Universities wreck Google's response. Tens of thousands of applications, and every one is read—by machine or computer—and a response practically guaranteed.
Why are American university admissions so much more organized than American business admissions?
Easy answer: Application fees. And those who apply for free or for scholarships are essentially subsidized by someone else.
Hard answer: Universities weren't always organized. They used to be like businesses: highly patronage-driven. And they still are, due to legacy applicants.
But we're operating on a broken premise. Organized and polite recruiting does not correlate with meritocracy. Ask the Soviet Union or universities. Ask the huge megacorps who do reply to every job application.
Elite universities' organized legacy admissions undermine their claim that reading every application and responding to every student makes the process fair. I know corporate admissions worse, but my anecdotal impressions are the same. Patronage rules.
Making HR respond with rejections feels good, but it does not make the process more fair. Only attacking patronage makes recruiting fair. A lofty goal.
I don't think fairness was ever the subject at hand. Rather, it's the quality of the process that's up for debate. If you've been rejected for a job, regardless of whether or not your rejection was fair, the point is that you'd probably like to receive some sort of notification as such. Otherwise, how long do you sit around waiting to hear back before you give up and move on?
Honestly, the process isn't just cumbersome for the applier, it also causes trouble for other employers, because if you never receive a rejection letter from your first choice company, you're likely to move on to others, and if your first choice happens to get back to you with an offer after you've already contacted others, then you're wasting all the OTHER companies' time.
You're right, fairness isn't at hand. But maybe we would tolerate being mean to some people and nicer to others as long as we're being fair—that is, we're efficiently matching worker to employer.
You say that one employer's neglect harms other employer's hiring. That's a good point, and it shows that organized applications, if applied across all firms, help everyone.
A single application system with a single deadline is kind of how universities admissions work. Maybe that's the best system we know. Can we have a system like universities admissions without the fees, is the real question?
Very true. There are severely competitive scholarships and fellowships, however, that exceed a 100:1 applicants-to-slot ratio. I'm not sure what the averages are. But we already know the comparison is hard because applications to university cost money. Maybe the ratio of applicants-to-slot and cost of application are just parameters of the same model, not proof that there are two different models. But you raise an interesting question:
Does a higher ratio necessarily imply more competitive? It could be that more unqualified applicants apply to more jobs than unqualified students apply to university. That would suggest that organization reduces the friction for matching the right employee to the right employer; but differences in ratio due to organization doesn't prove that the right employee is more likely to be matched to the right employer.
Why does this matter? If we take efficiency to mean reducing friction, then business will never inform applicants they were rejected. If we take efficiency to mean better candidates get better jobs more frequently, business will always inform applicants they were rejected.