Written by P. Humbargar
Edited by A. Noelle
With the current national unemployment rate at 8.2%, job hunting can be a daunting task, especially for parents. The huge pool of job applicants caused by the recession allows employers to be pickier in their job requirements, and even highly qualified applicants often find themselves unemployed for long stretches of time. With roadblocks to finding work seemingly around every corner, yet another has presented itself—automated job-screening software.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, entitled, “Software Raises Bar for Hiring,” discusses this new obstacle job hunters face. According to Peter Cappelli, a professor of management and human resources at the University of Pennsylvania, employers often complain about being unable to find good workers with the right skills. In response, Cappelli asserts that the “real culprits” are actually the employers themselves. The recession has caused employers to become so picky and specific in the skills they require, that they can make it almost impossible to find anyone who fits.
Software has replaced recruiters in many companies, and applicants rarely talk to anyone (even by email) during the hiring process. The huge volume of applications flooding HR departments has led employers to use screening software that “weeds out anyone whose application lacks particular key words” (WSJ).
As an example of how software seems to arbitrarily screen applicants, the article tells of a human-resources executive who applied anonymously for a job in his own company as an experiment—he didn’t make it through the screening process; another case reported involved a company that received 25,000 applicants for a standard engineering position—HR said not one was qualified. One of these applicants was told that he would be perfect for the job, but his previous job title didn’t match that of the vacancy—a title unique to the prospective employer!
These may be more extreme examples of automated job-screening, but as HR departments continue to be down-sized, it is likely that job hunters will come up against software screening more and more. As stated in the article, “Clearing the software hurdle is as important as being able to do the job” (WSJ). Parroting the words in a job description without just copying them (which will cause the software to discard the application) is a new skill job hunters today will have to acquire.
Although the Internet and software programs may have made it easier to apply for work, they have not necessarily made obtaining a job easier. Job hunters now have to find methods to get around job-screening software and the countless other roadblocks in today’s increasingly automated world.
Though a discouraging situation, it isn’t hopeless! Kathleen O’Malley Brown, Executive Director of the Chelsea Foundation, has met and overcome such challenges during her career and has several insightful tips that worked for her and might work today for job hunters.
Kathleen thinks that today’s method of finding work and workers relies too much on computers and the Internet that could result in a lot of wheel spinning, possibly contributing to the high unemployment rate. Although she would take advantage of the Internet, she would bypass sites like Monster.com, which do not appear to be particularly effective. She believes that simply posting resumes works about as well as playing the lottery—the odds will never favor you.
The key today is effective networking. It is too often who you know that sets you apart from other applicants. Create your own contacts, and get around roadblocks.
Kathleen says that she would use the following method if she were seeking employment today:
First, she would decide where she wanted to work and then go to their website to see what postings they have on their career page. This may give a contact person’s name; if not, she would track down the department head of the area she wants to work in. Although it may take some time, this person usually has key information that’s related to the job. After obtaining a contact person’s name, she would then send an email presenting what she had to offer, explaining why she would like to work for the company, and asking to be contacted if they ever have an opening available.
Kathleen says that this method worked for her and could possibly help others looking for work. She also says that she might very well send a letter to the CEO, suspecting that her letter would be sent on to HR with the chance that it would land on top of the pile. With so many roadblocks presented by new technology and the recession, job hunters sometimes need to think outside the box!