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Computer Scan or Computer Scam

Newsletter • volume 2 • number 2

Major employers - such as Disneyland and Ford - are increasingly relying on technology to simplify the hiring process. These firms enter resumés in computers using optical scanners and then search the databases for a perfect candidate. Some sophisticated systems classify resumés according to work experience, but most simply search for key words. In either case, the process sounds efficient, but scratch the high-tech surface and at least two major problems appear.

The first is that today's job candidates simply make a point of including lots of key words in their resumés. A high-tech company, for example, was recently looking for someone with database software experience in a specific company. The hiring manager received 250 resumés from corporate staffing, but only four worked at the company and had the required experience. The other applicants were consultants or contractors for the company. Apparently, all 250 applicants had listed this database company on their resumés and that name alone was enough to catch the attention of the scanner.

From our perspective, an even bigger problem is that resumés do not list competencies. Neither do most job descriptions, which focus almost exclusively on education, work experience, and knowledge. Until businesses find a way to screen for competencies - qualities such as commitment, networking skills, and a willingness to take risks - no amount of "scanning" will guarantee that the best candidate will get the interview.