Job Search Is like “Throwing Paper Airplanes Into The Galaxy.”
It’s a tough assignment. On the one hand are job seekers who submit hundreds of applications online with little effort, but also with little hope of receiving a response. On the other hand are companies, inundated with resumes, that resort to blunt-edged tracking systems to quickly weed out candidates, including potentially qualified ones who don’t conform to established criteria.
It’s not surprising, then, that the process can be frustrating for both sides. As Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli notes, “Applicant tracking software makes it almost impossible for [a job candidate] to stand out, at least at the initial screening step. It is a binary process” — requiring yes/no answers — “based on searching for key words associated with credentials and experience. If you learned Java programming in Antarctica, it is no better than learning it in your local community college from the perspective of the software.”
In addition, says Cappelli, the fact that “there is virtually no feedback from these systems” on the part of employers “makes applicants feel helpless. They don’t know what it means not to hear back. If they are rejected, they don’t know why. It can easily seem random.” Or, as one job applicant recently put it: Sending out resumes is like “throwing paper airplanes into the galaxy…. they seem to go into a big, black hole.”
As for companies, “they have been a victim of their own success in using social media tools” to advertise their job listings, notes Christopher Ellehuus, managing director of the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), an Arlington, Va.-based research and advisory services firm. “They built a bigger pipeline than they need,” which ends up drawing applications from far too many unqualified candidates. “Now these companies are paying the price of having to sift through them all.”
For Job Seekers: ‘Broken’ from the Beginning
According to Gerry Crispin, co-founder of CareerXroads, an international consulting firm focused on recruiting technology and staffing strategy, the hiring process “has pretty much been broken from the candidates’ perspective” for decades. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, he says, many companies believed that the process should include informing applicants when their applications were completed and also notifying them when the job had been filled. In an effort to determine whether this still holds true, Crispin and his partner every year apply, under assumed names, to positions listed by employers of the “Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For” list. In 2011, 27 of those companies informed Crispin or his partner when the job was filled, which means that 73 of the companies didn’t.