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Applications are up – how to manage the load fairly and equitably

By Shandel McAuliffe | |8 minute read
Applications are up – how to manage the load fairly and equitably

October’s SEEK Employment Report released today shows that the number of applications for job ads is rising (across Australia). Talent specialists might be grateful for the increase in supply while also considering how best to manage the 7.3 per cent month-on-month increase.

Employment marketplace SEEK today said that “Applications per job ad grew for the fourth consecutive month, rising 7.3 per cent m/m.”

With more applications to trawl through, now is a good time for both external and internal recruiters to take stock of shortlisting practices to make sure they’re fair and equitable. It’s all too easy to fall back on biases when work gets busy, but taking the time to process all applications with diversity, equity and inclusion in mind is the right thing to do all round.

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Paul Broughton, Cornerstone OnDemand’s head of APJ, shared with HR Leader in reference to the SEEK findings above: “As job applications continue to increase month on month, it’s critical that people at all levels of your organisation, from senior leaders to aspiring managers and the HR team are able to recognise unconscious bias in the hiring process, from the way they advertise for a role, through to their assessment of incoming applications.

“Unconscious bias should be an essential area for training across any company’s L&D strategy. Giving all employees the tools to recognise DEI issues through unconscious bias training, results in a fair assessment of job applications, even when the volume of applicants increases,” Mr Broughton said.

Shortlisting against a framework

Creating a shortlist of suitable applicants actually starts before the applications come in. It begins with a solid job description, with the right job ad to match it. A job description should be used to create a framework for vetting candidates based on skills and competencies. This will help in treating each submission fairly, and in creating a consistent approach if multiple stakeholders are involved in the applicant shortlisting process.

When you’re developing your framework, it is also worth bearing in mind what Kellie-Ann McDade, Baker McKenzie partner, recently said on HR Leader’s DEI Roundtable. She commented on, “an ability under our equal opportunity laws in each state of Australia, to recruit on the basis of special measures. And when I say special measures, there are provisions there that allow an employer to essentially discriminate and favour a particular type of employee or an employee with a particular attribute, where you’ve recognised that theres some substantive inequality in the workforce.”

See it through the candidate’s eyes

Sinead Connolly, the co-founder and director of Lotus People, was invited by HR Leader to comment on the October SEEK findings in relation to the extra interest in roles. She said: “As applications are increasing, it is essential that organisations have the processes in place to guarantee a positive candidate experience.

“Your brand in market as an employer is a result of how you make people feel throughout the process. Whether you lean on technology to automate the process or have no processes in place, now is the time to create that workflow, understand the different candidate touch points and ensure that your hiring managers are trained on best candidate experience practice. Businesses who make this a priority thrive and businesses who don’t will lose out,” observed Ms Connolly.

Niall O’Rourke, partner at Sharp & Carter, told HR Leader of today’s SEEK results above: “Now more than ever, candidates are looking for a good experience end to end. If you are advertising directly, this current market no longer accepts the generic rejection email. Have you got the time to provide a good experience? When it comes to DEI, it should always by a mindset of hiring on skill set and nothing else.”

Use technology – wisely

With the variety of recruitment tech tools on the market, most businesses can find a technology platform to handle at least some of their recruitment process. Tech can help with everything from simple auto responses to acknowledge an application has been received, to more sophisticated shortlisting done via AI.

HR Leader is proud to be the “recommended HR publication partner”’ for The Circle Back Initiative. Steve Gard created the initiative to encourage more businesses to get back to applicants. There are six different ways that companies who are part of the initiative support fair treatment of candidates, including: “Every applicant receives an application received email. Every applicant must receive an email acknowledging receipt of their application. The email receipt should not include statements such as ‘if you do not hear from us within ‘x’ weeks please presume your application has been unsuccessful’ or ‘Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted’.”

If a business uses AI to help with whittling down a shortlist, it’s prudent to remember that it’s not a foolproof solution. SHRM reported in May 2020: “… as the use of AI has grown, it has attracted more attention from regulators and lawmakers concerned about fairness and ethical issues tied to the technology. Chief among those concerns are a lack of transparency in the way that many AI vendors’ tools work—namely that too many still function as ‘black boxes’ without an easily understood explanation of their inner workings—and that machine-learning algorithms can perpetuate or even exacerbate unconscious bias in hiring decisions.”


Today’s SEEK Employment Report also revealed that three industries were behind job ads going down for October. They listed them as trades and services, hospitality and tourism, and retail and consumer products. In their “national insights”, SEEK said: “Job ads declined 3.7 per cent month-on-month (m/m) but are 44.7 per cent higher compared to October 2019.”

HR Leader also reported on SEEK’s September report: Is this the beginning of the end of talent shortages?

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel has recently returned to Australia after working in the UK for eight years. Shandel's experience in the UK included over three years at the CIPD in their marketing, marcomms and events teams, followed by two plus years with The Adecco Group UK&I in marketing, PR, internal comms and project management. Cementing Shandel's experience in the HR industry, she was the head of content for Cezanne HR, a full-lifecycle HR software solution, for the two years prior to her return to Australia.

Shandel has previous experience as a copy writer, proofreader and copy editor, and a keen interest in HR, leadership and psychology. She's excited to be at the helm of HR Leader as its editor, bringing new and innovative ideas to the publication's audience, drawing on her time overseas and learning from experts closer to home in Australia.

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