The Job Search: Some Paper Airplanes Use the Right Airport

There’s been a trend within the last couple months of national news media focusing on the black hole of the applicant experience, sending out the vibes that all applicant tracking systems work the same, and basically, suck.  Frankly, it’s embarrassing to me for my industry to be represented this way.

While I’d concur that there are some popular applicant tracking systems that serve as resume black holes, not all ATS’s are made the same.  A good ATS can ensure that the hiring organization follows a structured process that ensures every applicant is reviewed, whether by machine or man, for the jobs.

When users of our applicant tracking system post a job on their career site, a short questionnaire is attached to the job.  That questionnaire has been customized by HR based on the requirements of the job, and usually contains around 4-5 questions that can easily screen applicants out or in.  One Fortune 500 user who hires engineers includes questions such as “Are you at least 18 years of age – AND – able to provide proof you are eligible to work in the country where this position is posted?” and “What is your highest level of education?”  Simple answers to these questions can screen out 20% of the applicants up front.  Applicants are presented with a kind message letting them know they don’t meet the basic criteria – a great example of software narrowing down the applicants the organization has to wade through and providing instant feedback to the applicant.

Next, the applicant answers a couple more specific questions about the job that may not filter them out of the running, but provide valuable feedback to the person reviewing the app.  For example, many companies will ask an open ended question such as “Why are you interested in working for us in this position?”  This type of question provides an opportunity for the applicant to shine – to communicate his enthusiasm for the job, and outline why he is a good fit.  Lastly, the applicant provides a resume or fills out structured information about his work experience and education.

When the application is submitted, it is put into a queue for the hiring organization to review.  Most of our users ask a HR Generalist to first step through and review each application.  The generalist then flags those that are the best fit for the hiring manager to review, and with a couple clicks, sends all the top applications to the hiring manager via an easy to use web portal.  The hiring manager will then review the best applications and note which applicants should be invited for an interview.  Those applicants that are not a fit are updated to a not-qualified status.  The ATS automatically sends them an email informing them of their status.

Only when the above steps do not provide great candidates do our users begin to search across resumes using keywords.  And when they do, they are searching across job titles, essentially offering applicants a second chance at being matched to a good job.

Intelligently using an applicant tracking system in this way provides feedback to applicants, saves HR and hiring managers time, and provides a way for applicants to demonstrate their best fit to a real person.  Our clients don’t have to worry about their applicants’ resumes falling into a black hole, or paper airplanes finding no place to land.

Jennifer Brogee
Certified Usability Analyst
CIO, myStaffingPro

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3 responses to “The Job Search: Some Paper Airplanes Use the Right Airport

  1. In all candor, while it is admirable that you defend the technology behind the hiring process, the ‘vibes’ you describe come from the entire experience and deservedly so. Tracking systems are two-way mirrors, means to ends – applicants recognize this.

    The hiring experience is a net loss for probably 110 of the 118 people referenced who apply for each job opening on average. Between time/effort, dry hopes, the endless barrage of conformity, there is not much positive to be said for any of it.

    • Jennifer Brogee

      I agree it is a net loss for most – but it has to be, because not everyone can get the job. Our goal is to treat applicants with respect, and provide them the opportunity to make the best case for their fit for the opportunity. Software can be an equalizer – negating the advantages of “who you know” or “being in the right place at the right time.”
      Thank you for sharing your comment.

  2. Thanks so much for this blog, I’m sending it out to our MBA students so they will understand what goes on behind the scenes when they apply for a job. What many of them don’t understand is that they can’t just post a resume and expect a call! Great insight!

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