I've often said that we only need to find 1 person to make that 1 hire, and that is the most effective type of recruitment. A true 1:1 ratio.
Now, I'm not saying that this is realistic, or even preferable. Especially for hiring managers.
I for one would be disappointed if I only received one application for a role I advertised; if only for the fact you can’t form a good baseline of what good looks like from your applicant pool.
But 20:1 seems an awfully wasteful number of people.
And for me this is the point. We’re talking about people. People with hopes and dreams. People with financial and emotional commitments. People who are trying to progress in the world.
So I think it’s our duty as recruitment professionals to actively try to reduce the number of applicants. I firmly believe the 20 is a self-fulfilling number. We think we need 20 per job, therefore we will get 20 per job. Even though that’s not always possible (especially if you’re recruiting IT Architects).
We should take it upon ourselves to write better adverts. Ones that challenge the candidate. That are clear, honest and open about the challenges they’ll face in the role. Not one that dumbfounds people with a ridiculous amount of minimum criteria, which ultimately means you’ll only be able to back-fill the role with the person that left it or a unicorn/purple squirrel/hens tooth.
As you may be able to tell from the above this is something I’m really quite passionate about, and something my team now strive for. Reducing the number of applicants we receive. But increasing the quality.
We shouldn’t be aiming for quantity. We should be aiming for quality.
Then maybe we won’t have to waste the candidate’s time. Or indeed our own.
With few exceptions, you’ll usually need more than 20 qualified candidates to make an informed hiring decision, regardless of location or job category.