Employers’ old tech hurts hiring as job hunts go mobile

Paul Davidson, USA TODAY7:50p.m. EST February 24, 2013

Highly valued employees are turning to their phones to hunt for jobs, but employers’ outdated tech is throwing a wrench in the process.

The recovering labor market may be facing two new hurdles to faster hiring: smartphones and unsophisticated employers.

As job searches on smartphones and tablets explode, many companies are missing out on top candidates because their websites or job applications aren’t optimized for mobile, according to employers and employment websites.

Similarly, job seekers who have little patience for unwieldy sites lose out on positions.

“Highly valued talent who (value) themselves or their time won’t tolerate an inefficient application process,” says Hope Gurion, chief development officer of CareerBuilder, a top employment website owned in part by Gannett, USA TODAY’s parent company.

Nearly a third of Google job searches last fall were on mobile devices, up from 17% in November 2011. CareerBuilder and Indeed, another leading job-search site, say their mobile searches have more than doubled the past year.

The trend follows the broad shift of Internet usage to mobile devices, but also reflects job seekers’ desire to look for work outside their current employers’ corporate networks, during lunch or on the train ride home. Many receive e-mail alerts about new openings on their smartphones and apply immediately to get an edge on other candidates.

“It just lets people do job search anywhere, any time,” says James Beriker, CEO of Simply Hired, a job-search engine.

Even so, 29% of companies with more than 500 employees have a website that’s optimized for mobile devices, CareerBuilder says. That means most sites display tiny text that job seekers can barely read.

More critically, only about 2% of Fortune 500 companies tailor job applications for mobile users, CareerBuilder and Simply Hired say. Job candidates are typically directed to third-party sites where they must wade through applications as long as 15 pages. About 40% of job seekers on CareerBuilder who don’t use the company’s mobile software abandon the application process, Gurion says.

Job seekers can send themselves e-mail reminders to apply when they’re at a computer, but many don’t follow up, she says.

CareerBuilder, Simply Hired and Indeed offer employers mobile apps that let job seekers easily send a résumé or answer a few questions, but adoption rates vary widely.

Sun Communities, which operates manufactured home communities and RV resorts, noticed about 15% of its mobile job seekers dropping out of a cumbersome application process, says Marc Farrugia, human resources manager. Those are precisely the candidates “who are a little more cutting-edge,” ones whom the company covets, he says.

Farrugia says some mobile applicants for low-paying maintenance spots had cut off their home Internet service, so they had few other ways to apply than through mobile devices. The company recently started offering CareerBuilder’s mobile app, significantly reducing the number of abandoned applications.

Trevor Harris, 31, of Chicago says it took him nine months to find a job as a customer specialist for a document search and filing firm. He says he did about half his job searches online and routinely gave up on clunky applications. Sometimes, he forgot to follow up on them at home or work, or the positions were filled by the time he did.

“I definitely would have gotten a job sooner if (applications) would have been a little more accessible,” he says.