Why Do Companies Reject Millions of Résumés?

Automated-hiring systems are excluding many people from job discussions at a time when additional employees are desperately needed

Article by Kathryn Dill
Published: September 4, 2021 | The Wall Street Journal

Companies are desperate to hire, and yet some workers still can’t seem to find jobs. Here may be one reason why: The software that sorts through applicants deletes millions of people from consideration.

Employers today rely on increasing levels of automation to fill vacancies efficiently, deploying software to do everything from sourcing candidates and managing the application process to scheduling interviews and performing background checks. These systems do the job they are supposed to do. They also exclude more than 10 million workers from hiring discussions, according to a new Harvard Business School study released Saturday.

Job prospects get tripped up by everything from brief résumé gaps to ballooning job descriptions from employers that lessen the chance they will measure up. Lead Harvard researcher Joseph Fuller cited examples of hospitals scanning résumés of registered nurses for “computer programming” when what they need is someone who can enter patient data into a computer. Power companies, he said, scan for a customer-service background when hiring people to repair electric transmission lines. Some retail clerks won’t make it past a hiring system if they don’t have “floor-buffing” experience, Mr. Fuller said. This reliance on automation filters big sections of the population out of the workforce and companies lose access to candidates they want to hire, he added.

Harvard’s findings—resulting from a survey of companies and workers conducted by the business school’s Project on Managing the Future of Work and consulting firm Accenture PLC—offer new insight into the current challenges of matching employers with potential employees as the economy reopens following a pandemic-led downturn. That process is proving to be unusually slow and complicated. The number of open U.S. positions surged to a record 10 million in June, the most recent month for which government data is available.

Many company leaders—nearly nine out of 10 executives surveyed by Harvard—said they know the software they use to filter applicants prevents them from seeing good candidates. Firms such as Amazon.com Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. said they are studying these tools as well as other hiring methods to understand why they can’t find the workers they need. Some said the technology can be changed to serve them better, while others are turning to less-automated methods to find the right people…[More]


To read the full article on the The Wall Street Journal site, visit: Companies Need More Workers. Why Do They Reject Millions of Résumés?