Tech Ladies has helped hundreds of companies grow their teams and, lately, we’ve been picking up on a theme…
“I’m so overwhelmed by the number of applicants for this role.”
“I want to give everyone a fair shot but there are too many applications to review them all.”
“Every time I review one application, ten more flow in!”
Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone!
We’ve talked to dozens of hiring managers who are facing hundreds (if not thousands) of candidates for every open role. Many are taking down their job postings after a few days, but still struggling to review all the applications that came through in the meantime.
This is a super common problem right now, but it’s also a solvable one. We’ve been there, and we know what works! Check out our top strategies below for combating application overload below.
Cut down on spammy/unqualified candidates
Posting your open role on big sites like LinkedIn or Indeed can bring you lots of candidates - but they may not be the right candidates. Prioritize quality over quantity by instead posting where your ideal candidates hang out.
Niche job boards and communities are a great place to get a smaller pool of highly-qualified candidates. What better place to look for a Chief of Staff than the Chief of Staff Network after all? They are literally swimming in qualified candidates! As a bonus, you’ll be able to target both active and passive applicants.
There are niche job boards and communities for specific roles, industries, locations, and even tied to affinity groups (like Tech Ladies!). These can easily be found with a few quick Google searches, and posting on about 3 to 5 of them can help ensure a diverse candidate pool.
Posting on these job boards can be perceived as more expensive because you’re getting less reach and fewer candidates, but this is counter to the “quality over quantity” strategy that we've seen work again and again over the years.
After all, would you rather have 250 applicants with a 5% interview rate? Or 50 applicants with a 25% interview rate?
I’ll save you the math 😉 - both scenarios net you 12 interviews, but one requires you to review 5x as many applications. Even better, it’s fairly easy to improve these stats (and your ROI) over time.
Most Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) will allow you to create a unique application link for each source so you can easily track how many candidates from each are moving on to the interview and offer stages. Over time, you can use this data to see what niche sources work best for you, and for which types of roles.
Increase your qualified candidate pool
Sourcing is often thought of as a time-intensive activity that’s only worth it for really hard-to-fill roles in the technical org and/or C-suite. But that’s not always the case! If you’re facing too many applications, sourcing can supplement a niche job board strategy like the one outlined above. (Especially if you need more volume for the middle of your funnel because not enough of your applicants are making it through the interviews.)
The average response rate for cold outreach like this on LinkedIn is about 20%, but it can be significantly higher for roles that aren’t as heavily recruited.
Experienced recruiters usually know their personal response rate, or can easily calculate it. If yours is above 20-30% and your “application to phone screen” rate is <10%, it’s probably worth dedicating a few hours to sourcing.
Of course, if you’re a Tech Ladies partner, you can source directly from our Talent Network, where candidates have been hand-picked by our team and the response rate is upwards of 70% across all roles and seniority levels. 👀
With that kind of math, sourcing for all mid- to senior level roles is a no-brainer!
Spend less time reviewing applications
We’ve already written about why it’s important to craft an inclusive job description with thoughtful requirements, but the job application itself is just as important. You need to gather enough information to know whether an applicant is a fit for a phone screen, but also not turn people off with a long application.
Many companies do this by including 3 to 5 “screening questions” on their applications to make reviewing applications more efficient.
Screening questions work best when they revolve around the “deal breakers” for a given role. They should either ask the candidate to confirm that they meet key requirements or to succinctly summarize the most important skills or experience.
We recommend thinking about what you and your team are looking for in your first pass of application reviews and the most common reasons you disqualify candidates. Are you looking for a very specific skill? A certain type of experience? Or maybe you get a lot of international applicants for in-person roles?
For example, a company that’s only hiring in a specific country may include a yes-or-no question about whether a candidate lives in that place. Candidates who say “no” can then be disqualified without the recruiter having to manually go through everyone’s resumes in search of location details.
Other examples include:
Do you have experience in [required skill]?
Tell us about your experience using [required skill]?
What interests you about [our industry] and this role specifically?
Stacking a few questions like this forces the candidate to quickly summarize what you and your team would otherwise have to glean for yourself on every single application. This saves you a lot of time, but it can also help you evaluate written communication skills, attention to detail, and genuine interest in the role.
But despite all these pros, screening questions still require a delicate balance!
For one, you run the risk of eliminating qualified candidates who don’t fit in the neat little box you’ve created. In the example above, that might be candidates in the process of moving, or who are willing to do so. It might be a small number of candidates in the grand scheme of things, but you want to be aware of the trade-off you’re making with every question.
Screening questions can add up! If your application is long, it can prevent you from finding the right talent or even just create hurdles that disproportionately affect underrepresented candidates.
Additionally, it’s become trendy to include a blurb on your job postings that encourages candidates to apply even if they don’t meet all the requirements. If you include something like this and then immediately disqualify them for not meeting a requirement, you’re prioritizing appearances over doing the work to create an inclusive hiring practice. And wasting candidates’ time to boot!
So, what’s an overworked hiring manager to do? Stick with 3 to 5 simple questions that are focused on the most important requirements you’ve specified in the job postings. Use “yes or no” questions where you can, and otherwise prioritize short answer questions to keep the application quick for candidates too. Avoid asking candidates to record videos or write long-form answers.
In summary, you can combat application overload by:
✅ Posting your open role on 3 to 5 niche job boards and communities instead of big sites like LinkedIn and Indeed.
✅ Including thoughtful screening questions on your application that allow you to review candidates faster.
✅ Using sourcing tools to widen your candidate pool, as needed.
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