Waiting to hear back for a job interview? Your résumé might never have gotten into human hands. Popular software used by companies to screen job applicants has filtered out more than 10 million potential employees, new Harvard Business School research shows.
How does the tech work? An automatic screener largely relies on “negative” logic to reduce the size of the applicant pool. Résumés—even those of well-qualified candidates—can get lost in a black hole because of things like a gap in the applicant’s employment history, a lack of certain credentials, or keywords that don’t match up with the job description.
Some of those keywords might not seem obvious. Hospitals set “computer programming” as a keyword when they look for registered nurses who can enter patient data into a computer, Joseph Fuller, Harvard’s lead researcher for the study, explained to the WSJ.
The reliance on software to help with hiring can be traced back to the late 1990s, when companies first stepped back from paper applications and embraced the idea of filing for jobs online.
The e-applicants were supposed to democratize the search process by giving more people a chance. But they also created a tsunami of applications that overwhelmed companies. The algorithms created to help with this process, known as applicant-tracking systems, filtered tons of prospects down to a select group. Several companies make the talent-sifting software, and one of the biggest providers is Oracle Corp. with its Taleo system.
Why it matters: 99% of Fortune 500 companies and 75% of the US employers Harvard surveyed use an automated scanner to initially filter applicants. While there are 10 million job openings in the US that employers desperately want to fill, automated hiring systems are excluding viable candidates.
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