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Are You Ready for the Coming Wave of Applicants?

Dan Sines

CEO | Star Wars & Superhero Fan, Adventurer, aspiring Renaissance Man | Inventor/Visionary in Work

This year’s upheaval presents a unique opportunity for HR leaders preparing for businesses to reopen.

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic upended the employment marketplace, hiring was broken. Job seekers applied to roles that weren’t good fits, candidates reported low satisfaction, and ghosting was rampant on both sides. The picture didn’t get any rosier post-hire, with eye-popping turnover statistics plaguing industry after industry. The worldwide shakeup brought on by the coronavirus provides an opportunity to “reboot” the system. We need to toss out the outdated and inefficient parts of hiring and rebuild something newer and better.

Using the 1990s playbook in the 2020s

To identify what has been wrong, let’s take several steps back in time. Today’s job applications for hourly positions are often little more than a twentieth-century analog approach turned into a digital version. The paper application of 1995 is now the webpage of 2020, but that’s about all that’s changed. So that means companies are still using one-size-fits-all approaches. In our era of increasing personalization, it’s a strangely persistent throwback.

Too often, the experience of applying for a job is riddled with multiple pressure points that risk dropoff. The journey gives nothing back to candidates, who often have no way to track their progress through the application, much less receive any feedback. Applications that are not optimized for mobile can be clunky and difficult to navigate, and candidates drift away. The impact is clear: “Stage Zero” of the job didn’t go so well.

As our partners at Alexander Mann Solutions pointed out earlier this year, hourly workers are the “majority voice of the paid workforce,” yet resources to improve the hiring practices for hourly positions are lacking. As AMS concluded, “these individuals are too often ignored.”

The coming wave of job seekers

In the United States, this week saw the continuation of a historic trend of workers cut loose from their roles as a result of the stay-at-home orders. The number in the US now tops 30 million (as of April 30, 2020). State systems designed to handle unemployment insurance claims are overwhelmed, and funds are being held up. As talk turns increasingly to plans for a safe reopening of businesses and daily life around the world, momentum is building toward a wave of job seekers eager to return to payrolls. The pressure on the gatekeepers will be unlike anything any professionals in HR or hiring operations have ever experienced, especially as many of these companies will be operating with lean teams after their own reductions. We have to be ready.

The need to identify suitable candidates in a speedy fashion is dire. But we also must approach this monumental undertaking with an eye toward making the process as candidate-friendly as possible. The talent pool is stressed, displaced, and driven by a sense of urgency. A given organization is likely to have far more candidates than open positions. Hiring managers need to rise to the challenge of filling their workforce with best-fit candidates who are well-positioned to produce and thrive in their roles. Those who will be the true leaders in this era will take this a step further, to deliver a candidate experience that is seamless, engaging, and promotes mental health rather than undermining it -- even for the many job seekers who must be turned away.

Looking forward by looking back

For a preview of what awaits, we can look to the experience of employers in essential services during the earliest weeks of the pandemic. At Traitify, we were able to help one such organization field an onslaught of 140,000 candidates in the space of 48 hours, identifying 10,000 new hires within a month among a huge talent pool. This application influx began during the tumultuous third week of March, when there was no room for error. Our client was ready with innovative hiring practices that enabled them to weather the storm, ramp up their workforce, and serve the greater good over a brutally short time frame.

Are you ready?

The pandemic has drawn attention to a timely priority that should now characterize everything we do as business leaders: readiness. The tidal wave of job candidates is coming. Not only is the number of unemployed individuals staggering, we can expect that each will apply to numerous positions in the coming weeks. Even if we froze US job losses this week, we are looking at hundreds of millions of job applications in the United States alone. High-volume hiring professionals have an opportunity now to approach this sea of change with innovation. Together, we can shed the dated approaches that opened this century and instead bring in a new era of engaging, fast, mobile, and customized hiring solutions.

Traitify is gratified to help engage organizations in this important shift alongside our international partner Alexander Mann Solutions. Join me on May 8 as part of Alexander Mann’s ongoing Talent Acquisition Video Chat Series, when I’ll discuss how leaders can position themselves today for the coming wave of candidates.

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