How to Slice and Dice a Résumé

How are the more sophisticated e-recruiting tools and services helping employers select standout job candidates from a sea of electronic résumés?

How are the more sophisticated e-recruiting tools and services helping employers select standout job candidates from a sea of electronic résumés? Its not rocket science, but it does involve some number crunching and even some psychology.

Many hosting services for corporations job sites go beyond simply collecting résumés and sending them to human resources managers.

Using sophisticated data mining and collaborative filtering techniques, they parse through detailed information submitted online by job seekers, then they rank applicants based on their qualifications for a given job.

The factors used to compile the rankings include obvious qualifications such as professional certifications held by IT workers. But they also include indications of psychological makeup that could suggest a job seeker might, for example, have the ability to excel in a specific aspect of IT such as project management.

How can these online tools judge whether an IT candidate has something as nebulous as project organization or leadership potential?

"Its called predicted competency matching. We take the job seeker through questions that can predict their ability to motivate a team," said Michael McNeal, chief industry evangelist at PureCarbon Inc., in Scotts Valley, Calif., an e-recruiting ASP (application service provider).

The questions, similar to those on the widely used Myers-Briggs personality test, can seem strange or esoteric. But, McNeal said, they deliver interesting and useful results. "Youd be surprised what you can learn by asking a candidate whether they frequent museums," he said.

Some personality traits can predict certain aspects of on-the-job performance. If the job requires a worker to make split-second decisions without waiting for input from colleagues, for example, employers will want candidates with the intestinal fortitude to make such decisions and take the heat if they prove wrong, McNeal said.

The industrial psychology represented in the increasingly detailed questions being asked in online job applications is helping employers develop standards for "ideal" applicants.

And, by allowing candidates to tweak their online profiles as they rack up new accomplishments, ASPs such as PureCarbon are helping employers build increasingly accurate and useful databases about passive job seekers who might not be in the market now but want to have résumés on file at companies where they would apply if the right job emerged, according to McNeal.

"The profile evolves as the job seeker enters more data," he said.

And, as companies develop the need for IT workers with more complex skill sets, such online tools can potentially make the recruitment task simpler for human resources managers by enabling them to search for candidates based on a wide range of experiences and competencies.

This should enable employers to identify the right candidates for specific jobs more quickly than if they were simply comparing two résumés side by side, according to McNeal.