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The Pros & Cons of Automated Recruitment

Automated recruitment began in the mid-1990s with the advent of Application Tracking Software (ATS).  In this post we discuss the pros and cons of automated recruitment from the perspective of HR and recruitment professionals.  

How automated recruitment works

Automated recruitment technology affords recruiters the ability to manage their campaigns from one central hub.  ATSs post job advertisements across multiple ‘job boards’, filter job applications based on ‘keywords’ and allows recruiters the ability to communicate with applicants via email.

Parsing technology gives ATS technology the ability to match keywords in applicants’ resume or application form to pre-determined criteria.  Keywords helps the software guage applicants’ skills, experiences and educational achievements.  ATSs then filter out applicants who fail to meet set criteria.  Applicants meeting the minimum criteria are then scored and numerically ranked.  Applicants not eliminated by the software generally become subject to a human review.

Reasons for automated recruitment’s popularity

Such technology is deemed necessary to prevent HR overwhelm.  The Internet has all but replaced ‘traditional’ means of job advertisement such as newspaper advertising.  Compared to traditional forms of advertising, the Internet allows applicants to fire off their resume or application form at the mere click of a button.  The Internet has thus significantly increased the number of applications employers receive for any given job advertisement.  

HR departments inundated with applications relish automated recruitment because this technology significantly relieves the associated workload burden of sifting through these applications.  In 2009, Starbucks reported receiving seven-million applications for 65,000 job openings.  Similarly, Proctor and Gamble reported receiving over a million resumes for only 2000 job openings. 

In a quest to reduce this vast amount of job applications to a manageable number, most Fortune 500 companies have invested in automated recruitment solutions.  Furthermore a number of affordable ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions are available for smaller businesses.  Many of these ‘cloud’ solutions charge as little as $15 a month for an enterprise-quality ATS solution.

The benefits of automated recruitment

The key benefits of automated recruitment include:

Significantly speeds up the sifting process.  Thus vast amounts of HR’s time is saved.  Keyword parsing and filtering reduces an otherwise time intensive task of sifting through applications

Keyword matching and scoring helps find quality candidates

Weeds out poor match candidates before the interview process begins

Reduces ‘time-to-hire’ by as much as 40%

Reduces ‘cost-per-hire’

Reduces HR’s workload and thus allows HR to spend time on other activities

The disadvantages of automated recruitment

Now we have discussed the advantages of automated recruitment it is now appropriate to list its disadvantages.

The key disadvantages of automated recruitment include:

·         Many candidates are eliminated without the candidate receiving any notice of the decision.  Candidates may feel disrespected by this lack of response. This potential for ‘candidate unfriendliness’ may hurt the hiring company’s image

·         Automated criteria may damage diversity

·         Human skill of choosing quality candidates is reduced to a number of keywords

·         Software parsing technology has its limits e.g. known to struggle when applicants lay out resume in format not recognisable by software

·         Software maybe poorly set up so keywords are too generic e.g. ‘operations’, ‘communications’ and ‘management’.  Here HR receives many unsuitable resumes and/or suitable resumes are filtered out

·         The process is open to manipulation by candidates who understand ATS filtering technology.  Thus ATS technology may simply be selecting candidates who stuff their application with the right ‘keywords’.  The internet is littered with ‘how to outsmart automated screening software’ articles

·         Good candidates may be excluded from the running simply because they do not include certain keywords in their application

Tips for candidates wishing to decrease the odds of automatic rejection

We did not feel this post would be complete without listing a few practical tips candidates may carry out in order to decrease the odds of being rejected by an ATS:

·         Include keywords in your resume to match language used in the job advertisement and employer’s website

·         Never mix data types on the same line of your resume i.e. put the name of past employers, dates of employment and job title on a different line rather than on the same line. Do not design your resume for asthetics but rather for parsing

·         Consider upgrading your skills so you may include additional valuable keywords on your resume

Applying automated recruitment for the best possible results

Having discussed the advantages and disadvantages of automated recruitment, we feel the technology definitely has its place in the modern HR professional’s toolkit.  However HR professionals are recommended to heed the above pit-falls of automated recruitment technology.  HR stands for HUMAN resources for good reason. The ‘human’ element must always trump the technical element.  Automated recruitment should properly be viewed as one tool amongst many, and certainly not as a panacea to all recruiting woes.

Recruiters and HR professionals are thus advised not to over-automated and look at other ways of recruiting involving more qualitive metrics i.e. a referrals from a current employee. 

About  the author.


Mandy Tyrell has over fifteen years’ experience in the recruitment-to-recruitment field. She heads up the team at Liverpool’s Recruitment-to-Recruitment Agency.

Paul | Fri 14th Aug 2015


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Amanda Wright Rec to Rec - Recruitment Specialists for the Recruitment Industry, specialising in recruitment to recruitment. © 2021 Amandawright rec to rec recruitment consultants