When HR was H


If you’ve applied for a job in the last eight years or so, you’ve sent your resume to a bot.  The bot sends you a disingenuous message thanking you for your interest, scans your resume for certain keywords, and decides in a blink of an eye whether to advance your candidacy.

Then, silence.

Often, you’ll never hear from that potential employer. Or you’ll hear something months later, after the job has been awarded (even if you were never in the running). As a final insult, you may even receive a happy letter exclaiming the virtues of the person that the company hired.

HR used to be “Personnel” and was only part of large corporations. Then it became an industry. Now, people are overwhelmed with responses. Hence the bot.

It’s not that hard to be human.

Is it?


4 responses

  1. […] follow up on this, this, this, this and […]


  2. I’m now running a nonprofit and appreciate everything I learned about HR from the wonderful professionals I worked with at Washington State University Spokane. They truly saw humans as humans and as resources worth the investment of time and energy.

    We just recruited for a position. We received a manageable number of applications, which made our job a bit easier. Each and every candidate received a personal response about application status and whether he/she was moving forward to the next round. I personally called those we interviewed who did not move to the next stage.

    That was manageable because we had that small number of applicants, and I would always want to follow up in person with someone we interviewed directly.

    On the other hand, the university could receive literally hundreds of applications for an entry-level position. Given shrinking resources and the need to put most of those into the direct act of education, it truly wasn’t feasible to respond personally to everyone who didn’t make the cut. HR simply wasn’t staffed enough to handle that; it didn’t mean they didn’t want to.

    The university went to an all-electronic system for uploading applications. The upload page had a notice to applicants that they needed to be proactive in following up to know the status of their application. I don’t see anything wrong in asking people to do that much if they’re seriously interested in a position.

    But all applications were scored and ranked by humans, not machines. A keyword scan doesn’t tell you whether a cover letter was well-written, appropriate in tone, and expressed that extra level of professionalism and competence that merits moving someone to the next round. I always tell applicants that the cover letter isn’t a simple transmittal of the resume–it’s the place you sell yourself and shine. Machines don’t get that.

    Sharing a couple of my blog posts on applying for public-sector jobs, FWIW (I’m not nearly as concise as you are)::
    Serious advice: http://biketoworkbarb.blogspot.com/2010/06/public-sector-communications-job.html
    My cranky tweet stream while reviewing 67 applications: http://biketoworkbarb.blogspot.com/2010/06/real-time-reviews-of-job-applicants-or.html


  3. Amen! With the opportunity afforded by applying electronically today, there is no excuse to let a candidate, who could be a future customer, and especially a donor in the nonprofit world, left in the dark as to whether his/her resume’ was even received. Having come from the forprofit world, and spending the last 13 years in the nonprofit world, a commitment was made to respond to every applicant in a timely fashion. Sure, there are always resume’s received where the candidate has absolutely no business applying, but even they deserve the benefit of a response. My agency received hundreds of resume’s for every job opening, and every applicant was responded to. The excuse I’ve heard from other agencies for not responding to everyone that applies, is that they are too busy or don’t have enough staff to respond to everyone. We need to get back to treating people as we wish to be treated.


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