Why Mobile Recruiting is now my top priority

I’ve just got back from the fantastic Mobile Recruiting Camp conference. Not only was this the first global event of its kind it was also excellent and the legend that is Michael Marlatt deserves huge plaudits for organizing it

The event reminded me very much of the first Social Recruiting conference three years ago. There was a real sense that a major shift is happening and while recruitment case studies are still shockingly thin on the ground there was some great thinking as well as an insight into how mobile is dramatically changing business in other industries. Perhaps more importantly though these kind of events give you the opportunity to reflect and focus on a single topic for a dedicated period of time and that’s exactly what I was doing while I was there.

Back in January I wrote a post saying I didn’t think 2011 was going to be the year of mobile, mainly because of a lack of knowledge from employers, and I still stand by my thinking. However what the conference has done is instill in me a sense of priority and urgency that 2012 absolutely needs to be the year of mobile in our industry. If not employers run a massive risk of eroding the candidate experience even further and finding it even harder to attract the talent they need.

So why do I say this? Well there are several reasons but perhaps the most compelling is the fact that all employers actually have a mobile site already even if they don’t realize it. The stats round smart phone adoption and mobile Internet usage are mind blowing. There are 5.5 billion mobile phones in circulation globally and in the US, which has traditionally been behind the curve in mobile adoption, 50% of the population will have a smart phone by the end of the year. 90% of mobile users use search engines on their phone and if you also take into account that a large number of people are likely to be following links in “jobs by email” services directly on their mobile devices, most employers will already getting a significant amount of mobile phone traffic to their sites.

Unfortunately though hardly any of these sites are optimized for mobile meaning an even poorer and frustrating experience for candidates. Interesting Google is about to start giving mobile optimized sites higher preference in its search algorithm so this issue is only going to get bigger

It’s not just about making the sites easier to view on a small screen though it’s also about taking into account the differing behavior of users who are accessing the web while mobile. Mobile internet use is highly action orientated rather than a passive browsing experience which certainly makes the stat mentioned by Career Builder, that 1.2 million applications came from their mobile platform during August, make a lot of sense.

During the conference the big elephant in the room of mobile recruiting was pointed to several times. This is of course the inability / unwillingness of the major ATS providers to adapt their platforms to give a credible mobile experience for applicants. I find this frankly surreal and when several global heads of talent acquisition are calling you out on this at a conference you would have thought the major global ATS provider sitting behind me would have at least joined in the debate rather than sitting there in silence. This is going to be a massive issue moving forward. Taleo, Lumesse and Kenexa seem to get away with their silence based on a  “no one ever got fired for buying IBM” syndrome which their big corporate clients have had for the last five years or so. Based on what was being said by some of their major clients at the conference this is a syndrome I can’t see lasting much longer! If the ATS providers don’t listen to their clients and join the mobile debate soon, their current dominance will be very short lived indeed.

I’m going to be writing a lot more about mobile in the coming months as well as undertaking some research that I’ll publish more details on shortly. I’ll also be suggesting strongly to my clients that they make mobile their top recruitment marketing priority. If you an employer who is struggling to find the talent you need, then it absolutely should be your top priority as well.

28 responses to “Why Mobile Recruiting is now my top priority

  1. Matt

    Ultimately I don’t think it is just down to the vendors to “do mobile” but the clients to know what they need to do. For example, a website/careersite that is not written to render well on a smartphone is the first step and without getting this right the application process never starts. Then, most forms can be completed on a smartphone without any major changes so it comes back to clients to think about an application process that is mobile friendly. In fact, a good start point would be to make the PC version more friendly! Finally, the whole touchscreen keyboard experience is IMHO frustrating at best and I personally avoid completing detailed forms on my very smart Android phone.

    So, to point out that ATS vendors were the big elephant in the room shows a complete lack of understanding of what actually needs to be done to make the user experience better.

    I am surprised that with so many “smart” people in the room that it sounds like you all just wanted to push blame at a vendor (I accept they have other failings) rather than realise that the answer lies with the TA Manager. Or maybe it is the fault of the job boards although they’ll all be dead soon as well…..


  2. In the context of the room at the time it made perfect sense. No one was laying the blame entirely on ATS providers for the lack of mobile recruitment optimisation as you rightly point out there are some very big other issues. The big issue for me though is the complete lack of engagement the ATS providers have with the conversation. I was sitting in front of the representatives of one of the “big three” and in the light of what you’ve said Peter I’m amazed they didn’t jump up and defend their honour, rather than giggling between themselves which is what they were actually doing.

    I’m not saying making people fill in forms on their mobile is the solution but there has to be a solution for what is a very action orientated medium. Surely the ATS providers should be leading the way in finding it rather than sitting in silence? You seem to be saying that it is not their problem. Do you really beleive that?

  3. Matt

    I agree that the vendor representative should have stood up but that is down to them. If I had been there as me I would have stood up and put my point across in public.

    I agree there has to be work done on this and I think it is a joint effort across the industry to find ways to make life easier for candidates to apply in whatever format they choose. Candidate experience is lacking which is where the focus needs to be; and this includes the ATS vendors, website vendors and clients to get together and work on better solutions. Maybe even a few consultants could get in on the act 😉


  4. Matt
    For major global PLC, they require system support of their application process, just to handle and measure the volumes.

    As such, changing the process to be mobile friendly, without the support of their ATS is going to be a difficult choice, one which many will feel is a risk they just are not going to be responsible of taking.

    As such the ATS vendors need to be supportive.

    I really dont agree with Peter, the concept of redesigning the desktop application process so it works on mobile is a great example of the tail wagging the dog. I do not see mainstream mobile users really wanting to write a cover letter on their mobile.

    The process on mobile does have to be different, but not at the cost of reducing the value of the desktop version.

    I have seen a number of sites designed to render on mobile and desktop, they are impressive from a tech standpoint. However I feel the typically fail on a UX standpoint. To delight the user, one must recognise the mobile channel is not the desktop web, but something different. As such content needs to be different, and typically shorter copy! This approach reminds me of newspapers in the late 90s just cutting and pasting their articles from print to web and wondering why people were not reading the huge volumes of content!

    What I am very happy to see, it a great blog and others commenting in favour that mobile is significant channel and requires attention. This is the first battle.

    Nice work.


  5. Hi Matt,

    Sounds interesting. I wish that I had been there, I would have stood up and called out that ATS provider sitting behind you and said that they are a large part of the blame for the lack of development in the entire space (not just mobile – as I know you know).

    That said, the “clients” haven’t asked them to really do much more than what they already do, and so as you quite rightly point out, the candidate suffers.

    I do think that LinkedIn has the potential to really change the game here.. and if they don’t, someone else will come along and stop seeing the “data” collected by an ATS as an “application” but as “data” about candidates that can be used to improve the candidate experience across the entire recruitment process…

    And whoever does that, will likely understand the points you’re making about not only being available on a mobile phone, but understanding the context, behaviours and preferences that someone has when they are on their phone.

    Maybe one day we’ll get there… glad you’re still finding moments of inspiration.

    – Drew

  6. Great post – there is some slightly odd thinking in the comments , in my opinion. If vendors wait for their clients to demand the functionality – they are going to leave themselves open to be absolutely screwed by new entrants or innovative/progressive competitors. Vendors/insiders should be driving the change not waiting to be asked.
    There are so many obvious parallels with the other seismic shifts in our industry (and consequent winners and losers/bust companies) that they don’t need to be stated do they??

  7. I was at the Mobile Recruiting Conference as well and there was a definite level of frustration from some HR users of ATS systems and mobile.

    Although HR should be looking into a mobile recruiting strategy now (e.g. mobile friendly web sites, mobile apps and other mobile marketing initiatives like QR codes) their feedback was that it was a bad user experience for job seekers once they got to the apply stage.


  8. Thanks for comments everyone, it is certainly becoming a hot topic. I just wanted to pick up on something Dave said about process and platforms.

    My favourite business app at the moment is Evernote because I can work on in seamlessly using either my laptop, iPad or iPhone. Each version offers slight platform dependent functionality tweaks and I accept these as I’m in very different modes when I’m writing a long note on the laptop version, taking notes at a conference on the iPad version or jotting down a few quick thoughts on the tube on the iPhone version. This is kind of experience digital recruitment needs to replicate as it seeks to fill the missing mobile element.

    Interestingly I was talking to someone who manages the help desk at an RPO the other day and works across four different ATS systems. They said that the most common candidate complaint was that they couldn’t access applications they had already saved while using their mobile phones. It is not necessary about being able to fill in an application form on a phone but it is about being able to use your phone for parts of the process when you want to

    We live in a world where people expect to get some kind of access to their data on a mobile and currently recruitment is failing them badly!

  9. Fascinating. As a recent escapee from purely recruitment comms, I am blown away by how quickly ‘the rest of the comms world’ has already adopted mobile. It is the first thing discussed, not a nice-to-have. Not something that still needs to be debated.

    I don’t profess to understand anything about ATSs and their development, but I will say that those above are missing the point about the relative trickiness of filling in forms and covering letters/CVs on a phone.

    You are right, it’s a pain in the backside, but the one thing I WON’T do, is put my mobile away and reach for the nearest biro, laptop or carrier pigeon. Not for you, not for anyone. So, I will either register an interest (and wait for you to react) or I will go elsewhere.

    Do not expect (great) candidates to calmly shrug and go back to the old ways. They will calmly shrug and go elsewhere.

    Written on, and sent from my phone. QED.

  10. Interesting comment by Swissss…

    “So, I will either register an interest (and wait for you to react) or I will go elsewhere.”

    I don’t think this is an isolated comment. Instead it will gradually become the norm if companies don’t adapt to mobile.

    I think the problem that Recruiters have (Corporate Recruiters and Recruitment Agencies) is that they are not aware of the number of people viewing their web site via a mobile phone? Therefore they are not aware of the frustrations being felt by job seekers.

    This is basic information that companies should already have through their webmaster of website analytics package. To find out how many mobile visitors you have to your website check out my article from last year:



  11. It’s all about the candidate experience, so if candidates are using mobile, then go mobile…

    How you then treat them as they are applying, following up, etc..is really what recruitment is all about. Treat them like a customer and they will be happy.

  12. Quality and valuable new post. I was last to contribute to the ‘Back in January I wrote a post ‘ (August 5, 2011 at 2:56pm) and delighted to read your recent column.

    Mike Taylor; good talking with you today, looking forward to the conference, I will motivate some of the agencies we are currently working with to attend also. Matt Alder; would be good to meet you in person if you can attend.

    It is becoming essential for agencies to not only secure candidate interaction through the mobile device, but ensure candidates have a good and lasting experience and therefore relationship with the agency provider. Even more important, is the ability to motivate that candidate into influencing others about his/her experience. This is vital for mobile recruitment to be just that – Mobile Recruitment – Referral and Social Recruitment connecting and linking all together through the mobile device, as touched upon by Matt in ‘weak ties’ some blogs ago. To find out more on how we have achieved this, please get in touch.

    I recently released a poll on telecomyou.com to root out candidates opinions on what was better; the Mobile App or the Mobile Site. The Mobile App was victorious by some margin however some of the comments supported my knowledge that agencies have yet to embrace the full potential of the personalised mobile application or the MBT (Mobile Business Tool) because candidates have simply not been given a high performing , interactive and personal platform to communicate upon. The majority of agency apps out there, for the amount some agencies have paid, are simply not good enough. This has had quite a negative impact on the collective agency psyche surrounding the adoption and release of mobile applications.

    Matt, spot on and cheers for now prioritising mobile recruitment. The Tailored Agency Mobile Application for instance can be so much more than just a ‘nice-to-have’ and once all connections to trickiness are overcome, and instead replaced by smooth, intelligent functionality, which we have achieved, the agency mobile tool can and will become an asset to drive Recruitment into unchartered territories and in a positive, profit driven and professional way! Forget Client and Candidate – Information is King and candidates need clients who need agencies to communicate through the Mobile Application on Mobile Devices.

  13. Matt – thanks for getting this conversation going.

    My company is a startup in the ATS space. There’s no question that mobile is a really important element of any ATS going forward. The question we’re trying to answer now is what do we provide.

    Our options look something like this:

    1) Refactor the desktop experience to mobile. Maybe less text but still a poor user experience. The big problem is obviously that most candidates can’t upload their CV from an iphone into a Web page. So this is a no go.

    2) Refactor the user experience to smaller screen and include Apply With LinkedIn. This is probably a step up from option 1 but assuming that all candidates and all recruiters are happy with LinkedIn profile only is risky.

    3) Have candidate ping summary details to recruiter via ATS and perhaps link back to candidate either automatically from ATS or manually from recruiter. Would a recruiter contact somebody because they just saw their current company and title? Probably yes if it’s an Android developer at Google but maybe not if it’s a call centre support operator in Cork.

    4) Some of the larger job boards are allowing candidates upload their CV from desktop and then submit them from mobile. The problem here, clearly, is that it can only be used for jobs or companies working with the job board app provider. Again not ideal.

    They are some of the options we’re looking at. If anybody has any suggestions that the ATS providers should be offering I’d love to hear them.

    Best regards,

  14. Great series of comments on a very thoughtful blog by Matt. It seems to me that we are going around in the same circle that we have been in for almost 15 years of corporate ATS development – Peter and I were there at the beginning as the clunky client server systems were initially being converted to web front ends – and then being rebuilt as proper web based applications (from ASP to SaaS to ‘in the Cloud’)

    There has always been one mantra for some of us.The Candidate Experience. Matt – were the complaints of the corporate recruiters at the conference reflecting what their candidates are telling them? Were they talking about their own challenges as Users – would they like to manage the candidate process (yep, that is still how they think) on a mobile device?

    I agree with Matt and Dave that the smartphone/smart device trend will continue to escalate (my iPhone 4s upgrade is on order). However, I have a FTSE 25 client where Blackberry is the defacto mobile device and that is unlikely to change anytime soon. How do they handle the challenges where their candidates may be able to engage via a smartphone – and they cannot respond in kind?

    There is no simple answer which the ATS or other providers will just deliver. Corporate hiring managers (not really HR) should be driving the candidate experience while HR needs to rethink the ongoing reliance on the candidate submitting a full CV as the only currency for recruitment. For example, Innovate CV exists – the candidate can submit an application with a link to his/her profile and the recruiter pulls it into the system.

    I am glad that swisss has the confidence to give up a job because he/she does not like the application process/method. In a time of global insecurity and unemployment rates near or over 10% in the developed countries, I don’t think that many candidates have that luxury, no matter what device they use to access job details.

    Looking forward to continuing this debate at Mike’s conference.

    best regards

    Alan Whitford
    Abtech Partnership and RCEURO.com

  15. Alan, I like the

    ‘HR needs to rethink the ongoing reliance on the candidate submitting a full CV as the only currency for recruitment’ – As do Consultants to a certain extent

    Our mobile software, after targeting specific vacancies to specialist candidates (saves candidate search time), gives the candidate a number of contact options to hit the agency and/or individual vertical delivery agent. Through the MBT, we will now implement an instantaneous email alert from candidate to agency and/or agent with a link to their linked profile page.

    I had a successful period recruiting for Elan IT/Manpower and, like many agencies nowadays, go direct to Linkedin to find out more about the candidate (even if I had their CV)

    To have such a link from a candidates email is indeed important and valuable so many thanks from me Alan

    John Edwards

  16. Alan, I realise that there are tough times out there for job seekers. But don’t blur your world vision with FTSE25 companies hiring blackberry-using middle managers who always carry briefcases with Dell Inspirions inside.

    The very, very best senior candidates will still, largely (although not exclusively), be well looked after and happy in a job. Not desperately dusting off their old typewriter to do a covering letter. There are still plenty of time-poor passive candidates, as much as there are cash-poor active ones. And I was always taught to go after the passive candidates first.

    And for volume recruiters, the issues are more stark. You are one of 4 identical call centres in Leeds. Your competitor is allowing registration on mobile devices and is then emailing candidates with a branded response. You have just lost 000s of hires. Bummer. Ah well, at least when their boss gets made redundant, we have a form for them to fill out eh?

    While you all continue to pontificate about recruitment, the rest of the world is doing everything via a mobile. I read yesterday that Paypal processes 1000 secure payments, via mobile, every hour. And you can’t sort out an application for a job?

    Agree HR need to lighten up on CVs for some roles, but for volume? 20,000 indecipherable contacts that you can’t compare or even filter?

    Some heads need to be bashed together to find a third way.

  17. I have to agree with Swissss here, most companies are still having problems getting good and / or specialist talent. We need to stop this pointless debate and start finding solutions. I’m going to write a follow up post with my full thoughts but it is fairly obviously that this is going to have to be client driven. Rather than debate what candidates will or won’t do via mobile (purely academic because unless we let them then we’ll never know) I’m going to find a client who wants to take this great leap forward and help then join the rest of the world who are living in 2011 not 2001 like most of the recruitment industry

  18. Sound. Agreed, Agencies need to offer a platform for candidate interaction on a mobile level. We are currently developing a number of Agency Mobile Applications – Some Agencies we are working with already released a mobile application (however not so happy with poor performing developer, so upgrading with us)

    If would like to discuss any case studies, ‘brave clients’, solutions, please get in touch, 02033717602, or we can speak in more detail Nov 17th, with beer uh I mean – coffee!

  19. Swisss – thanks for coming back to me. I am not ‘blurring my world vision’ This particular client doesn’t have those types you describe – the managers are running leisure clubs and hiring people who do not have PCs, much less smartphones in many cases. However, it is the FTSE 100/Fortune 250 who determine what the ATS providers Matt originally referred to will actually develop.

    The thousands of smaller and medium sized companies don’t have any ATS to deal with would, I believe, happily embrace a candidate attraction/management solution that uses mobile.

    So the gauntlet is down for technology developers to actually build apps that both the candidate and the hiring manager want.

    And, with the best will in the world, and the best intentions that people like Matt, Peter and myself (and the dozens of others who get up on the soapbox every day) have, will only come to fruition if the clients we would all love to find and help are willing to take a chance on something new -fail and then try it again.

  20. By the way if you haven’t see it, ERE has a great post on this topic, not surprisingly it was written by the person I was sitting next to at the same conference!


  21. and while we talking about people who do or don’t have smart phones….. smart phone penetration is at 30% of the UK population and growing rapidly (75% of smart phone users are on their first smart phone). In the 18-29 age demographic the number is even more compelling, 52% of the total population in that age group. A lot of these people will have smart phones but no PCs…….

  22. Stats from the Mobile Marketing Association in case you were wondering

  23. Hi Matt,
    I realise I’m a bit late on commenting here, apologies!
    I work for an ATS provider and one of the most astonishing, (and great for us!) things is that when we show our mobile friendly modules of the system, most companies find that that’s their favourite part about it! It’s really an exciting thing to market (which is my department!) as, like you said, not many large ATS providers are utilising this at all. Hiring managers, for example, are crying out for an easier way to get what they need to do done quicker and more efficiently and therefore our Hiring Manager portal is something that often gets us the client.. Allowing somebody to approve decisions whilst on the move on their Blackberry or iPhone is such a great concept that I am surprised more vendors aren’t taking advantage of it.
    Until other ATS providers latch on to this age where mobile recruiting has the potential to be such a big chunk of this industry, personally we’ll be more than happy to reap the benefits of being in the minority!!
    I would be quite surprised if the ‘big three’ didn’t have something in the pipeline however to do with this – but perhaps if they didn’t pipe up at the conference, this isn’t the case.. but surely they can’t ignore this kind of thing forever..?

  24. Matt, I’d love to show you the mobile candidate experience that myStaffingPro applicant tracking system offers. Please let me know when you are available so that we can schedule a call.

  25. Pingback: Mobile recruitment becoming a top priority | appscape

  26. So true. Anybody who falls behind on this is going to get left in the dust, The thing is, that providing a mobile solution doesn’t have to be excessively costly since you’re just creating a mobile friendly version of content and listings and a system that you already control.

    Mobile (and don’t forget this includes tablets, not just phones) are going to blow up this year, just like they did last year, and if recruiters don’t bother to adapt…well…their candidates will likely go elsewhere.

  27. Correct. mSite however secures under 1minute candidate time Mobile App secures just over 4.5minutes – mSites still contain and relay irrelevant information.

  28. Pingback: Why Mobile Recruiting is now my top priority | mRecruitingcamp | The Mobile Recruiting Conference

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