Auditions are a joke. Major orchestras will field hundreds of applicants and leave positions open for years at a time. Each of us spends hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars preparing for auditions that might only hear five minutes of playing. We, as musicians, are told that this is just the way it is. Competition is fierce, it's a honor to even play in a famous hall, etc. etc.
It could be better though. It's so painfully obvious, but no one seems to talk about that.
Here are some immediate ideas - maybe you disagree with some, but I think in general these are easy fixes that should be no-brainers.
1) Only ask people to travel if they have a serious shot - every orchestra should be doing remote prescreening. If you are worried about fraud (which I think is overhyped), have a screened zoom call in which the personnel manager confirms their identity. With the money orchestras could save by not hosting the circuses that are first round auditions, maybe they could actually fly candidates out for a semi final/final and house them as would literally any other job that is interviewing people.
2) Limit total number of excerpts on lists/limit total number of non-standard excerpts on lists - What is the utility of an hour long list? Or a two hour long list? Their existence implies that too many people are playing winning auditions with just the standard stuff. But if that is true, why are there so many no-hires? Curious if there is actually an argument for anything beyond 10 excerpts, select solo rep, chamber music, and sight reading.
3) Vacancies must be filled - No longer than one year, no longer than two years, idk the right time frame. If you aren't getting the caliber of candidate you want, pay the musicians more. Some orchestras just leave vacancies open to save their bottom lines. Regular subs go on unemployment during the summer to make ends meet. This is no way to live.
The fact of the matter is that musicians who are trying to get into orchestras are the most vulnerable people in our field. We have no rights, and we routinely get treated like absolute trash. Why aren't musicians' unions regulating hiring behaviors? Why aren't tenured musicians advocating for better practices? We are all on the same team, when it comes down to it, and we should look out for one another.