Everyone Loses When Jobs Are Too Easy to Apply To

“Whenever I apply for a job, I feel like I’m sending my resume into a black hole. I can’t even manage to get my foot in the door anywhere!”

Have you heard this before? Or perhaps experienced something like this yourself when you’ve been on the job market?

Supposedly, technology is making our lives easier. That’s certainly true for housework. I for one am a big fan of vacuum cleaners and washing machines and am very happy that the days of beating rugs outdoors and cleaning clothes by hand on a washboard are long behind us.

It’s true for transportation, too. Without airplanes and automobiles, for example, our world would be a very different place. Just imagine how long and difficult the journey would be to get to the other side of town (not to mention the other side of the country!) without a car.

In the business world, too, technology has had far-reaching effects. It’s revolutionized how we communicate with clients and colleagues, how we make our products and provide our services, and how we handle all the details of running a business.

Technology has greatly helped the HR department in particular, by making it possible to process complex paperwork (payroll and benefits, anyone?) much more easily. Online job sites, applicant tracking systems, and other tech solutions have streamlined much of the bureaucracy associated with hiring. But have they actually made hiring better? I’m not so sure.

These days, an online job posting might draw hundreds or even thousands of applications. All the hiring manager has to do is post the ad, sit back, and wait for the resumes to pour in. But faster and more convenient shouldn’t necessarily be HR’s goals for hiring. When you’re dealing with a company’s most important asset—people—you need to assess thoroughly and hire carefully, because those decisions have long-term, wide-ranging effects throughout the organization.

And it’s hard to make those decisions when a single online job posting brings in thousands of applications. Sophisticated computer algorithms often make a first cut based on keyword searches, but even that leaves a tremendous number of resumes (and cover letters) left for HR to sort through. How many of those applications are from people who are genuinely interested in the position and actually have the qualifications to fill it? Remember, if it’s incredibly easy for HR to bring in lots of applications, it’s also incredibly easy for candidates to submit those applications. And when they do they often (though not always) do so with a “might as well send in an application, because it takes almost no time or effort to do so” mindset.

The result of all this? Job seekers experience frustration when they send out resume after resume to no avail (without quite realizing that countless other job seekers are doing the same thing and thereby diluting their efforts). And hiring managers experience frustration when they have to invest significant time and resources in evaluating huge numbers of applications, the vast majority of which come from people who are either uninterested in or unqualified for the position—or both.

Perhaps a better alternative is to make it harder for people to apply for jobs—that is, implement a process that makes it more likely that the applications that land on the hiring manager’s desk are from people who eagerly want the position. In other words, get rid of the system that lets thousands of people easily—too easily—apply for a position. Make them do more than upload a resume and cover letter and click on a few buttons.

You don’t have to go all-out Luddite and return to the days of hard-copy resumes and cover letters. But at least add enough hoops (meaningful ones, not time wasters) to the process so that applicants weed themselves out along the way. Then you increase the odds that you’ll start with the people who are most interested in and qualified for the job. And only then will you have truly maximized the efficiency (and reduced the headache!) of your hiring process.