Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why job boards don’t seem to work for candidates

Over 45 years ago when I was still in school, most tests were multiple choice and essay. The teachers loved multiple choice because they could grade them very quickly while essays had to be carefully read and that took time, slowing down the grading process.

Job boards and electronic resume submission forms work more like multiple choice than essay and work really, really well with skills. Skills like; types 60 wpm, welds aluminum, or 5 years experience as a plumber. They don’t work very well with essay type answers; Increased sales by 20%, etc.

Essay type answers demand discrimination and most artificial intelligence systems available today can’t do the level of discrimination that a human reader can. That means that a real live human has to read, closely, a resume for jobs that require judgment. That includes most jobs beyond entry level.

Since these tend to be the better paying jobs, there are a lot of applicants and this means a real investment in time by the HR departments.

I’m looking into what it will take to start a local business incubator in my hometown and wrote a white paper, which I asked some contacts to read. The funding sources were buried on the next to the last page on purpose. All the people who “read” it asked where the funding would come from! This told me that they hadn’t read the whole thing, just skimmed for key words.

How does this relate to job boards?

Job boards and computerized job applications do exactly the same thing, they “skim” for key words. If your key words are different from the expert system’s (or the human reader’s) you’ll get missed. The big problem is the preconceived ideas of the person writing the expert system or key word list. If they don’t really know the keywords that span industries and job descriptions, they will arbitrarily limit their candidate pool.

While this is a problem for job seekers, it’s an even bigger problem for business. A stable expert with years of experience in logistics, for instances, is much more valuable to your business than someone with lower skills and less experience. You’d like to find someone who can hit the ground running and not take a significant amount of time to learn the job.

There is not now, and may never be, a substitute for a live human actually reading a complete resume. Companies will continue to have problems finding high quality employees until they recognize that the key place to apply resources is at the initial screening. The first person to read a resume must have a great deal of experience with a large variety of industries and a deep knowledge of the day-to-day demands of each job they are screening for.

The initial screener is grading your “raw materials” and that job demands a high degree of knowledge, skill, and plenty of time to do the job right.

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