EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Business

October 14, 2012

Online hiring systems frustrate applicants

BALTIMORE — The emailed rejection came as no surprise to Bill Skibinski, though the Abingdon, Md., resident believed he was more than qualified for the entry-level job he’d applied for online.

After spending two years seeking full-time work, Skibinski is convinced that the computerized screening systems most companies use to hire actually work against job candidates, no matter how qualified they are.

“It is a frustrating and unfair process,” said Skibinski, who is working part-time as a contractor while completing a master’s degree in environmental planning at Towson University. “You don’t hear a thing through the Web process, but that’s really the only way you can” apply for a job.

Most large employers, even the federal government, use so-called applicant tracking systems to find qualified candidates. Increasingly, smaller companies are turning to them, too. Software screening is designed to help employers manage overwhelming volumes of applications and eliminate applicants who lack the required skills.

But some experts blame these systems for eliminating qualified candidates and for contributing to a shortage of skilled workers — a problem companies say they face even in a market glutted with job seekers.

More than a third of employers in a June CareerBuilder survey said they currently have positions they can’t fill because of a lack of qualified candidates. And that’s hurting business: A third said vacancies lead to overworked employees and a lower quality of work.

Peter Cappelli, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of business, argues in his book “Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs” that employers can’t find qualified workers not because of a “skills gap,” but because employers’ hiring requirements are unrealistic, salaries are too low and overly rigid applicant screening keeps most people out.

“The problem comes with employers trying to use these systems for more than they’re capable of doing,” said Cappelli, director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources. “They have so constrained their criteria, they end up with nothing. They want skill sets that don’t exist.”

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