Job Hunting in the Virtual Age ; Recruiters Can Be Overwhelmed by the Flood of Resumes

Article excerpt

When Yvonne Hairston applied for a job as an administrative file clerk with Western New York Independent ?Living Inc., the Buffalo resident did what she always does ? she electronically submitted her resume to the agency.?It was only afterward she realized she was supposed to do something very unusual these days: mail in her resume.?"I said, ?Oh my goodness, I probably won't get the job because I emailed it,'" said Hairston, who is looking for ?work as a medical secretary and did send her resume again by letter.

It's the age of the digital job hunt, and technology is changing how people find and apply for jobs and how companies sort through all of these applications to find the right candidate.

Nearly every company asks job seekers to file their applications online, often through a standardized form. Employers can use software that searches for certain key words to sift through their databases of thousands of applications.

They also employ LinkedIn and other social media to seek out candidates for jobs, and some companies rely on personality tests to help them assess prospective workers.

? But these employers emphasize that humans, and not artificially intelligent computers like IBM's Watson, make hiring decisions.

? "We're certainly aided by technology, but technology is not equipped to make the decision alone," said Susan A. Krzystofiak, ?University at Buffalo's assistant vice president for human resources.

Job seekers, and their advisers, say they realize everything has moved online these days and the Internet makes it easier to apply for a lot of jobs at once.

But some say it can feel dehumanizing to do everything electronically and it can be hard to make your application stand out from all of the others stored in a company's database.

"You apply to a computer. You get responded to by a computer. You get rejected by a computer. And it's so ?impersonal," said Stephanie Zuckerman-Aviles, director of Buffalo State College's Career Development Center.

In July, 12.8 million people were unemployed and seeking work nationally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

That's a lot of people applying for a lot of jobs, and they generate a lot of applications.

Processing these applications by hand isn't possible anymore, not at an institution such as UB, which took in 18,900 applications in 2011, or at HealthNow, which received 8,100 applications this year through the middle of this month.

"We have an online recruitment system," Krzystofiak said of the UB Jobs system installed in 2007. "That has eliminated a ton of paper. I think it makes it much more efficient."

An online identity

Companies now are extending their reach with social media by using sites such as LinkedIn to search through millions of profiles and find candidates who haven't applied for a position but may be a good fit in the eyes of a recruiter.

"The single-biggest influence in the job market now is social media," said Sam Russo, director of financial search for SelectOne Search, a Williamsville firm that conducts direct-hire searches and employs temporary workers on contract for its client companies.

Thomas A. Fentner, senior vice president for human resources and administrative services with HealthNow New York, said the insurer recently searched LinkedIn to find a compensation expert it wanted to hire on a contract basis.

A retiree in Maine agreed to work for HealthNow for 100 hours, spread over three months, on condition that he not have to travel to Buffalo or take calls while at the beach.

"Technology has changed everything about the way we recruit," Fentner said.

HealthNow still hosts job fairs, but typically doesn't accept resumes at those events and instead tells candidates to apply through its website.

"Back in November, December, I was showing up to these job fairs with stacks of my resume. And none of [the company representatives] wanted them. …