A 1600% Increase in Job Applications: Hiring During COVID-19

There will be more unqualified candidates in the market than you have ever seen. If you think you get a lot of time-wasting applications now, get ready for that to increase exponentially. Beware of the cost involved in the extra work here – this is where the support of a specialist recruiter will be invaluable. So, let’s…

A 1600% Increase in Job Applications: Hiring During COVID-19

There will be more unqualified candidates in the market than you have ever seen. If you think you get a lot of time-wasting applications now, get ready for that to increase exponentially. Beware of the cost involved in the extra work here – this is where the support of a specialist recruiter will be invaluable.

So, let’s think about this: The generally-accepted folklore amongst recruiters is that if unemployment is at 4.5%, then probably most of the people in the community who want work, have work. I know that is not exactly the case, but I also know that when unemployment dips under 4.5%, the quality and number of applications for roles decreases exponentially.

The opposite happens when the percentage goes above 4.5% – you start to get an increase. Above 7%, the application rate accelerates, and the numbers really grow. Despite the official statistics, the current unemployment rates in Australia and New Zealand are probably around 10% already, as they are masked by lagging data and wage subsidy programmes. To lend anecdotal support to this claim; in the last week I have heard of a number of cases very senior managers (Asia-Pacific) applying to junior management roles. Likewise, we saw an operations role that would have normally attracted 1-15 applications receive 249 applications (that is a 1600% increase) within the first 24 hours – so the signs are already here that the recruitment market has changed dramatically.

Over the last ten years, our numbers at Frontline show that, on average, each candidate applies to 4.4 jobs, and if that candidate is unemployed, the number of applications they submit increases to 12.7. Unemployment has been steady at around the 4-6% range in both Australia and New Zealand during this time. Post COVID-19, the increased competition for roles will mean these numbers are going to increase dramatically – and this is before we even start to consider the increase in candidates!

I estimate that, as indicated above, we will see around a 1000% increase in applications received for advertised roles, particularly in industries where there are low barriers to entry or where skills are transferrable across industries, such as sales, management, helpdesk and customer service roles.  But for roles that have specific skill requirements, we will not get this sort of increase – health and technical are examples of this.

Is 1000% over the top? Well, Seek is already down 50% in job ads, and whilst that figure may come back up a little, there will be fewer jobs, more candidates, the barrier to applying has never been lower and we will have a very “motivated” candidate cohort.

Anyone who has been involved in recruitment will know that a very large proportion of applications received for a role will not be suitable, which can be frustrating, time-consuming and expensive. 

So, what to do? There are a few ways to tackle this issue. Better ad writing and filtering will be important, as will restructuring internal recruitment teams and/or outsourcing parts of the recruitment process. This all contributes to reducing costs. In response, we are likely to start seeing recruitment agencies unbundling their services more than in the past, and offering resources to assist with hiring (I will discuss this more in future blogs).

I trust this information inspires some thought and discussion around solutions. Stay safe and all the best on the “road back” – and if you have any questions about navigating the pool of unqualified candidates, feel free to reach out.

If you missed the first article in this series where I introduced the ten key challenges employers will face in a high unemployment environment, click here to read it.

Pete Davis is Managing Director of Frontline Recruitment Group (FRG). FRG is a specialist recruitment company with 30 offices across Australia and New Zealand. They have been operating since the early 1990s and have worked in high unemployment environments with employers and job hunters in many different industries. This blog series is about sharing some of the lessons of the past and integrating them with the technology and business practices of today. We hope you enjoy these articles and welcome your opinions.