Should the number of vacancies be the measurement of workload?

Jamie Sharp

Writer & Blogger

The answer is NO.

Since lockdown was eased and people began returning to work, there has been a steady increase in the number of job vacancies advertised. Numbers are still significantly down with a low of 478,717 between May and July 2020, which has now risen to 736,237 between July and September according to the LinkedIn Live Job Board (here is also some interesting stats on the subject). This, however, is still down compared to the period of July and September 2019.

This is only one aspect of the current recruitment story.

Number of vacancies

Vacancies increases so does the number of applications

The biggest competitive factor now isn’t the number of jobs available but the number of applications for each job, which is boosting competition to record highs. In the worst hit areas of the UK 40+ unemployed people are chasing every job. Tony Wilson, Director at The Institute of Employment Studies (IES) has described it as the ‘toughest job market in a generation’.

The most significant rise in applications has been for junior entry-level roles in a variety of industries from HR, Accountancy and Digital Marketing to Graphic Design and Food Operatives. Read how Graduate Recruitment has evolved since Coronavirus.

Many of these roles have seen staggering numbers of applicants. In July 2020 a Trainee Paralegal role received 4,228 applications, an HR Assistant role 3,333 and a Trainee Accountant role 3,272. This trend isn’t just applicable to professional positions but extends to Night Hygiene Operatives, 1,485, NHS 111 Call Handler, 1,656 and Administrator 2,154 applications.

Those who are choosing to stick with their current roles, if they aren’t facing redundancy at the moment, aren’t confident about their futures. This is more noticeable in those under 30, where 39% believe that their jobs are under imminent threat compared to 40-55-year-olds who are a little more confident with 27% believing their jobs could disappear.

As a result of people staying in their current roles, the job market could face a glut of less experienced candidates competing for a reduced pool of jobs. This has been exacerbated by job losses because of the Covid-19 Pandemic with 10% of workers under 30 now unemployed and 6% of workers between 40 and 55.

Is the number of vacancies an accurate representation of the amount of work involved?

If you work in recruitment, whether internally or externally as a consultant, you’d normally judge how busy you were by the number of roles you were handling. However, with a massive rise in the number of applications and a significant reduction in the number of vacancies, much as half, then this metric is looking outdated.

Internal recruitment teams are being affected most significantly by how the recruitment process has evolved since the start of the pandemic. This is being exacerbated by the reduction of in-house recruitment teams or the prospect of redundancy.

These recruiters are expected to deliver the same level of service and candidate care they would have done pre Covid-19, in what has become an even more pressurised environment.

The workload internal recruiters are experiencing is being seriously underestimated and with the increase in applications for each role, running recruitment for 20 roles in some cases are the equivalent of running 100 just last year.

This additional pressure and workload are having a knock effect on longer term recruitment projects – associated with driving diversity inclusion, talent pipelining, onboarding and internal mobility. These have all suffered as recruiters are spending far more time sifting through and responding to a large volume of applications, up to 4x more than would normally be expected.

With this level of response to every job advertisement, it is imperative that every step in the process is streamlined and efficient from processing CVs, passing them to the hiring manager to getting a decision on who to take forward to interview.

Persuading hiring managers that, given the number of applicants, speed is key to achieving a positive recruitment result for them can often be an uphill battle causing internal SLAs to fall by the wayside as recruiters struggle to re-educate hiring managers on the new reality when recruiting for roles at any level.

Another side effect of the reduced headcount in recruitment teams and the high volumes of applications being received is one of time. Recruiters are finding themselves in the position of not having enough time to sift through the hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications they receive for each role.

Often, they may be in a position of only having the time to read 30% of the CVs, leaving 70% untouched. As a result, potentially great candidates could be missed, and applicants may not receive a response of any kind from the company. This could pose a potential risk to damaging the brands reputation and the candidate care it promises to provide.

Tesco’s experienced a similar deluge of CVs when it was recruiting to cope with the surge in demand following the outbreak of Covid-19. It normally receives around 5,000 CVs a day for roles across its stores. This surged to over 200,000, a 3900% increase, following mass redundancies in the hospitality sector. This equated to over 300 applications being received per minute compared to the normal 9 per minute.

The final point to be considered is the scaling down of Talent Acquisition Teams. Although cost reduction is paramount in the current climate, eSift support these in-house teams, and yet it seems short-sighted to reduce Talent Acquisition headcount because the number of vacancies the business is recruiting for has gone down, when in reality the workload to deal with the surge in applicants has in fact increased.

Find out how our award-winning, on-demand recruitment solutions can reshape the way you meet your hiring needs.

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