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Why so many applications per job vacancy?

An employer received 150 applications for a single cleaning job…

The thrust of the Job Centre advisers’ approach is to confirm that a job seeker is actively looking for work set against a series of predefined criteria looking for fraudulent claims. Their second role is to give the job seeker one or more jobs to apply for. This task repeats itself on a weekly basis but what does this mean in practice? Take the example of a job seeker signing on for one year, not uncommon in this current economic climate. To qualify for Job Seekers Allowance they have to apply for three or more jobs per week every week which equates to 3 x 52 = 156 applications per year. The number of unemployed varies but a figure of 2.5 million is frequently quoted. Every one of these job seekers is applying for three jobs per week, collectively generating 3 x 2,500,000 = 7,500,000 applications for job interviews per week, or 7,500,000 x 52 = 390,000,000 applications per year. This does not include those people who are currently employed but applying for new jobs.

The government has invested heavily in specialised CCTV monitored, air conditioned security controlled Job Centre Plus buildings staffed by civil servants that oversee the unemployed apply for 390,000,000 jobs per year in a country populated by 65,000,000 people.

A figure for the number of unemployed per job vacancy varies from seven to twenty unemployed people available for every job vacancy. The number of jobs that become available and are filled per year varies but if there were a turnover of 1,000,000 jobs per year then each of these jobs would attract an average of 390,000,000 / 1,000,000 = 390 applications per job vacancy.

The need to apply for three jobs per week is paramount to receiving benefits. A cleaner is looking for a cleaning job within commutable distance, but are there 156 cleaning job vacancies per year to apply for and how many cleaners are competing for that work?

An employer who advertises for an employee may receive many more applications than expected and from people without the required skills or experience. From the above figures this may be on average 390 applications. Each one a CV and covering letter and if the employer spends one minute reading each application this equates to 390 minutes or 6.5 hours of reading time. The Job Centre advertised last year for (an undisclosed number of) advisors and received applications from over 90,000 job seekers. At 1 minute to read each application once = 1,500 hours or 187.5 eight hour working days to read them all.  A challenge for the even the most determined civil servant! Could this be why CV writing experts employed by job centres recommend cramming your CV onto just one page?

So the Job Centre is responsible for driving its Job Seeking Customers to collectively make 390,000,000 applications to employers per year. The sheer volume of paper, ink, envelopes and postage stamps this consumes is huge although the task may also be accomplished via the internet. The Job Centre and related government departments thoughtfully use low cost recycled stationery to reduce costs to the tax payer. If the Job Centres give out details of 2 jobs per week for 52 weeks to its 2,500,000 Job Seekers that equates a total of 260,000,000 sheets of A4 paper per year plus ink.

Plans are underway for conventional stationery and the mail service to be replaced by the use of computer technology. An educational industry has flourished teaching the unemployed computer skills needed to apply online for work. What will happen to those who do not master the computer technology to the required minimum standard? Many of those claiming benefits are unemployed because they are unable to read or write. Colin Cruz talking on BBC Radio 4 ‘Four Thought’ programme last year said…

“The news headlines tell us there are two and a half million people unemployed. Forget it. There are six and a half million people looking for work who want work or who want to have longer hours because they cannot pay the bills. There are a further six million people who currently are not working because they are either ill themselves or are caring for somebody else. In total one third of the entire working age population is not working. The second reason is one that never hits the headlines, Brace yourselves. Respectable data, ‘The Labour Force Survey’ estimates that across the United Kingdom, ten million people, that are one in four, do not have a single 2nd level qualification, not one GCSE…”

What is the answer to reduce the number of applications made by the unemployed to be eligible to claim Job Seekers Allowance when there are so few job vacancies?