Monday, November 20, 2017
Business

Online hiring systems frustrate applicants

RECOMMENDED READING


BALTIMORE — The emailed rejection came as no surprise to Bill Skibinski, though the Abingdon, Md., resident thought he was more than qualified for the entry-level job he had applied for online.

After spending two years seeking full-time work, Skibinski is convinced that the computerized screening systems most companies use to hire actually work against job candidates, no matter how qualified they are.

"It is a frustrating and unfair process," said Skibinski, who is working part-time as a contractor while completing a master's degree in environmental planning at Towson University. "You don't hear a thing through the Web process, but that's really the only way you can" apply for a job.

Most large employers, even the federal government, use so-called applicant tracking systems to find qualified candidates. Increasingly, smaller companies are turning to them, too. Software screening is designed to help employers manage overwhelming volumes of applications and eliminate applicants who lack the required skills.

But some experts blame these systems for eliminating qualified candidates and for contributing to a shortage of skilled workers — a problem companies say they face even in a market glutted with job seekers.

More than a third of employers in a June CareerBuilder survey said they currently have positions they can't fill because of a lack of qualified candidates. And that's hurting business: A third said vacancies lead to overworked employees and a lower quality of work.

Peter Cappelli, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of business, argues in his book Why Good People Can't Get Jobs that employers can't find qualified workers not because of a "skills gap," but because employers' hiring requirements are unrealistic, salaries are too low and overly rigid applicant screening keeps most people out.

"The problem comes with employers trying to use these systems for more than they're capable of doing," said Cappelli, director of Wharton's Center for Human Resources. "They have so constrained their criteria, they end up with nothing. They want skill sets that don't exist."

Cappelli says the software often is inflexible and can't determine "all the different ways that somebody might be qualified" for a job. Instead, he said, candidates are asked a series of yes-or-no questions designed to find someone who's already doing the precise job the employer is trying to fill.

"It explains why employers feel that there's nobody for them to hire, even though any objective observer would say there are hundreds of people who could do your job," Cappelli said.

For Skibinski, a 36-year-old Army veteran who switched careers in 2006 after being laid off as a field engineer and project manager in the lottery industry, the computerized job-application process is full of stumbling blocks and frustration. He said his status as a veteran hasn't helped him.

In the past couple of years, Skibinski has applied for graduate assistantships, entry-level planning positions, jobs at Walmart, Target and Starbucks — anything to bring in a paycheck.

The result? Either no response or a rejection note, even when he met all the minimum requirements.

After he applied recently for a planning position at a government agency, an emailed reply said, "You did not meet one or more of the experience requirements and are therefore considered ineligible at this time." He tracked down an HR representative and talked to her about his background, and she agreed he met the requirements, Skibinski said.

"That's when she said they can't interview everyone," he said. "She could not tell me specifically why."

Melanie Woodfolk, a 34-year-old Parkville, Md., resident who was laid off in April when her position as a marketing manager at a Baltimore publishing company was eliminated, said she had always been able to find jobs quickly.

Now, after months of online job hunting, she's still looking.

"I feel like my resume just goes into an abyss," she said. "I've submitted my resume to jobs that match me perfectly and hear zilch.

"What's most frustrating is knowing there isn't anybody to follow up with," Woodfolk continued. "These systems are looking for certain keywords, and if I don't have that one keyword they're looking for, I'm excluded even if I'm highly qualified. They're looking for a reason not to hire you, more so than a reason to hire."

But for companies trying to sort through an avalanche of applications at a time of record unemployment, tracking systems can be a "godsend," said Dawn A. Haag-Hatterer, a human resources advisory consultant in Frederick, Md. She said the systems help companies weed out "the folks who truly don't belong in the applicant pool."

Companies began shifting from paper to electronic applications in the 1990s to make it easier for people to apply and to save on recruitment costs, Cappelli said. Because it's so easy to apply online, companies have been inundated with thousands of applicants for every opening, he said.

But the systems have their limitations, acknowledged Haag-Hatterer, president and CEO of Consulting Authority LLC.

"You've got to spend the time to get the right system in place, customize it and set up the criteria that will best give you the return you're after," she said. "And that can be a moving target. You don't just implement software to parse through hundreds of resumes."

Most large companies have comprehensive screening systems in place. Now smaller companies have begun testing the waters, using recruitment software systems that look for specific keywords in resumes and cover letters.

Haag-Hatterer, however, warns that employers that do little more than rely on keywords may hurt their chances of finding the right people.

"If you're picking out words that everyone uses — strategic, budget, planning, something that's an ambiguous term — you're not doing yourself any good," she said. "All it tells you is how to beat the system, and qualified applicants may be left out of the selection process."

Comments
Eight women say Charlie Rose sexually harassed them - with nudity, groping and lewd calls

Eight women say Charlie Rose sexually harassed them - with nudity, groping and lewd calls

Eight women have told the Washington Post that longtime television host Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.Th...
Updated: 2 hours ago
St. Petersburg council okays restaurant deal for Manhattan Casino

St. Petersburg council okays restaurant deal for Manhattan Casino

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council on Monday approved a lease for the Manhattan Casino, a landmark building in the city’s historic African-American business and entertainment community.It was a controversial decision for some of the city’s black resid...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa Electric, contractor fined $43,000 in gas leak

Tampa Electric, contractor fined $43,000 in gas leak

APOLLO BEACH — The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Tampa Electric $18,108 and gave the company two "serious" citations for its response to a gas leak at the Big Bend Power Station in May, the agency announced late Friday.T...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Forecast: Florida retailers expect strong holiday shopping sales

Forecast: Florida retailers expect strong holiday shopping sales

‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, and this year is expected to be particularly kind to retailers.The Florida Retail Federation’s holiday shopping forecast predicts that a combination of high consumer confidence, strong tourism numbers and a littl...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Up for sale? Activist investor grabs stake in Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands

Up for sale? Activist investor grabs stake in Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands

TAMPA — If you tread water too long in the same spot, someone might start asking why you’re not trying to swim somewhere.Tampa’s Bloomin’ Brands — parent company of such prominent restaurant chains as Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Glenn Thrush, New York Times reporter, accused of sexual misbehavior

Glenn Thrush, New York Times reporter, accused of sexual misbehavior

The New York Times said Monday that it was suspending Glenn Thrush, one of its most prominent reporters, after he was accused of sexually inappropriate behavior.The move came after the website Vox published a report containing allegations that Thrus...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Unless you are ensconced in first class, sleeping on a plane is as intimate as dozing off in a waiting room on jury duty — everyone on the aircraft knows the decibel level of your snoring and the sad state of your socks.To gauge how passengers percei...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, Florida Senator Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you."Small businesses are the economic engine...
Updated: 10 minutes ago

Stolen car crashes in St. Pete, leaving passenger, 15, with life threatening injuries

Two boys in a stolen car struck a dip in the roadway and crashed into a tree, leaving the 15-year-old passenger with life-threatening injuries, St. Petersburg police said.The crash occurred about 11:25 a.m. Sunday as the car sped west on 11th Avenue ...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Search suspended for missing Cortez boater who left from Egmont Key

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for a missing 63-year-old boater on Sunday evening, two days after he and his dog were reported missing 5 miles northwest of Mead Point, just inland from Anna Maria Island.On Friday, Fraser Horne of Cortez le...
Published: 11/19/17