Applicant Onboarding – The New Staffing Challenge

By Terri Roeslmeier

June 20, 2012

Collecting information about candidates has never been more important or relevant.  Staffing companies are now beyond “the information age”.  Today the world of staffing is completely saturated with social media, email and electronic communication through websites.  Branding has never been more vital.  The floodgates have opened whether companies want to participate or not.  That being said, no staffing company can afford not to have a complete electronic applicant onboarding process in place.

Filling out a basic application and uploading a resume from a website is old news.  A formal on-line onboarding process is a new challenge that staffing companies face.  Setting up such a function requires good planning and a strategic implementation.  It’s not a matter of having the applicant fill out a few fields of information and then uploading their resume.  Applicant onboarding has taken on an entirely new course.

The essence of on-line onboarding is more than just having the applicant fill out a few fields on a web form and then uploading their resume.  Usually this results in an email being sent to the staffing company and data has to be keyed in manually and the resume uploaded.  On-line onboarding is different.  A complete onboarding application includes company branding and marketing, collection of detailed information, and on-line forms with e-signatures. It could also include the integration of testing and background checking.  All of this somehow makes its way into your staffing software.  It should be a seamless process.

With the onset of Millenials and GenXers into the workforce, it is necessary to address a new culture.  This includes gathering information about applicants in a new way.  Whether the applicant is on-line or at your office electronic methods of gathering data that filter into your software is really the only way to go today.  The industry has never been more fast-paced, nor has the competition ever been tougher.  Not only are you competing for client business but you are competing for the best applicants that the workforce has to offer.  Offering applicants of marginal quality will result in less placement opportunities.

There are many benefits to on-line onboarding.  One of the benefits is that the applicant will be entering all of the information into your system instead of you.  This immediately provides more time for the business of placement instead of data entry.  It also provides you with the information that you need in your system so that you can have valid and current data available for database searching.  The more information that you have at hand, the better position you are as a company to compete against other companies offering similar candidates.  Not only does this make for a better fit for your client’s order; but provides additional information to market and sell your candidate’s skills with confidence.

What should your onboarding look like?  Start with your staffing software.  What information is collected in your software and more important, what data would you like to have collected?  Do not be concerned that your on-line application is long.  If the candidate is serious about employment, they should be willing to provide you with the information you need in order to find them a job.  Your on-line application should also start with a resume where applicable.  The benefit of this is that the resume can be parsed automatically so that as many fields as possible can be filled in for the applicant as a convenience to them.  All they have to do then is fill in the remaining information.  It is also important to have the application available on-line or in kiosk style at your office.

If you have multiple lines of business you should have separate onboarding applications on-line that will address the information necessary for each line.  For example, if you have a more industrial type line, a shorter application may be in order.  Resume uploading should be optional as some types of candidates may not have a resume, but they may be able to fill in some on-line information for the job application.

You can include some basic interview questions. These should be simple and preliminary.  The benefit of including these types of questions is that you will have more time to talk about more substantial, profound and interesting topics when you actually speak to the candidate.  It is a form of “getting the preliminaries” out of the way, so that you can focus conversations on subjects that will give you additional momentum to drive the placement.

On-line onboarding can also include forms such as Confidentiality, Agreements for Background and Drug Testing, I9, etc.  These forms can be signed electronically.  One option is to have candidates fill out an on-line application and then send those that you choose to work with back in to sign forms after an initial conversation.  Another option is to have candidates fill out an on-line application and then complete forms at your on-line kiosk when they come into your office.  Collecting forms with e-signatures is a strong benefit as these can also find their way automatically into your staffing software.  Some forms may be secured so that only specified staff can display them. Storing forms in your software makes for easy-access and long-term form retention to avoid loss of this important information.

When applicants are filling out an on-line app, staffing firms have an opportunity to include brand messaging throughout the application.  After the application is complete, typically applicants get an email.  This email could include additional selling points.  The staffing firm should also receive an email noting that the applicant had applied.  There should be a notation on the applicant record that they came into your system via an on-line application.  This should be searchable by date.

Duplicate applications are always an issue.  This is true whether you key in applicants manually or have them apply on-line.  Look at your current database and you will more than likely find many duplicate applicants for one reason or another.  Specific information can be checked by the system before applicants are brought into your system.  If the application appears to be a duplicate of an applicant that is currently in your database, the application should be held for approval.  Usually, specific information such as phone #, email, etc. can be checked.

On-line onboarding is an effective and efficient way to get applicant information into your staffing solution.  It not only saves time but usually means that a staffing firm can capture much more information than if the application were to be keyed in manually or simply from a resume import.  In addition, it begins building a relationship between the staffing company and the applicant even before they speak to a company representative.  It also leaves more time for the interview process and allows the interviewer to be much better prepared for the interview because they will have had the information sooner.

This article made an appearance in staffdigest magazine.

Terri Roeslmeier is President of Automated Business Designs, Inc., software developer of Ultra-Staff staffing software for the staffing and direct hire industry. Ultra-Staff is a staffing software business solution with components for front office, back office and web suite.  For more information on Ultra-Staff go to

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