Are we missing out on great talent?
The first impression of a job applicant often comes through their CV – assuming, of course, the employer or recruiter sifts through applications themselves, and not with the help of CV screening software.
The use of CV screening software, or Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), is incredibly common, especially within large-scale businesses as well as recruitment agencies, mid-size organisations and even some small businesses. This means that applicants’ CVs and accompanying documents are filtered before landing in the hands of their potential employer.
Research shows that the average job opening attracts 250 applicants and up to 88% of them are considered unqualified, meaning it would take hours – if not days – to review these manually, with only a small quantity actually proving relevant to the role. (1)
These systems are designed and used to make the recruitment process more efficient and can ultimately save time by filtering out “irrelevant” applications by setting a number of criteria and requirements for applicants’ CVs, applications, and cover letters to meet.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that so many organisations have moved towards CV screening software to streamline their recruitment process, including more than 95% of Fortune 500 companies. (2)
But what are the potential issues associated with using CV screening software?
Whilst this system definitely has it benefits for businesses looking to recruit new talent, it also has its downfalls.
This process measures applications based on quantitative characteristics – such as grades, experience and relevant keywords. Many applicants have become savvy to the systems in place and often litter their applications with buzzwords to get through the initial screening, even if they don’t apply to them, meaning that “irrelevant” or unqualified applicants can pass through the system – possibly in the place of those who actually are qualified, but didn’t organise their application in a way that meets the software’s requirements.
By prioritising these quantitative characteristics, this process also fails to recognise the qualities of the person behind the paper. Even if someone has 5-10 years of experience in a certain sector or role, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are good at it or have the right interpersonal skills to work well within your organisation or within that specific role.
Whilst one applicant might have 7 years’ experience and a masters in a relevant field, someone with less experience and a lower level of education could have skills which are better suited to the role at hand, which the former applicant does not. However, this more suitable candidate could easily be missed due to the prioritisation of efficiency and time-keeping.
Research by Schmidt and Hunter suggests that only 16% of a person’s future success can be predicted by the jobs they’ve held in the past, whilst if you know someone’s personality, their potential success within your company is 2.5x more predictive than relying solely on their CV. (3) Thus, relying on keywords and buzzwords to filter CVs based on relevancy (in terms of past experience and education) to the role might work against the desired outcome of finding someone perfect for the role.
So, how do we make sure we recruit the right people on to our teams?
We need to ensure that our workforces are filled with the right people with the right skills – especially as we navigate an ongoing skills shortage.
The research cited in this discussion suggests that employers and recruiters need to think carefully about which process works best for them and what steps can be taken to prevent these brilliant potential employees from falling through the cracks. After all, organisations are built by the people within them, so it is essential to have the right people on our teams.
Often, great employees do not come to a company as a ready-made, full package. Usually, they come full of potential and an eagerness to develop and learn. So, how do we recognise this in our recruitment process without compromising efficiency? If we accept there is a role for ATS’s, what can we, as employers and educators, do to help candidates navigate these systems successfully and authentically? And what other processes could we adopt to attract a more diverse workforce that will help us build effective teams that can bring challenge as well as momentum to our organisations?
Clearly the CV is only one element of recruitment, but as it’s often the first foot in the door, it’s in everyone’s interests to make sure candidates are given the best chance to tell their story and employers the opportunity to spot the right talent for their business.