How companies are dealing with resume overflow

A byproduct of running a successful company with a good culture is that everyone wants to work for you, but just because the resume volume is high, it doesn’t mean they’re all sparkling. Finding a good candidate in the massive mountain of applicants can become very daunting and time-consuming.

"It's like finding a needle in the haystack, but while there might be three needles now, the haystack is also 10 times larger," HR exec Danika Davis says, in an SF Gate interview. "It's not an easy decision, but it's certainly better than having to choose between several candidates that don't fill your needs.”

A popular company may get 100’s or 1000’s of applications submitted for any given job opening. There are several ways to deal with this sea of resumes, including certain types of automation, applicant tracking, and other steps that help separate good candidates from the bad.

Applicant Tracking Systems

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) rank job applicants by how closely their resume matches the job description. ATS are great for processing a high volume of applicants, and they're a new standard tool in HR managers' tech stacks.   

Airbnb’s hiring process may vary from candidate to candidate but the company says they do use an applicant tracking tool, "Incoming applications land in Greenhouse, our Applicant Tracking System. Airbnb is an international platform so it's only natural that we have an international recruiting team, with team members in our San Francisco, Dublin and Singapore offices." 

However, they add that personalization in the process is still very important : "There's no one-size-fits all interview experience because every role and hiring team is different, but what is universal is our goal to make every candidate feel welcome throughout their journey with us, just as Airbnb hosts make their guests feel at home during a trip. Depending on role and office location, we divide and conquer the task of reviewing and responding to every application, whether the applicant is a fit for the role or not. From there, if we see an experience and skills match, we advance the candidate to a recruiter screen or a hiring manager screen, depending on the team and the role. If they pass that stage, there may be a technical test of some kind - such as a coding interview for engineers. Then we'd advance the candidate to the onsite interview stage, during which they'd meet with the hiring team to dig for deeper skills match and team fit, and as well as with interviewers trained to assess how candidates embody our six Core Values."

Targeted Questions and External Sites

There are a few other methods companies can employ to help with the impending overflow even before that first resume comes through. When writing the job posting, targeted, relevant questions placed in the ad can help when it comes time to sort. Nonresponsive applicants can easily be weeded out.

James Bates, Senior Technical Recruiter at Atlassian writes on Quora about how his company uses targeted questions. He says, "At Atlassian we get over 300 applicants per week across different roles, so we have an automated process that sends applicants questions to answer when they apply,” adding, “These are relevant, targeted questions for each role. Potentially 30% of the applicants won't return the questions, so you cut out the non-committed ones straight away, and for the remainder it is easy to read/assess a few answers than it is to read/assess many resumes.(And if the answers are specific you can use software that scores them, so you just see the candidate’s score and can act on that).”

Similarly, Airbnb explains some of the other things they do when posting a job opening: "We do use HireArt for some of our high volume roles. Adding an extra step can weed out serious candidates from those who don't want to make the time commitment, and video applications shed light on characteristics that we can't see on paper, like communication skills and creativity.

We're also fans of the good old-fashioned cover letter. At Airbnb, a person's hard skills and technical proficiency are weighed as equally to what we call 'Core Values' fit. So if you demonstrate that you're skilled and qualified for the role, and can shed some light on why you're interested in Airbnb, that's something we admire.

Lastly, we gather information about applicants' interaction with Airbnb. Do you have an account, but have never booked? Are you a host? It's not a deal breaker if you haven't used Airbnb, but it is just helpful for us to know how familiar a candidate is with the product."

Staffing Firms

With jobs in high demand, and so many resumes being submitted, often a company will turn to a staffing firm to take over the hiring process.

A staffing firm can handle everything from posting the open position in all the usual (and sometimes less usual) job boards, screen applicants, provide background checks and usually keep a database up to date with applicants that may fit future needs.

Sometimes the applicant will be actually hired by the firm, and then later transferred to the company which makes for a nice trial working period without the company having to invest too much time and money if it doesn’t work out.


Sometimes even when there is a mile-high stack of resumes, nothing beats a good old fashioned human being pair of eyes to look over the applications.

Airbnb also notes that they also give each resume the human treatment:

"We don't use automated filtering. Whether you apply for a Customer Experience role in Dublin, a marketing role in Singapore, or an engineering role in San Francisco, a human will review and respond to every applicant. While it's definitely time and labor intensive, we feel it's only fair that if someone takes the time to prepare an application, they deserve the courtesy of knowing a person on the receiving end took a look at it."

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