For individuals in search of a new job career, it is as easy as Copy, Paste, and Submit. The economy is improving and more and more candidates are applying for jobs on the Internet.

Applicant Tracking Software

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But just like the neighbor attending an open house just to get a peek how the people on the other side of the street live, an increasing number of job candidates are just “shopping”. The result is creating a massive influx of resumes – an administrative nightmare named the “resu-mess”.

No longer do managers just receive a dozen or so of resumes mailed or faxed from a single classified ad in the Sunday classifieds but hundreds of emails clogging inboxes from Internet job postings. After years of cutting back on the size of human resource departments or just adding more and more responsibilities on the shoulder of the HR assistant, it is fair to say that reviewing and processing these resumes is like having six lanes of traffic merging into a two-lane tunnel. This translates into a bottleneck at the hiring tollgate.

But more isn’t necessarily better. Sifting through the resumes takes time. Few managers, human resource professionals and assistants have the time to screen the applications, call the candidates, fight the voice mail tag, complete phone interviews, schedule face-to-face interviews, check references, complete background checks and so on.

Successful recruiting strategies to select-in more of the right candidates are being derailed by a voluminous response of applicants. While managers and HR staff are attempting to disqualify the unqualified or disinterested applicants, high-demand qualified candidates are being overlooked and turned off by slow response times, cumbersome hiring hurdles, and inexperienced, and sometimes inept, interviewers.

To further complicate matters, what you see is not necessarily what you get when it comes to resumes. In a survey conducted by Avert Inc., forty-four percent of 2.6 million resumes they checked for background accuracy reportedly contained at least some lies: 44 percent of applicants lied about their work histories, 41 percent lied about their education, and 23 percent falsified credentials or licenses.

The Internet, with its many advantages, also creates more work for hiring managers who need to verify the truth behind the resume. If the job requires a four year college degree or even a PhD, a candidate doesn’t need to go back to school. He can just submit his credit card information and Volia! – he now has a degree with an official looking embossed, certified “diploma”.

Phony degrees are easy to track. Other fabrications, particularly those that just stretch the truth, are harder to detect such as the addition of fictional degrees, bogus job titles, vastly inflated responsibilities and changing dates of employment to bridge periods of unemployment. When the hiring employer calls to verify information, all they get is the name, dates of employment, last salary and little else. In fact with downsizings, attrition, and job hopping, the managers of many of these candidates are long gone.

Faced with a long list of allegedly qualified candidates, managers resort to old faithful -the interview and the resume – to find the right employee. But according to Paul Ekman, a psychology professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco and author of 13 books, including Telling Lies, “most people cannot tell whether someone is lying or telling the truth—but most people think they can”.

Over the years Ekman has tested about 6,000 people—among them college students, police officers, judges, lawyers, psychiatrists, and agents of the FBI, the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Administration—to determine if they can tell if someone is lying. He has found that “95 percent of these decisions come down to chance—they’d do just as well flipping a coin.”

A survey from the Society of Human Resource Management confirms the challenges of verifying the credentials of a candidate. Human resource professionals are uncovering lies in these categories:

•  Length of employment, 53 percent.

•  Past salaries, 51 percent.

•  Criminal records, 45 percent.

•  Former job tales, 44 percent.

•  Former employers, 35 percent.

•  Driving records, 33 percent.

•  College degrees, 30 percent.

•  Credit, 24 percent.

•  Schools attended, 22 percent.

•  Social Security number, 14 percent.


Lying isn’t just a problem at the hourly level either. At least 23 percent of 7,000 resumes submitted for president, V.P. and board of director positions have been a little cooked. (Source: Christian & Timbers)

The problem doesn’t stop there. Forty million drug tests are conducted each year on job candidates and employees. But employees have learned “the ropes”.

The prevalence of these drug screenings and the reach of the Internet has fostered a thriving cottage industry of entrepreneurs who promise to help workers beat the tests. Products like Urine Luck to counteract urine tests, Get Clean Shampoo intended to counteract hair tests and Quick Fizz tablets for saliva tests are readily available.

Managers are at a crossroads. Business just wasn’t always as complex as it is today. But many organizations still insist on using the techniques of yester-year to solve today’s problem. Candidates hire professional resume writers. They search the Internet for information about your company. They download dozens and dozens of answers to the most comment interview questions, just like fraternities and soroties
”prepped” their brothers and sisters for term papers and final exams. Yet managers are still doing interviews on the fly, relying on gut instinct and a suspect resume to make the final hiring decisions.

“People are poor intuitive judges of truth and deception”, according to Eckman, which seems only to confirm the previous research on the effectiveness of interviews for selecting the right people.

In these comparative studies of various selection techniques, the success of the traditional interview is only slightly better than flipping a coin. The addition of reference and background checks, personality testing and a behavioral event interview to a selection process however improves the success of hiring to nearly 8 out of 10.

Simplify the application process.

Everything has changed. Streamlining recruitment, hiring quickly, and selecting the right people are no longer options but key growth strategies.

An effective recruiting solution has many pieces, including applicant tracking, screening, testing, interviewing, and background checks. All of these components must mesh with business processes and create an end-to-end solution.

To first attract and then actually hire the best talent, making the entire recruitment process as convenient as possible is critical. Prospective employees should be able to fill out an application at a Web site, and any tests or profiling tools should be available through the Web or by phone.

A well-designed applicant processing system is like the EZ-Pass of human resources. It can help organizations filter and process résumés quickly and provide a central repository for potential candidates. When the system aligns with business processes, it’s possible to identify talent more quickly and reduce hiring time. The net result is that you can snatch talented individuals before your competitors do.

Previously published in Business2Business, May 2004