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How a Surge in Jobseekers Frustrates Recruiters

By February 2, 2017No Comments

If you work in recruitment it’s highly probable that you’re currently handling a higher than usual volume of job applications. Really, it’s any wonder you’ve got the time to read stuff like this, given the CV floodgates that have just been opened onto your desks.


Certainly, official data from Statistics New Zealand would point to the likelihood of this. Unemployment for the last quarter rose to 5.2% but as this Business Insider article points out, this was actually caused by a load more people looking for work rather than losing their jobs:

“… the increase in unemployment was driven by a surge in the size of New Zealand’s labour force.

SNZ said that labour force participation rate increased 0.4 percentage points over the quarter to 70.5%, the highest level on record.

That means that 70.5% of New Zealand’s working age population are currently in or looking for work, well above the 64.7% level in Australia.”

This surge in jobseekers does seem to be something of a seasonal trend for this time of year, something that was also pointed out by Trade Me Jobs in a Christmas infographic they sent to recruiters last year, which included the revelation that:

“In January 2016 more applications were started than in any other month of the year…”

To everyone else out there who isn’t involved in the recruitment industry, you’re probably thinking “oooh you lucky recruiters.” You’ve got some vague notion that we occasionally intersperse our days drinking lattes and buying shoes with actual work (which amounts to flicking CV’s to clients with little insight or knowledge of them or the candidate….so not even real work, in fact). So an increase in candidates must therefore mean we make more placements and more money to splurge on our vacuous lifestyles.

Image result for shopaholic

To be fair, in some cases you wouldn’t be far off the mark, but in the majority of cases this isn’t actually how it plays out. You see, job board technology and the ubiquity of mobile technology have conspired to make it incredibly easy for candidates to apply for jobs at the merest jab of a thumb. And in great volumes too.

The behaviour of jobseekers is also changing. Vacancies are sourced with keyword searches rather than job title and location searches. Job adverts are skim read with increasingly febrile haste. And then, the application is sent, not with a finely tailored cover letter and purposefully crafted CV, but with a series of finger swipes and button clicks. Then repeated, over a ludicrously short space of time, tens and sometimes hundreds of times.

The seasonal surge is most likely accounted for by the influx of students and post-Grads to the jobseeker market at this time of year. The twin pressures of onerous volumes of unsuitable  job application responses with demanding clients looking to grow their teams (with exactly the type of candidates NOT applying to your vacancies) is one of the most mentally taxing and stressful aspects of a recruiter’s work life these days.


For one recruiter this week it appeared to all get too much and they snapped. When a textiles graduate applied for a role with Apparel HR she received the response:

“Dear Stephanie, thank you for applying for a role with absolutely no experience in the field. You have now wasted my time and yours!”

In a lesson to all recruiters about handling millennial jobseekers, this response was naturally swiftly uploaded onto social media, prompting the expected backlash towards Apparel HR’s owner Julie Malone.

The claim put forward in mitigation is that the Apparel HR emails had been hacked and some scurrilous internet bandit had taken it upon themselves to mimic an exasperated recruiter. Hmmmm… I suspect that this claim was probably greeted with the same level of suspicion as the lottery syndicate workmates in Australia who discovered their designated ticket collector had scooped a $17 million windfall and not told them…because the winning ticket had been purchased with his own money and not with the syndicate’s money.

In New Zealand we have local beer brands building an entire marketing strategy around responses to stories like this…

But whatever, regardless of the veracity of the claim, this does highlight a growing issue in our industry. Job applications are rising and rising, and so are hiring demands from clients. This really should be a good thing, but the reality is that recruiters are instead having to find increasingly sophisticated ways to filter, manage, control, and communicate with the growing mass of applicants.

The role of job boards now, which I’m sure they are working on, is to improve the relevance of job applicants for recruiters to get better value for money. Quality over quantity. But until that holy grail is found, recruiters must remember the importance of their role in the lives of jobseekers. Whilst we can’t help everyone it behooves us to treat everyone with respect and to communicate as frequently and appropriately as possible.

And a little politeness never goes amiss either.

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.