Changing how we ask candidates why they withdrew an application

Illustration with the text ‘Why are you withdrawing this application? (optional)

We changed how we ask candidate why they withdrew their application from an open question to a list of options.

This change was made on 11 April 2023.

The issue

Previously, when a candidate withdrew their application – either when awaiting a decision or after accepting an offer – we asked an open optional question about their reasons for withdrawing.

We told candidates that this information would not be shared with providers.

A second question asked if we could get in touch with them to speak about their experience using the service. This was to enable user researchers to recruit participants.

Screenshot showing a page with the title 'Course choice withdrawn' followed by 2 Yes or No questions: 'Do you have a reasons for withdrawing?' and 'Can we contact you about your experience of using this service?'. Both questions show the answer 'Yes' having been selected, which has revealed text fields asking for more details.

The issues with asking an open question were that:

  • the text took a lot of manual work to analyse, resulting in this often not happening
  • the extra effort in writing out a reason may have resulting in more candidates choosing not to share a reason

We also found that we were not making use of the second question to recruit candidates for research.

What we did

We changed the page to instead display a list of checkboxes with common reasons for withdrawal, inviting candidates to select any that applied.

Screenshot showing a page with the title 'Reasons for withdrawing'. 2 questions are shown: 'Why are you withdrawing this application? (optional)' which has 12 options, each with a checkbox, and 'Is there anything else you would like to tell us? (optional)' which has a text field.

We told candidates that the reasons they selected would be shared with the provider, but as anonymous feedback.

We included a second optional open question of ‘Is there anything else you would like to tell us?’ so that candidates could give us any details if they wanted to. We told candidates that this information would not be shared with providers, to allow them to be more candid.

Further considerations

We should keep the list of reasons given under review, to see if there any that should be added or removed.

The details shared in the open question should be periodically reviewed. We could consider removing this question if details are rarely given.