Staff have to get with the program

As the jobs crisis continues, employers and recruitment agencies are overwhelmed by a flood of applications.

Consequently, many use computer programs to filter candidates, which means qualified applicants can be overlooked if they do not use words that the software’s algorithms are searching for, career experts warn.

“You can be excluded if you don’t answer questions in the application the right way,” said Peter Cosgrove, a director at CPL, one of Ireland’s largest recruitment companies.

“These algorithms have strict criteria and if you don’t exactly match what they are searching for, you can be ruled out. If Vodafone was hiring, the software would look for mobile experience. If you wrote on your CV that you used to work for 02 but didn’t use the word ‘mobile’, you could be excluded.

“You’d be amazed how many people don’t get this right. Some use abbreviations when describing their previous roles, such as ‘management acct’ or ‘HR executive’, when the software is searching only for ‘management accountant’ or ‘human resources executive’.”

The software used by recruitment companies, such as Candidate Manager, can push job openings onto a slew of online job boards and social networking sites such as Twitter.

This huge audience, coupled with one of the weakest job markets since the 1930s, means employers are being flooded with job candidates. Last year Procter & Gamble received almost 1m applications for 2,000 positions, while nearly 16,000 people applied to the Central Statistics Office for 5,000 temporary jobs to carry out the census in April.

The job application process is now so easy that many jobseekers will send their CV out in response to every opening, regardless of how qualified they are for the position, according to Rowan Manahan, the managing director of Fortify Services, a human resources consultancy and career-coaching firm.

“When companies like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn make noise about plans to hire more people, they are deluged with unsolicited applicants,” he said.

“HR departments are putting walls between themselves and the candidates because they know that, when a big-name company announces jobs, there will be a flood of applicants who may be no good, burnt out, or chancing their arm.”

This is where applicant tracking systems come in. About a third of companies hiring more than 20 people in Ireland at any one time deploy this technology, estimates Stephen Harrington, a strategic account manager at Candidate Manager, whose clients include Vodafone, Ladbrokes and Tesco.

“Most organisations are looking at how they can do things smarter,” he said. “They want to reduce the amount of time between advertising a job and filling it. This technology means less administration for them. It can help reduce costs because they can fill the jobs themselves without relying on agencies.”

Hiring a recruiter on €30,000 a year to screen 5,000 CVs for 200 job vacancies would take about 12 weeks and cost €7,659. About 95% of these applications would be ruled out during this process. And there is room for human error — the 99th CV is not as likely to attract the same attention as the first.