IT Employment

Can't find employees? Maybe it's how you use your screening software

It's easy to blame screening software for a lack of qualified job candidates, but it may be the way you use it that is really to blame.

A manager revealed that his company had 25,000 applicants for a basic engineering job, but none was considered qualified. What's wrong with this picture?

It would be easy to blame the candidate screening software program utilized by the HR department of the company in question. That is partly right.

But Peter Cappelli, author Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It, says that the output of a software program is only as good as the data that is entered into it. Hiring managers don't often take the time to enter the data that will screen in the right way. He says that software programs often toss out perfectly qualified people because the job qualifications are laughably unrealistic or simply not needed for the positions. Some managers will randomly ask for some stat, like "eight years' experience," when all those years aren't really necessary (and, in the case of something like the Cloud, not even possible).

Sometimes the job requirements themselves are poorly written or the hiring manager doesn't take the time to activate or deactivate certain settings in the software itself.

Screening software best practices

If you think moving to a screening app is just about taking an antiquated paper system and simply throwing it online, you'd be wrong. Use the screening app to evaluate criterion in a certain way and then rank the candidates based on a wider range of qualifications.

Think about using some of your existing high performers to fill out job-applicant software questions. If any of them get eliminated early on from consideration you know that something is up. Check the wording of the questions or any settings within the app.

Take advantage of some of the lesser known features of screening software, like notifications for job hunters, letting them know that their application was received. Some even have features that keep candidates updated on their status during the process. Some hiring managers might not care about the candidates' experience but it's a good way to keep your company from getting ripped in some online forum.


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.


Maybe I am old fashion, but I still consider many IT positions as professionals. Being such we submit our resumes through a recruiting agency most of the times. Although I have seen many companies, most are big corporations, that insist going through a 50 page on-line application redundantly listing most of what is already on my resume, many times limiting what can describe or many drop down boxes with very limited selections and many times they way listed would probably cause my application to get overlooked for the specific position although highly if not over qualified for. I usually have a rule, unless applying for a job as at a fast food place, etc, I never fill out a lengthy application form on-line, just basic contact information along with being able to post my resume, too much other requirements and it is to the next of hundreds of positions available for my skills, I see it as almost an insult to a professional occupation and that tells me a lot about a company I would rather not work for. I have occasionally put in a few apps like that on-line just to see what would happen, not much. Companies, listen up, not going to get the best unless show you are more interested than that! I only use recruiting agencies, and only a few top ones that I know and trust to weed out the companies for me, kind of a about face, but is as much if not more important for me to work for a great employer and they need a great employee! How they go about seeking top individuals tell me a lot about who I would want to and not want to work for. And as for the requirements they post, WOW!, I see them wanting someone to wear about a dozen hats, years of experience along with knowing everything, and some of those want to pay like hiring someone right from high school or something ? I am fortunate I have a very experienced background with systems and networking and yet talking to many companies out there I can see many do not know what type of an individual they need to fill a position. Some think they can find someone in IT that does everything from networks, storage, systems admin, be a DBA, be an electrician, do HVAC work, maybe even build the darn building for the data center (OK, a little too far, well for now), but I see a lot of those requirements stating every discipline in IT.


Ok, I won't argue that with 25k applicants and nobody is suitable, the way that the job was defined and posted is probably the problem. No question. But all that the Internet lets you do is reach more people. If they had posted it using traditional methods they might have had only 200 applications, but I'm confident that all of them would have been unsuitable as well. The Internet lets you get applications from around the planet. People can submit their application for free, so they submit often. The traditional methods required paper, ink, and postage. They required you to get copies of job postings in that particular market by, say, buying a newspaper. The cost of resume blasting in those days was prohibitive. But now it's free. I have found that the volume of applications when I'm hiring has increased, especially from overseas. You need to have *better* screening tools than you used to have. Manually screening even 200 applicants is prohibitive. So, you can't even just automate your existing process; you must make it tighter or you're going to be swamped. As always, and I'm sure Toni would agree, make sure that your screening characteristics are bona fide!

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