Recently, a friend of mine who is job seeking was sharing how a questionnaire they encountered on a job application played a role in significantly putting them off the company in question. It was 50 questions long, and many of them were complicated, with strangely specific context. Examples included ‘Would you give up on your own deadlines to help a colleague meet theirs?’ and ‘Do you enjoy persuading colleagues to change their opinion to match yours?’ What’s more, is this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this kind of complaint.

First impressions matter and the ‘war for talent’ has recruitment teams and HR alike putting huge amounts of effort into updating their hiring process and improving employer brand. However, after hearing multiple bad reviews of these pedantic questionnaires, there seems to be indication that they may inadvertently sabotage both the hiring process and candidate experience.

Candidate Fatigue

Lengthy questionnaires can induce candidate fatigue, leading to rushed responses or, in some cases, abandonment of the application altogether. An overly long questionnaire chock full of precise details may deter highly qualified individuals from completing the application. Additionally, with Gen Z’s famously short attention span they are a generation who prioritise efficiency, and so if you’re looking to win young graduate talent, they may want to assess the way candidate questionnaires are delivered.

Quality over Quantity

Quantity does not always equate to quality, and this holds true in the realm of candidate questionnaires. A barrage of questions may cause some candidates to prioritise speed over thoughtfulness, resulting in superficial and less insightful responses. This compromises the hiring team’s ability to assess a candidate’s true potential and fit for the vacant role.

You may want to read about what to include in a candidate experience survey.

Unnecessary Information Overload

While collecting relevant information is crucial, an excess of details can overwhelm both candidates and hiring professionals. Extraneous questions not directly related to the job at hand can dilute the hiring team’s ability to focus on essential criteria and may lead to misalignment between candidate profiles and job requirements. While it’s important for recruitment teams to assess candidates in a variety of areas, it’s important to remember that while you’re sizing up the candidate, they are doing the same to you. If they perceive your hiring process to be clunky or overly complex, there’s a risk they’ll drop out, or at least have a less positive impression.

Candidate questionnaires don’t need to be completely discarded, but they can be improved in multiple ways:

Streamline and Prioritize

Identify the most critical information needed for initial assessments and streamline the questionnaire accordingly. Focus on key competencies, experiences, and skills relevant to the role, and discus internally with the hiring manager and HR what should be priority information and what can wait for a later stage of the process.

Use Technology Wisely

Leverage technology to create dynamic, user-friendly questionnaires. Consider utilizing smart forms that adapt based on previous responses, ensuring that candidates only answer questions relevant to their background and the job requirements.

Communicate Expectations

Set clear expectations for candidates regarding the time required to complete the questionnaire. Transparency in the process can help manage expectations and reduce frustration. Begin your online application form with a note letting the candidate know what sections will be included in the application, and how long they will approximately take, allowing candidates to carve out the time in their day to put their best foot forward.

Implement Two-Stage Processes

Consider a two-stage application process, where a concise initial questionnaire is followed by a more detailed assessment for shortlisted candidates. This allows for efficient screening without overwhelming all applicants. If the role or your industry requires more in-depth psychometric or personality testing, see if it’s possible to save this for later stages of the interview so it’s not the very first impression.


While candidate questionnaires can play a vital role in the recruitment process, organisations must be mindful of the potential pitfalls associated with excessive length and detail. Balancing the need for information with the importance of a positive candidate experience is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent in today’s competitive job market. By re-evaluating and optimising application processes, organisations and recruitment teams can enhance the efficiency of their recruitment efforts while fostering a positive and lasting impression on potential hires.

About the author

Hannah Elliott