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Record number of job applications – our tips for screening applications

businessman finger touching 'apply now' button

09/02/2021 – Screening applications – 300 applicants for a Receptionist vacancy!

We’re still very much in the middle of a pandemic, with (fingers crossed) light at the end of the tunnel, but the recruitment market is hotting up, and while some candidates are particularly nervous about engaging with a new employer during lockdown, the overall picture seems to be one of record numbers of applications for the most commonly recruited positions. In this post, myHRdept’s Resourcer, Jas Virdee, gives her top tips for screening applications.

myHRdept clients are reporting record numbers of applicants, with one property business receiving 300 CVs for a part-time Receptionist vacancy, and a science sector business reporting applicant numbers running at 30 times their pre-covid levels.

For those clients choosing to recruit for themselves large volumes of applicants are not necessarily good news and finding the right candidate has been described as ‘a needle in a haystack’ challenge by one business owner.

The high volumes of applicants are partly due to COVID-related job losses but are also due to the nature of today’s on-line recruitment industry. Desperate job seekers can apply quickly for multiple vacancies without analysing whether they are qualified, or in the right salary bracket or location for them. In days gone by, applying for a job involved writing a cover letter, attaching it to a hardcopy CV, and walking it to a postbox. The effort required justified some consideration time, but today’s ‘press here to apply now’ culture leads to some job seekers applying for anything and everything going.

Of the roles recently recruited by myHRdept:

  • An ad for customer service roles attracted 304 applicants
  • A highly technical scientific position we normally would expect less than 10 applications for, received 50 CVs
  • A Head of Finance role attracted 36 applicants (about a third higher than normal)
  • Two Heads of HR roles attracted more than 200 applications (more than double what we would normally expect)
  • A Sales Director role received a whopping 214 applications, at least 4 times what we would normally expect.


At myHRdept, we run recruitment campaigns for our clients (you can view our recruitment pages here)  and, while overall numbers of applicants are up more than a third on pre-COVID levels (double for sales and customer service roles,) careful sourcing has still been necessary to find quality applicants – ‘sourcing’ involves identifying candidates in employment in similar roles and proactively contacting them to establish interest, it is often known as ‘headhunting.’

If recruiting for themselves, business owners and managers are finding that sifting often hundreds of applications is a daunting task. While myHRdept can do this for our clients, for those going it alone we’ve put together our top tips for recruitment and effective shortlisting from a very large number of applications.

myHRdept tips for screening a mountain of applications

Finding the right applicant from a foot high pile of CVs can be a daunting job. myHRdept’s Jas Virdee, an in-house Resourcer, has some practical tips:

  • Define carefully the essential ‘must have’ experience that candidates absolutely need e.g. for a sales management role it could be at least 2 years similar experience in a relevant industry; must have managed a sales team; must have a driving license, must live in a certain area etc.
  • Write these ‘must haves’ down the left-hand column of a spreadsheet
  • Identify the ‘like to haves’ – experience or qualifications that are ideal, but not necessarily essential. Enter these in the same column, underneath the ‘must haves.’
  • Once you’ve filtered out those CVs that obviously don’t qualify (expect this to be at least 70% of applications), number the remaining CVs 1 – 100, or however many you have entering these into the top row of the sheet
  • Rank each of the ‘must haves’ and ‘like to haves’ from each CV, scoring zero for a candidate who offers no evidence of meeting an element, and up to 5 for someone who appears to exceeds what you’re looking for.
  • At the end of the exercise total the columns, shortlisting candidates with the highest scores.


In a future article we’ll cover our top tips for designing a selection interview process. If you want to discuss a recruitment assignment with us, please contact us, or call 01628 820515, or view our recruitment pages here.

If you’re thinking of outsourcing your HR or employment law needs, why not contact myHRdept? Call us on 01628 820515 to discuss your requirements or contact us and we’ll call you back.


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