Application Questions: What to Ask Applicants

Having an online registration software is great for your business. Making sure your online registration software is great is even more important. While this might make you think “duh” under your breath, quite frankly it’s one of the hardest tasks to achieve. The basis for any great registration process is simplicity. And registration is anything but simple, so achieving this is sometimes much easier said than done. In order to make a registration process simple you need to make a lot of smart decisions. The first is deciding what at ask applicants and how many questions to ask.

Should the registration process be short and simple or an extensive and all-encompassing one? What if it takes a million questions in order to judge an applicants eligibility or whether he’s fit for your program? What if your application process involves multiple steps that are contingent on one another? What happens if there are some applicants that need to answer additional questions when others do not?

The challenge of creating a ‘simplistic’ application process lies in the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when making a simple yet comprehensive application. There is no one right way to ask a million questions in a simple and straightforward way! Normally to achieve simplicity you need to scale back content. The secret in any great process lies in the balance between asking the right questions, at the right time!

Every company’s needs are different, so it stands to reason that every online registration software will require different things and the solution to creating a simplistic yet appropriate process will be different for everyone. So if you were hoping to get an easy ride, you’re out of luck! The good news is, anything that takes blood, sweat and tears is usually worth it in the end. So buck up and follow the tips and tricks below as a guideline when building your own registration process. We promise the end result will be worth it!

Don’t make your applicants think!

There is one thing everyone likes when filling out an forms – not having to think! People love a process that doesn’t make them think about what they are doing and why they are doing it. A registration process that allows the user to move through each step without having to understand your logic or needing to read instructions in order to decide whether this form is relevant to them, is the secret behind getting more people to complete the process.

Part of not making the applicant think is having clear labels and descriptions for the information you are asking. For example, if you know there is a high chance the person filling out the form will be the parent of the actual applicant ask for “applicant’s first name” rather than just “first name”. You will get more accurate information but more importantly the person filling out the form will not need to stop and think “is it my name or the applicant name they want?”

Find out what’s essential.

The first thing you need to do when creating your questions is to identify the most important aspects of your application. What documents and information are essential for you to receive in order to turn this person into an actual participant. Define those and include them at the start of the application.

Start by writing down, in no specific order, what you need to know about your applicants. Write everything down, including the obvious like “first name” and “last name”, as well as the things that will help you understand the applicant better and what products you should offer them. Then, cross out all the questions you know no one will enter, like “Please enter your social security number”. Once you have some basic questions created, number them from the most important to the least important. Your first 10-15 questions should be in the first and second form that your applicants fill out.

Create sections and categories.

Next, try to group your questions together in a logical way. By logical, we mean not what’s logical for you but what would make sense to an applicant who isn’t familiar with your organization or the application requirements. Remember that logical to you might be separating educational information needed for application eligibility and information you need for statistics, but an applicant doesn’t know the difference. Try to imagine yourself applying to a program that you aren’t familiar with. How would you expect the questions to be grouped and group them that way. Still having trouble? Maybe it’s time to….

Ask For Help!

Sometimes asking someone that does not know your organization to help out is the best way to gain some perspective both on your application as a whole and the logic you are hoping to achieve. An outsiders opinion is the best way to see what you can’t. If your helpful friend asks a lot of questions, is confused by why you’re asking a certain question or the way in which you’re asking, you know you have some work to do. And more often then not, this will happen. And then it will happen some more, until you get it right.

Don’t believe us? Try it! It’s a very humbling but important and invaluable experience! And it will help you take your online registration software and process itself to the next level. Promise.

Reduce Redundancy

Finally, comb through your application once you’ve arranged it into sections to see where you can cut down on length without sacrificing on information you need to receive. Remember, your first 10-15 questions should be the ones that you marked as essential in the beginning of the process. Sometimes one question might seem to be appropriate in a few different sections. While this is logical to you, it’s repetitive, confusing and annoying to someone filling out your application.

Look to see if there are any areas of your online registration process that are redundant or require similar information that you might be able to merge together. Often times you encounter a lot of redundancy when you try to mirror your previous paper process to an online one.

If you are going to use an online registration system remember that when the information is filled out once, you can always access it in a variety of different ways. So there really is no need to ask for the age of the applicant in the “personal information” section and in the “medical information” section like you might have had to do with a paper application. When you generate a report from an online database software, you can incorporate the applicant’s age in every report if you want, and you don’t need to ask for it more than once in the actual application. If you really need to ask the question twice, make sure that the computerized system automatically populates information that has been already entered to reduce the time your applicant will spend on data entry.

So to review, what to ask applicants in your online application…

Remember that one of the most important things in getting people to finish your registration process is to not make them think. They really do not care about your inner organizational logic. If they reached your registration process, they want to buy something from you, come on your program, come to your conference or be a part of your project. Help them out! Make it a process for the brain dead so they can put all their mental effort into what you are actually offering and not the process of getting there.

Here is a point by point summary (we all love them, no?) of what to ask your applicants and how. Ask yourself these questions when going over your registration process and if you hit these marks, then you’re on the right track!

  1. Do I really need to ask this question?
  2. Is the question label specific enough and understandable?
  3. Do these questions really belong together?
  4. Have I already asked this question in a previous section?

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About The Author
Asaf Darash
CEO and Founder of Regpack

Asaf, Founder and CEO of Regpack, has extensive experience as an entrepreneur and investor. Asaf has built 3 successful companies to date, all with an exit plan or that have stayed in profitability and are still functional. Asaf specializes in product development for the web, team building and in bringing a company from concept to an actualized unit that is profitable.

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