Smaller, fast-growing companies can face high volumes of job applications due to their rapid expansion and increase in recruitment needs. But what can small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) do to navigate hiring process challenges? What should HR include in their recruiting strategies? Read our steps for handling large numbers of job applicants. 

Recruiting strategies 

Handling a surge in job applications with a small HR team or limited resources can overwhelm the recruitment process, leading to slower response times or potential hiring delays. SMEs must incorporate solutions for managing high volumes of job applications into their recruiting strategies, as quick and efficient processes can give companies a competitive edge when attracting top talent. 

Leveraging technologies, such as HR tools and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), investing in training and ensuring clear communication with respective candidates, can help HR teams optimise their hiring strategies. But where do companies begin? In this article, we outline the key steps SMEs can take to ensure they are ready to handle high volumes of job applications during the hiring process. 

What is considered a large number of job applicants for SMEs?

What determines a "large number" of job applicants can vary based on the size, industry and the specific position open within a particular company. For some SMEs, receiving over a hundred applications for a single position could be considered a large volume. In other cases, particularly for popular or high-demand roles, receiving hundreds or thousands of job applications might be seen as a substantial influx. 

What constitutes a lot of applicants can also depend on the resources available for the hiring process. Companies with a limited HR team or that don't use ATS tools may find several applications to be overwhelming. The company's capacity to manage and process candidates efficiently is a significant factor. 

What are recruitment challenges with large volumes of job applicants?

Managing large volumes of job applicants can present a few challenges for HR. Reviewing many candidates takes time and effort, and assessing employee qualifications requires the, possibly already busy, HR team to be thorough. This could lead to potential oversight of suitable applicants.

Other challenges that may hinder HR teams when dealing with many CVs include:

  • Technology limitations: Outdated or inadequate Applicant Tracking Systems may make it difficult to manage and filter applications effectively. This can result in manual handling, leading to slower processing times.
  • Quality vs. quantity: While a high volume of applications might seem advantageous, it doesn't guarantee a larger pool of qualified candidates. Striking a balance between both quality and quantity candidates is vital.
  • Unconscious bias: Ensuring a fair and standardised review process becomes more difficult for a lot of applicants, which can lead to unintentional bias or inconsistencies in candidate evaluation.
  • Candidate experience: There could be delays in responses or a lack of personalised communication, which can affect the candidate experience negatively. This might impact the employer's brand perception.
  • Overwhelming admin tasks: Acknowledging receipts, scheduling interviews, sending follow-up communications and onboarding checklists can be overwhelming without an efficient recruitment strategy.

Five steps for handling high-volume job applications

Having a recruitment strategy that incorporates managing high volumes of job applicants is crucial for SMEs to help streamline their hiring process. 

The following are five of the best practices to use during the recruiting process:

1. Stop advertising roles with enough job applicants

Companies should halt job advertisements once they have received enough applicants to focus on assessing and selecting the best-suited applicants. This enables the HR team to concentrate on quality rather than quantity. Limiting the number of applications streamlines the recruitment process and eases the administrative burden of sorting through an excessive number of CVs. 

Halting job ads when the desired number of applicants has been reached allows HR and hiring managers to reallocate their resources effectively. They can instead focus on engaging with the current applicants, conducting interviews and selecting the best candidates for the role. 

2. Provide clear job descriptions and requirements

HR professionals should clearly outline the job description, required qualifications and key responsibilities. This helps to attract candidates who are genuinely interested and qualified for the role, reducing the number of irrelevant applications. Defining clear job descriptions can help:

  • Save time for both applicants and recruiters: Accurate job descriptions enable potential employees to determine if the role aligns with their expertise and career goals. This saves time for recruiters, by reducing the number of unsuitable applications.
  • Reduce misunderstandings: Applicants can understand the specific requirements and know what the job entails, which decreases the number of mismatches between job seekers and the company.
  • Improve employer branding: When a company clearly communicates its expectations and role details, it demonstrates professionalism. This can have a positive impact on how candidates perceive the company. 

3. Refine the company’s hiring processes 

By implementing recruiting strategies, SMEs can better manage their hiring processes, effectively manage large numbers of applicants and ensure a more successful recruitment outcome. For example, it is vital to have a structured interview process to assess candidates consistently. HR professionals can create talent pools and establish a database of promising candidates who may not be an immediate fit for the current role but possess valuable skills. This can help to fill future positions more quickly. 

Regularly evaluating and adjusting the recruitment process is also essential for SMEs. HR professionals can collect feedback from the hiring team, candidates and stakeholders to identify areas of improvement and optimise the process of handling high volumes of applications. Regularly training hiring managers on recruitment strategies ensures all team members involved in the hiring process are in alignment with the best practices. Following a hiring employee checklist can help companies refine their hiring campaign. 

4. Use an Applicant Tracking System to stay on top of candidates

An ATS can significantly aid SMEs by helping to organise incoming applications in a centralised database. It streamlines the application process by collecting and storing candidate information in one location, which can make it easier to handle high volumes of applications. Many ATS platforms come with automated communication features, allowing users to send personalised messages and updates to candidates. Effective communication ensures candidates are informed about their application status, which can help to improve the overall experience. 

5. Invest in HR and recruitment tools 

While there is an initial investment in HR and recruitment software, using such tools can often lead to long-term cost savings. The time saved in handling applications, improved quality of hires, and reduced turnover can ultimately lead to financial benefits for the company. 

Recruitment tools can provide valuable insights into hiring metrics and analytics. This can help SMEs analyse the performance of different job boards, the effectiveness of their sourcing strategies and track key recruitment KPIs. The data can help with making informed decisions for future hiring strategies. 

Why should SMEs factor high-volume job applications into their recruiting strategies?

Incorporating high-volume job applicants into recruiting strategies benefits SMEs as it widens the talent pool, enhances employer branding and provides flexibility and adaptability. This can lead to improved recruitment outcomes and help SMEs stay competitive within their industry. 

Looking for HR software? Check out our catalogue!