The importance of human-powered resume search

Posted by TheLadders Contributor

July 18, 2012

TheLadders FitFinder representative Heather Bauer shares her process for sourcing candidates.


You’ve crafted your best Boolean string, yet you immediately know that there are certain things you can do that a computer can't!

To quote Glen Cathey's thoughts regarding online resume search, "Sourcing human capital data isn’t about search strings – sourcing is a process."

Here's part of my process:

Spot and disregard keyword loading

Recruiters know everyone does it – candidates throw in any buzz word they could think of that might possibly relate to their experience, and sometimes a few that don’t.  I’ve even seen candidates include large blocks of keywords at the end of their resume, shrunk to a minuscule font size and changed the color to white so a person will not know it’s there – but a computer will certainly “see” it.

Analyze context

Did this person code in Java or were they doing quality assurance for software coded in Java? Or did they just make a lot of coffee? 

Was this person a Team Lead or did they “Work with the marketing team.  Lead the project to make exciting things happen”?  Many online recruitment tools disregard punctuation so human power is required to spot check.  However that spot check can turn into a full investigation, especially when you start using the near function.

Interpret synonyms

Does this person have an MBA?  M.B.A.?  Masters of Business Administration?  Master of Business Administration?  What about whether they’ve programmed with J2EE or JEE?  Any recruiter would know these are all the same thing when performing a resume search but online recruitment tools might not “know” this.

Differentiate between a job hopper and a consultant/contractor

No one wants to bring someone on for a permanent position that has no intention of stay a while.  However, each company (and sometimes each hiring manager) has a different definition of a problematic job hopper.  Frequently, consultants/contractors will list each project, making it look like each is a separate job.  Therefore, human review is needed to determine who is most likely taking contract jobs vs those continuously moving through permanent roles.

Assess presentation

Even a rookie recruiter has seen that resume where the presentation was so bad, that despite the person having the right skills, the recruiter couldn’t put their stamp of approval on this person.  Just as it is important for a candidate to look professional when they come in for an interview, it is important that their resume look professional to get that first foot in the door.  However, there are just as many acceptable ways to format a resume.  When doing a resume search, there is no filter for “professional and attractive resume.”

Read between the lines

Resumes are free-form text.  Writing one isn’t just sitting down and filling in blanks in a standard form.  Not everyone will flat out say that they have strong leadership skills, are great communicators, filling the player/coach role or are more hands off managers, but most recruiters can read between the lines to at the very least get a solid hunch on these softer skills.

Gut check

Sometimes you just need that human intuition to do the gut check – do you think that given this candidate’s past experience they would be successful and interested in the role you’re working to fill?

I spend my day adding value to my search strings. 

How do you complement the machine?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Topics: Recruiting & Sourcing