, military veterans, and high-potential people, you need to redesign your company’s apply button. It starts by making it bigger and easier to find, but harder to push.