Recent research has suggested that hiring managers and recruiters are being inundated with applications from unqualified candidates; a trend that has been dubbed the “apply anyway” culture.

This “apply anyway” culture has been cited as being a key contributor to the slowing down of hiring processes within a jobs market where there is a significant abundance of jobs vs. a lack of candidates to fill them.

The “apply anyway” culture.

A recent survey of over 1,100 recruiters, managers, and HR professionals revealed that 73 % of respondents cited a lack of qualified applicants for roles as the biggest challenge in their hiring process.

This “unqualified applicant overload crisis” is significantly slowing down the hiring timeline. So much so that it has resulted in 84% of hiring teams adding ‘time to hire’ as a KPI.

What has ignited the ‘apply anyway’ culture?


Advances in technology have been blamed for the rise in ‘apply anyway’ applicants.  Job applications are now mainly conducted online using easy to fill out forms.  Very few organisations still require a cover letter and a handwritten job application form. Today, a job application is as easy as uploading your CV and pressing “submit”.

Skills shortages.

Within the tech space, a Gallup and Amazon Web Services report reveals that only one in 10 UK workers possess digital skills, while 72 % of businesses in the UK have vacancies for workers with digital skills.

The well-documented skills shortages across the UK have also been blamed for the rise in unqualified candidate applications.

It’s thought that many job seekers are applying for roles in the belief that they’ll be hired for their other attributes and then trained to do the job in question.

Time to Hire.

The research highlighted that more than half (56%) of recruiting teams are keen to make changes to their hiring processes to improve their hiring timeline.

Recruitment data shows ‘time to hire’ is a critical KPI.  A 2022 Recruiting Benchmarks Report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers reveals that only 42% of candidates will complete the recruitment process from the application to the offer stage, while 66% of applicants will accept the first job they’re offered.

Long hiring processes are leading to a vicious cycle for companies looking to recruit the best talent.  Drawn out recruitment processes cause the preferred and most suitable candidates to become disengaged or find a role elsewhere.

‘Fit to hire’ vs skill-only hiring?

In a jobs market short on skilled applicants, there has been some debate over which approach is best; to use a ‘fit to hire’ model, or wait for an application from a skilled applicant?

Recruiters need to find an equal balance between ‘fit to hire’ candidates and skilled applicants.  There must be some practical measures in place at the outset like technical or formal skill requirements that work to attract relevant applicants. Partnering this with some information about organisational culture and learning or training options will ensure that hiring for fit isn’t discouraged.

How can the system improve?

When it comes to improving recruitment systems, 82% of the surveys’ respondents indicate that we need to employ a more efficient screening process for applicants. This would allow us to better assess their suitability for the role at an early stage.

87% of respondents also thought that getting more timely feedback from hiring managers to advance top candidates faster are the most effective ways to improve hiring speed.

Regarding the ‘apply anyway’ culture, others added that clarity in the early stages of the hiring process would help eliminate applications from unqualified candidates.  This includes a job description and person specification with clear hiring requirements and definitions.

close up of male hands typing on a laptop keyboardping on a laptop

Employers should also be transparent about the specific skillsets they require, and the experiences candidates should have had.

Filters and search functions on technology and tools should be set to help streamline CV screening and reduce the visibility of unqualified candidates.  Pre-screening questions should be focused on the required skills and knowledge needed to perform the role. Doing so will assist in both streamlining the recruitment process and ensure valid applications from skilled candidates.

Let Ignite Digital help.

Are you looking to build your tech, digital, and data teams? We can help. Reach out to Ignite Digital today to hear more about how we work.

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