How to Make the Right Hires When You Don’t Have Many Applicants

If you’re a business owner, then you’ve faced many challenges over the last couple of years. Recruitment and retention have been big concerns in every industry, and the applicant shortage and recruiting difficulties are projected to continue into the rest of 2022. 

At CareerPlug, we are committed to making hiring easier for our clients, many of whom are concerned by seemingly shrinking applicant pools and the impact lower applicant count has on their ability to make the right hires. 

Getting hiring right matters even more when you don’t have as many applicants to choose from, but we believe that a lower applicant count doesn’t have to negatively affect a business’s hiring process. 

Let’s look at five helpful tips to help you make the right hires even during times of low applicant flow. 

1. Shift your mindset

First things first, when it comes to hiring from a smaller applicant pool, you’ve got to understand that less applicants isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be really frustrating when you’re not seeing as many applicants as you used to for your open roles, but really, when it comes to hiring, it’s quality over quantity!

We’ve heard from clients who used to receive 50 applicants for every job posting. Now, they only receive 20 or 30 applicants. They see this as a cause for concern because the volume isn’t as high as it was before. But remember: the purpose of a hiring process isn’t to collect the most applicants, but rather to identify the right hire for the role.

Consider this — we found that out of 82% of applications that come from a job board, only 1.3% of hires come from those applications. This means that sometimes more applicants just creates more work for you! Having to weed through a large number of applicants can actually slow down your recruiting process, making it take longer to get to the right candidate. 

You don’t need 50 people applying to your jobs, you just need one right candidate. Adopting this mindset can make hiring less stressful and help you focus on the right things. For example, you could improve your candidate evaluation methods so that you can confidently make hiring decisions no matter how many applicants you have.

2. Hire for growth potential 

You may be hiring for a role that has pretty specific requirements. In some cases, it may be necessary to wait months for the right person with the right experience to come along. However, in many instances, the right candidate may not have held the exact same position previously, and that’s ok! 

Just because a candidate doesn’t have direct experience in the role you’re looking to fill doesn’t mean they aren’t equipped to do the job. Think about the soft skills you need on your team and hire for those. 

When reviewing resumes or conducting interviews, look for a candidate who has a history of growth and taking on challenges. Here are some questions we ask at CareerPlug to measure growth potential and get a feel for a candidate’s career trajectory: 

  • Tell me about a time when you knew less than others about a topic or task. What did you do to get up to speed? 
  • Tell me about a time when you went beyond your manager’s expectations to get the job done.
  • When did you take on new responsibilities in your role? What or who initiated this change? 

For more tips on hiring for growth potential, check out this video by our Director of HR, Natalie Morgan: 

3. Always be hiring

The worst time to be looking for the right candidate is when you have an open role that you needed filled yesterday! Passive recruiting year-round makes it easier to find people to fill open roles when they come up unexpectedly. Always look out for talented people, and keep in touch with other applicants from the past. 

For our clients, we recommend always having a passive job posting up — this is a job posted only to your careers page (not job boards) with a status of “Accepting for Future Openings.” A job of this type indicates that you are passively recruiting and will reach out to candidates when an opening becomes available.

Passive recruiting helps you keep more candidates in your hiring pipeline, which gives you more options when it’s time to make those important hires. 

4. Provide a great candidate experience

A positive candidate experience is always important, even more so in a competitive job market where qualified candidates will have many options. Having a smaller applicant pool is an opportunity to treat every applicant like a person instead of a number and to provide excellent and timely communication throughout the hiring process. 

Candidate experience matters because it can make or break a candidate’s decision to accept your job offer which is especially important when there are fewer candidates to choose from. Based on our research in our annual Candidate Experience Report, 80% of candidates said a positive candidate experience influenced their decision to accept an offer. 

A great candidate experience, as well as being a great place to work, will also have a positive impact on your employer brand. This will make it easier to attract and hire those top choice candidates. 

5. Use an ATS to make hiring easier

An applicant tracking system (ATS) like CareerPlug can help you with many parts of the hiring process. An ATS can help your job posts get more visibility and can help you craft job descriptions that attract more candidates. It can also help you evaluate candidates quickly and consistently through every step of the hiring process.

An ATS makes it easier to keep up with every applicant so that no one slips through the cracks. CareerPlug also offers text recruiting so employers can move applicants through the hiring process quickly, which is important when working with a limited number of applicants. 

Remember: quality over quantity

Though having fewer applicants to choose from can feel challenging, applicant quality matters much more than quantity. Focus on providing a great experience to the candidates you do have and hire for growth potential when you can. It can also be a good idea to implement passive recruiting which can be done easily through an ATS like CareerPlug. And when you’re actively hiring? An ATS can help you move applicants through your hiring process more efficiently, helping you make those right hires sooner.

Want to learn more about how an ATS can make hiring easier?

CareerPlug can help you overcome hiring challenges like shrinking applicant pools and more! Click the button below to see what an ATS can do for your hiring process.


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Originally from small town in central Texas, Ashley Johnson graduated from Texas State University in 2013 with a degree in Business Administration. She was hired by CareerPlug as a Talent Specialist in 2014, and moved up to ultimately lead the Recruitment Services team. From there, she pivoted to Implementation, and is now the Implementation Manager.

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Chris accidentally started a 20-year career in franchising when he was 18 years old and took a job painting houses for College Pro Painters. That job turned into the ownership of his first franchise (a house painting franchise). While at Monmouth College in IL, he operated his business, played on the varsity football team, and studied to become a teacher.

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Native to Texas, Jenny graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004 and joined CareerPlug in 2017. She retired her first career path as a Registered Dietitian after 10 years, and has found her true belonging in business operations.

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Clint founded CareerPlug in 2007 with the simple idea that there was a better way to help employers connect with quality applicants. Today Clint works every day to fulfill CareerPlug’s mission: Make Hiring Easier. Leading by example, Clint loves spending his time developing new ideas and teaching others.

After graduating from the University of Florida, Clint worked in investment banking and strategic marketing; both experiences influenced the development of CareerPlug. He also spent a year away from the business world teaching 5th grade in Boulder.

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