10 October 2012

Is resume-screening software really this dumb?

I could also ask, "Are the people using resume-screening software really this dumb?" I want to believe the answer to both is "no," but I don't see a lot of reason to think that.
CBS: Money Watch | Suzanne Lucas | How online job searches worsen the job crisis

If tens of thousands of people applied for one job, what are the odds that not a one would be qualified for the position? That's not a theoretical question.

Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, recently noted such a case after a company's resume-screening system concluded that none of the 29,000 applicants for an engineering job had the right qualifications.

Sadly, this does not surprise me one bit. With the current overflow of job-seekers and the ubiquity in corporate America of such resume software, companies often seek out the "perfect" job candidate. The sort of candidate who, given the nature of humanity, doesn't exist. As a result, people who need jobs can't find them, and hiring managers with multiple vacancies at their organizations cry in their pillows at night about the "talent shortage." [...]

Additionally, while resume screening can be helpful, the requirements shouldn't be so discriminating that a company isn't finding any qualified applicants. Are you hung up on one particular college degree? Five, but never four, years of experience? (And 10 years is just too much! You'll be bored!) Someone who can use software A and B, but reject candidates who are versed in C and D and could easily learn the former if given a $300 set of training CDs?
First of all, I completely believe that there are numerous companies out there getting thousands of online job applications and having none of them meet their screening criteria. I get that. Fine.

But if I was one of these companies that got 30k applications and rejected them all, only to complain about a "talent shortage," wouldn't I then re-run all those applications with slightly lower standards? Is there no partial matching in these systems? No way to say "find the candidate who has the most of these ten skills we're looking for" instead of "find someone with all these skills"? No way to see that no applicant has n years of experience and then cull the pile again looking for those with n-1 years? Have these companies not tried loosening the criteria until they find a few people to at least interview?

Are HR departments, and the vendors who supply these systems, really so dense? Again, I'm perfectly willing to believe they are, but — jesus wept! — how does this persist?


In the name of epistemic humility, let me make clear that I mean all these questions to be only semi-rhetorical. I am totally ready to believe that these systems already have these capabilities. (Despite not having seen any indication they do in the articles I've read about them.) If they really are as dumb as they are depicted then I smell a business opportunity.

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