Main image of article How Recruiting Systems Exclude Viable Tech Job Candidates: Report

Automated recruiting systems may shut out a percentage of workers applying for technology jobs, suggests a new report by Harvard Business School and Accenture.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and Recruiting Management Systems (RMS) are supposed to help recruiters and hiring managers do everything from source key talent to follow applications moving through the company’s systems. In a quest to make these systems as efficient as possible, however, the candidate parameters are often very tightly set, which can exclude viable workers. 

“For example,” the report stated, “most use proxies (such as a college degree or possession of precisely described skills) for attributes such as skills, work ethic, and self-efficacy. Most also use a failure to meet certain criteria (such as a gap in full-time employment) as a basis for excluding a candidate from consideration irrespective of their other qualifications.”

The outcome is terrible for certain candidates, the report added: “A large majority (88 percent) of employers [tell] us that qualified high-skills candidates are vetted out of the process because they do not match the exact criteria established by the job description. That number rose to 94 percent in the case of middle-skills workers.”

Tech candidates everywhere, of course, have complained for years that automated recruiting systems exclude perfectly good workers from consideration. With the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence (A.I.) as potential recruiting and hiring tools, those concerns have only grown, especially since self-learning algorithms have a history of displaying bias

So what’s the solution? In the short term, the report suggests that companies adjust their application and recruiting systems’ filters. Instead of setting filters that eliminate candidates because they lack a college degree (for instance), employers should apply logic that selects candidates for having certain attributes: “Configuring systems to identify applicants with the specific skills and experiences associated with fulfilling the core requirements of the role would promise to be more efficient and inclusive.” 

If companies opt to embrace that kind of change, it could help lots of technologists land that first interview. But whether or not there’s actually an “affirmative” shift in companies’ application filters, this report is a good reminder that technologists should always tailor their application materials to fit the job posting and requirements. If you know the skills listed in a job posting, make sure to detail them on your résumé and cover letter; it’ll help ensure you survive that initial cut.  

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