Quality Applicants versus Quantity of Applies

Is Bigger (more) always better? Can less really be more? Let’s discuss

We can all agree on at least one thing. The ultimate goal for any hiring manager looking to fill an open position is to make a good, quality hire and to fill the position as quickly as possible. The ideal hiring process entails opening a position, interviewing three to five qualified and interested applicants, ranking those qualified applicants by factors like experience, cultural fit, attitude, hunger, potential, etc., and then picking the best one to move forward with an offer. Probably not a lot of disagreement so far. It is what precedes this part of the hiring process that lends itself to a healthy level of debate.

Unlike the final stage of the process noted above, schools of thought often diverge on the sourcing side of the equation. To get those three to five qualified and interested applicants, you must often review dozens of applications. You also may have to conduct an exhausting number of phone screens to separate the qualified and interested applicants from the large pool of interested but unqualified applicants.  

Of course, this isn’t always the case. In fact, it is an active choice. Rapid advancements in recruitment technology over the past few years provide several switches and levers you can pull to assist with this process of separating the wheat from the chaff or finding diamonds in the rough. It really depends on your preferences, tools, and organizational hiring philosophy.

Volume Based Approach: More is Better

If applicant quantity is your primary focus, recruitment advertising platforms can deliver many applicants. Features like ‘one click apply’ make applying painfully easy and yield an abundant applicant flow. If you have the time to sort through dozens, if not hundreds, of applicants you may enjoy this approach and pride yourself on finding those ‘diamonds in the rough’. Just keep in mind, the majority of these applicants have never read the job description so most of your efforts will be spent weeding through “the rough” to get to those diamonds.  

One click applies unquestionably increases applicant flow and respects the job seeker’s time. It is so easy that a desperate job seeker can literally take five minutes and apply to dozens of jobs based strictly on the job title without ever actually reading the job description, requirements, or minimum qualifications. Click, apply… Click, apply… Click, apply. While this approach will drive a heavy flow of “applicants”, the majority of these will be curiosity clicks versus informed applicants. Most of these applicants won’t even meet the minimum qualifications outlined in the job description. Of course, you can include screening questions to help “pull the weeds”,  but all that really does is help you more efficiently waste your time.  

While the above sounds a bit like madness, it’s surprising how many companies, especially small businesses, gauge the success or failure of their efforts strictly based on the volume of applies. Clearly, the ‘More is always better’ mentality is very prevalent with this segment of the market.

Quality Based Approach: Less Is More

While dedicated recruiting teams may have the resources to diligently weed through the pile of interested applicants to find those who are qualified (which may actually be the most thorough approach), this process just isn’t practical for most small and mid-sized businesses that don’t have the luxury of dedicated sourcers.

If you fall into the ‘Less is more’ category, you might think twice about utilizing ‘one click apply’ functionality. Instead, you might consider an approach that requires all job seekers to apply directly on your career site where, you can list the full detailed job description, minimum qualifications, and necessary experience. You might also want to consider adding a handful of light screening (knock-out) questions to help weed out those that don’t possess the minimum requirements.

You can (and should) continue to broadly distribute your job openings across relevant and general recruitment advertising platforms. However, by routing the responding applicants back to your career site to review the full job description and requirements and to complete a simple application process, you can have the best of both worlds, a quantity of interest resulting in a reasonable number of qualified applicants

Will your apply volume drop? Absolutely. Will your efficiency improve? Undoubtedly. Perhaps instead of looking at 50 applicants to extract the three to five, you want to advance, you only have to screen eight to ten to yield the same pool of qualified and interested candidates.  

In Conclusion

There are no right or wrong answers in talent acquisition. Your approach depends on industry, geography, reputation, brand recognition, job type, resources available, etc. You know your company better than anyone and you are the only one that truly knows all of the factors that make your hiring needs unique. That said, you would be well advised not to overemphasize volume of applies as the most critical factor in your selection of resources, partners, and advertising platforms. With the ultimate end game of interviewing three to five qualified and interested candidates to make your hire, you should look first at quality, then quantity. If you can accomplish the same goals with less effort, why wouldn’t you?

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