NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The prolonged job hiring process has translated into a disconnect between job seekers and human resource professionals with both groups disagreeing on whether there are enough qualified candidates.
The challenge facing many job seekers is proving that they are qualified enough to be interviewed. A recent survey of almost 4,000 people by Beyond.com, the King of Prussia, Penn.-based job website, found that 75% of HR professionals said they were unable to fill positions because there are too many unqualified candidates. Job seekers disagree with this assessment with 55% who believe they are not getting hired because the marketplace has too many candidates who are qualified.
“Hiring has increased over the past few months as employers become more confident, but job seekers are still struggling with how to prove they are fully qualified to HR professionals,” said Joe Weinlick, vice president of marketing for Beyond.com.
While there is no secret for getting a job, people can increase their chances by highlighting hard skills in their resumes and demonstrating soft skills during the interview process, he said.
“Many job seekers have the right ingredients and now they need to put them in the right order,” Weinlick said.
One reason candidates may not appear to be qualified is because of their resumes with 73% of HR professionals who feel that job applicants do a “bad job” of tailoring their resumes to specific positions.
Only 28% of candidates said they always customize their resumes for a position, which means the majority of candidates are not taking advantage of the opportunity to highlight their most relevant experience.
Proving that you are qualified enough to be interviewed can be a challenge. Since the term “qualified” is subjective, job seekers are not sure whether they should focus on their hard skills such as their technical training or their soft skills such as communication and teamwork.
While it might be difficult to get in the mind of every employer to figure out what they are looking for as they read a resume, those looking for a job should remember that keywords are a must with 63% of HR professional respondents who reported that job applicants do a “good job” of including relevant keywords in their resumes.
The hard skills you have learned over the years are critical with 69% of HR professional respondents who said they look for those skills first when they are searching for candidates.
Interpersonal relations and other soft skills are nearly equally important since 56% of HR professional respondents also said that those are among the “most important” abilities in a new hire and ones that might land you the job.
Well-placed keywords on a resume help sets you apart from the crowd and a solid phone call will get you even further, said Jim Stroud, senior director of RPO recruitment strategies and support at Randstad Sourceright, the recruiting company.
“In this age of social super-connectedness, nothing trumps a warm in-person personality,” he said.
By the end of an interview, the goal is to have the hiring manager “feel like they can trust you to do the work,” Stroud said. Managers also like to see some of their own personality reflected in a candidate and while qualifications are essential, what goes a long way toward them feeling like they can relate to you.
“Quite often, that last little intangible connection will make someone want to hire you over the other person," he said.
Professionals need to ensure that they have both a well-written resume and fully developed LinkedIn profile, said Cindy Lombardo, director of candidate marketing at Yoh, a Philadelphia staffing company.
These tools are meant to highlight one’s professional prowess or sell the individual as a great prospective employee.
“Don’t be demure; no one else is going to say that you finished a technology project on time while saving $20,000 or that you exceeded your sales goals by 15%,” she said.
Failing to network severely decreases your odds of having your application thoroughly reviewed and an offer for interview are significantly increased via human interaction, Lombardo said.
“Whether it’s meeting at a networking event, making an introduction via LinkedIn or having a friend recommend you, networking is your ticket to better job seeking results,” she said.
Monitor your personal brand closely and guard it well, since everything you put on the net can be found by the most savvy of recruiters, she said.
“If you were perhaps too liberal in posting about your college partying days, then take that content down and start building a more adult and professional image for yourself online,” Lombardo said. “The horror stories of 'what not to put online' are many, and we find these faux pas without even looking.”
The average corporate recruiter manages approximately 20 to 30 open requisitions at a time, so when hundreds of applicants apply to a company posting, that person can only spend less than two hours per position to review applications even if he works a 50 hour week, said Steve Lowicz, CEO of Qualigence International, a professional search firm in Livonia, Mich.
Most software used by recruiters prioritizes candidates by specific keywords. What occurs is that a candidate’s application may get ranked as “not qualified” due to not having the specific keywords in their resume, even though they believe they meet the qualifications of the position, he said.
“Every day I hear recruiters lamenting that they received tens of hundreds of applications, only to have none qualified for the role,” Lowicz said. “The candidates that applied didn’t have every keyword listed on the posted job description. Many candidates are forced to game the system and edit their resume to include keywords from each job they apply for.”
Over applying is the surest way to be placed on a potential employer’s watch list of candidates to avoid, he said. Some placement offices and colleges encourage the candidate to apply to multiple positions at the company they are hoping to work for. The concept is that the more their profile is seen, the greater chance they have of being called for an interview. What happens in reality is that most recruiters will classify these candidates as “serial applicants” and immediately discounts them as a serious applicant.
What you can do is try to be first in line. If recruiters on average only get to the first 10% to 12% of applicants, the closer you are to the top, the more likely your application will be noticed. Set up alerts to track when new roles are posted.
Candidates cannot afford to assume that the recruiter will read between the lines and spend the effort to translate their work history to what was advertised, said Joe Ungemah, head of the leadership practice at CEB, an Arlington, Va. advisory company which polls human resource departments.
“The devil is in the details,” he said. “Employers want to know how a candidate fits the role, using the employer’s words.”
--Written by Ellen Chang for MainStreet