July 20, 2018

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Are Your Applicants Persona Non Grata?

It’s hard not to be overwhelmed. With the avalanche of resumes, I mean. They come crashing into our companies non-stop these days. And that makes our job even harder. If identifying qualified candidates for an opening is normally a challenge akin to finding a needle in a haystack, today, it’s more like finding a molecule in a mountain. There are so many resumes piling up so fast that our entire recruitment process is in danger of collapsing.

So, who can blame recruiters for trying to reestablish some order? But, what are they doing? A growing number are refusing to accept candidate resumes unless they are submitted online. They have declared the old fashioned paper and fax varieties persona non grata. Only e-resumes are welcome because they can be easily downloaded right into the corporate resume management system where they can then be easily searched and identified for appropriate openings.

It’s an efficient solution, to be sure. And, it has all of the hallmarks of good supply chain management, which some HR pundits are fond of extolling. Need to recruit some new employees? Great! Just rack ‘em, stack ‘em and pump ‘em in the door. It’s enough to make a logistician’s heart sing.

Those resumes, however, are not widgets, but a stand-in for people. That’s right; for all their inadequacies, resumes have not one, but two realities. They are records, and they are relationships. From a candidate’s perspective, then, the way his or her record is managed says a great deal about the way an organization will treat them as an employee. And processes that are efficient at moving around widgets don’t necessarily build good relationships.

Consider the following example. An employer recently asked a staffing firm, Pearson Reid London House, to recruit several thousand new employees as quickly as possible. The firm used two strategies for sourcing prospects: Internet advertising, where candidates applied online, and an interactive voice response (IVR) system, where candidates applied by responding to automatic prompts on the telephone. The two approaches generated over 300,000 applicants. They also revealed some of the inherent problems in treating people like widgets.

  • Problem #1
    The exclusive use of Web-based applications (by resume or application form) may discriminate against certain segments of the population. Why? Because in this case, the IVR system was used by 25.3% of the Native American candidates, 24.7% of the African American candidates, and 16.1% of the Hispanic American candidates. These are candidates who may not have been able to apply if the company had relied solely on an online application. Although progress has been made in eliminating the digital divide in recent years, it remains a real and potent barrier to some members of the population. Hence, relying exclusively on Web-based application can inadvertently cause a recruiter to miss qualified diversity candidates and run afoul of EEO/AA regulations.

  • Problem #2
    The use of Web-based applications may be off-putting to those prospects who do not have a resume. In addition to the candidates identified above, 11.6% of the Caucasian applicants also used the IVR system. These response patterns simply confirm what we recruiters have always known: not all job seekers are alike. Those who do have a resume are likely to be engaged in an active job search, and most (but not all) will happily send you a resume online. Those who do not have a resume, on the other hand, are likely to be passive job seekers. In most cases, that means they are both impatient with application processes and concerned about their confidentiality. Given the unpleasantness of filling in forms online and all of the news lately about identity theft on the Internet, at least some employment prospects among passive job seekers will exclude themselves from consideration if a recruiter relies exclusively on Web-based applications.

  • Problem #3
    Although it’s not apparent from this situation, many of the best prospects—the “A” level performers among active and passive job seekers—do not like to be told how they may apply for a job. Top talent rightly sees themselves as preferred applicants, and they want to be treated that way. Given the shortage of such high quality workers and the performance premium they provide, it only makes good sense for recruiters to comply. That means taking resumes or applications however the candidate wants to send them … online, by telephone, by paper airplane or pony express.

Obviously, efficiency is important, particularly in these days and times. The quest for efficiency, however, must not undercut our ability to accomplish our mission. We are responsible for finding the best candidates possible for our client’s vacancies. And, when we limit the ways by which candidates can apply for those openings, we limit the range of prospects we can recruit. Indeed, the net effect of designating paper and fax resumes as persona non grata is to make many very appealing candidates feel exactly the same way.

-Peter Weddle, CEO, WEDDLE’s