Reader Response: New Software, Common Courtesy Can Solve Job Application Glut

Editor’s Note: In my notes yesterday, I asked you for ideas and suggestions on how we can solve the crisis of resume submission overload. For background information on this story, check out our stories on automatic resume tracking systems here and here, as well as the shockingly low amount of time recruiters actually spend reading your resume. More recently, we asked you, Are the Unemployed Applying for Too Many Jobs?

One reader wrote in with his view. What do you think of his ideas?

Your commenter is correct, but I would add one small detail. Job boards and employers rely on resume parsing engines to produce a digest of incoming resumes. From all that I have seen, these engines are embarrassingly bad at doing the job that they are supposed to do.

When a candidate goes to a website and uploads a resume, the parsing engine tries to grab what it can, but invariably dates are jumbled, the name field contains an address, the employer’s name field contains a job description instead. The list goes on and on, and frankly, from a candidate’s perspective, working with companies and sites that use this technology is a waste of time.

What I have told others to do is to identify who has posted the job listing or who the contact person is for the job. Do some investigation and get the person’s e-mail address or phone number, and then do everything possible to bypass website submission procedures. Tell them the dog ate your computer or that you just landed here from Mars and don’t know how to use a computer. Whatever it takes, skip the website, and send the resume to the real recruiter in a form that he has to read with his own two eyes.

Why do I say this? Well, if companies employ resume parsing engines that just don’t work well and if those same parsing engines are the ones that assign keywords to one’s resume, then you must do whatever is possible to avoid becoming just another database entry that will never be found by a recruiter.

What can be done to fix this hideous mess? For starters, companies and websites should start making their parsing engines compatible with the HR-XML Corsortium’s resume XML document standard. Being able to accept a resume in XML form, in which the employer’s name is in its own field, will go a long way to elminating bad parsing, bad keywords, and lost resumes.

Second, the industry or some savvy entrepreneur needs to create a free HR-XML resume creation tool that candidates can download and use to create resumes that can be successfully parsed the first time. It would be nice if that same tool would also create a human-readable resume, to0. Making the tool downloadable at the major job sites such as CareerBuilder, Monster, Dice, JuJu, Indeed, etc. would go a long way to fixing what is a very broken recruitment process. (Incidentally, CareerBuilder DOES accept resumes in HR-XML format.)

As for the other things your commentor has noted, I would add that a bit of common courtesy would be nice. Sending a person a message acknowledging the receipt of a resume is fine, but not hearing anything until the job is filled three months later is just plain rude. Just as a person would expect to be kept in the loop when it comes to an application for a loan, the progress of repairs on his car, and when he can expect to have his meal delivered to his table, so he would like to know the status of his application, and if rejected, why it was turned down.

Not doing this is just plain bad manners and laziness. If a machine can crank out an e-mail reply when the resume is submitted, it can also crank out messages when milestones in the application process have been reached, too. When machines don’t do this, it is because companies and their programmers feel that they don’t need to observe simply human courtesies.

Frankly, when job seekers run up against such corporate behavior, they really don’t want to work for them; and if hired, they don’t exhibit much loyalty. What goes around comes around.