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The Employee Application Challenge

Furniture World Magazine


Just 30 percent of employers offer a mobile-friendly application process. What can you do to make sure your retail operation attracts top talent?

Anyone who owns a company or leads an enterprise has some challenging days. You know the kind… the days where you worry about being able to staff your store, meet your production schedule or service your client base. These challenges come and go, but when it comes to being able to serve customers, many retail store owners and managers will tell you these concerns keep them up at night.

You may also find yourself wondering what has happened to all the great talent and applicants we used to get? You pay well, have lots of long-term employees and carry great products. So why does it have to be so difficult?

Today’s group of applicants are simply not going into stores and shopping like previous generations. That means they’ll find you online. Look around and you will see that just about everyone is on a mobile device, providing 24/7 access and the ability to instantly connect. It should be no surprise then that job candidates expect this same convenience when applying.

The Data

Here is data from our home office at the MRINetwork that provides results and real-time employment data from recruiters and companies. The 2019 MRINewtwork Recruitment Study found that many employers have not adapted their application process for ease of use on a mobile platform.

Seventy-six percent of candidates say they expect to be given the ability to submit applications and receive feedback via a mobile device. However, just 30 percent of employers offer a mobile-friendly application process. While that's up from 10 percent in 2015, according to a separate analysis from the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), employers aren't transitioning to these on-the-go options as quickly as today’s workers expect.

Josh Ostrega, chief operating officer and co-founder of the software company WorkJam, told SHRM that it's in employers' best interest to invest in the digital era.

"These companies may be missing out on the most qualified prospects," Ostrega explained. "Highly-skilled workers don't stay unemployed for long. Enforcing a sluggish application process encourages strong candidates to look elsewhere."

Your job application process is an important focal point in a tight labor market. With unemployment at all-time lows we find ourselves in a war for talent across the consumer goods industry.

Your job application process is an important focal point in a tight labor market. With unemployment at all-time lows we find ourselves in a war for talent.

As an executive search consultant in our industry I have seen first-hand that the home furnishings sector is not immune from the talent shortage. Entry level positions, specifically commission sales roles, are now becoming increasingly difficult to fill.

The Applicant's Perspective

  1. Review Your Career Page:

    The first thing store owners and hiring authorities should do is review their company's "career page" from the applicant's perspective. The goal is to make sure it is mobile optimized and user friendly, fast and transparent.

    Make sure you do the review from a mobile device. Start this process on your own and take notes using the following checklist. Focus on two key areas. How does your career site portray your brand and is there ease and transparency found throughout the application process?

    • Review the Competition: Would your Career or Employment page attract top talent candidates from your competition? How does it compare to your competitor’s website?

    • History and Culture: Do you have a page that tells the company story and highlights its core values? Is there a description of the culture and top reasons to work for the company?

    • Benefits: Are benefits summarized and highlighted? Note how they match up with your competition.

    • Success Stories | Career Pathing: Does your site relate success stories featuring your current employees?

    • Community Involvement: What does your page communicate about your company's commitment and interactions within the local communities you serve?

    • Job posting links: Are postings linked back to your page even if you are using an aggregator board like Indeed or Career Builder?

  2. Get a Younger Opinion:

    If you are an older millennial or more advanced in age, seek out a younger millennial and perhaps someone from the Gen Y group who you feel will provide you with honest feedback about your process. Ask them to apply online and critique the process. You may want to ask them the following questions:

    • Are there easy to access links to get relevant job information?

    • Does it tell them clearly what they need to do, and how long the process will take?

    • Is there an applicant tracking system or some type of pipeline system in place?

    • Can they apply using their LINKEDIN or Facebook profile to sign in?

    • Does the candidate get a response and the ability to opt in for more information and updates from the company when a new position of interest is posted?

    Getting this type of feedback will give you a good idea if your application process is easy and mobile-friendly. It will let you know if your brand message compares favorably with other employers in your trading area.

Bob Mills Furniture

Let's look at a great example of a retailer that proves you don’t have to be a mega-retailer to compete for top talent. In preparing this article I reviewed several furniture industry websites to find an illustration of retail best practices. One that really stands out is Bob Mills Furniture. Bob Mills is a top-100 Furniture retailer operating nine stores in Oklahoma and Texas.



Bob Mills Furniture does three things that together make for an impressive magnet for retail talent.

  1. A Welcome video by the Owner and Founder Bob Mills is found on the career page.

  2. The page has a simple outline including sections covering Benefits, Training, Community Involvement and Employee Success stories.

  3. A pop-up called FastApp includes a quick form and makes it easy to attach a resume and provide an email and phone number.

The Bottom Line – everything is centered around demonstrating to the applicant that Bob Mills is a great place to work. As soon as a prospective applicant lands on the career page, they see the welcome video that explains the company's core values including an assertion from the owner that “everyone is family.”

Jill Machell, Executive Director of Human Resources at Bob Mills, provided additional perspective about their process.

“We find that sales professionals and applicants don’t have a lot of time, so our goal is to make it quick, easy and mobile friendly. We have very few hard-coded fields, so our application process is designed to get them into our system quickly.”

In addition, she explained that they have a recruiter on staff who follows up with applicants. LinkedIn is used as an additional conduit to search for candidates.

Jill described one of the key elements of their recruiting process that helps them to maintain their talent pipeline. “As a private company, we have the ability to be flexible and try many things to drive change in human resources. We constantly tweak the careers page and HR receives the attention and support from the top including the President, CFO and the entire team."

Disappointing Pages

Also visited were several disappointing sites that will remain unidentified. This included some that still directed applicants to send a resume to HR as an attachment and did not appear to be mobile optimized. They also didn't present form fields to capture and track applicant data. One site still required the applicant to download a lengthy PDF application form. You can imagine in today’s digital world how reluctant an applicant would be to go through several steps to stop and fill out an application. It's highly likely that they would move on to the next opportunity.

According to the 2019 MRINetwork Recruitment Trends Study, 40 percent of candidates expressed frustration over an application process taking longer than 10 or 15 minutes. A total of 71 percent expressed frustration at having to upload a resume, and then still being expected to manually enter info displayed on the resume on screen.

40 percent of candidates expressed frustration over an application process taking longer than 10 or 15 minutes.

Additional Technology

If your organization can make additional technology investments, consider offering quick-apply options on job boards and social networking sites such as LinkedIn, where candidates can simply provide their profile link for consideration. If you’re directing applicants to apply through a career site, make sure downloaded resumes can be parsed so that candidates don’t have to make manual entries. Ask your web designer to create form fields or landing pages that are common today and are economical. This will capture information on your website and make sure that the right person gets the applicant’s information quickly so they can be contacted.

Harnessing the power of mobile technology is a win-win, both for candidates and your company's ability to attract top talent on an ongoing basis. Ensure your organization isn’t losing out on hiring the best people in the industry because of a clunky, outdated process.

About Bill O'Malley: Bill O’Malley is the owner and co-founder of Connector Team Recruiting, a specialized search firm working with Furniture | Mattress | Electronics Owners, Presidents and HR executives. Since 2012 he has connected Furniture Enterprises with top talent. Connector Team is an affiliate office of MRINetwork, recently ranked as a Top Recruitment Firm by Forbes Magazine.

To read Bill's blog on the Connector Team Recruiting website, click here.

If you want a pdf copy of the MRINetwork Recruitment Trends Study, call Bill O'Malley at (434) 227-4330 or send him an email at bill@connectorteamrecruiting.com. Connector Team is headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia.