The Hidden Cost of Too Many Job Applicants

Jun 26, 2019

One of the top candidate complaints is not getting a callback, an email update, or anything after they apply for a job. This frustration is often amplified when a candidate believes that they are a good fit within the job description requirements, they’ve researched the company, went through the application process gauntlet, which has only lead them to … silence.

When recruiters are desperate for quality candidates, I find it puzzling when this critical relationship-building step is mismanaged. One realistic answer I can conjure — and the data supports — is extremely high candidate volume. As a recruiter, receiving and dispositioning hundreds of candidates on a single job or group of jobs can be an entire second gig. This key issue can be attributed to the reason that many recruiters don’t have the time to respond to applicants.

When a recruiter gets hundreds of applicants, only a subsegment get a real look. The recruiter will pull out the first handful of good or great candidates and the rest will be dropped in the trash, regardless of fit. Even with new technology that helps recruiters find the best requirement “matches,” recruiters can’t wait 15, 30, or 60 days for all the applicants to come in before starting to call the “best. There are two reasons for this rush: 1) hiring managers need candidates immediately, and 2) if they wait to call the first candidates, another company will have called, interviewed, and hired them already. The fear of missing out drives immediate action.

Conversely, the problem of candidate “over-delivery” happens when the job is shown to too many candidates (who miss out on seeing other jobs) — causing a great “applying experience,” but not necessarily a great “getting hired experience.” For the jobs that suffer from not being shown to candidates, recruiters must dedicate more time and effort toward sourcing. The time spent sourcing directly impacts the time the recruiter has to touch all of the good candidates who have applied to the jobs receiving too many applicants.

It’s a vicious cycle. And in both scenarios, the similarity is this: a terrible candidate hiring experience.

Leading sourcing companies and programmatic, rules-based job ad vendors in the marketplace have started to try to solve this issue of over- and under-delivery with the end goal of creating a better candidate hiring experience. A few of these impactful “candidate-centric” features are ones I’ve seen rolled out on LinkedIn. These features tell a candidate two things:

  1. How many people have already applied for the job
  2. How the candidate ranks based on LinkedIn’s definition of “experience”

While No. 2 could potentially be deeply flawed but seems helpful, (matching technology can rank folks based on an MBA or loads of experience which can create unrealistic biases) No. 1 is insightful. Knowing how many people have already applied for a job is incredibly valuable intel for candidates who understand what this data is telling them. It provides a clear indication of the likelihood that a candidate will get called back or if they will find themselves lost into the ever-present black hole. It separates out the concept of “applying” for a job from a chance at “getting hired” for a job. Candidates don’t want to apply to hundreds of jobs to just get forgotten. They want to apply to a few they really want and get selected.

A study we conducted with ZipRecruiter shows that candidates underestimate the power of being “at the front of the line.” As you can see in the image, candidate No. 1 is two times more likely to be viewed than candidate No. 100.

The simple conclusion that every candidate should draw is that speed is your best friend. LinkedIn has been able to capitalize on this key factor. Smart applicants take advantage of this.

The gist of my long-winded explanation is a cry for change. And this cry is two fold.

First, to the employers and hiring organizations. You don’t have to wait until other job sites adopt LinkedIn’s method of educating job seekers on how many candidates have already applied to a job. A great candidate experience — a great candidate hiring experience — is completely within reach if you invest in the necessary tools and technology that support pacing candidates appropriately against your allotted budget.

Second, to the job sites and sourcing companies — thinking beyond driving “activity” to your clients’ jobs is crucial. Providers that fail to build solutions that align job advertising spend with hiring activities will eventually get left in the dust. Employers need (and want) to move away from buying ads and into buying actions that deliver the right amount of hirable candidates.

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