A recent New York Times article highlighted the challenges faced by a small business owner in devoting sufficient time to hiring new staff. The challenges are particularly acute in the current economic climate, it was argued, because the number of applicants per open position has risen dramatically. An unemployment rate that hovers stubbornly around 10% has certainly meant more competition for fewer jobs. For job searchers, this makes it even more important to stand out in a crowded field. For employers, this "buyer's market" means that although there is plenty of talent available, it can be difficult and time consuming to find the right person for the job when there are so many applicants.
Of course, pre-employment testing is a very efficient way to filter through large applicant pools. Because companies use our HireSelect pre-employment testing software to help them do just this, we are able to gather data that offers real-time insights into hiring trends. For example, we can track, for every job opening on our site, the number of test takers who show up to take the tests. This presumably works out to a reasonable measure of the number of applicants per position. Since I haven't seen much hard data out there about the extent to which applicant pools have grown, I thought it would be interesting to share our findings. Our data confirms the anecdotal reports of much bigger applicant pools. In fact, as the graph below shows, amongst small businesses the average number of applicants per job has just about doubled since 2008, when the recession began.
Just to be clear on what the data represent, we've actually tallied test batteries by company, and test takers per battery. Often larger companies set up a test battery with the intent of multiple hires. That was our rationale for restricting our sample to smaller companies (companies of fewer than 50 employees), as they are more likely to be making only one hire per position opening. We should also note that our company is relatively young and growing rapidly, so the pool of companies and how they use our services has evolved since Q3 2008. All that considered though, the basic point remains that by a constant metric on our site we have seen a large increase in the number of test takers showing up to take pre-employment tests on our site, even when considered on a per-opening basis.