February 11, 2017

Common Job Applications: Improvement or Detriment in The Hiring Process?

By ThinkingAhead

Thanks to common job application technology, candidates can send applications to hundreds of jobs at once — and recruiters and hiring managers have even larger piles of resumes to review and sort. But are common job applications actually effective? In other words, should candidates and hiring managers expect better results, or are these algorithms simply making the process more difficult?

Man Versus Machine

Everyone knows the best hires are referrals: one study found that between 30 and 50 percent of job placements in the United States are the result of a referral. In fact, employers like referrals so much that candidates referred by employees or recruiters are more than four times as likely to be hired than non-referrals.

That’s because referred candidates are often top candidates — but that also means they’re more likely to hired elsewhere, since most top candidates only stay on the market for ten days. To tackle these overwhelming odds, it’s no wonder so many HR professionals and hiring managers turn to technology.  

The Downside for Job Seekers

Of course, it’s not just employers: job seekers love job application tools and websites like CareerBuilder, which allows users to submit a single application to multiple companies. But if “resume blasting” sounds heavy-handed, that’s because it is.  It’s possible the extreme coverage of a resume creates extreme exposure and a candidate’s resume may even go to their own employer, unwittingly! Furthermore, these tools rarely allow applicants to customize cover letters — which tells companies they aren’t really interested in the position.  

Overwhelmed Employers

For many HR professionals, resume screening is the most time-consuming part of talent acquisition. A rough estimate by HR solutions firm Ideal indicated that screening resumes can take up to 23 hours for just one open position — after all, almost 90 percent of applicants for open positions are unqualified. It’s tempting to use common job application tools to reach more candidates (and therefore, potentially, the perfect candidate), but the sheer volume of applications received actually makes the hiring process harder.

Moreover, applicant tracking systems (ATS) — a must-have for many HR professionals — are crucial but often unreliable. Ostensibly, they provide a solution to this deluge of resumes by using keywords and knockout questions to automatically sort applications. But the problem is that they can easily eliminate strong, highly qualified candidates missing a single keyword. According to The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 40 percent of talent acquisition professionals consider the most important factor to be the quality of a hire, not whether a certain word appears on their resume. 

Could Technology Triumph Once Again?

Of course, this isn’t to say that technology will never improve the hiring process. For example, AI promises to solve the problem of common job applications: new software solutions with advanced algorithms can learn the qualifications required for an open position and recognize qualified candidates based on historical hiring decisions, as well as whether or not a candidate was successful based on performance and tenure.

For hiring managers, HR professionals, and recruiters, common job applications will only improve the hiring process when the technology to process the accompanying mass of resumes is implemented. Speed is still one of the most important factors in hiring top talent, so sorting through hundreds or even thousands of applications may mean sacrificing the in-demand candidates.

Similarly, common job applications have made the hiring process easier for job seekers, but this convenience is potentially misleading: employers are more likely to favor referred candidates than those who submit via mass application — and those applications may be eliminated by ATS software long before an HR professional ever reads them.

Candidates should also be aware that extreme coverage also means extreme exposure, and that their “resume blast” may reach more companies than they intend, including their current employer. It’s important to know where you’re applying — or, for even better results, skip the common application and speak directly to a professional recruiter who can advocate for your skills and experience.

Even with AI intelligence, there isn’t (yet) a substitute for human influence. That’s why so many companies often prefer to work with professional recruiters for specialized and hard to fill positions, who talk in depth with employers and candidates, learn the nuances of a company’s culture and mission, and make smart, mutually beneficial placements with higher longevities.

What’s required for successful hires is an understanding of human and organizational behavior, knowledge of the parties involved, appreciation for the demands of each role, and a network of relevant contacts. Although ATS and AI can do some of the initial sorting, a human recruiter will always be preferable — and will often result in a more fulfilling partnership.