“Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.” Wall Street, 1987
“Candidate sends a resume into the abyss, there’s no response coming back to him. At that moment, candidate gets more frustrated. And that is what keeps candidates in the abyss.” Whitaker, 2014
Do you remember this “wtf?” moment in the movie Wall Street? “Bud” (Charlie Sheen, in an eerie foreshadowing of future events) is being hauled out of his brokerage, cuffed and crying, strung out on coke, greed, and stupidity. Right before he is about to meet this fate, the old sage of the office, “Lou” (Hal Holbrook) offers the aforementioned nugget of wisdom.
I feel like Lou these days, trying to explain to qualified job-seekers why they have been automated right out of consideration. But I’m not sure how many times you can repeat the same message while still believing it yourself.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are all the rage in the corporate recruiting world. lt’s no mystery why—an ATS is a critical tool when managing the ability to receive, organize, and automate the mass of resumes that flood most recruiting departments. A company has a distinct advantage in terms of compliance, record keeping, templates, boilerplates, documentation… looking for a tool to increase efficiency? This is your kinda product.
But what about the candidate?
In the conversations I’ve had with candidates (both hired and “rejected”) they all seem to agree with one thing—they hate the ATS. Hard to blame them… the ATS allows for recruiters to be human SEO machines, quickly scanning for a few quick keywords and the assurance that someone is actively employed. Fair? No. Reality? Yes.
Open jobs will receive hundreds of submissions; there aren’t enough hours (or recruiters) in the day to thoughtfully review each one. But there may be a few things we can do to improve the current state:
1. Limited Window of Opportunity – Close that posting one week after you activated it, review the candidates who have applied. Long-term postings are a graveyard for resumes.
2. Limited Channels – Instead of posting the job on ten different job sites, identify 1 or 2 sites that speak specifically to the audience you are seeking. You don’t want serial applicants—don’t use serial postings.
3. Better Job Descriptions – More detail into the details. Hard and soft skills, minimum years of experience, industry specific experience, location, and (this is the toughie) compensation information.
4. (Candidates) No More Serial Applicants – Applying to every available job only perpetuates the mess. I know when you are out of work, there is a primal reason for throwing your name in the hat for any and every posting, but be honest with yourself: “If I get this job, would I stay here a year?”
I really don’t know what the solution is, but I do know there is a perfect storm that perpetuates the problem: large numbers of quality candidates, ATS-enabled ability to accept all comers, limited “people” resources to actually engage with the candidates. We’re building a huge audience of people only to ignore them.
We’re lost, but we’re making good time, yes?
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is a SVP and Chief People Officer at Sage Dental and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.