Digitalisation in the job application process

by Jochen Markgraf in — April 2018
or “How can the job application process be reinfused with greater sustainability?” An article by Harald Kiehle (panis consulting GmbH) and Jochen Markgraf (Talentor Germany – Kaiser Stähler Rekrutierungsberatung)

Current situation

Our business environment continues to enjoy very positive development. Now, within the framework of digitalisation, companies which had long pursued austerity policies are once again approving significant budgets for projects and the related jobs that went unoccupied for so long. They can finally look outside their own ranks for new job candidates. This creates a very comfortable situation for people willing to change, because almost everywhere more skilled workers are needed by these companies than are currently available.

Unfortunately, this overabundance of employment opportunities, stretching across many fields, has resulted in a number of stylistic communication and behavioural gaffes and mistakes on the part of job candidates. These failings undoubtedly indicate the loss of a certain level of ethics. A few behavioural patterns listed here highlight this trend:

  • Appointments are frequently cancelled at the last minute. And in many cases the applicants take the path of least resistance, i.e., the most impersonal communication channels such as email, SMS or in some cases even WhatsApp.
  • Scheduled job interviews are not taking place because the applicants simply don’t show up without even cancelling.
  • Unfortunately in some cases we see conduct that can only be classified as that of a “chancer” mentality. There have been repeated cases of employment contracts being signed, only for the new “employee” to fail to show up to start the new job at all.
  • Follow-up inquiries then by email or voice mailbox as to reasons for the impersonal messages or the failure to show up for work are then consistently ignored.

Possible causes

There are surely numerous reasons for such a dramatic change in the behaviour of job applicants. We often hear that the current oversupply of available jobs, media reporting on a lack of skilled workers and also the way in which social media enables candidates to be virtually overwhelmed with job offers has increasingly given job applicants a sense of having the upper hand in a “buyer’s market”.

Or, are today’s job applicants simply reacting in kind to the treatment they have received from companies for years in their recruitment processes? There are, after all, always two parties involved in the development of behavioural patterns like these, and there is certainly room for improvement in the conduct of potential new employers as well, particularly among their HR staff.

Some companies have neglected to include their HR departments in investments made for adding and improving modern technologies and processes. Protracted processes and sluggish responses to applicants, aside from the accustomed normal confirmation of having received their application, are the rule rather than the exception in many cases. This can leave applicants feeling as if the company in question has no keen interest in them or their particular expertise. Several weeks, months in some cases, can lapse between initial contact and a possible invitation for an interview or discussion. Meanwhile, the various departments in the companies are playing a kind of ping-pong with their HR department, because the department managers in need of personnel are often so deeply entrenched in the daily running of their departments. The result is job interviews with candidates being pushed back week for week due to urgent operational issues. This is a real and regrettable paradox, because a new employee is actually supposed to lighten the overall workload, not represent a source of even more work. We know this is true, because unfortunately we’ve experienced it in practice.

Using digital tools provides interesting approaches

A rethink, a 180° change of perspective creates positive change in the perception of a company’s employees regarding its Human Resources department. More importantly, job applicants experience a new kind of communication and interaction that gives them a sense of appreciation. The recruitment process is reappraised from the perspective of the “Candidate Experience”. The part-&-parcel decision-making processes and waiting times until a job interview is offered or a particular applicant is selected for a position are more difficult to change than the way companies communicate with the candidates during this period. Frequent contact and interaction are more likely than long periods of silence to create an emotional bond and communicate an appreciation of the candidate.

Video interviews

Although in the long run it’s no substitute for a personal interview, video interviews are nevertheless an effective means for initially getting acquainted and “checking out” one another. It’s important to communicate the significance of a video interview in the job application process to the candidate - (“We’re interested in you, so we’d like a brief “face-to-face” to meet you before we schedule a formal job interview”). One frequent sticking point with video interviews is that companies often use a technology platform such as “Skype for Business” or “WebEx” which isn’t available to candidates.

  • It helps to have a dialogue between Human Resources and IT for providing job candidates with easy-to-use, proven access to the company’s platform (Add a link to the video interview invitation that leads directly to the corresponding tools the candidate needs to install on his/her own computer). The better the installation is explained, the more willing applicants will be to agree to a video interview.
  • Alternatively, the IT and HR departments can also cooperate to provide HR with the ability to use Facetime or comparable free tools that candidates are already familiar with from their private computer use. If this presents obstacles that the company’s IT security team legitimately regards as too high, the company can consider using a designated “Stand Alone” computer solely for conducting video interviews.

Asynchronous interviews

Both parties can take advantage of video technology to get acquainted.

  • Recruiters or ideally managers looking for new personnel can present themselves, the company and the available job on video and send it to those applicants who make it onto the short list. Involving the company’s Communications Dept. in the production of such a video can help avoid unplanned or unwanted content.
  • Alternatively, applicants can be sent a questionnaire about themselves, their previous career experience and their expertise. The candidates can then video themselves answering these questions at their leisure and in an environment where they feel comfortable. This benefits applicants by offering them the possibility of simply re-recording their answers if they don’t like the “first take” for any reason. And the only technical requirement needed for this option is simply the web camera in their computer.

It’s important to have rules for both of these scenarios. How the videos are handled in terms of data safety and protection must be actively addressed by both parties and accepted by the recipient of the video (Who will see my video? What happens with the video when the job application process is finished?). Sending the video opens up additional contact opportunities for the Human Resources Department to stay in contact with the candidates by phone and email

Smart Meeting

Once a company decides to meet a candidate in person it can be difficult and time-consuming to find a date for the interview that works for both the applicant and the recruiting manager. The “Smart Meeting” platform can help in these situations. The recruiting manager and the Human Resources spokesperson display open dates in their calendars that can be offered online to applicants via the Smart Meeting platform (Note: Smart Meeting is a COSYNUS GmbH product). As a standard feature Smart Meeting offers candidates three available appointments, allowing them to choose one that best fits their own schedule and plan it at their convenience. The underlying message sent to candidates by allowing them to select from a choice of available appointments is one of commitment and appreciation. The candidates are granted significant influence over the choice of appointment and the waiting time until it happens. Once they have confirmed an appointment it is firmly booked in the calendars of both the recruiting manager and the Human Resources Dept. Travel details can then be clarified in follow-up communication.

Closing considerations

No technical medium can replace a personal discussion with all its many facets. But technology can indeed help to significantly reduce the perceived length of waiting times. And it also offers a variety of channels for maintaining contact with potential employees along with tools for resolving the sense of anonymity in the process described earlier. Ultimately, all of this also increases sustainability in the recruitment process, since both sides build a greater bond with one another much quicker.

From the perspective of a job candidate, having a script or a sort of “playbook” on what to expect from the potential employer can help prevent blunders, and it also signals that the company has a well thought-out, highly sophisticated recruitment process (“Candidate Experience”). An open dialogue with the company’s IT department (for the provision of technology that likely deviates from the company’s accepted policies) and dialogue with data protection supervisors give both parties a sense of security regarding how their (video) data are handled. With videos provided by company employees, the company’s internal Communications Dept. can help avoid unwanted or awkward content reaching the outside world.

Using digital tools increases sustainability in the recruitment process and brings companies a clear competitive advantage, both in the recruitment of new employees and particularly in the continued expansion of “Employer Branding”.

The authors

panis consulting GmbH

Harald Kiehle

Harald Kiehle is the Managing Partner of panis consulting GmbH, a specialised strategy consultation firm that supports clients in the operative implementation of their digitalisation strategy. Prior to this Mr. Kiehle was in charge at LBBW of a large-scale outsourcing agreement with the company Finanz-Informatik (Applciation Development & Infrastructure). He began his career at IBM, where his duties included managing the IT Management Consulting unit and the sector, “Smarter Work”.

Blog 2018 Digitale Prozesse Harald Kiehle
Talentor Germany – Kaiser Stähler Rekrutierungsberatung GmbH

Jochen Markgraf

Jochen Markgraf is a Managing Director of Talentor Germany – Kaiser Stähler Rekrutierungsberatung GmbH. He specialises in the segments Executive Search and Professional Search in domestic and international recruitment projects. Mr. Markgraf’s list of customers includes both mid-sized companies and major international concerns. He is also a member of Talentor’s Practise Group “Digital”, advising companies on filling positions in their digital segments and on the organisation or optimisation of their recruitment process.

Emp De Jochen Markgraf1


A publication by: panis consulting GmbH andTalentor Germany – Kaiser Stähler Rekrutierungsberatung GmbH


panis consulting GmbH Elly-Heuss-Knapp-Weg 1, 64285 Darmstadt , , Amtsgericht Darmstadt HRB 97 020

Managing Director: Bettina Weber-Kiehle, Harald Kiehle Ust.IdNr.: DE31 360 7558

Talentor Germany – Kaiser Stähler Rekrutierungsberatung GmbH Herzog-Adolph-Straße 5, 61462 Königstein ,, Amtsgericht Königstein HRB 61 62 Managing Directors: Gerhard Stähler, Jochen Markgraf Ust.IdNr.: DE 232 40 66 52

Responsible for the content in accordance with §6 MDStV: Harald Kiehle and Jochen Markgraf