It is every job seeker’s biggest pet peeve, and it’s their loudest complaint: “I never hear back from the jobs I apply to online”. Over the past 10-20 years, the job application process has fundamentally changed. For better or for worse, everything is automated now. The opportunity of having your resume viewed by the hiring manager is at the mercy of algorithms and expansive applicant databases.
I have interviewed countless job seekers who are just entering the market again after 20+ years of being employed. The process of applying to a job in today’s culture is foreign to them. The last time they applied for a job, they walked into a business and physically handed their resume to a hiring manager or HR representative. They were able to shake the hand of their potential employer and ask questions about the job. There was a sense of comfort in that personal interaction. Many job seekers had their interview right then and there and were hired on the spot. That’s not the case anymore.
Whether you’re just entering the job market after 20 years or you’re a seasoned veteran of applying to jobs online – today’s job application process feels cold and cruel. There is no more face to face interaction, there is only the internet. You have to navigate through the company’s website, create a profile, answer seemingly endless questions about yourself, and upload your resume. Depending on how savvy you are, this may take 5 minutes or it could take an hour. Finally you’ve created a profile, uploaded your resume, and applied to a job. Moments later you receive an automated email thanking you for your application and assuring you that your time is valuable. Now you sit back and wait for the phone to ring!
A week later, after no phone calls, you start to feel a bit insulted. Those little job posting drones lied to you! They don’t value your time like their automated email said. You start to picture them sitting back and laughing as they fire off more thank you emails to other new applicants.
Throughout my career I’ve personally struggled a lot with this topic. On the one hand, I believe that customer service and personal interaction are invaluable to success in business. Showing that respect and service to your customers is the #1 driver in what separates successful companies from unsuccessful companies. I try extremely hard to show those attributes to people I interact with. I make a concerted effort to return every phone call and email. Now, that may not seem like a lot to ask, but if you’re in the recruiting/hiring role you know that on a typical day you get hundreds of emails and dozens of phone calls. I always get upset when I hear job seekers complaining about a lack of customer service. I don’t feel like you are representing your company to the fullest if you are leaving job seekers out in the cold waiting for a response.
On the other hand, I know that in today’s world there is a limit to how much personal interaction one can give. When the process of applying to jobs moved to the internet, it exponentially increased the amount of applicant traffic to that job. An average of 250 resumes are received for each job posted. When you consider that the average corporate recruiter is working on 20-30 openings at one time…the number of applicants begin to stack up quickly. At some point there is a physical impossibility that the recruiter can interact with each and every job applicant.
In an effort to combat the massive man hours spent sifting through applications, algorithms have been deployed to automatically sort through applications and select the resumes that match the job posting’s basic qualifications. This would be an excellent way to streamline the process and allow the recruiter to reach out individually to all applicants who are qualified. However, now job seekers have wised up to these algorithms and will tweak their resumes to pass through the ‘buzz word’ inspection gates. To hedge their bets, some job seekers will apply to any and every job at a corporation. I spoke with a gentleman last week who had applied to 800+ jobs with my company.
Job boards, like the internet, are still in their infancy. There is a lot of work to be done before they truly become efficient tools for hiring. With new technology like “The Cloud” and Big Data tools such as modern distributed file systems and map/reduce/clustering techniques recruiters will be able to sort through massive amounts of data to easily find those resumes that best match what they are hiring for. I have no doubt that a lot of time and money will be invested in improving the job seekers experience with applying to jobs online and helping to streamline their process.
It’s clear we are not there yet. It’s a frustrating time for both sides of the job board, and at times the reputations of both job seekers and recruiters can be negatively impacted. Job seekers are blaming recruiters for not being responsive, and recruiters are blaming job seekers for applying to jobs they aren’t qualified for. Job boards were supposed to help us work together toward a common goal, but it seems that now they have created a rift between us.
For recruiters, I urge you to do your best. Block off time on your calendar to answer emails and phone calls. Try as you may, you’ll never be able to personally speak with each and every applicant. But that doesn’t mean you can’t send a quick email to let them know they aren’t qualified. Most ATS (applicant tracking systems) even have a feature that allows you to send out an auto-populated response letting them know they didn’t qualify. Be sure to review your reqs each morning and address any new applications. It is much easier to handle 10-20 applicants each morning vs. waiting and having 200 pile up.
For job seekers, I urge you to stay patient. I know that’s easier said than done. I’ve been a job seeker and I’ve applied to jobs online. The silence of the job posting is deafening! But you have to trust in your abilities and your value as a candidate. Don’t apply to 500 jobs, only apply to jobs that you have a genuine interest in AND that you’re qualified for. If it’s not something you can see yourself being satisfied with, or it’s not something you meet the basic qualifications for – don’t apply. Most importantly, NETWORK! Try to network your way into a position. If you are interested in ABC Company and you’ve applied to a job with them online – spend some time researching ABC Company. Go onto LinkedIn and connect with people who work at ABC Company. Odds are their recruiter is on LinkedIn. Send them a note, let them know you’ve applied and look forward to having them review your resume. Be careful not to seem overbearing, but show your interest in the role you’ve applied to. Networking is an extremely beneficial way to differentiate yourself from the other applicants.
For the time being we have to deal with job boards the way they are. Recruiters will continue to be inundated with applicants and job seekers will continue to seemingly get the silent treatment. If we all show a little empathy, we’ll get through it. Recruiters should understand the frustrations of job seekers, and job seekers should understand the daunting task of recruiters. If I were a smarter man, I’d create a new way of applying to jobs that solves these issues…and then I’d sail off into the sunset on my brand new yacht!
Please send any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to also follow me on Twitter @RecruiterMann23