Shared from the 5/30/2023 Financial Review eEdition

A better way to screen job applicants


Skimming through resumes with a focus on skills is the wrong way to vet job applicants, even amid the skills shortage. Employers are finding greater success by focusing more on a potential employee’s temperament, attitudes and values.

The screening of resumes has long been the first step in assessing job applicants, but this typically involves a quick glance at their skills in order to determine who makes it through to the next round.

Part of the problem is that 78 per cent of job seekers lie on their resume, according to a 2020 survey by reference-check firm Checkster.

The most common lie is claiming proficiency in in-demand career skills which the applicants don’t actually possess.

Another issue is that recruiters and hiring managers who skim over those resumes can also introduce unconscious bias, which sees some of the best applicants cast aside.

This bias can extend from significant discrimination around age, gender, race and cultural background, to seemingly minor issues such as judging applicants according to the font and layout of their resume.

As a result, businesses can overlook the best applicants and then waste time and effort hiring people who are a poor fit for the job.

This is a bad outcome for both employees and employers, says Dr Glyn Brokensha, the cofounder and chairman of Australian predictive hiring software provider Expr3ss!.

If poor initial screening means the successful applicant is actually a bad fit for the job, they will often still stay on the role for at least 18 months – even if they’re unhappy – in order to avoid a blemish on their employment record.

Once again, this is a bad outcome for both employees and employers.

Using short surveys instead of relying on resumes, Expr3ss! quickly and cost-effectively pinpoints job applicants with the right skills, attitudes, temperament and cultural fit.

Employers tailor the questions to ensure that they unambiguously address the requirements of the role, as well as assess the attitudes and temperament of each applicant.

The surveys typically take around six minutes, and ensure that the best applicants make it through to the interview stage.

Surveys can also include ‘‘deal-breaker’’ questions to ensure applicants have all the necessary qualifications and certifications before they are recommended for an interview.

Businesses ‘‘hire on skills, but fire on attitudes’’, Brokensha says. Even if they only have a small number of applicants, they typically only spend around six seconds skimming over a resume and glancing at the application’s supposed skills – yet they use this often-inaccurate first impression to decide who makes the cut.

Rather than just considering whether an applicant believes they can do the job, employers must also assess whether the applicant will actually do the job – and whether they are fit to do the job.

The benefits of this approach are many, and include improved staff retention, raised productivity, enhanced employee engagement and increased employee satisfaction.

‘‘When you’re glancing at a resume you’re not looking at the real person, you’re looking at an advertisement for that person,’’ Brokensha says.

‘‘It’s not until it’s too late that you sometimes realise that you’ve fallen for false advertising and made a bad hiring mistake. Paying more attention upfront to attitudes and temperament allows businesses to find the best person for the job and the best fit for their team.’’

As generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT are used more often to write resumes and cover letters, employers can place even less faith in them when it comes to assessing applicants, says Expr3ss! co-founder and managing director Carolyne Burns.

‘‘At this point you’re dealing with a document that is questionable in every respect, being read by a fallible human who likely brings their own unconscious bias to the table,’’ Burns says.

‘‘That’s certainly not a recipe for selecting the best candidate.

‘‘For example, we know from our research that if your name is Bharat Singh, then you’re much less likely to get called up for an interview than if your name is Bill Smith – this is one kind of bias that we want to stamp out.’’

The answer is not to hand over the hiring process to algorithms and completely remove people from the equation, Brokensha says.

Instead, the answer is to take advantage of technology in order to be more objective when determining which applicants should make it through to the interview stage.

‘‘Many of our customers no longer collect resumes,’’ he says. ‘‘We actually encourage this because, if people do collect resumes, they often find it difficult not to look at them and then that unconscious bias can start to kick in.

‘‘There are much better ways than skimming over resumes when you need to assess applicants and ensure that you really do get the person who is the best fit for the job.’’

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