Beliefs About Mobile Recruiting — and Why They’re Right (or Wrong)

The mobile craze has moved beyond entertainment and communication into the human resource function of attracting top talent.

Pressure is on companies to use mobile technology in new ways that improve efficiency and the bottom line. If not approached carefully, organizations can be left behind in the game of attracting top talent.

PeopleAnswers scientists studied more than 8 million people who applied for jobs online in many industries worldwide from January 2011 to March 2013.

The study included 11 industry categories with two user subgroups that applied to a position using one of the following devices:

  1. Desktop: standard PC;
  2. Enhanced mobile — mobile device using a mobile-friendly version.

Is mobile is just hype?

Although the percentage of job applicants who use a mobile device is still relatively low, the growth rate is climbing.

Information from the first study showed that in January 2011, only 1.76 percent of job applicants attempted the process through a mobile device. Only 14 months later, the rate almost doubled to 3.13 percent.

By March 2013, the mobile job applicant rate more than tripled to 9.58 percent. Based on this growth, in the next few years we can expect job applicants to routinely apply for jobs through mobile devices.

To attract top-level talent, organizations must have programs that efficiently collect information and communicate with job applicants via their mobile device.

Does mobile access increase efficiency?

In order to study efficiency, scientists compared time to complete an online selection process for those using a desktop and an enhanced mobile version. The comparison between the two experiences showed a minimal two-minute difference.

Statistically, the difference was inconsistent across users and not meaningful. This means that as mobile device use increases, technology improves and users become more accustomed to applying for jobs online, the time differential has not reduced the selection process efficiency.

Providing the convenience of mobile access, with no additional time or frustration, increases access while not effecting efficiency.

Will I lose quality?

Most organizations appreciate accessibility and more efficient data collection until it produces bad data.

The good news: with mobile devices in the job application process, access will naturally improve and there appears to be no difference in data quality. There were no practical differences when comparing behavioral/personality scores between the desktop and enhanced mobile experiences. Additionally, there were no changes in applicants’ information quality such as increases in disingenuous scores and higher inconsistency rates.

There was a small average difference in cognitive scores between the desktop and enhanced mobile applicants that may be accounted for by the environment more than the technology choice. Specifically, the cognitive test was timed and the instructions require applicants to sit in a quiet place with few distractions.

By nature of using a mobile device, the user may not be taking the assessment in an optimal place as prescribed by the instructions. Other than the possible influence of the applicants’ chosen environment, there were no notable differences between the desktop and the enhanced mobile versions.

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Will mobile exclude certain groups?

In the Internet’s early days, some were concerned various socio-economic and minority groups would have accessibility issues that would create a disadvantage for protected subgroups.

Scientists studied protected subgroups’ adoption rates by calculating the percentage of enhanced mobile users compared to the total number of subgroup applicants. Individuals self-reported their age, ethnicity and gender.

Comparisons between subgroups showed that Hispanics had the highest percentage of applicants via mobile device at 6.84 percent followed closely by African-Americans at 6.75 percent with Caucasians trailing behind with 4.23 percent. Women applied for jobs via mobile device at a higher rate of 6 percent over males who applied at 4.67 percent. These trends were consistent with the first study in 2011.

The highest adoption rate was 6.49 percent for the age group up to 30. The next highest adoption rate was 5.84 percent for 31 to 40. The 41 to 50 age group showed a 3.47 percent adoption rate followed by the 50 to 60 age group at 2.2 percent.

Does mobile apply to hourly workers?

To understand the hourly space, scientists evaluated and compared mobile usage rates by industry.

Small business, restaurant, finance, pawn, insurance, and retail who the highest mobile adoption rates. With the exception of finance organizations, each industry hired a large majority of hourly versus salaried positions.

Mobile usage by industry

  • Small Business/Franchise — 7.77 percent;
  • Restaurant — 6.58 percent;
  • Finance/Pawn/Insurance — 6.18 percent;
  • Retail — 5.19 percent;
  • Grocery/Convenience Store — 4.70 percent;
  • Hotel — 4.04 percent;
  • Professional Services/Call Center — 3.00 percent
  • Property Management — 2.73 percent;
  • Health care — 1.95 percent;
  • Other — 1.83 percent.

These percentages show that hourly heavy markets are prime targets for mobile device usage. Hourly intensive industries constantly struggle with efficiently processing large candidate volumes. Hourly candidates seem to be open to applying for jobs via mobile device, making the selection process more data rich while being more efficient.

Mobile is here to stay in HR

Research shows that more women and minorities apply for jobs using mobile devices and, as expected, the average age is younger among mobile job seekers. By using mobile devices with a specific version designed to create an efficient data collection process, there is no noticeable loss of time or data quality.

At the current rate, mobile job applicants will surpass standard desktop applicants in the next three years. This gives organizations a small window to prepare and stay ahead of the competition for top talent.

Jason Taylor, Ph.D., is Chief Science Officer at PeopleAnswers. He has spent his career developing, implementing, and validating Industrial/Organizational psychology-based leadership processes in areas such as employee selection, soft skills training, executive coaching, and process refinement.

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