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It seems there is a constant disconnect between employers seeking qualified candidates and candidates being told they are competing against multiple qualified candidates. How can this be?  With so many candidates applying for jobs, how can employers be feeling as if they cannot find enough candidates?

Although there is not one simple answer to this disconnect, let’s consider a few different issues that often lead to the frustration both sides feel.

  1. Technology – Let’s face it, technology has made it much easier for companies to advertise their open jobs. From job boards, to LinkedIn, to twitter and other social mediums, companies can get their open positons in front of millions of potential candidates with the click of a mouse.  Is this bad?  The answer can be yes!

Lets take an inside look at what happens when hundreds if not thousands of applicants apply to a company posting.  The average corporate recruiter manages approx. 20-30 open requisitions at a time.  Even if they work a 50 hour week, that’s less than two hours per position to review applications per open positions.  If a particular position has 100 applications, do you really think the recruiter has the time to view each application?  Of course not.

Second, most ATS (Application Tracking Systems) help recruiters prioritize candidates by specific keywords.   Most claim to perform more intelligent matchmaking, however, I have yet to see this proven.  In essence, a candidate’s application may get ranked as “not qualified” due to not having the specific keywords in their resume, even though they believe they meet the qualifications of the position.

Every day I hear recruiters lamenting that they received tens of hundreds of applications, only to have none qualified for the role.  Why? Because the candidates that applied didn’t have every keyword listed spelled out on the posted job description!  Many candidates are forced to game the system and edit their resume to include keywords from each job they apply for!

  1. Time – As I mentioned above, corporate recruiters generally juggle 20-30 positions at a given time. As a result, even if all applicants were qualified that applied to a specific job posting, the recruiter does not have the time to review each applications.  In fact, many corporate recruiters report that they never get past reviewing the first 10-12% of applicants to a role due to timing,  Unfortunately, many qualified candidates end up in the “black hole” of recruiting – never hearing a peep from the potential employer because they never even made the cut to be reviewed – qualified or not!
  1. Overapplying – A common tactic taught by to many placement offices, colleges and universities is for the candidate to apply to multiple positions at the company they are hoping to work for. The concept is that the more their profile is seen, the greater chance they have of being called for an interview.  Although there may be examples of this, most recruiters will classify these candidates as “serial applicants,” often discounting them as a serious applicant.   Over-applying is the quickest way to be placed on a potential employer’s watch list of candidates to avoid!

These are just three of the common issues facing employers and potential candidates.  The general candidate population needs to better understand how technology is being utilized in recruiting today, and how to change the way they seek employment to address these changes. 

In a utopian world, recruiters would review and consider each candidate on the merits of their resume and rely less on key words and phrases.  As technology continues to evolve and promises to be more “intelligent,” some of these issues may diminish over time.  Until this occurs, following are three suggestions I would recommend each candidate consider:

  1. Custom Resumes – For each position a candidate is qualified for and interested in applying to, ensure that the resume properly reflects as many of the keywords listed in the job description as appropriate. Use the words that the potential employer uses in information related to the role.  This is a lot of work, but well worth it in the beginning.
  2. Be First in Line – It is critical that a candidate applies for a role they are qualified for as soon as the position is posted. If recruiters on average only get to the first 10-12% of applicants, the closer you are to the top, the more likely your application will be noticed.  Set up alerts to track when new roles are posted.
  3. Update/Edit your Social Profile – In today’s world of social media, recruiters often default to the web to confirm data on a candidate’s resume. If titles do not align, jobs are missing from one or the other, etc., this sends up an almost instant red flag to recruiters.  In addition, be careful what you post regardless of where it is in cyberspace.  Although it may not be legal, organizations are daily viewing the social presence of applicants to determine anything they can about the character of the potential candidate – remember, perception is reality.
  4. Send a Handwritten Thank You Note – if you happen to be one of the lucky ones to get invited for an interview, make sure to send each interviewer and the recruiter a handwritten thank you note. “But NO ONE does that anymore,” most candidates will say – EXACTLY!  How do you set yourself apart from other candidates?  Go the extra mile and spend $5 dollars on cards and postage.  Although this won’t guarantee a job, it sure increases your odds of leaving a favorable impression.