Unwanted online jobseekers swamp HR staff

Recruiters must be more tech savvy to cope

Many employers will ramp up hiring in the next months only to be inundated with bad applications because they are misusing online recruiting tools, according to a survey by a leading Internet recruiting firm.

The Internet transformed recruiting in the last five years, but many HR departments complain that while job postings are reaching a greater audience employers are flooded with totally inappropriate applications.

A survey by online job board Workopolis showed that for most job postings less than 20 per cent of applications received are appropriate for the position.

One of the biggest problems is that many HR departments aren’t using the online recruiting systems effectively, says Susan Hayes, director of marketing and communications for Workopolis. “I used to be in HR in another capacity. I understand what it is like to receive so many applicants that aren’t worthy of your time,” she says. But the survey of more than 400 Canadian HR professionals suggests part of the problem stems from ineffective use of the Internet for recruiting.

“Sixty-five per cent of recruiters are not using screening tools to manage the applications they receive when hiring,” she says. “They realize that recruitment has moved to the Web but they are not taking advantage of the tools that are available.”

The problem is not with the tools, but with a misunderstanding about the benefits of using them, she says. Many people are unwilling to take the time at the beginning of the recruiting process to properly structure the job posting to weed out inappropriate applicants.

Screening tools like Q and A modules let employers reduce the number of applications received.

“You can ask any question you want to reduce the volume,” she says. “Can you work evenings? Do you have a driver’s licence?” Though the job posting may stipulate these are requirements, overly eager, but under-qualified applicants may send in applications anyway. Putting the applicants through the screening process reduces that cohort.

“HR thinks they are saving time up front (by not using screening tools) but what they are actually doing is spending more time sorting through the resumes.”

The Workopolis survey revealed 76 per cent of organizations expect to hire as many or more people in 2004 as last year.

The number one challenge identified by respondents is finding the right hard skills, though soft skills are also highly sought. Here too, screening tools can be used to improve the chances of success, Hayes says. “You can ask behaviour-based questions in the Q and A module: ‘Tell me about a time when you had difficulty working with a team and how you solved it.’” Not only will it give some indication of the candidate’s team skills, the answer itself should reveal a great deal about the communication skills, she says. Recruiters can easily rule out the large number of candidates who may not even be able to write a sentence.

A report from consulting firm Accenture also predicts the competition for talent in North America is starting to pick up. A survey of about 100 Canadian executives revealed 74 per cent of organizations plan to increase hiring in the next three months. Most of those (57 per cent) will only hire to fill critical positions, while 17 per cent said they will look to fill new positions.

“The marketplace is clearly starting to heat up,” says Wayne Ingram, a Toronto-based partner at Accenture. This runs against the claim by some American economic observers that the United States is in the midst of a jobless economic recovery. In some sectors, job levels won’t return to what they were in the past, he says. And in other sectors, employers are being more judicious than they once were. At the height of last decade’s economic boom, some organizations would hire people on the expectation of business growth. Today they are being more conservative so there is a delay between an improved business outlook and increases to hiring, says Ingram.

Nevertheless, HR departments could soon find themselves once again in a fight to find highly skilled talent, he says.

If HR departments want to compete in that market they need to get past an all-too-common aversion to new technology, says Hayes of Workopolis.

“I think HR is the last department across the board that seems to be embracing technology,” she says.

She has heard of HR people taking all of the resumes they receive online, printing them all out and putting them into piles for review. Online recruiting should improve recruiting efficiency by an automation of the process that should reduce the amount of paper. Printing off resumes shows HR is applying traditional thinking to a modern process and consequently nullifying some of the benefits.

“There is a reluctance to move away from the old guard,” she says. “You have to rely on the tools. Look for the top 10 per cent (of candidates) and focus your energy on them.”

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