Pythons, Anacondas And More

Pythons, Anacondas And More

Conversations with young graduates, who are entering the workforce at the moment, proves to be a real eye-opener. And the issues that seem to emerge follow certain common themes such as:


1) Job portals seem to "chew up" resumes 


2) HR professionals are clueless about what they are doing 


3) Job descriptions do not match the job role 


4) Feedback on interviews is never provided 


5) Candidates are made to wait hours for an interview


6) HR professionals are rude, inaccessible, and do not revert

Conversations with such bright, hopeful aspirants leaves one perplexed and appalled at the enormity of the problem. On the one hand, the HR professionals that one interacts with always seem to indicate that there is a huge talent vacuum. On the other, the young aspirants confess in no uncertain terms that they are available, hungry, and eager to contribute. One then wonders as to what the issue is? The single common thread in each of these discussions is the multitude of job boards and portals that candidates as also the HR use to source talent, and the utter ineffectiveness of the Applicant Tracking Systems. Most HR professionals are inherently aware of the ineffectiveness of the recruiting mechanisms used by them, and the bad design and faulty execution of the job boards. 


The resume sections of job portals or Applicant Tracking Systems often comprise of forms that are lengthy and user-unfriendly, with a lot of details in a restricted format. And these consume a lot of time and energy on the part of the candidate. 


Job portals work on certain algorithms that are principally designed to bring in efficiencies of employer time. However, any analytics expert would tell you that the algorithms actually decipher the manner in which the resume is written and not the information it conveys. Josh Bersin, Principal, Bersin by Deloitte, says, "Most companies have thousands of resumes sitting in a database that they've never looked at." Statistically, 75 percent of applicant resumes are never seen by a real person. This is an insight that all HR resources need to bear in mind.


Inefficiencies in AI-based Candidate Databases


- Applicant Tracking Systems are incredibly time-consuming


- Any candidate would be able to report the relatively low success rate of the online job application process. One in sixty applications elicits a response, and in all probability, even that does not get through to an interview.


- Applicant Tracking Systems are dehumanising. It is very difficult to push your experience, character, and special abilities through an online application.


- Applicant Tracking Systems are known to collect a lot of irrelevant information to make their databases more marketable. Job applicants are asked to share irrelevant and intrusive personal information like past salaries, and references' contact information on online applications.


Most Applicant Tracking Systems do not generate an automated response to the applicant or a status tracker.


Job Portals in fact delay the recruiting processes, rather than expediting them. In all probability, most quality applications go into the rejected or low priority folder as the applicants are free subscribers to job portals. Job portals are notorious for pushing paid profiles on the top of the pile.


- Online job applications are typically read by keyword-searching algorithms rather than human beings. However, every tech savvy job-seeker squeezes the keywords in, and therefore, the job portals are just as ineffective. 


Many highly qualified candidates are rejected by such software because they fail to write their resume for the resume screening bots. This is a significant flaw in the design of such systems. Organisations continue to use these tracking programmes despite the flaws, because they supposedly make hiring easier for the hiring teams and recruiters. While the practice of electronically screening resumes initially saves time for busy HR executives, it also means that many highly qualified candidates are slipping through the cracks. A lot of time is again spent by the HR to find "suitable" talent, despite the volume of resumes in the software.

Understanding resume screening bots


It is important for candidates and HR teams to understand how resume screening bots work. The software is designed to remove all formatting from the resume and scans for specifically recognised keywords and key phrases. After that, it applies a classification algorithm on the contents of your resume to place it into individual categories. 


Resumes with the highest scores relevant to the employer's specified keywords and phrases, combined with years of experience will be moved up for further review. Essentially, all language scanning software effectively re categorise or label encode the string or qualitative categorical data into numerical scores to be able to apply a classifier.


- Since the job portal bots are not human, they cannot do analogies and synonyms and search for exact keyword or phrase matches. All too often, a candidate who has the requisite experience is passed by as he might have used words other than what the algorithm is searching for. E.g. someone who writes "training" might be passed over by a keyword search for "management development" while the quality of experience might be the same.


- Sometimes, the bots might consider acronyms or the full phraseology it implies that candidates might be filtered out simply because they described the same certification in a different manner. This is a function of the algorithm that is used in Natural Language Processing.


-  Since algorithms convert data into a numeric form, repetitive iteration of keywords in the resume actually moves the resume up a few notches in the value chain.


- Very creative out-of-the-box presentation of facts could result in the resume being nixed, as the algorithms are searching for specific patterns of words.


Some search algorithms actually cannot decipher Sans Serif fonts, so Times New Roman could spell the death bed for the resumes. Fonts like Verdana or Tahoma are more likely to get through.


Time for HR to wake up 


For the harried HR professional, this simply means that there are high chances that five star and four star resumes delivered to the top of your inbox, the ones that you actually go through, might not be those that are highly suited for your organisation. This also means that relying exclusively on job portals to source cheap talent may not be really an effective talent strategy.


It is time to wake up and smell the coffee! While job portals have made money on selling aggregate databases, the quality of the hiring process or the efficiency has not really changed. If anything, potential talent has a poor perception of the organisation, and most talented youngsters are staying away from job boards and ATS mechanisms altogether. 


We are probably headed back full circle to the good old days where whom you know mattered more than how efficiently you leveraged technology! Maybe its time to make a change in the way HR teams look at recruitment, and change the paradigm from saving their time to making it easier for potential talent?




Kalpana Bansal manages the HR Analytics domain and the Employee Insights programme in the RPG Group. She has an experience of more than 20 years and has worked in organisations such as Tata Unisys, Star TV, IMRB, Mudra Communication and Watson Wyatt (I) Pvt. Ltd. Kalpana has an MBA and has completed her Executive Masters in Consulting & Coaching for Change from Said Business School, Oxford University.


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