Get expert advice on every topic you need as a small business owner, from the ideation stage to your eventual exit. Our articles, quick tips, infographics and how-to guides can offer entrepreneurs the most up-to-date information they need to flourish.

Subscribe to our blog


Could algorithms be screening out millions of competent job candidates?

Posted by Shivali Anand

February 8, 2022    |     4-minute read (672 words)

Finding the right person for the job is an age-old problem, but the pandemic and the Great Resignation have made it harder than ever. Companies grumble about a lack of qualified candidates, while employees complain about being competent yet overlooked. When it comes to aspiring workers, why is there such a disparity between the experience of businesses and job candidates?

According to recent research, one culprit is the use of automated recruiting software coupled with weak job descriptions, which effectively eliminate certain candidates from consideration simply because they aren’t a perfect match. Nonetheless, most of these applicants appear to have fulfilled the role’s requirements. So why would recruiting software prevent qualified candidates from being found?

To find the answer, let's travel back a few decades to the late 1990s when Automated Recruiting Software was hailed as the next great thing to hit the internet. Its goal was to assist businesses in sorting through the myriad applications that came as a result of the democratization of the internet.

Today, automated recruitment software is the backbone of many organizations' recruiting efforts, where it may be involved in sourcing, handling applications, interviews and background checks. These systems may flag prospects' resumes for various reasons, including the use of too few keywords, synonyms that do not precisely match the job description and resume gaps.

According to a Harvard Business School study, more than 90% of assessed firms employed a recruiting management or marketing system to filter or rate middle-skills (94%) and high-skills (92%) applicants during the first hiring stage. System parameters exclude prospective applicants whose resumes did not satisfy the requirements but who, with instruction, might perform well.

According to 88% of employers, competent and highly trained persons are rejected out of the process because they do not fulfill the job description's specific qualifications. For middle-skilled workers, the figure rose to 94% of employers.

The software sorts job candidates into broad categories. It then filters them based on whether particular criteria are satisfied, such as whether they have a college degree or have ever been incarcerated. These tabs alone weed out a large number of people who might otherwise be an excellent addition or who are looking for a fresh start. The more precise the job description, the more resumes are excluded from consideration by automated recruiting software.

A resume's skills description may be comparable to what is desired, yet it is rejected because it does not precisely satisfy the identical established requirements. Such conditions are challenging for both companies and employees.

Another issue that hiring managers may encounter with automated software is handling resume gaps. That interval could have been caused by a variety of factors, including sickness, transfers and layoffs, but automation tends to bundle them together and not return good results. This renders large swaths of the job-seeking population unemployed.

Changes in hiring protocols

Slowly but steadily, the hiring pattern is shifting. Many large corporations are changing their approach to talent acquisition by prioritizing human engagement and revisiting candidates who may have been overlooked by an automated method.

The most prominent of these companies is IBM, which received 3 million job applications in 2020. The shift was spurred by the company's difficulties in filling cybersecurity and software development roles. College degrees are no longer required, nor is there a checkbox requiring applicants to meet all criteria. According to IBM, if a person has the abilities, it doesn't matter where they learned them.

Meanwhile, other businesses are widening their recruitment search space as well. Some companies are switching from negative to positive filters. Previous incarceration, formerly a definite no-no in most enterprises, is no longer as widely frowned upon. People with impairments, gaps in their resumes or no formal college degree are sometimes being granted a second opportunity.

However, continued reliance on problematic recruiting software is a good reminder not to rely solely on the internet when job hunting. Supplementing the search with old-fashioned networking through friends and family gives job seekers a better chance of communicating their skills to potential employers.

Learn how we can put more time back in your day.