The ‘Rage Applying’ Problem

Companies are being inundated with résumés from people frustrated by their own job but not serious about switching roles. What can hiring professionals do?

Their boss told them to work past 6 PM. Their colleague did a shoddy job on a project, leaving them to do the work of fixing it. Their colleague in the office next door wears too much cologne.

For reasons serious and silly, people get frustrated at work every day. But where once workers only grumbled to friends and family, today, according to HR experts, they are “rage applying.” That’s when disgruntled workers start firing off applications by the dozen, a relatively easy thing to do these days, thanks to technology advances.

To be sure, much of this rage applying is just workers blowing off steam. Many of these people don’t really want to quit. But the disturbing trend has become a problem for hiring professionals. According to one survey, two-thirds of US professionals admitted to rage applying last year. Yet managers still have to figure out—at a time when job postings often draw hundreds of applications each—whether the applicant is a serious job seeker or just angry about his coworker loudly eating an apple that day. “There’s no way to really screen rage,” says Shanda Mints, Korn Ferry’s vice president of recruitment process outsourcing analytics and implementation.

Although rage applying by that name might be relatively new, the phenomenon is not. People have been doing it for decades—immediately seeking a new job when they’re frustrated at work. But experts say several features make this era’s rage applying different.

Firstly, applying for jobs was once a laborious and time-consuming process that involved filling out forms, redoing your résumé, and writing cover letters. Now, technology allows people to apply to a dozen jobs in minutes. Indeed, some online job boards have “apply now” (or similar) buttons that enable anyone to apply instantaneously if they’ve previously uploaded their career history or résumé—no cover letter required. In some cases, automated systems will schedule interviews automatically as well.

Secondly, even if workers don’t have the same leverage they had during the Great Resignation era, they still have considerably more than they did pre-pandemic. Unemployment remains near historic lows, while companies experience shortages of people to fill critical roles. Even a job application sent off in a fit of pique has a not insignificant chance of drawing an employer’s interest.

A third factor, experts say, is that some young people regard their current job as nothing more than a means to accumulate income so they can eventually do what they really want, says Anu Gupta, a Korn Ferry senior client partner specializing in coaching and team development. “They’re out to maximize revenue now,” he says. Given that philosophy, it’s not surprising that people might react to a slight by looking for a higher-paying job.

To be sure, more firms are using applicant-tracking software and other AI tools to vet résumés for certain keywords or accomplishments critical to a specific job role. This flags many rage-fueled applications, since someone who rage-applies usually isn’t customizing their résumé for a particular role.

But ultimately, some extra human intervention might be needed to suss out unserious applicants. “Send them job-interview questions,” quips Dennis Deans, Korn Ferry’s vice president of global human resources. More important than the substance of candidate’s reply is the fact that they’ve sent one. It means they’re likely amenable to a job switch.

Managers should also confirm scheduled job interviews. “You’ll find a lot of rage appliers will not show up for interviews, so touch base to make sure they’ll attend,” Mints says. It involves a little work, but it can save time for hiring managers and recruiters later.

For her part, Korn Ferry senior client partner Maria Amato says that these exchanges with rage applicants are also opportunities to tell them about the company and its values. Many rage appliers aren’t ready to switch employers now, but when they are, they might keep your organization in mind. “This could be an opportunity to win some of them over,” she says.


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