How to handle an influx of applications now
There have been major shifts in the employment landscape due to COVID-19. Some industries are seeing high-volume hiring, and interest for roles that wouldn’t typically attract a lot of applicants. Others are facing high redundancies and a small pool of new roles.

It means that for many roles, application numbers are high.

So how can you handle an influx of applications in this environment? Here are three methods that can contribute to a clear application management strategy, to help you handle the volume and use it to your advantage – now and in the future.

Leverage technology

“Technology is always useful for taking sizeable applications down to manageable portions,” says Adele Last, recruitment expert and the Senior Recruitment Manager at Victoria’s Department of Transport (DOT).

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, DOT has used technology through a combination of off-the-shelf and customised tools to manage applications and place the right talent.

“A pre-determined list of criteria set up through a database is helpful to whittle down large numbers, but we still need to be able to see the human side of things and meet the talent,” she says.

That’s where recorded video interviewing technology steps in. “It’s the biggest gamechanger, and the closest to conducting a real-life interview. It saves so much time,” she adds. DOT uses a tool that allows them to record questions themselves or select from a library of actors. It’s used as a precursor to a live video interview.

Stephen Carter, Founding Partner at Sharp and Carter, says managing large volumes isn’t something new. Still, he believes that in this current landscape it’s especially important to use technology to keep the lines of communication open.

“We use recruitment software to ensure that every candidate receives notifications in a timely and respectful manner – so they know where they stand in the journey in such an unsettling time,” he says.

Wayne Fry, Senior Consultant at Hunter Campbell, agrees an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is critical for staying on top of high-volume recruitment.

“An ATS keeps all the paperwork in one place, but it also allows you to easily see which applicants are the best match for your positions,” he says.

Fry uses custom solutions for more complex recruitment processes. “For example, a senior role will require a greater focus on screening and interviewing, so a one-size-fits-all approach that works well for high-volume recruitment would not be appropriate,” he adds.

Innovate your approaches

Last’s team has been focussing on internal training to look at traditional approaches to recruitment differently, and with a greater diversity lens.

She believes that good recruitment is as much about what candidates could do in the future as what they have done in the past, and in recent times government has introduced some new recruitment policies that focus on growth potential. This includes special measures to balance teams based on certain diversity targets like gender and ethnicity.

“It’s about encouraging the right people to apply and structuring teams in the best ways,” she says.

Carter explains the current COVID-19 market is “supply led”, so hirers are in a position to be more specific about what they are looking for as a way of attracting quality candidates.

“I’ve definitely noticed an increase in the number of criteria employers are seeking to fulfil so for us it’s about refining approaches, filtering people out and still placing the best talent,” he says.

Considering the things employees value outside of money such as purpose, learning and choice can also help shape the way you attract talent.

Nurture talent and build pools

Organisations can use large volumes of applications to their advantage, especially when it comes to building talent pools for the future.

Last says it’s all about the process and trying to get as much information upfront as possible, without impacting too much on the candidate experience. “Speedy turnaround time is critical,” she advises.

Fry says the use of search and talent pools is becoming increasingly important – especially for specialist areas – because in his experience, despite the large number of applications to advertisements, nearly 90% of candidates placed at the moment are found through search and talent pools.

Candidate care has also always been a priority at Sharp and Carter, but even more so in this climate. “For us, it’s all about building and maintaining positive relationships especially given that a candidate today may become a customer tomorrow,” Carter says.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, they’ve rolled out a suite of digital tools to help nurture candidates and build talent pipelines, including fortnightly webinar masterclasses on the art and science of job searching and virtual events with expert insights and discipline-specific content.

“We’ve also developed candidate toolkits to support people who are job searching,” he explains.

Why a clear application management strategy matters now

These methods can contribute to creating a clear application management strategy. Both Carter and Last agree that having a good strategy in place is key to managing high volumes, as it helps to create fairness, make processes more efficient, build relevant talent pools and guarantee quality candidates are placed in the right roles.

“Having a consistent approach means the candidate gets a positive and engaging experience as well,” Fry explains.

Managing an influx of applications can come with added pressure and considerations in this changed employment market. Leveraging technology, adopting new approaches and focusing on future talent pools can help you to work through the volume sooner, and turn it into an advantage in the long run.

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