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9.6.17

What Will It Take to Fix This Alarming Human Resources Trend?

There is a trend occurring in the field of human resources, more specifically the field of talent
acquisition, and I am not the only one who has noticed it. The challenge for discussing it is the assumption it is based upon disgruntled job seekers or overworked, and possibly understaffed, human resources departments. I am fairly certain there are many who work in this field who may not feel comfortable with the spotlight I am going to shine, on an issue which has been growing for some time now, yet it is at a point where we should be discussing it.

What is the issue? The growing lack of basic respect by human resources professionals, which is inclusive of recruiters, for the time and effort put into the job application process by applicants. This is a bold statement and yet I have support for it.

I should begin by mentioning my background and how I have been on both sides of the issue. In fact, I have been involved in the field of human resources (in some capacity) for over 30 years. I have been involved in recruiting employees and I have also been a job seeker. I have taught human resources classes and I have been a member of the Society for Human Resources Management. The trend I am discussing now has become prominent over the past five years, especially as job applications have moved online.

The Use of Online Application Forms

It would seem the days when you had the name and address of someone you could physically mail a resume to are almost gone, and worse, having a direct contact email address is becoming much more challenging. Now many organizations post a job announcement and an applicant is expected to fill out an online application form. Many organizations will not post contact email addresses or phone numbers, and if you call, you may likely be told that unsolicited calls are not accepted.

I do not believe many job seekers are against the online application format; however, consider the amount of time and effort many of these online forms take. I know from my recent experience that some online forms can take 30 minutes or more just to complete the basic steps. Some online forms can be pre-filled by authorizing a connection to a LinkedIn profile and that can save time on occasion. Yet it still takes time to initiate and complete the process. What makes the process time consuming are the sections within the form that must be filled out before you can submit the application, which means you may have to almost copy and paste your entire resume into the form.

A Question for Human Resources Professionals

Here is a question I would pose to those who work in the field of Human Resources, or Talent Acquisition as many prefer to be called now:

Why can't you begin by just reviewing a resume and then if there is an interest in proceeding further with the applicant, ask the person to complete an online application at that time?
There is a growing resentment among job applicants about the online application process and I have to state I can see the point. You spend a lot of time filling out online forms and you may never receive even an acknowledgement from an actual person within the organization.
This leads me to a much bigger part of the trend and why it has become so alarming.

An Alarming Lack of Respect for Job Applicants

The issue of completing online application forms is only the tip of the iceberg for the larger and more alarming aspect of the issue. The real issue at hand is the lack of respect for job applicants in general. It would seem that job applicants are no longer owed any basic common courtesies with regards to the recruitment process itself.

Many organizations will send an automated email once an online application form has been completed. After that email, you may likely never receive anything else from the organization ever again. If the organization has utilized one of the popular automated application management systems, there will be no one to contact. Even worse, you cannot send a reply to the automated email received when the application was completed at the beginning of the process.

The argument by those who work in the field of human resources is that there is a challenging economy, the job market is highly competitive, and there are no guarantees when someone applies for a job they will receive any consideration. In fact, when I have brought this subject up, there is a feeling that anyone who asks for more than an acknowledgement of the completed application form has an attitude of entitlement.

Consider though the time an applicant has taken to complete the online application form. Should they receive some form of a status update, at least once?

Don't Call Us, We May Never Call You

This is the part of the issue that I am absolutely on board with and it is the complete lack of respect many organizations demonstrate to candidates, especially with regards to the process of how applications and resumes are reviewed. I know from my own experience I have applied for numerous positions, and I am lucky if I ever hear back from half of those organizations or institutions. It does not matter how qualified I am, how much education or experience I have, or how much time I put into completing the online application form. My application and resume have gone into what seems like a nebulous black hole and should I be so lucky, maybe one day I will hear back from someone within the organization. However, I should never expect a reply.

The Dreaded "No Thank You" Email

Here is the worst part of all, and I know how badly this has changed over the past 30 years because I have seen it and I have been a victim of it, the dreaded email telling you that you are not being considered for a position. Once again, it doesn't matter how much time you have spent filling out the online application form or how qualified you may be, someone may decide you do not fit (for whatever the reason) and issue the dreaded "no thank you" email.

As an example of how bad this issue has gotten, and to demonstrate the lack of respect for a job applicant's time, I recently filled out an online application form for a position which I was obviously qualified for and should have received at least the courtesy of a phone call. Within 48 hours I received an email, which included the standard wording:

"We have carefully reviewed your qualifications and while your experience represents significant accomplishments, we found the qualifications of other applicants to more closely fit our needs at this time. Please be assured that your application was given full consideration."
I have to wonder how someone "carefully reviewed" my qualification within 48 hours, especially without speaking with me. I also wonder why I am told I should be assured. Is there a reason why I should not be assured? The email was sent from an address that began with "do not reply" and was signed by The Human Resources Department, which means I was not even given a personal reply. I had no one to speak with, no one to reply to, and no contact information provided on the institution's website, which means I have no recourse but to keep looking for other positions.
Doesn't this seem like a complete lack of respect for someone who has taken time to fill out an online application form and send in a resume? If a person has the minimum qualifications as stated on the job posting, shouldn't this person receive a phone call, or at least an email from an actual person?

Is This What Has Become of Human Resources?

I can state that this is not how the field of recruiting used to be approximately 30 years ago. At that time, it was more relational in nature. When an organization stated that a person's resume would be kept on file, there was a very good chance that person might hear back from the company again in the future. This rarely happens any more. I know from my own experience if that were the case, my phone would never stop ringing.

The job market will always be competitive and there will always be many jobs in demand, with numerous applicants to choose from when filling positions. The idea that job applicants are not owed any consideration, yet expected to jump through endless hoops just to have a seemingly minute chance of being considered for a position, seems like the wrong approach for cultivating talent. There is so much talk in the field of organizational development about nurturing talent and employee growth, why not start this with the recruitment process? Why treat applicants as if they are a dime a dozen?

There is a growing resentment about the process of recruiting in general and I understand why. When applicants are not treated with respect they begin to wonder who is even looking at applications or if the person reviewing applications is qualified to do so. Perhaps it is time to hold recruiters accountable for the recruiting process, or perhaps applicants should demand contact with a person rather than be forced to complete an online form. The lack of respect for job applicants is an alarming trend and needs to be discussed as it does not seem to be changing any time soon.

Dr. J has been working in the field of higher education and distance learning since 2005, with roles that have included Chief Academic Officer, online instructor, college instructor, and online faculty development specialist. Dr. J has also acquired significant experience with instructional design and curriculum development, having developed hundreds of online courses for bachelors, masters, and doctorate programs.

Dr. Bruce A. Johnson is a professional writer, resume writer, learning and development consultant, social media strategist, and career coach. Dr. J founded Afforded Quality Writing in 2003 and has written hundreds of resumes every year in most industries, utilizing a skill set based approach to highlight the best of each person's career.

Dr. J writes blog posts and articles to help inform, inspire, and empower readers. To learn more about the resources that are available for career and professional development from Dr. J please visit: http://www.drbruceajohnson.com/

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