Why Are There So Few (Relevant) Job Applicants?
And What Can You Do About It?
Whilst industry sectors and geography can affect the number of people you see applying for job vacancies, businesses, in general, have been seeing a really disappointing number of applicants in recent years.
And it continues to get tougher.
We have almost 33 million people in employment in the UK so the people you need almost certainly exist but, despite frequent surveys suggesting huge swathes of people are looking to move jobs, there is no evidence of this. None.
Applications are down.
And when you look at those applications you can see how few of them are unique. Advertise five jobs and the same (irrelevant) person will apply to all five.
Understanding what's going on out there cannot be done using statistics. Stats produced by companies who have an interest in the results, I might add.
In this blog, we are going to look at why suitable applicants are not applying for your jobs to give you a deeper understanding.
And then offer you some help to change this.
You're not on your own.
Some of the old reasons to move jobs are obsolete post-pandemic
With the huge increase in flexible working models, including hybrid working and working from home, many of the reasons for leaving jobs have been 'fixed'.
Reducing a Commute
The long commute is likely only two or three times a week now, maybe a couple of times a month.
Those long meetings which used to be conducted in a hotel in the Midlands are now on Zoom. Camera off.
We're able to make significant cost savings in the new age of working. From a reduction in travel expenses, lunch (although what's wrong with a box of left-overs, I hear you ask?), corporate workwear, dog walkers and after-school clubs.
So, the need to move for a pay rise for more disposable income was removed, only scuppered by the economy, but will right itself again.
With that, however, has been the power in employees to feel they can ask for a cost of living pay rise.
Don't like the People
If you don't like a colleague or more likely, your boss, working from home reduces face-to-face encounters. And if you time your visits to the office well, you may avoid an annoying colleague completely.
If the working environment is not comfortable, it is also less of an issue for many who have created dedicated work spaces at home. In our own spaces, we can dictate the noise levels, the light, and the temperature and we can avoid constant interruptions.
Need for a Flexible Week
Caring responsibilities can take a toll on someone's career, without a doubt, but also we never previously considered those people who only had themselves to please and who simply wanted to walk a dog at lunchtime or go to the gym.
Flexibility in working weeks along with the ability to simply close your laptop at 5.30 pm and launch straight into personal time has meant many employees have their lives back.
The economic climate
In uncertain economic times, it's often better the devil you know.
Why risk moving to another business when your job is safe and find yourself last in, first out?
And if you're in a business not doing so well, the fear can be paralysing, meaning you're not always in the right frame of mind to begin a job search.
What's more, if you're long-serving you'll want to hold out for a redundancy package. You're not going anywhere until you have to.
The stress of job hunting
... on top of cost of living stresses and everyday woes ...
No one. Absolutely no one enjoys job hunting.
Why would anyone voluntarily subject themselves to endless vacancy searching, job applications, being ghosted, rejected, and interviews which go nowhere?
If you don't feel compelled to find alternative work, you stay put.
After an extended period of forced stress and uncertainty, many people are just grateful to be employed, keep their commute down and avoid annoying people interactions.
As a result, those other things that could do with fixing, like the volume of work or self-development, for example, are much more tolerable.
You've got a job, you know it inside out, and you're known and respected in the business, so why go somewhere else and have to start all over again?
You don't love your job, but it absorbs less of your time and it pays the bills.
Sickness and mental health
All the stats suggest that post-pandemic, for a variety of reasons, we have an increasing number of people who are long-term sick or struggling with their mental health.
In my experience, people waiting for a big operation don't move jobs since they don't want to explain their predicament to a new employer who might be less understanding than their current one.
The current job might not be ideal but it works for that person now, their boss is sympathetic and they know their team will 100% support them and cover their work when they are off. Therefore, they are not going anywhere.
In terms of mental health issues, these are more complex but the same may apply, or apathy.
Decent businesses, of which there are many, have had the opportunity to earn or build loyalty with employees in these tough times.
Not everyone sees their job as entirely a means to earn money and those people who feel they were supported and maintained their jobs and a decent standard of living without any undue pressure will often be very loyal to their employer.
If not their employer, their teammates.
Attracting these people is very difficult.
Even people who have been treated poorly but remember happier times and are long-serving will often have difficulty leaving a business. Their boss may be terrible but they'll stay to support their colleagues, to their own detriment.
Your job adverts are not attractive
In the wrong place, badly written, too long, no salary, confused location and nothing in the content which says to the reader "You - we're talking to you".
If the reader does not see a compelling reason to start a job application process, they won't. It's that simple.
That's the explanation of why there are fewer applications. But what can you do about it?
Firstly, is to reflect very seriously on what you're offering. The whole package.
No good throwing money at a vacancy if people cannot get along with a boss who bullies. Or can't flex their working week to attend a regular hospital appointment.
If your office is in the middle of nowhere and the job is 100% office-based, expect to exclude a lot of people. Young people who cannot afford to run a car (or indeed the huge cost and unreliability of rural public transport). Those with caring responsibilities and who need to dash home at lunchtime. Anyone who doesn't like driving in the dark or has ocular problems which prevents them from driving in poor light.
Start with this first. Fix as many problems as you can. Or at least OWN them and work around them.
If you've already addressed things like flexibility, remuneration, culture, brilliant. But this all needs to be translated into applications and it takes self-awareness and skill.
Your advertising and recruitment campaign needs to be clear, open and more inclusive too.
Here are some blogs which address issues you're probably having without having even realised it. Namely, excluding people who don't click 'apply' because they don't think the job is intended for them.
How to attract more over-50 job applications:
How to attract more neurodivergent job applications: https://www.clarityappointments.co.uk/view-details/36940/How-to-Attract-More-Neurodivergent-Job-Applicants.htm
How to attract more female job applicants: https://www.clarityappointments.co.uk/view-details/36969/How-to-Attract-More-Female-Job-Applicants.htm
Or, how about enlisting the help of a professional (like me and my team): https://www.clarityappointments.co.uk/view-details/37202/Why-Are-Recruitment-Agencies-So-Expensive.htm
And then, when you've attracted an application do everything in your power to ensure you don't lose them in your process.
Be quick, be thorough, be kind, be consistent and be VERY aware the person you're pursuing probably has a load of other options. YOU are being vetted.
Contact us now for a free, no-obligation chat. Contact Clare here.
Clare Wight is the founder and Managing Director of Clarity Appointments, an independent recruitment specialist. She served as a Regional Director for The Employment Agents Movement, supporting other independent recruiters.
She remains an active member of Recconnect (formerly Members Only), a recruitment leadership network promoting high ethical standards, collaboration, diversity, equity and inclusion.
She believes business owners are more fulfilled and higher-performing when they provide emotional and professional business support to other business owners, even those they deem to be competitors. She does this actively, whilst challenging and updating her skills and knowledge of the recruitment sector, enabling her to offer the best advice to firms looking to make their next hire.