Tell Job Applicants The Odds Of Success – A Small First Step Toward Recruiting Honesty

Getting a job at Google can be 10X harder than getting into Harvard!

Like most corporations, Google keeps its outrageous odds of success a secret. In fact, almost every other firm keeps their applicant success ratio a secret. So, most applicants have no way of knowing that their chances of getting a job are often extremely small (Note: Glassdoor.com reports that the average success ratio can in some years be as high as 250 to 1).

Unfortunately, in a corporate world that is increasingly advocating transparency. No one in corporate recruiting seems willing to reveal precisely why employers keep our job applicants in the dark about their realistic chances of getting the job that they seek. I find this failure to provide information to be the most common, cruel, and impactful “lie” in recruiting (assuming that omitting valuable information is a lie).

Failure to provide this valuable information is not because recruiting leaders don’t know “their job success ratio” for all previously open jobs. Because that ratio is easily obtained at no cost from their own corporation’s ATS system.

If you only do one thing publish the average number of applicants for each of your popular jobs.

Benefits From Reporting An Applicant’s Chance Of Success

Fortunately, there are many ways in which the applicant and the Corporation can both benefit from being honest about an applicant’s odds of success. Those top 12 benefits are listed below in descending order of impact. 

  • It’s not an uncommon practice to publish the odds of success – of course outside of recruiting, publicizing their success odds is not uncommon. Potential users/applicants are routinely warned of the odds of success by many. Including:
Elite Colleges
Small Bus. Advisors
Safety Experts
Casinos
Cancer Surgeons
The state lottery
Sports Writers
Actuaries
Russian roulette players
Fertility Clinics
Murder Investigators
  • Revealing the ratio may encourage the best to apply – obviously, when the number of applicants for each job is a relatively small number. The low level of competition will definitely encourage some to apply. However, because the best hires are usually applicants that are highly competitive and completely committed to working just for your organization. Even when a company reports that an overwhelming high volume of applicants were eager to apply last time around. This high number may actually encourage the highly competitive that are up to any challenge to take the time to apply. They may view the high number as an indication that many see this as a highly desirable job. Therefore, it is a challenge that should not be passed up. The high number of applicants may also force those that apply to be more prepared at every step, to improve their chances. This preparation might include providing resumes that are more polished and customized to the company. Obviously, better preparation and more targeted resumes will both excite your hiring managers. 
  • It may increase diversity applications – although there is only a limited amount of research in the area. Publishing the number of applicants may increase your number of diversity applicants. One study covering women applicants found that publishing the number of overall applications (from both men and women) increased the number of women that applied. Obviously, increasing the number of diverse applications can help a company to limit many legal issues.
  • Revealing the ratio may discourage “barely interested” applicants – rather than having your recruiters spend time identifying “the barely interested” and then sorting them out. Posting your high applicant to job opening ratio may help to discourage these “barely interested applicants” that you don’t really want (by the way, it will likely do no more than clog your hiring process). 
  • You owe it to your applicants to reward them for their investment – you should look at your applicants as “another type “of investor.” Without any pay or guarantee, these applicants volunteer to “invest” dozens of their own hours in your application process. So, in my view, these investors should be rewarded for their time and effort with complete honesty and transparency from your organization’s recruiting function.
  • It’s an opportunity to show that your organization “lives its values” – revealing your success rate shows that your company supports and “lives” its corporate values in the area of transparency and the candidate experience. Purposely keeping your applicant in the dark and not reporting this valuable ratio simply runs counter to most corporate value statements.
  • It may increase your employee retention – by publishing the fact that you receive a high number of applicants. You are in a subtle way reminding your current employees about how the company they work for is highly desirable. Because when they see that so many are interested, your employees may be more grateful. And that may help to increase your current employee retention rate.
  • You may get free external publicity – by being the first or the only organization in your area that is openly honest with its applicants. They get your organization noticed and talked up in the press or on local social media. This added positive attention would help attract more applicants because it will further strengthen your employer brand.
  • Revealing the ratio may reinforce your current customers – when your customers really like what your organization offers in terms of products and services. It may drive some of your customers to apply for your open jobs, which is a good idea because they already know and like your products. And by being transparent (by revealing the ratio), you are probably reinforcing your already strong company and product image among current and future customers. And this may indirectly increase your product sales as well as the number of applications from your customers. 
  • Calculating the success ratio is simple – calculating the applicant-to-hire ratio requires no budget, fancy algorithms, or big data experts. Instead, the information is easily obtained by simply getting the number of applicants for each job each year from your ATS. And you can get the success ratio by then simply dividing the number of applicants by the number of new hires in that open job over the year.
  • Reporting the ratio may help you meet SEC impact metricsthe SEC now requires stock exchange-listed firms to report their quantified human capital metrics publicly. This requirement is to identify, quantify, and report the impact of your HR initiatives to actual and potential investors. Will, in most cases, need to include your total number of applications as well as your applicant success ratio. 
  • The number of applicants per job also adds value as a brand strength metric – the SEC will also likely expect listed corporations to report their brand strength. And like a great college, “being hard to get into” may be a reflection of the power of your public brand image. Executives should also realize that this often-omitted metric, covering the total number of applications received each year, is by far the best brand strength measure because it reveals the actual tangible impact of your image as an employer. Some corporations like Google and IBM already receive over 3 million applications per year, so your organization may be significantly lagging behind these powerful employer brands. In addition, when applicants consider it part of their candidate experience when you provide the job success ratio. This metric may also further build your external brand image on employee comment sites. When your applicants positively comment about your hiring process on popular employee comment sites like glassdoor.com.

Additional Honesty Information That You Should Consider Offering

Although the following list of information requires a little more work and political support before you can provide it, recruiting leaders should still consider providing as much of it as possible.

  • The length of the job search – the organization’s nonbinding estimate of how many weeks each individual job search is likely to last.
  • The % that are interviewed – the percentage of all applicants that have historically been granted interviews for this job is an important ratio to many. This is because to consider any application to be a success if it results in an interview.
  • The average length of a new-hire’s employment – knowing the average number of years that a new hire in this job continues to work with the organization. It is important to many applicants because it shows that this job is likely a long-term opportunity.
  • Details about the hiring process steps – often the #1 thing applicants desire to know more about are the details covering your recruiting process and each of its steps. They need that information so that they know how to prepare best.
  • Diversity representation percentages – most diverse and non-diverse applicants want to work in a diverse team environment. So, publishing the percentage of the total workforce (or just this team) that is made up of employees from groups that are frequently underrepresented. 
  • Publish your pay range – of course, publishing your realistic pay range for a job will cause some to decide not to apply. But most recruiting leaders find that having fewer applicants upfront is a much superior corporate outcome. Then the alternative of having many applicants (with firm pay limits) continue on through the hiring process to the interview step. And then abruptly drop out when they ask about the pay during their first interview. This means that you’ve unnecessarily wasted a lot of your time on them when they could and should have been screened out initially because your pay was always below their minimum threshold.

Final Thoughts

In the past, I’ve written about the difficult numbers in a job search (In my extremely popular Why you can’t get a job article). And since that time, I have continued to find that if you count withholding desired information from your applicants as a black mark on their candidate experience. And with that black mark, literally, almost every corporate recruiting function would have to be rated poorly on its transparency as part of the candidate experience. At least, to me, it’s time for a shift to more openness. And for all of us to begin to acknowledge the fact that each individual applicant invests so much of their time and money in applying for jobs that they deserve significantly better treatment. Better treatment should start with the providing of more recruiting information that helps the applicant. By doing so, as a recruiting leader, you will make your organization stand out from the other 99.9% that selfishly keep this helpful information to themselves.

Author’s Note 

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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