Tips & Tricks

Is your online application up to par?

Ross May

Online applications can be a huge help to both organizations offering application opportunities, and to those applying. They provide an easy way for applicants to submit materials, they’re convenient, and they allow organizations to collect information in one central location. In fact, the ability to apply online is quickly becoming the norm. 68% of foundations already offer an online application for their grant programs.

But having an application hosted online doesn’t necessarily mean it’s straightforward and easy to complete. Many applicants still struggle when completing online applications, whether it’s for a grant, scholarship, job, fellowship or other program.

In the case of job applications for example, online applications actually discourage many candidates. Out of 1000 participants surveyed, nearly 80 percent reported that online processes were stressful and time-intensive, especially when issues arose with technology.

The most commonly reported problems? Technical bugs, an inability to upload documents, not being able to submit using a mobile device, and no way to follow up on the progress of their application.

This highlights that simply offering your application online won’t make the process easier for your applicants. Poorly designed online systems can actually waste applicants’ time and cause unnecessary aggravation.

So how can we create an online application process that’s seamless for applicants, from start to finish? Here are five important best practices to prioritize.

Add question logic to your application forms

Question logic is a term used to describe the ability to jump to another question, or page, depending on the applicants answer to a previous question. Logic can also help to hide questions depending on the applicant’s answer to the previous question.

Have you ever chosen an answer from a drop down list, and another question magically appears below? That’s logic at work!

Hiding unnecessary questions, showing additional relevant questions, or advancing the applicant through the process can speed up the overall application. It also gives constant direction to the applicant, leaving them feeling guided through the process.

Allow applicants to save and continue

Do you ever worry about what will happen if you step away from your computer in the middle of filling something out online? You might ask, “will my progress be saved?” or “will I have to start all over again?”. Investing in a tool that allows your applicants to save and come back later not only allows them to take control of their application timeline, but also removes unnecessary stress.

Allowing your applicants to save their progress ensures that they can take the time they need to complete the application, and leaves them feeling confident when the time comes to take a break or step away from their desk. For applicants that are using a shared or public device, this feature could be the difference between a complete or incomplete application.

Provide a mobile-friendly experience

Since smartphone use is increasing each year, it only makes sense that more and more people are looking to complete everyday tasks on their mobile devices. Selecting a tool that allows your application to be responsive; or in other words, scales to fit the screen that the applicant is using and is easy to navigate through touch, is critical in creating a seamless application.

Providing your applicants with the ability to start or continue their application on various devices will result in less technical difficulties and a more accessible and positive application experience.

Automate important notifications

Once applicants have completed their submission, it’s likely they will be anxious to hear back. Keeping in contact with your applicants can help to reassure them that their application is being evaluated and give context to the timeline of your decision making process.

But sending out emails individually can be time consuming. Luckily, many application management solutions allow you to automate key notifications.

For example, once an application is submitted, you can automatically send a confirmation email to the applicant, providing them with peace of mind.

Choose a vendor that has technical support for applicants

While automated notifications can give applicants information between each step of the application, technical support can also go a long way in making applicants feel supported throughout their process.

Technical support gives applicants a channel to ask questions if they’re having trouble submitting their application, without the need for an administrator to be present. This way the applicant gets information quickly, and the administrators time isn’t taken up with immediate requests.

Choosing a solution that offers technical support for your applicants, and better yet unlimited technical support, provides your users with a resource to connect with should they have any questions or concerns, and also gives the process a human touch.

If you collect applications, it’s critical to provide a process that’s intuitive, quick and free from technical barriers. Moving online is just the first step. To learn how you can add these best practices to your process, get in touch by filling out the form below!

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