From the Great State(s) of Winnesota

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I work in Minnesota, but live in Western Wisconsin. It’s only a 20 mile commute, much shorter than that of some of my coworkers who live in Minnesota. The thousands like me who live in the one state but work in the other are referred to as Winnesotans.

I enjoy my job, but every now and then I catch wind of position that is so appealing I have to apply. A job came along recently, not far from where I am currently working. After dutifully sending off my resume and cover letter, I received an automated email (no person, just a department) stating that they were only looking at local candidates, but if I did not require relocation assistance, I should reply to the email link provided. Here is what I sent them (I modified it slightly to remove anything which would identify the company):

Good afternoon:
Please note that I do live in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. I live less than 30 miles from your office, and my home town is for all intents and purposes a Twin Cities suburb.

A cursory look at my resume would have shown that my current and previous positions have all been in the Twin Cities metro. I am guessing that I received this email because an automated search did not show me as living in the Twin Cities area. This is no doubt either a problem with your electronic application or an issue with your search criteria.

Also, please note that the link provided does not work.

I realize that mentioning these issues may decrease my chance of being considered for the position. However, I felt it necessary to let you know. Not only can it hinder your ability to find the best possible candidate, but also reflects poorly on your organization.

If you are looking for an HR professional with over a dozen years of experience to help you with these and other issues, please contact me.

No surprise they never contacted me. No one wants to be told that they are doing a poor job, no matter how tactfully it is written.

If they had contacted me, I could tell them exactly why this happened. The company’s internet-based application system required my address. Once I entered this information, it required me to enter the nearest metropolitan area. But the system would only allow me to select Wisconsin metro areas, not Minnesota metro areas. The system was already instructed to filter out anyone who did not state that they were in the Twin Cities metro and send the automated email I received. No person, not even a recruiting intern, ever saw my resume, ever saw the locations of my workplaces, ever saw that I was a local candidate.

It’s not the first time this has happened.

Now, I’m not one of those bitter job-hunters who believes that online application systems are keeping me from the job of my dreams. I use an application system in my current position. The system relieves me and my staff of the mundane filing and mailing we would otherwise have to do. We can track applicants and recruiting sources more effectively. Overall, it allows for a smoother process.

But organizations need to be weary of relying too much on automated searches in selecting candidates. They need to make sure they are using the proper criteria, and, even then, they may be missing out on unrelated criteria indirectly relate to potential success. Taking time off to raise your children may not show up as valid experience, even though doing it well takes patience, organization and dedication. Going on a three month hiatus to build houses for Habitat for Humanity may not be in the search’s list of criteria, but certainly illustrates someone’s compassion and caring.

When misused in such away, the job search becomes less about being the most qualified candidate, and more about understanding how searches work and what keywords to use. Searches may help employers find qualified candidates, but can also keep them from finding the best candidates.

So what’s the answer? Back in the old days (meaning 10 years ago), I used to go home some evenings with a stack full of resumes. I’d plop my self down in front of the TV and review them each one-by-one, sometimes 200 in an evening. I would not just review the resumes against the job qualifications, but look at how the resume was laid out, whether it was well written, if there were experiences or skills that struck my interest. Sometimes, I’d even find that the person was not right for the job being applied for, but we would end up hiring that person for a different position.

I don’t want to go back to the paper resume days. I can now by pull them off my laptop, and someday soon, upload them onto my phone (I’m sure some of you already have this capability). So until the search engines have the intelligence of a HAL 9000, without the insanity, I’ll keep going through resumes one-by-one.

And for those recruiters who say they don’t have the time, since when don’t you have the time to do a great job?

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