One in four jobseekers received no response to applications during pandemic, study finds

Experts describe the figure as ‘staggering’ given the number of post-Covid vacancies and urge employers to focus more on hiring processes

Almost a quarter of jobseekers have not heard back from applications submitted during the pandemic, new research has revealed, with experts warning businesses could be hurting their employer brand at a time when competition for staff is intense.

The poll of 2,002 workers, by jobs board Reed, found 24 per cent received no response from job applications made during the pandemic, while those who did receive responses reported long wait times.

Nearly one in five (19 per cent) said they were made to wait more than two weeks for feedback on an application.

This is despite a 158 per cent rise in the number of live jobs on Reed from September 2020 to September 2021, the company said.

The research also found that a bad candidate experience made individuals less likely to apply for future roles.

Almost a third (31 per cent) of workers said they were unlikely to apply to a company again after a negative application experience, while the same proportion said they were unlikely to recommend a company to a friend after a negative application experience.

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Similarly, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) said they judge a company based on their experience with the recruiter.

Simon Wingate, managing director of Reed, said that the sheer number of vacancies has led to a “shift in power” in favour of jobseekers in the labour market. “It’s therefore a concern that candidates are reporting negative experiences during the hiring process, especially for those businesses for which candidates are also potential customers,” he said.

“Recruitment practices can have a significant impact on both hiring and business performance, with people unlikely to recommend the company to others after a negative experience,” Wingate added, urging businesses to “focus on improving how they hire and not just who they hire”.

Given the UK’s current skills crisis, Ann Swain, chief executive of the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), said the number of workers who weren’t receiving responses from applications was “staggering”.

But, she said, the “age-old” problem of having too many applications to manage was preventable. “For many [recruiters], an investment in appropriate automation technology could streamline much of the candidate response processes,” she said.

Sending standardised email responses to job applicants simply letting them know they weren’t successful also went a long way to building a positive candidate experience, said Kate Palmer, HR advice and consultancy director of Peninsula.

“While workers may be disappointed in the decision, the contact means they will be more likely to apply for jobs with the same organisation again in the future and encourage their friends to do so as well,” she said.

Similarly, Philip Richardson, partner and head of employment law at Stephensons, said it was good practice to explain to applicants in advance what to expect of the application process, either through the job description or via email.

“It's also worth highlighting that, by not replying to a candidate’s application, there is no visible record of communication between the employer and the candidate outlining why their application has been unsuccessful,” Richardson said.

“That has, in some cases, led to claims of discrimination resulting in a protracted legal process that would have been stopped by a simple email in return.”