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Undercover Manager Activities

Chapter 3: Hiring New Employees

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3.1 Job Application Audit

Undercover Manager 

Activity 3.1 

Job Application Audit

In Chapter 3 (Hiring New Employees), we described initial assessments, including job application forms, that are used to narrow the pool of candidates. When designed correctly, application forms can be gold mines of useful information about job applicants’ education and experience; a well-designed application form enables employers to screen out applicants who don’t meet the job’s minimum requirements. But job applications can also be plagued with problems: unclear instructions, repetitive or overly long forms, broken links, incompatibility across mobile devices. In fact, research conducted by recruitment data providers suggests that a whopping 92% of applicants never complete their applications (Maurer, 2022).

In this activity, you will critically review your employer’s job application form. It’s important that you stand in the shoes of a job applicant, and engage with the entire application process from start to finish. You might want to reach out to your employer’s HR team – or an HR manager on your “kitchen cabinet” (see UM 1.1 Kitchen Cabinet) – and ask permission to “walk through” the organization’s job application process (usually an online process). In our experience, HR teams are usually happy to accommodate managers’ requests to “go undercover” as job applicants. Some employers have distinct job applications for different roles. You can focus on the application associated with a job of personal interest (e.g., a job you’ve held in the past or aspire to in the future).

As you go through the job application process, keep a list of the pain points and missed opportunities you encounter. To identify pain points, consider the time and effort involved in completing the application: How long did it take? Were there unnecessary or redundant questions? Were the instructions overly long or complicated? Were you able to easily backtrack to correct or edit your responses? To identify missed opportunities, consider how the application process reflects on your employer: Did the application provide consistent branding and insight into your employer’s culture? Did the application raise any concerns (e.g., by asking intrusive questions or questions that were not clearly job-related)? By the time the application process was complete, were you (the hypothetical job applicant) feeling more – or less! – interested in the job?

Once you’ve identified the problems, you can switch gears to consider improvements. Which problems are easiest to correct? Which problems have the biggest consequences? How could your employer modify the application process to generate positive reactions from applicants – even applicants who fail to make the first cut?


Building better job applications:

Maurer, R. (2022, February 16). Most people—92%—never finish online job applications. Society for Human Resource Management.  

Young, R. (2022). The problem with your application process and how to improve it to attract better candidates. Ag Hires. Retrieved, April 18, 2022, from

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