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To get the best employees, companies must look to their phones

By Matt Lindner

For Sun-Times Media

In the past, using a phone to find a job meant cold-calling recruiters and hiring managers.

Today, it means job seekers can search listings on the go.

Nearly 10 million people used a smartphone to search for a job in the past year, with that number only expected to rise, according to a study by job search engine SimplyHired.

But experts say employers — and their websites — aren’t keeping up. A new CareerBuilder survey found only 23 percent of companies made it a priority to make sure their job postings were easy to use on mobile devices.

“For the employers who recognize the importance of mobile optimization, the accessibility provides a competitive advantage to connect with candidates quickly anytime, anywhere,” says Hope Gurion, chief product officer at Chicago-based CareerBuilder. “This is especially critical when you consider that employers are having a hard time filling high-skill, specialized roles in areas like technology and health care, and many high-skill workers are using mobile devices to search for jobs.”

Mobile-optimized sites are designed specifically for use on phones and tablets, with streamlined layouts and features that fit smaller screens. Sites defined as mobile-friendly are designed to display on a desktop computer as well as a mobile device.

The CareerBuilder survey also revealed that only 99 companies in the Fortune 500 have mobile-friendly job-search sites, with 14 allowing potential candidates to apply using their phones and tablets.

“Despite the high volume of job searches taking place on mobile devices, employers have been slower to provide a truly optimized mobile apply process,” Gurion says.

CareerBuilder certainly has an interest in making mobile job hunts smoother all-around. “The better the user experience, the better the application rate from mobile users,” says company spokesman Jennifer Grasz. “The better the application rate, the better the ROI for employers,” who pay to post jobs on the site.

And user experience matters. An employer could be missing out on top talent, especially in tech-savvy fields, if its website is difficult to use on mobile, Gurion says.

“It’s not unusual for job seekers to encounter applications that are 10 or 15 pages long on their cellphones and drop off,” she says. “Research shows that 65 percent of workers who search for jobs via mobile devices will leave a website if it is not mobile-optimized; 40 percent walk away with a more negative opinion of the company.”

The good news for companies large and small is that mobile isn’t the be-all and end-all of recruiting — yet. The SimplyHired survey stated that while many job hunters will learn about a new gig via their mobile device, “when mobile users revisit the job for the second time, they are more likely to view it using a desktop.”