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Is your application more of an obstacle than an entry point?
Your potential applicants might be turned off by confusing instructions, time-consuming data entry, and lost information. This also means your staff has to field more questions than necessary, eating up their time.
Fortunately, there are easy fixes!
Let’s look at ten ways you can make your application less of an obstacle, and more like an open door of opportunity.
1. Keep Navigation Simple
At any given time during the process, your applicant should know precisely what they need to do next. Here are some ways you can make navigation easy and intuitive.
Scrolling through a long list of questions can be intimidating. Instead, split your application into logical sections. Here’s how to make the best use of them:
The next step to improve the applicant experience is allowing them to save and return at a later time.
However, most generic online form generators don’t have this capability.
That means users must complete the application in one sitting. This isn’t always practical, especially if the form is long or requires a team’s input.
Consider using application management software. Such a system is designed to use an applicant accounts. Not only can they return to their incomplete application, but they can also see status updates once it’s been submitted.
To save time and effort for both your applicant and reviewers, add a qualifying quiz at the beginning of your online application.
Let’s look at an example for a grantmaking organization. They might have two main criteria for eligibility - location and revenue size. Their qualifying quiz might look like this:
If the applicant answers “yes” to both questions, the application appears. If not, they receive a message that their organization is not eligible to apply.
Just make sure your grant management system offers this functionality. You want a seamless process that redirects the user immediately to the right screen.
This may seem obvious, but there are a few tricks to make sure your instructions are easy to follow and understand.
The right field type is just as important as asking the question clearly.
It can be tricky. You don’t want too many open-ended text fields because it makes reviewing applications more difficult. But you also don’t want to stifle your applicant’s ability to make their best presentation.
Here are some ways to balance both needs:
Many application processes require recommendations, especially internships and fellowships.
This can be unwieldy. Applicants must individually email their contacts, obtain the recommendation, and email (or mail?) it to someone on your staff so they can add to their application. And following up becomes another logistical challenge.
Imagine if applicants could request a recommendation -- right from within the application! It’s possible. Application management systems allows users to email their contact, add in a personal note, and then send off the request. The recipients receive an email with a custom URL where they can upload their letter. Once uploaded, it’s automatically attached to the application in the database, visible to both administrators and reviewers.
Making this critical step easier is a great way to improve your application process - for everyone involved.
Look for ways that you can reduce data entry and speed up the process for your applicants. Here are a few examples:
What happens next? This is something that many applications overlook - and addressing it can prevent a lot of easy questions.
Make sure the final screen of your application answers these questions:
One of the benefits of using application management software is the ability for applicants to log in and view their status. That can easily reduce the number of questions for your staff. Plus, you can send them a message if the decision timeline has been delayed.
Last but not least, it’s essential to test your application before you roll it out to your users.
You won’t know if the guidelines above are working unless you analyze how your target audience interacts with your application. Applicants may struggle with issues you never considered.
Plus, you’ll get a more accurate picture of the features your application needs to be successful. For example, if you have a younger audience, like college students, you might assume that they’d be comfortable with video tutorials or gifs to guide them. But when you talk to potential applicants, you might find they’d rather have the option of a live chat, email or phone number.
No more obstacles. Only opportunity. Make these ten changes to your application and watch the quality of your applicants soar - and the headaches of managing the process disappear!
If you manage any kind of application-based process (like grants, scholarships, internships, or accreditations), you want to draw the largest pool of top-notch candidates for your program.