Employers and job-seekers are suffering from the lack of insight and creativity we’re commonly accepting as part of current hiring processes.
Convenience and automation have made finding “the right fit” for a position nearly impossible while encouraging the dangerous inaccuracy that results from Search Engine Optimization.
In their efforts to streamline the candidate filtering process, HR departments are most often eliminating the candidates with the most positive potential. This creates a detrimental disservice not only for the job-seekers, but also for the employers themselves. This can be rectified, though.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have come under fire in recent years for lacking that “personal touch” that allows human hiring managers to recognize valuable personal characteristics and translatable skills that automated systems often miss.
In defense of their use of ATS, HR professionals argue that the sheer volume of applications they receive in response to job postings makes it impossible to manually sort through the pools of candidates.
Furthermore, the many and varied duties with which HR departments are routinely saddled directly decrease the amount of time and attention that HR staff can afford to allocate to hiring efforts.
Instead, HR representatives actively suggest that job seekers tailor their résumés so that they are optimized for ATS searches and filters. Basically, they promote a form of Search Engine Optimization as a strategy for job seekers who hope to catch the attention of employers.
The problem with this idea is that it inherently encourages inaccuracy in the initial steps of the decision-making process and eliminates the very details that could otherwise cause one candidate to stand out from another. Essentially, they’re being presented with a colorful cornucopia of individuals with discernible traits, but are then obscuring them into a muddied, nebulous group.
Standardizing résumé wording in order to match generalized automated filtering terminology actually de-emphasizes originality and unique experience and individual traits, even if those qualities could be extraordinarily applicable to the position.
By suggesting that every candidate strive to match the criteria of standardized searches, hiring employers actually actively work against the very problem they are trying to combat: a large pool of candidates that’s difficult to intelligently and effectively pare down into the optimal group of individual applicants.
The only realistic answers all start with accepting one unsavory truth: despite their impressive advancements, ATS programs are not currently adequate for selecting all of the best real-world candidates for a position. Fortunately, there are multiple potential solutions.
1. Abandon Reliance on Internet-Wide Job Offerings
Huge job search engines, by their very nature, invite massive numbers of applicants with their immense audiences and one-click functions. If a company is overwhelmed with the number of applicants they are receiving, opting out of these seems like a no-brainer.
2. Free Up Time for Human Résumé Reviews
If HR professionals have too much on their plates to properly conduct job searches, then we need to reduce the size of their plates. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean reallocating or eliminating duties that currently fall under the jurisdiction of HR departments, but rather establishing positions and committees within HR solely or primarily dedicated to hiring.
Creating an additional position or two in HR when circumstances demand it may well be worth across-the-board improvements in production, quality, and turnover rate. Some professional fields, like academia, already make effective use of dedicated search committees.
3. Search for a Person, Not a Set of Credentials
An individual’s psychological/intellectual attributes and personality characteristics are often a much better predictor of professional potential than are the list of certificates, titles, and bullet items they managed to scrape together.
Employers tend to focus on personal qualities during the final phases of the interview process, but that only occurs after the field of candidates has been narrowed to those matching the too-specific keyword searches and filters. In essence, at that point, the person for whom they are searching may have already been eliminated.
4. Improve the Quality of ATS AI
The ATS concept does seem extremely useful and beneficial. The problem is that the technology is currently too basic to include the right candidates. I’m not advocating the total and permanent abandonment of ATS programs; I’m suggesting we recognize and account for their current limitations.
Instead of being designed to filter candidates based on specific fields of study, keyword skills, and exact job titles, they need to be redesigned to target the types of candidates who possess the more relevant (and often more elusive) intangibles necessary to succeed in a position.
In the pursuit of convenience and efficiency, the HR industry has succeeded only in creating an atmosphere of frustration around the hiring process for both employers and job seekers. This ship can be righted, and we can once again ensure that the right people land in the right positions, but only if we are willing to accept that we’re not yet at the point where we can accept generalized automation practices for human insight and vision.