Information overload in recruitment? This is what you can do about it

Written by: Corné Corné

Read in: Nederlands

Are you one of those people who can spend hours searching through your Facebook timeline, or receives dozens of emails and personal messages per day? You are not alone: although the internet has enabled us to communicate with almost anyone from anywhere, at the same time it is causing an information overload problem. Perhaps not surprisingly, this information overload problem is also causing serious problems in recruitment: both companies and job-seekers are able to push an unlimited number of messages to each other, and as a result managing these information flows is becoming utterly complex. In this blog we will look into how information excess may decrease the efficiency of a (corporate) career website, and shortly discuss how to use analytics to manage this information excess.

How to spot information excess?

The problem of information excess on career websites becomes apparent when we look at a histogram of the application rate, or the number of applications per vacancy per week on all vacancies online on a career website (see figure below). Although this figure was created with simulated data, it resembles what we usually observe on our hosted career websites. The blue bars indicate that only a few vacancies, the superstar vacancies, receive a proportionally large number of applications, whereas in this case ⅓ of the vacancies do not receive any applications.

This problem relates to information excess in two ways: first, as it is becoming easier to apply to a vacancy, job-seekers are more likely to apply to your vacancies, but mainly your already popular vacancies. Second, as there is no limit on the number of vacancies organizations can put on their career website, organizations tend to put more vacancies online on their website, whereas the supply of job-seekers may not vary that much.

Is a large number of applicants desired?

When it comes to the first problem: more applicants on the superstar vacancies, you might argue that more applicants might lead to better hires. However, even if this is the case it also increases the workload of your recruitment department substantially, who will have less time to find a candidate for your underperforming vacancies. Hence, are these larger number of applicants really desired?

The second problem: a large number of vacancies on the career website, may also decrease the effectiveness of your corporate career website. If there are many similar vacancies for the same location these vacancies will compete with each other. And as the figure indicates, job-seekers favour only one of these vacancies, leaving the other vacancy with barely any applicants. Also, research suggests that decreasing the number of choices actually makes people more likely to remain indecisive, or in this case more likely not to apply. In one of my favourite Ted-talks Sheena Iyengar provides some interesting examples of this “choice overload problem”.

A solution: towards dynamic vacancy portfolios

The problem of information excess on career websites is inherent to the lack of time recruitment has to manage the overall vacancy portfolio. Recruitment only has time to focus on the individual vacancies, not on the entire portfolio, and as a result does not account for the interaction effect between vacancies. Here lies an opportunity for analytics: there has been numerous algorithms developed to automatically manage product portfolios for web-shops. Many of these algorithms can, with some alterations, also be used to automatically manage vacancy portfolios on career websites.

Unfortunately these algorithms do not come for free: depending on your needs it takes some experimentation to find out which of these algorithms work best, and one needs to consider the possible downsides of offering a smaller vacancy portfolio, such as findability of the career website for search engines. But consider the alternative: do you really want to wait and see the pile of unread CVs on your popular vacancies grow, whereas you cannot find enough time to improve the marketing of your impopular vacancies?