Hiring Right Amidst Low Applicant Count: 3 Powerful Ways To Make The Right Hires

Hiring right becomes critical when the applicant pool keeps shrinking. But a lower count of applicants doesn’t necessarily mean that your company is restricted to the shorter end of the stick, or that your hiring process is at a disadvantage.

As a recruiter, you must have made many impractical hiring decisions and had frequent run-ins with unpredictable recruitment scenarios. It’s not easy hiring the right people at the right time. Ever since the pandemic made its devastating foray into the Indian subcontinent, there have been plenty of hiring challenges faced by organisations.

3 years on, the challenges and concerns still remain, par

ticularly in the spheres of employee retention and recruitment. Although the situation is improving, most industries and sectors continue to face recruitment difficulties, one of which is applicant shortage.

Hiring right becomes even more critical when the applicant pool keeps shrinking. But a lower count of applicants doesn’t necessarily mean that your company is restricted to the shorter end of the stick, or that your hiring process is at a disadvantage.

There are ways you can work around applicant shortages (like the 3 mentioned below) which can help you to make the right hiring decisions.

#1 Scrap The Role, Recruit for Growth

The ideal way to hire is to establish a specific job role first and then find someone who has held the same role in the past. But this isn’t an ideal situation; you have limited applicants to pick from.

You should wait for a few months, if the right candidate exists. But keep in mind that the right candidate you’ve singled out may not have occupied the same job role in their previous organisations.

Clearly, you cannot leave the position open for months on end. So, the only way to deal with this sticky situation is hiring for skills and expertise over hiring for a specific job role. If the applicant has the drive, motivation, and abilities to grow into the role and do a commendable job, you can look past the designation.

Having said that, you will have to assess their candidacy (either by conducting interviews or scanning their resumes) to know if they can slot right in and hit the ground running from day one. Some of the questions you could direct at the applicant to gauge their growth potential are:

  • Are they comfortable taking on new responsibilities?
  • If the new responsibilities were assumed, who or what initiated it?
  • Whether there were times when the candidate had no knowledge or experience about a particular task or topic. And what did they do to tackle it?
  • If the candidate has previously managed to exceed expectations

#2 Never Adjourn Hiring Efforts

Every recruiter has a set deadline to find the right candidate for an open position within the organisation. If your headhunter has only begun looking for applicants (after the expiration of the deadline), then their approach to hiring is completely flawed.

Understand that the chances of hiring exceptional applicants go up as long as you don’t leave hiring until the last minute. In simple terms, your recruiters should indulge in passive recruiting even when there isn’t a vacancy.

Year-round passive hiring will ensure that you keep adding to your talent pipeline of passive candidates. When the moment is right, and there is a vacancy, you can always revisit your applicant database, and choose from the many options you have, without ever having to start from scratch.

You should, however, only cherry pick exceptional talent or reach out to candidates from the past to build your repository. As for how you should get passive candidates’ attention, set up a passive job post — only on your company careers page — clearly indicating that you’re accepting applications for more openings in the future. This will send out a clear message to applicants that your organisation is growing, and that they will be notified when vacancies appear.

#3 ‘More’ Doesn’t Always Mean Ideal

Is getting an inadequate number of applicants applying to your open vacancies really that bad? Most recruiters seem to think so. Of course, everybody can understand where they’re coming from — unfilled vacancies and hardly any candidates to match them does seem disheartening. But you should look at the underlying reason that defines hiring right, which is always prioritising quality over quantity.

Organisations all across the world can never predict the number of incoming applications. Sometimes the number can balloon up or shrink down. If it’s the latter, you should not be concerned, because the objective of recruiting correctly is not to hoard applications, but to single out exceptional applicants for the vacancy.

There’s hard evidence to back up the “quality over quantity” approach. Studies have found that a major chunk of applicants (~85%) come from job boards. But less than 2% of the ~85% end up getting hired. This fact also goes on to prove that recruiters have to unnecessarily sort through irrelevant applications, which if you’ve guessed by now, only hurts your company’s hiring velocity.

You do not require hundreds and thousands of candidates to fill one vacant role — you need only one (right) candidate. Prioritising quality will also work in your favour in many ways (other than finding the right people). For instance, your recruiters can concentrate on other important HR aspects, such as improving employee experience, boosting employee engagement, employee benefits administration, grievance redressal, and employee retention.

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