Advertisers advice

Managing high job applicant volumes: tips for NZ companies

Advice from members of Foodstuffs' North Island Talent team

Due to Covid-19, many New Zealand businesses are receiving greater than usual numbers of applicants for their job ads. If you’re new to dealing with high volume recruitment, this can be overwhelming, and make it more difficult to pinpoint the person or people you’re really looking for.

To get some advice on how your company can tackle this issue, we spoke to Foodstuffs’ Liam Jacobs and Chris McGeechan. Foodstuffs’ brands such as Pak ‘N Save, New World and Four Square have seen substantial increases in application rates since Covid first impacted New Zealand, and the pair have great tips for recruitment and HR staff across the country.

1. Are there any process changes you’d advise Kiwi businesses implement to deal with higher than usual applicant volumes?

Liam and Chris have two primary points here:

1. Where possible, split the load

For larger organisations, dividing applicants between teams and, where relevant, regions, can help HR and recruitment staff avoid screening fatigue when dealing with increased candidate loads.

This approach also makes for a better candidate experience, says Chris: “Candidates know they’re dealing with someone directly involved in their region, rather than a centralised recruiter”, and this can lead to more relevant and personalised discussions around the role.

2. “Automate the right elements of the process”

Liam points out that, used correctly, tech can speed up the process. For example, applicant tracking systems (ATS) can be programmed to filter out candidates who don’t meet key criteria, such as the right to work in NZ.

Automating the right parts of the your recruitment cycle can save you hours screening applicants.

2. … so, are there specific tech solutions you can recommend?

“Video screenings are a useful tool that can help if you’re getting overwhelmed with screening lots of candidates”, Liam says. In particular, he advisesw setting pre-recorded video screenings that candidates can complete in their own time. ”This keeps the recruitment process moving along even when you’re not working,” he says.

This is an approach Foodstuffs adopted due to Covid-19, and Chris says he’d recommend businesses invest in similar video enabled ATS systems, if they can find a low cost solution, because they’re such a time saver.

However, it’s also possible to implement a more DIY approach. For candidates with promising CVs/cover letters, you could simply ask them to submit a quick smartphone video to answer key screening questions.

Any tips for creating effective video screenings?

For Liam and Chris, the trick is asking your questions in the right order, and they advise splitting your screening into two sections:

1. Quickfire questions

Put your “deal-breaker” questions, such as right to work and availability for required shift patterns up front. If the applicant doesn’t tick these boxes, you’re wasting both their and your time by going any further.

2. Competence questions

The second section can include more standard job interview questions around experience, competence and scenarios to get more of a feel of whether this is the person you’re looking for.

3. What approach are you taking to communicating with such large numbers of applicants?

Liam emphasises that companies experiencing high volumes of applications, and who are able to hire in the current climate, should feel quite privileged. These organisations have “a responsibility to create the best candidates’ experience”; through streamlining processes, and, most importantly, regular communication with candidates.

This sentiment is echoed by Chris, who says that Foodstuffs has made a conscious effort throughout the Covid outbreak to get in touch with people. They have done this with weekly comms to candidates who’ve not already been contacted, to let them know what’s happening with their application.

In particular, Chris highlights the need to treat rejections with “real empathy and compassion” for what job hunters are currently going through. He says although it can be quite heartbreaking to send out mass rejection emails, “it’s a lot worse to leave applicants hanging than it is to give them a clear update.”

The other benefit of regular and consistent communications to candidates is that candidates don’t feel the need to reach out to you directly, reducing time spent responding to individual enquiries.

Have empathy for what job hunters are going through, and keep them updated on their application.

4. Are there any specific attributes or capabilities you’re looking out for in candidates in these uncertain times?

Chris says Foodstuffs have been putting an even greater than usual emphasis on attitude and positivity, sometimes even over experience. He believes you can get a good gauge of a candidate’s enthusiasm for a role through something as simple as how quickly they respond to an email, or return a missed call.

Chris makes the point that, as is the case in many industries right now, Foodstuffs is receiving a lot of applications from candidates who never thought they’d work in this sector. Their recruitment team is therefore keen to establish if these applicants are really committed to working for them, and if they have a full understanding of the great career paths on offer in the company.

5. Do you have any final advice for businesses recruiting right now?

Liam and Chris’s closing tips come back ensuring a candidate-centric approach to hiring, despite the additional pressures that come with increased candidate interest

“Be compassionate and think about the person behind the application,” Chris says, “Understand what people are going through.”. Pre-Covid, hiring decisions were all about protecting your brand, but now they have to be about the people as well. “Look after people, and the brand piece will come”, he says.

Similarly, Liam urges recruiters and hiring managers to think carefully about how they interact with applicants at every stage of the process: “We can be so caught up with the high volumes, that we may forget the impact we have on candidates throughout the recruitment process”, he says.