When a Manchester hotel advertised for a receptionist on Monday, the owners were shocked to received almost 1,000 applicants in a day.
They had only expected about 30 people to be interested.
The UK’s hospitality sector has been savaged by the coronavirus crisis, with many bars, restaurants and hotels struggling.
“It really is quite sad to see the amount of people that are looking for a job,” the company said.
“On Monday we placed an advert for a receptionist role for our 20 Stories restaurant in Manchester,” Carol Cairnes, director of people at the restaurant’s owner D&D London, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“The next day, James, our head of talent, went to look at applications and was amazed to find that in less than 24 hours we had 963 people apply.”
Normally for such a role they’d expect at that stage to receive about 30 applications, she said.
“Going through the candidates who applied, we could see there were a lot of very talented and highly-qualified people that applied for the role, including some restaurant general managers.”
Hospitality jobs have proved highly-sought-after as thousands of roles have been slashed by restaurant groups.
In the last two weeks, popular chains such as Pizza Express and Azzurri have kick-started restructures of their businesses that are likely to lead to more than 2,000 job losses and hundreds of restaurant outlets closing.
Social-distancing rules have also led to businesses reducing staff numbers, as they have re-opened with less space, meaning they can cater for fewer customers at a time now.
Other businesses have reported similar experiences this week.
Emily Pringle of Alnwick-based fragrance company Notes of Northumberland told the BBC that she received 583 applicants when she advertised a 16 hour-a-week retail job.
“Most of the applicants were massively over-qualified,” she said.
“It’s a very sad sign of the times. A large number of people have been educated to PhD level and applying for our job, which is telling about the current state of the job market.”
In Swansea, Sarah John, founder of Boss Brewing, said that her firm had advertised for a bar manager two days before and were surprised by the number and quality of applicants.
“We would normally only get five or so responses, but have had 35 people apply already and the calibre of applicants is really high,” she said.
Most of the applicants had worked at reasonably well-known businesses, but have either lost their jobs, or are still furloughed and worried about their future, she added.
“There have also been quite of a lot of people who said they would be happy to relocate to work,” she said.
“We’re in Swansea and have had applications from people from as far as Manchester, Leeds and Cornwall.”
Vacancies have halved
Meanwhile, when a London pub manager posted an advert for a £9-an-hour bar job last week, he was so overwhelmed by the response that he took to Twitter to report it.
Mick Dore, general manager of the Alexandra pub in Wimbledon, said: “I don’t want to alarm anyone about the economy or anything, but I advertised two bar jobs at 16:30 on Thursday. We’ve had well over 400 applicants. Gulp.”
He added: “We’d normally get a dozen or so sensible replies.”
Research by the Institute for Employment Studies this week found that the total number of live job vacancies across the country now stands at 433,000.
That’s less than half of the number in February, indicating that there’s a long way to go in the recovery for the UK job market.
“Without doubt, this is now the toughest jobs market in a generation, and there are no signs yet of a significant recovery,” said Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies.