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Why keyword-scanning tools are used on resumes: A recruiter’s perspective

Career Management by Toni Bowers, Head Blogs Editor – The following is a response to an original article Bowers wrote entitled “Why you may be cheating your company when you use keyword scanning apps.”

November 15th, 2010 | Tim Heard | TechRepublic

Toni Bowers: Recruiter Tim Heard wanted to respond to my blog about the misuse of keyword scanning technology. Here is his response.

One of the things I really like about being about to write for TechRepublic is that it gives me the opportunity to peel back the curtain from time to time and give job seekers a peek at what happens on the inside of companies with respect to the screening and hiring process. So, I was very appreciative when Toni agreed to let me offer a differing perspective on her article, “Why you may be cheating your company when you use keyword scanning apps.”

Without rehashing much of what I said in “Perception and Reality in Today’s Job Market,” I’ll start by saying that all the recruiters I have ever known have cared about doing their jobs well. First, they get to know the hiring managers, who often are overworked and understaffed. They know that it’s important to get people on board who can contribute to the team and who can be relied on to do a good job. Second, they often get to know the candidates too throughout the hiring process.

I got an email just yesterday from the first person I ever placed as a consultant. That was over ten years ago. I think his assignment maybe lasted six months, but we have stayed in touch since then. He’s now a manager and was asking advice regarding how he could prepare himself to grow into positions of greater responsibility in the coming years. Interestingly, his boss back then, my first client, became someone I recruited for a BI leadership role just a couple of years ago when I was working as a contract recruiter for a large corporation. (He owned his own consulting company at the time when we first met.)

I can remember lots of stories (and have forgotten far more) of recruiters telling me how glad they were that so-and-so got hired, because of how badly that person needed a job. Or taking pride in how well someone was working out.

Is it true that  all recruiters, or that even the good ones become best friends with all the candidates that they meet? Of course not.  There aren’t enough hours in the day, and most people have only so much emotional energy to invest. I’m starting with this assumption though, because you don’t have to look far to find reader comments who believe that all recruiters are uncaring idiots, or that companies don’t care about hiring good people. (Yes, I agree that some don’t.   agree that some companies have commoditized people – especially contractors – and we can discuss that at length in another blog article.)

Why keyword search tools are helpful

Let’s look at an example of an average recruiter, working for a fairly large corporation. Let’s assume it’s large enough that they are able to post positions on their website, and have a reasonably good applicant tracking system on the back end. Let’s assume that the recruiter has 25 open positions to fill and each open position received several hundred online applications. (I have seen some positions receive over 500 applicants in a matter of just a few days.) If that recruiter spent just one minute skimming through every resume submitted, with no breaks for anything else…lets assume an average of 200 applicants per job…it would take 5000 minutes, or over 83 hours, just to skim through the resumes.

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