HR's Dirty Little Secret: Nobody Is Reading Resumes

Dear all,

An interesting true to your's true to some extent...


Many major firms have experienced layoffs or implemented hiring freezes, and unemployment rates have crept higher and higher. Everywhere you go it seems like everyone is looking for a job.

As a direct consequence, many corporate job sites are being inundated with resumes. Well-known companies like Microsoft, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard can receive upward of 50,000 resumes per month via their corporate job sites. For many corporate recruiters the days of relying on paper resumes are over, now that nearly everyone has access to computers and the Internet.

A Smooth And Painless Process — On the Surface

The process of submitting resumes to corporate job sites seems, on the surface, like an excellent one. From the applicant's perspective, job postings are easy to find and submitting a resume is cheap and inexpensive. The process is relatively short, and most corporate sites allow applicants to cut and paste their current resume, saving them a lot of data entry time. There is no limit to the number of times a candidate can submit their resume, so some candidates submit multiple versions. Firms with advanced applicant tracking systems send back automatic e-mails or postcard notices acknowledging receipt of the resume and thanking the applicant for their interest.

It's after the resume is submitted that the pain for the candidate begins. For the most part, candidates cannot go to the website to track the progress of their resume through the system. They never get a note saying outright that their resume will not be considered and why. Instead, applicants wait with great hope for a follow-up email or call asking them to come in for an interview. They wait because they assume that the process offers them a reasonable chance to get a job and because they rightfully assumed that recruiters and managers were reading their resumes.

Unfortunately they often wait and wait and wait!

The Dirty Little Secret

The problem with this seemingly "perfect system" occurs when you look more closely and find out that the odds of anyone actually reading a given resume is often little more than zero! As an "insider" I obviously cannot name the names of specific corporations, but I know of several major firms where literally no one is reviewing resumes from the corporate job site at the current time.

Let's start out with a simple fact: Inside most major corporations, no live person actually reads resumes. Instead they are scanned into or entered directly into the candidate database by the ATS. Most systems do nothing with the resumes until they are specifically asked by a recruiter or manager to sift through them for a particular job opening. Resumes can sit in the database and literally never be read by an actual human being.

Only if a recruiter or manager decides to search the database after the hundreds of thousands of resumes are electronically narrowed down to a manageable number (usually less than hundred) is it possible for someone to actually "read" a candidate's resume.

Why No One Is Reading Resumes

Few corporations will admit to the fact that no one is reading the resumes submitted in good faith by applicants. Even bringing up the topic causes recruiting managers to run the other way. Any admission that resumes go unread would be a PR nightmare. From the corporate perspective, no one promised that they would read all resumes. Candidates "just assume" that there is some reasonable chance of getting a job through the existing corporate job site system.

Unfortunately, the actual odds of getting a job through many corporate web sites approach that of winning the lottery. There is no single cause for these pitiful odds, but some of the major intervening factors include:

• Cutbacks. Cutbacks in the corporate recruiting function have been so dramatic that either no one is assigned or no one has time to scan more than a small segment of the resumes received each week. Recruiters who do search the database generally do it only one day per week — and if a candidate's resume didn't come in that day, it will probably be lost in the volume of the thousands of resumes that will arrive before the next search day.

• Resume spamming. Resume spamming by applicants has become so common that many recruiters and managers refuse to search the database, since it contains numerous unqualified candidates applying for jobs they have no skills for. After being burned a few times, many recruiters and managers stick to referrals, niche job boards, and other high quality tools. Yes this means they actually abandon searching resumes that come into the corporate website.

• Keywords. Applicant tracking systems sort resumes primarily based on the number of keywords in the resume. If candidates fail to use the right keywords there is no chance their resume will be read by a human being.

• Hiring freezes. Most corporate hiring has been frozen or so dramatically cutback that those who are searching for resumes only look at the very narrow list of skills required by their currently open jobs. This leaves most other resumes unread. Since corporations don't announce hiring freezes on their website, candidates have no way of knowing that when they apply for a job the company has no intention of reading it at that time.

• Huge databases. The sheer volume of resumes is immense. Major firms receive literally thousands of resumes on some days. Since laws require companies to keep the resumes of "applicants" for as long as two years, the size of a major company's resume database can easily exceed one million resumes. Since hiring managers refuse to look at thousands of resumes, recruiters often scan the database only until they find, say, 100 qualified resumes, and then they stop looking. If resumes are sorted by the level of skills and experience, unless you are a "super qualified" applicant, the odds of getting your resume read are painfully low.

• ABCs. If the resume scanning system sorts matches alphabetically, the chances of someone with a name beginning with "T" being found may be minuscule if the recruiter stops after they get their 100 target resumes. Even if they search some other way (other than starting with the "As") the odds of any individuals resume being in that 100 selected for further review in a resume database of one million resumes is probably in the single digits.

• Management time. Because the management ranks have also been decimated by layoffs, most managers have little or no time to search the database. As a result they rely on recruiters to do it for them or they hire external search firms to avoid the issue altogether.

• Poor training. Some search engines are so complicated that most managers and a large percentage of the recruiters never even learn how to search the database. And since most training has been limited, there is little chance that will change in the immediate future.

• Passive candidates. Because corporate recruiters are becoming more educated, they often only limit their search to passive candidates. Since by definition, if a candidate goes to a corporate job site and posts their resume, they are automatically an "active" candidate, odds are that the resume is automatically being labeled as having a lower value.

• Executive jobs. If candidates are applying for a higher-level executive or technical job, the odds of the resume being read on a corporate website actually are zero. This is because most of those jobs are outsourced to executive search firms that have their own databases and sources. Most executive recruiters do not even have permission to search the corporate database.

• EEOC regulations. The current definition of "applicant" is unclear, but most corporations are afraid that if they "read" a resume then the person must automatically be considered as an applicant for EEOC purposes. As a result, recruiters and managers are reluctant to turn too many resumes into "applicants."

While I am not proposing that corporations disclose all of their little secrets to the general public, providing insight into your actual process will help alleviate the anger and maintain your desirability as an employer.

From India, Pune
Sad but true. I must admit that electronic lodgement of Resumes is a topic about which I am ambivalent. Firstly, your input is constrained by the software used, and secondly, it is a given that your Resume will only be accessed by narrowly defined searches meaning many of your important qualities will never see the light of day.
For this reason I would never regard an electronic Resume or CV as an adequate substitute for a well written hard copy and direct responses to job advertisements.
I myself have an electronic Resume lodged with a large Australian entity and have never had any contact from employers. However, on the 3 occasions I have written directly to employers advertising with this entity I have succeeded in gaining interviews. This tells an interesting story!

From Australia, Ballarat
Truly informative article.. Guess there should be some alternative way to reach the core person. Regards, Zenobia.
From India, Mumbai
:lol: True but very sad....

i would like you to understand the recruiters point of view. Recruitment or hiring functions are generally skimly staffed. and in india, which is a applicant rich market we normally have a huge inflow of resumes. trust me.... a recruiter cannot read more that 15 resumes a day he just browses them. In addition the lack of approriate technology has even worsend the recruiters job. The recruiters job today has changed to an administrators job, a coordinators job, an interviewers job and then a negotiators job ... and the true purpose to get the right person for the right job in right time is lost.

We at Alacrity HR systems decided to set this right and help our recruiters. we researched and talked to more than 100 recruiters on how to make their jobs easier... our solution is under development that will help the recruiter jo justice to his core job that is hiring the right talent faster and cost effectively.

We will be launching our product, solution and services by end of November

bye for now.....


+91 9850567776

Dear Rajatji,
I read your article & am really shocked!!!!! I was not aware at all about this & neither did I know about the fact that after posting the resume's to the corporate web site this would be the fate of the resume!!! .
the reason why i wrote this is I also happened to post my resume to quite a few sites like the one's mentioned in your article (other than job sites) . looking back I understood why I would not get the reply or call from them. As mentioned by you some of the corporates would generate an automail thanking the candidate for his / her interest in the organisation.
Thank you very much for the same & it was really enlightening!!!! But these guys should think of the candidates who post the resume & pin their hopes waiting /expecting a reply when their resumes are not even read (by human beings) by the very machines !!!
Best Regards,
Sadashiv Rao :)

From Kuwait, Kuwait
That doesn’t suprise me. Is that with Seek? I happen to have my resume lodged with Seek and have never had any invitations to apply for roles.
From Australia, Sydney
Dear Rajat: As a job seeker sometime I was confused that after meeting every requirements why the advertiser didn’t call me? :( :( :( :( :( Now I got the ans. Thanks for the info. Regards,
From Malaysia, Ipoh
Hi Rajat, Thats a sad truth attached with this time saving process. I never trust on company website for posting myresume. dips
From India, Delhi
An area to be worked upon i've seen five to ten page hand written essay type resume applying for the position. so if a regular resume is rejected after first glance if does not match the stringent crieteria you are in a endless waiting heap.

Companies usually have role specific jobs not person specific jobs and more important they are constrained by the resources in that case we need a long term plan which gradually inducts the persons in specific roles

while short term goals are met by immediate recruitment. But as dettered by economy and domain area graphs travel on aravali terrain so if a aravali terrain anyway has to be their why do n't make base line approach also which has a room for a person to groom for long term perspective with two way relation ship and every sine become a new functional area.

Not every one is being inducted for $181,000, This is very important and can be achieved by colloboration of HR, management, champs and emps.

Usually four to five factor drive for an employee exodus. If they are met gradually, proffessionals likely to have longer and stable relationships which direct for systematic carrer path and met proffessional goals instead of having ten projects implementation after eight years.

As more and more options of colloboration and open economy and reducing monopoly and service integration, private-public partnership is happening.

We may see radical and dynamic changes and how the future prospects are ahead us.

:!: :?:

From India, Delhi
Hello All:

An interesting conundrum, isn't it? Those of us in HR are charged with finding the correct employee for any given situation, often in the nick of time--and only the top candidates can be presented; that means we must see as many potential candidates as possible so as to present the widest possible variety of applicants for management review; hence, we have developed software to help us assess those candidates best suited for a position by mechanical identification of keywords in resumes, but when we as HR Professionals and soon-to-be Professsionals are subjected to the same procedure, we find ourselves at odds with the process.

The day that a foolproof process assesses abilities, opportunities, and attributes and places an employee into a given position based on those factors--oh yes, by the way, the candidate must be able to get along with others, be honest, demonstrate integrity, show a remarkable resilience to change and work for what we offer, in an unbending show of corporate loyalty--we'll have that perfect process/individual---and it will probably be called a Human Resources Professional.

Wake up. If you want to use the software tools we've developed, then use them productively.

If you are seeking an HR position, unless you're desperate for a position, why would you not use your learned and practiced HR skills to find that position?

Network, put yourself into situations where you will meet with individuals who make employment decisions; become socially and functionally involved; demonstrate your knowledge of HR by using your skills to land your new HR job.

Alan Guinn, Managing Director

The Guinn Consultancy Group, Inc.

From United States, Bluff City

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