Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How on-line job recruiting may be ruining your results at work

  “There are no jobs that match your profile” screamed the red type at the bottom of a Portland hospital’s job site.  That was after I’d spent more than an hour carefully detailing my work history and credentials, giving educational background including university addresses, websites and GPA’s. That was after I’d supplied the required phone number, current employment locations and email addresses of references and former supervisors.  I invested all of that time and effort only after carefully reading the description for the posted job, and determining that it was an exact match for my skill sets.
   My cover letter addressed the attributes, duties and experiences the job description called for.  My years of experience exceeded even the preferred level of qualifications requested.
   It gets more dubious. Keep reading.
   I was also required to post some very sensitive and personal information that could have subjected me to ID fraud or unfairly eliminated me from consideration – my age  :) --and previous salary --more than this position will pay.
   “If you are offered a position,” according to the hospital’s job site, “this information will be needed for a background check.” 
   Fair game, if I am a finalist.  Fair questions if I am interviewed. Then I can tell you in person that the salary doesn’t matter as much as the opportunity. Then I can tell you in person that my age brings with it experience, commitment and maturity. But I was eliminated before any qualified human being considered my qualifications. 
  My future was determined by a computer program.
  More than 45 state governments, most municipalities and thousands of companies have subordinated the work of human resource departments and decision-making managers to on line recruiting software. There are two leading companies contracted for most of this work. Their websites tout the software as a real public service that saves time for employers by eliminating “unqualified” candidates.  They also claim that employees need to create their on line profile only once.  That isn’t true. The employees have to keep applying for every new position. If they apply at different companies, they need a separate email address, username and password for every single employer – even if the same on line recruiting firm and template is responsible for the search.  I currently have 5 pages of usernames and passwords filling a tablet in my home office. Think this is easy to navigate?
 What these e-applications really do is search your application for a match of key words, not qualifications.  The method is similar to teaching a child to memorize, but not learn what is going to be on an exam.
  As employers, do we want to hire people who know how to beat the system, or do we want creative, engaged employees?  If you as a manager really believe the jobs you post are so cookie cutter that a computer program can perform the hiring function, you should quit.  Save your company the money you’re being paid.
  If you’re looking for work, how would you feel about being hired because you figured out what key words the computer program was looking for?  Do you want software probably designed in a foreign country to decide whether you can do a job? Do you want the structure, direction, goals and expectations for your performance determined by these on line recruiters?  That’s where we’re heading if this continues.  You will walk into a new job where your supervisor has a better relationship with a software program than he does with you. 
  Until the state legislatures can scrutinize and require improved on line recruiting, we are forced to work around the system in order to match the best employees with the best employers.
  If you’re in the job market, you will have to go through the on line recruiting channels if your perspective employer requires you to do so.  Adapt your cover letter and resume so you provide an exact match of the key words describing the required experience and duties. Play the system.  But take one more step:  find out who the decision maker is for the position and get a more creative letter and resume in their hands.  I don’t care if it annoys them.  If you’re hired, you bosses won’t want you to give up the first time you’re assigned to a difficult task, will they?  They won’t want you to rely on email as your only means of communication, will they?  They won’t want you to mail in a cookie cutter performance, so be persistent and insist on getting personal in your job search.
  If you’re an employer, I encourage you to take the extra step in your recruiting. The “upside” to a high unemployment rate for you is that you’ll have some highly qualified candidates, so don’t miss out on them. Read the cover letters!  Conduct more interviews.  Find some references on your own and really find out about these people. Have HR do the drug screening and criminal background checks while you invest in finding the winner who can advance your team. 
  Fire the on line recruiters if you want positive results on the job.

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