Electronic job-application submission systems can leave HR and hiring managers drowning in a sea of resumes and applications. Some large retailers can get a million or more resumes a year. Even small businesses can find themselves flooded with them. For example, when Raising Cain, a Louisiana-based fast-food chain, opened an office in Dallas, the firm needed to hire 35 people. It received 10,000 resumes and had to hire an outside firm to help sort through them.
It’s not surprising harried HR personnel, managers, and business owners are increasingly using application tracking systems and other types of resume screening software. Ayax Systems and Kenexa are two firms that offer close to a thousand online assessments, with prices ranging from a couple of bucks to $50 a test. Many job boards now feature prescreening questions as well and have algorithms to the recommend candidates similar to the way Amazon.com recommends products based on what a person has purchased in the past.
Not all HR professionals are fans of resume screening software, however. Managers tend to pile on huge numbers of key words so that very few applicants can make it past the screen, says Peter Cappelli, a University of Pennsylvania professor who has written book called Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs. Different kinds of software also have different kinds of glitches. Many of them don’t read serif types styles such as Times Roman well, and those resumes get rejected. Some systems ignore headers and footers. So, if an applicant puts his or her contact information in the header, it may end up being deleted. In other cases, unqualified applicants have learned to “pepper” their resumes with a job’s keywords to get past resume-screening software.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Cappelli relates an incident in which an HR manager put his own resume through his company’s screening process and got rejected. In another instance, an engineering firm received more than 25,000 resumes for a job but none of the candidates made it past electronic screening.
There is also lack of the human touch and judgment in the process. Managers don’t end up seeing interesting resumes- resumes from people who have different skills or life experiences that would translate well to the job. Consequently, a lot of people who would make excellent employees never get a glance.
Some recruiters have found ways to avoid the “resu-mess”and downsides of automatic resume screening altogether. Instead of posting job ads, they use social networking sites to get the word out for the types of employees they are looking to hire. Kevin Mercuri, president of Propheta Communications, a public relations firm in New York City is one of them. Mercuri got tired of being swamped by resumes. Now when he needs to recruit personnel, he posts a message about job openings on his LinkedIn page. “I get people vouching for each applicant, so I don’t have to spend hours sorting through resumes,” he says..