Resume Volume: Can You Handle It?

Lately, I have been meeting corporate recruiters whose sourcing strategy has been shaped by negative conditioning. Sheer volumes of responses have conditioned them to avoid exposure for their job positions. These recruiters have retreated from the major national-brand job board, and are beginning to shrink back even from posting to the corporate website. But is narrowing candidate sourcing venues the right response? Does that best serve the recruiters’ goals? What forces have converged to create the sheer volume of resumes? The demographics of the current and future workforce, use of the Internet, unemployment, and turnover rates have all contributed to the ease of, and the motivation for, jobseekers to apply online. Workforce Demographics Forecasts by the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that the fastest-growing occupational groups are to be found in industries in which the major product is knowledge itself (such as software, computer hardware, and biotechnology) as well as those industries that manage or convey information (such as telecommunications, banking, insurance, law, advertising, education, and medicine). The BLS projects that professional occupations will grow 27% by 2008; technicians and related support personnel will grow 22% in the same time period; executive, administrative, and managerial workers by 16% and marketing and sales occupations by 15%. These knowledge workers are precisely the people who are using the Internet in greater numbers and are also in high demand. Limiting the size of this candidate pool is not a prudent practice. Internet Use Internet penetration in the United States is approaching 60%. Internet use is even spreading to segments of the population hitherto underrepresented: the fastest growing workforce segment of the Internet population is blue-collar workers. Interacting with this group via the Internet presents an opportunity for greater efficiency and lower cost. Unemployment and Turnover Unemployment, although fluctuating in the current economy, remains at historically low rates. In addition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average employment tenure in the U.S. has declined over the past three decades and now stands at roughly 3.6 years. Estimates place tenure in IT as low as 12 to 18 months. Consequently, an estimated 30 million people change jobs every year. The high rate of job churn has placed pressure on corporations’ abilities to qualify the revolving and growing pool of candidates. Ease of Applying The Internet has made it very easy to create a resume and then transmit it effortlessly and instantaneously to dozens of companies. A determined jobseeker could probably distribute several hundred copies of her resume in a good evening. On the corporate side, great attention has been paid to making the corporate careers website user friendly, with convenient ways for candidates to send in their qualifications through resume builders, file-upload buttons, profile builders, job carts, and more. Since 2000, iLogos Research has been tracking use by the Fortune 500 of these interactive careers website features and, as reported in iLogos’s report Trends in Fortune 500 Careers Web Site Recruiting, all trends are sharply up. Paying attention to user-friendliness is important, but unless you have the systems in place to handle the increased volumes it encourages, you have created more problems than solutions. Dealing With Increasing Volumes The growing candidate pool brought about by increased Internet use and the rise of online sourcing efforts dramatically highlights the need for improved efficiencies in the recruiting process. Quantity is anathema to quality, particularly when it comes to recruiting. Many companies have turned to recruitment automation systems to help deal with increasing candidate volumes. The first generation of so-called applicant tracking systems relied upon keyword searches as the sorting mechanism for separating the qualified from the unqualified. However, the applicant tracking system vendors supplied tip sheets, telling candidates how to beat the system, and even encouraged their corporate users to publish the tips on the corporate careers site. This led to an even greater flood of resumes architected to maximize keyword searches, regardless of their accuracy for a position fit. Keyword searches are not scalable, since the recruiter has to take the time to read and consciously assess each resume document identified by the results of the keyword search. Online Pre-screening The next generation of recruitment automation tools is moving away from the time-trap inherent in traditional resume-based recruiting to the more efficient process of online pre-screening. A simple online questionnaire makes it easier than ever before to obtain skill sets from applicants. The recruiters can tailor the online questionnaires to detect the required skills, to meet the exact needs of a company, position, or requisition. The Web allows the recruiter to get the information required for prescreening directly from the candidate, without the mediation of the convention-bound traditional resume document. Instead of the candidate pushing information to the recruiter in a resume document, web-based pre-screening allows the recruiter to pull information from the candidate. Conclusion Should you shrink back from sourcing on the Internet? Recruiters can ill-afford to ignore the Internet, since it is the largest single source of candidates. Careful media planning will help identify the places on the Internet beyond the corporate Careers Web site with which to source. Recruiters moreover can ill-afford to ignore the growing problem of resume overload. The Internet has been a boon to recruiting, but the floodgates are only now beginning to open. It will be important for recruiters to adopt tools that will stem the tide of rising candidate volumes. A more efficient sorting and screening process means that recruiters can welcome greater candidate volumes, since there will not be a concomitant drain on resources. Leading web-based solutions incorporate automatic prescreening to identify quality candidates quickly and precisely and empower recruiters to identify quality regardless of the quantity.

Alice Snell
Alice Snell is vice president of Taleo Research. The specialty research practice analyzes the best practices and economics of talent management. Taleo Research focuses on critical issues and key trends in talent management that impact organizational performance. Taleo Research is the strategic research division of Taleo, which provides on demand talent management solutions for organizations of all sizes, worldwide.