Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

Summary: The volume of available information technology talent has made it a near Sisyphean task for recruiters to separate the qualified from the unqualified.

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TOPICS: CXO, IT Employment
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Recruiters are having trouble finding the qualified candidates to fill open tech positions.

This scenario seems to counter the situation visible on the street where qualified employees seem to roam the streets in search of an open position willing to accept them. But the volume of available talent has made it a near Sisyphean task for recruiters to separate the qualified from the unqualified. Recruiters and human resources departments are drowning in resumes, writes recruiter Trevor Smith on Recruiting Blogs.

Who among us hasn't posted a new opening on a job board or other vehicle only to get to work the next morning with an inbox full of hundreds (literally) of resumes?

In response to the "Labor Market Barometer Report," released last month by TalentDriveIn, 45 percent of recruiters at Fortune-1,000 companies said "efficiently filtering through resumes" is the biggest challenge facing their profession. Finding qualified candidates is now like finding a specific needle in a stack of slightly different needles.

This situation arrives as surveyed companies said they are preparing to hire again and fill open positions en mass for the first time in two years:

  • 76 percent of companies reported talent-acquisition budgets would increase in the first three months of the year, up from just 44 percent during the same period last year;
  • 42 percent of companies are worried about combating turnover, which would further increase pressures to fill job openings.

How did we arrive at a place where qualified talent is available in abundance but hard to find? Recruiters are being pinched between two technology trends that have let them down:

1. Job boards, many no more than aggregators of each other, have made it easy for candidates (qualified and unqualified alike) to find open positions and auto-submit buttons have made it easy for them to send their resume. Far greater numbers of job seekers are finding open positions and far too many unqualified resumes are making it through the door.

Add to the mix, the tremendous volume of job seekers sent looking for work during the recession and then made desperate but unprecedented lengths of unemployment and you have too many resumes flooding recruiters desks.

Some recruiters disdain job boards and auto-submit features so much that they strive to keep their searches under wraps while they use old-fashioned methods to source candidates. Ron Holifield, CEO of Strategic Government Resources, in Keller, Texas, is one such recruiter, he told TheLadders.

Viewing these automated applications as a silver bullet to short-circuit the hard work of building relationships based on trust falls short, because there are no silver bullets that do that. The organizations that require candidates to use the form will attract lower-level employees, but many senior candidates are just going to skip the opportunity...

2. The technology to filter candidates hasn't kept pace with the demands being placed on recruiters.

Most employers and agency recruiters (62 percent, according to the TalentDriveIn report) rely on a standalone resume search engine or resume search application built into an applicant tracking system (ATS) to collect, categorize and filter incoming resumes. The ATS is supposed to be the first phase of resume review, using keywords and contextual search to omit unqualified candidates and produce only qualified candidates who can be vetted for qualities like pedigree and experience.

In theory, the ATS should protect the recruiter from the pain of a tidal wave of unqualified candidates. But ATSes do a poor job, say most recruiters, including Glen Cathey, a recruiter and author of the blog Boolean Blackbelt.

I'm well aware that ATS's serve many critical functions beyond searching for the candidates contained within them, but let's pull no punches here - you can't hire someone, or begin to automate candidate relationship management with someone you haven't FOUND in the first place. And just because a candidate is buried somewhere in your database, it doesn't mean you've actually found them (or can find them when you want or need to).

And in a cruel twist, the recession has made hiring managers significantly more selective. Recruiters call it the purple squirrel syndrome. In the past it was enough to find a purple squirrel to fill an opening for a purple squirrel, but, because the recession made so many purple squirrels available, hiring managers now ask for a purple squirrel... with size-9 shoes... w/ white shoelaces... and seven years experience with size-9 shoes... and 4 years experience using white shoelaces... in emerging markets.

The modern ATS is intuitive enough to select the candidates with experience who are purple squirrels and wear size-9 shoes and white shoelaces and have a connection to emerging markets, but the specific nuances of the experience aren't usually apparent without a manual review  by the recruiter of dozens, even hundreds of resumes. Sometimes it requires a phone call. Back to square one.

All of this means recruiters are drowning in resumes as they prepare to ramp to meet the growing demand to fill open positions. For job seekers, it means there will likely be more open opportunity to find a job or switch jobs in 2011, but their shiny needle must stick out in a stack of needles. Related coverage:

Topics: CXO, IT Employment

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24 comments
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  • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

    To be fair about this, it isn't just the job boards and the candidates that have been abusing the system. Recruiters are also abusing the system by blindly mass emailing all canidates found thru a key word search. An annoying number recruiters either don?t have the time, or don?t want to spend the time, reviewing resumes returned via a resume search. So, instead of eyeballing the resumes and only sending out emails to those that seem to qualify, they create a template document, and blast that out to all the email addresses. I've labeled this technique Resume Trawling, and blogged about it way back in 2006, http://donxml.com/allthingstechie/archive/2006/08/23/2898.aspx. So this really is nothing new.

    How have we been getting around this? Both candidates and recruiters have resorted to putting contact key words in their resumes or job posts, require all contacts to use them. I've gone one step further and asked recruiters to contact me via my blog instead of the email registered to the job site. Seems to weed out most of the problems, but not everyone has a blog.
    DonDemsak
    • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

      @donxml
      That is so true. I get an email weekly from one recruiter or another about job positions and it will be for a job for a software application I might have used once. So the recruiters are not really reading the resumes.
      Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

      @donxml Very true. And a great phrase to capture the technique: Resume Trawling. One reason why you see this is that the recruiting function is often split into two roles - Sourcing, the people who do the trawling, place the job posts and build databases of candidates; and Recruiters, who actually place candidates in front of hiring managers. The two sides don't always get along, each claiming the other makes their job more difficult.
      Thanks for reading and commenting.
      johnfhazard
  • Outsourcing plays a part

    It is just my opinion, but I believe that the failure of these job posting boards to secure qualified American candidates is intential for at least some of these recruiters. If a recruiter cannot find a qualified local American candidate for a job in the US, they are allowed to offer the position to an overseas candidate that would fill the qualification - so recruiters use overly specific qualifications to essentially weed out all possible American candidates, then offer the position to an overseas worker who's padded their resume to fit the bill. The recruiters end up with employees that are no more qualified than the American counterparts, but work for far less money.

    It's a documented practice, with companies out there that specifically train recruiters in how to properly do it - I specifically recall reading an article about a law firm (in Texas, I think) that specialized in doing just that, and working around the laws put in place that are supposed to protect American workers.
    NetAdmin1178
    • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

      @NetAdmin1178 <br><br>I'm convinced this goes on.<br><br>I've received a number of solicitations from Monster and Dice posted resumes that I was qualified for (although sometimes marginally) but in all cases required, relocation -- when the posted profile specifically stated no relocation.<br><br>Sounds like a great way to develop a case that there are "no Americans who can do this job" when you have a file full of people you solicited who seem qualified at first glance; ignoring that those people were specifically targeted knowing they would not consider the position.

      I can't recall a single unsolicited offer through those channels for jobs within a commutable range.
      Dal90
  • Corporate whining about finding good talent

    I'm so sick of Corporate America whining about not being able to find good talent. Imagine some single guy sitting at home complaining he couldn't find the perfect woman, when every day his match.com inbox had hundreds of new messages from gorgeous women that he never responded to. If he were sitting next to you at a bar complaining about it, how much sympathy would he get?

    The uber pickiness of the employers does not constitute a shortage of employees, any more than would an unemployed worker who refused all jobs not offering a corner office and a company car would constitute a recession!
    lyle_in_ca
  • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

    I'm in a job search, and easily 3 out of every 5 contacts I receive from recruiters is for positions I am not remotely qualified for. The recruiter simply matches a term in my resume, and sends off an email. They don't bother to look to see if it is something I have in my background that matches in reality.

    Some employers make the application process difficult. I had one employer site that wanted a LOT of personal information from me (including SSN and permission to do a background check) before even deciding if I was a candidate. When I called about it, I had a person in HR hang up on me because I said wasn't willing to give my SSN.

    As well, many job listings are for an impossible combination of skills, or are clearly fishing expeditions (one ad I answered, which CLEARLY indicated a desire for people with my background) elicited a "Great resume. We don't have any openings for those skill, but I'd like to stay in touch" response. WTF? Why did you ASK for resumes with that background?

    All a job site can do is provide leads. Employers, recruiters, AND CANDIDATES are responsible for those sites working well. If anyone in the step is disingenuous (like the company that told me they were emailing me an offer, and then, a week later, told me they were passing on me) it will fail.
    notinkeys
  • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

    I would like to add that from a job seeker perspective there is another problem that is very significant which is that we are now encountering a large number of recruiters who are completely unsuited and ill-trained for their jobs. I have encountered recruiters who interview me for a technical position, but are unable to understand either their qualifications or my qualifications and so are incapable of matching me. Then I go to LinkedIn and check their work history and find out that they have 6 months recruiting experience and their previous work history consisted of Real Estate agent, Secretary and other jobs totally unrelated to HR skills. I have lost two opportunities this year due to this very problem and there is not recourse as you are never allowed to appeal these ignorant decisions. It is easy to see why these recruiters pick outsourced labor as they are untrained and inexperienced in the first place.
    rovolet
    • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

      @rovolet

      Well said. I'd also like to add when I get a call from a recruiter whose English is too bad to follow ("Would you goodly send me a background of your skill?" was one today) or their accent is so thick and they speak so quickly I can't figure out what they're saying, it makes it an unpleasant experience.
      notinkeys
    • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

      @rovolet Hi, I am an Executive Recruiter and I don't find what you said to be true. I am a past Real Estate Agent and I am a Recruiter. I am in IT recruiting now after being primarily a CFO Recruiter. As employment changes so will recruiters. If no one is hiring CFO's then there is no longer a need for CFO recruiters. So a year ago I was moved over to IT. I admit, I do not know IT but it has not been a problem for me. Most of the candidates I talk to and are very kind and understanding. A smart Recruiter will know if the candidate you are talking to knows what they are talking about. I work with a small group of candidates and I don't send out mass e-mails. We are very particular with the candidates and clients that we wok with. And I always stay in contact with my candidates and they are screened heavily so that I know if they are a fit. They also always know within two days if they are going to be moving along in the process.
      inafit78
  • It's a real conflict of interest.

    Advice to candidates: Keep it real.

    I weary of your verbosity, and eloquent inflations of your experience. When I see a resume with nothing but a single, simple statement of a solid nature, especially something quantifiable (resolved an average of 7 tickets per day for 2 years, 20% higher than company average) (or 'rewrote batch interest calculation to run in 1 hour instead of previous 7 hours'), I'm impressed, and I interview that person.

    Advice to recruiters: Forget references from former employers and/or supervisors; get a few from former colleagues, and then a few from former colleagues of those former colleagues. Yeah, yeah, I know. But there are ways. Right?

    Advice to employers: You've got a grace-period. Use it. And get your priorities straight. If you're looking for a DBA with .NET experience, but you're only getting DBA or .NET applicants, decide which of those skills is really most important, and which can be picked up quickly. Then all you have to do is find someone with a record of picking things up quickly.
    Gaius_Maximus
    • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

      @Gaius_Maximus

      Perhaps so with you, but when my resume was that way, I continually got either no reply, or a request to "flesh it out more."
      notinkeys
      • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

        @notinkeys and Gaius_Maximus
        Agree with you, notinkeys. What Gaius says makes sense, but in all honesty, every recruiter/HR person/employer wants something different, and they all "have the secret!" If you follow this one, you'll cut yourself out of that one.

        I've been told to keep it simple, not use fancy fonts or modern indenting, and NEVER use resume templates. A week later I was told that I was passed over because my resume was too old-fashioned.

        And once, when I called to see why I was passed over for a job I was perfectly qualified for, I was told, "We never give out that kind of information."
        clfitz
  • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

    The solution is Test your candidates. Sure this creates a burden on recruiters but it would sort out the wanna-bees from the must-haves.

    I have been employed for 25 years in the Australian IT industry and have held approximately 8 permanent roles in that time. Only One organisation actually tested me, by placing the candidates in a computer lab and giving us a series of problems to solve.

    Another solution is ask to see a portfolio. Revealing code and any innovative techniques/styles they might possess.
    winterspj
    • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

      @winterspj I've found that, at least on the development side, the tests are a total waste. The same is true for most certifications. They tend to test syntax, and memory of specific libraries/frameworks, but not knowledge and understanding of the concepts.

      Now, I will say that an experienced recruiter can sniff out bogus resumes (just adding key words so the resume shows up on a search), but as most of us have found out, experienced recruiters are in short supply (probably harder to find than good IT folks).
      I prefer a good tech interview over any test. And I?m not talking about some recruiter reading off a list of stock questions, but an honest to goodness experienced developer doing an interview with a candidate. I know that it isn?t possible in every organization, but I?ve found that this is the best way to get qualified candidates.
      DonDemsak
  • yah, what they said! :B-)

    They're all correct.

    Easily 19 out of every 20 contacts I receive from recruiters is for positions I am not remotely interested in or knowledgeable about; and 999 out of 1000 are bodyshoppers (who don't want to admit it even to themselves and will squirm and dissemble like crazy rahter than say straight out that they're not hiring or placing for full-time permanent employment developing an actual product rather than "temporary services" or "in-house captive geek slave" for some temporary project in some outfit that doesn't know squat about developing and selling software products).

    "Recruiters" are a lot less savvy than the head-hunters used to be. If their data-base record on you doesn't have exactly the buzz-word, spelled exactly as it was given to them, in exactly the right field, with the exact version 3.6.5.4, then they're incapable of knowing whether you can do the job or not. They don't really know what the buzz-word means and what other brand-name (and non-brand-name) tools work exactly the same way; and they certainly don't know the generic name. They don't know that versions 2.0 has very little difference from versions 3.* and even versions 4.0 through 4.6 on this tool, but 3.1 is significantly different from 3.2 on that tool (but never beyond what a savvy pro could pick up in a few hours). Since they don't know, they don't think about it, don't try to learn, don't try to puzzle it out; they're not conscientious. They're just mechanically going through the motions and expecting miracles. And, of course, if they don't copy and paste, or type in the buzz-word just right, it will leave many capable candidates buried in the black-hole data-base.

    They never give out info about how you were declared "unqualified" for legal reasons; if you knew, you'd sue, because 80% of the time you are perfectly capable of doing that job but they have some other reason they don't want you, like having a cheap, pliant OPT, guest-worker or green card candidate lined up.

    And, yes, even when we're on the phone, the "recruiter" often tries to suggest gigs which are totally inappropriate for our knowledge and experience, right after you've gone over (again) the information in the resume you'd sent them and suggested the kinds of jobs that would be appropriate. A competent head-hunter wouldn't even ask for a resume. After 10 minutes on the phone (they ALWAYS called back quickly) and a little about what we've been doing most recently, they'd thoroughly understand your capabilities, resulting in a near 100% interview rate (nearly every hiring manager to whom they recommend you schedules an interview) and an over 90% interview to offer rate (9 of 10 managers with whom you interview makes a respectable offer, while only 1 in 10 is a mutually recognized mismatch).

    And the refusal of hiring managers to relocate capable and willing candidates within the USA, followed by "talent shortage" whining to their local chamber of communists, is another scam.

    And yes, I get the impression we've all been through the cycles of resume elements and styles that different "recruiters" prefer while hating all the others.

    So, my advice to "recruiters" is
    (1) ditch the resume parsers,
    (2) ditch the web forms and "apply now" buttons,
    (3) ditch the data-base and use a freebie off-the-shelf address book,
    (4) learn your field,
    (5) get to know your candidates and hiring managers,
    (6) in your job ads include an e-mail address and voice telephone number that an actual, knowledgeable human being will answer
    (7) offer small bounties for referrals.
    (Watch "Jerry Maguire" a couple more times and try to get a clue, but if you still don't get a clue, go into a different field, stop saying you're a "recruiter".)
    Professor8
    • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

      @Professor8 You are being hard on recruiters. The job is not easy. I work over 60 hours a week. I do ask for a resume but that is mostly because there are certain requirements required by the client. If you don't have them then I would just say something like I am sorry but this position requires a Masters Degree which I see from your resume you do not have. Or if I see that there has been numerous job changes I need to see that and find out why, because I hire only Management to Executive level positions and the amount of job changes plays a huge part in whether they will get an interview or not. I think the most important thing a recruiter can do is be honest and stay in contact with the candidate so they are aware of what is going on.
      inafit78
  • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

    It is unfortunate to read an article like this as it feeds into the commoditization of talent in our country. Additionally, it also serves to commoditize the HR organizations using the automated systems to screen individuals. Key word searches and other capabilities are nice in theory and they can help you identify skill sets or at least claimed skill sets using key word matches.

    Yes, HR teams are most likely covered up in the piles of resumes they receive. Lets face it, with software focused on keywords and the automated systems being so black and white administering the process how do we find the exceptional people? It takes a human to recognize talent in another human, some or even many may disagree, but I believe just about anyone can learn a skill, not everyone can be taught to be talented though. I am talking about the soft skills, the drive, the ambition, the ability to work in areas that arent black and white, and there are so many more, we are dealing with people here and that is very rarely if ever a black and white situation.

    Are we really becoming so hung up on specialization that we are putting more and more people in boxes and asking HR groups that dont know enough about technology people to screen them? Having served in senior leadership positions for well over a decade, I could care less whether someone in a management capacity has specific Microsoft database experience for example. Yes, the databases are different; though lets face it if they know databases then all they need to understand is the difference between Microsoft, Oracle, MySQL or whatever the database may be. Oh and what happens if we chose a different database, Ill take the candidate with solid fundamentals and the ability to adapt 100 out of 100 times. When we target a leadership or management position shouldnt we be interested in their soft skills, communications, leadership, ability to adapt and be versatile, sense of urgency, etc., and we should have humans trying to figure this out, not some machine or process.

    If people are really the most prized asset an organization has then why arent we using the human touch to select humans? This conundrum is feeding into the status quo dilemma that is taking place in organizations today. Companies are trying to dehumanize the selection of human talent; machines are going to tell us what humans are best to do the jobreally? Having worked in and been successful in nine (9) different industries (yes you read that right) I think we are focusing on the wrong things for selecting leaders, such as specific technology or a specific industry. If we always choose someone thats worked in the same industry or on only the same technology we have, how do we get diversity of thought?

    Ill get off my soapbox now and say we only have ourselves to blame because we are the ones setting up the filters and checking the boxes. I believe in taking an active role in writing job descriptions, hiring leaders and teaming with HR while doing so. Ill close by saying that if we keep doing the same thing, why would we expect different results? History shows us that is a form of insanity, take a risk, dare to be different and look for talent versus just skills, yes it will be more difficult and it will take more time, you will however get better people that are a better cultural fit with greater flexibility and adaptability if executed correctly. I take this to an extreme when hiring leaders for instance and eliminate the requirement of a four-year degree, why you may ask? Because someone thats been able to overcome not having a degree and has still been able to obtain multiple Director or VP positions has most likely had to overcome diversity to do so and have probably had to be at least twice as good as their degreed counterparts to make that happen. This is someone I want on my team, but who wants to take that risk and find a versatile and resilient leader in our risk adverse corporate structures?
    jdohare
  • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

    Take a look at OneWire.com They have a complete Enterprise solution that gives companies the ability to source the exact candidates for their roles, and the track the enitre recruitment process with there ATS features.
    PDZ01
    • RE: Technology job boards have failed recruiters and job seekers

      @PDZ01

      Yeah, I just heard of OneWire. Their matching concept is exceptional. You can literally whittle down all the candidates in their database and also from the job boards to the right candidates and eliminate alot of the spam you have to go through.

      I know the banking companies are really looking at this as a solution for the challenges talked about above.

      Highly Recommend!
      Miguel342