Surviving the Weeding Process - Part Three: Automated Recruiting
With the advent of online recruiting, the whole process of how companies find people through the media has changed. Although companies still place newspaper ads and accept paper resumes, the volume of jobs advertised this way is now just a fraction of those online. Therefore, it is essential to understand the online process to ensure a decent strike rate on your job applications.
Essentially there are two front-line parties you'll be reaching when you make an online application: a junior HR person at the employing company, or a researcher working for a recruiting company. Opposite to what you might think, the larger and more famous the company, the more likely it is that they are using a recruiter rather than doing their own sifting and sorting. This is mainly because most foreign multinationals significantly reduced their HR team sizes during the slow economy of 2001 through 2003, and thus rely heavily on outside assistance to cover the volume of applications they get. Even when using outside assistance, you may be disappointed with how little time the front line people spend on reviewing each resume - including yours!
When you send in an electronic resume, either direct to a company or their recruiting agent, the process goes something like this:
• If you're applying for a specific job with a larger company, a junior staff member who is most likely pressed for time and somewhat clueless technically, will receive your resume along with hundreds of others a day. They will have been told by someone more experienced to open each one briefly and scan it for relevant buzzwords. Sometimes they will have search software to speed things up. Either way, they look for a particular set of key words, which in the IT industry would be such things as UNIX, CCNA, Architect, MSE, Leadership, RedHat, 3-5 years experience, Cisco, Bilingual, Oracle, Security, Java, and words like that. So the important thing here is make sure your resume is loaded with the appropriate words for the position you're applying for. Take time to customize and prepare.
Note that if the researcher is using an automated system, your resume won't even open up at all if the search he or she is using can't find the words specified. No keywords means no second chance.
• Likewise, keywords are important if you are registering yourself on a candidate database, in the hope that someone will contact you with a job offer. Chances are that you are joining thousands of other candidates with a similar skill set - so make sure your resume comes up on relevant searches.
• In case you ever wondered, larger online recruiters like DaiJob maintain updated databases of 30,000 to 100,000 people. In Tokyo for a bilingual service, about 30% of these candidates are "tech" people, 20% are managers, 20% are secretarial and back office, and 20% fit into the "others" category. This doesn't mean that registering online is a waste of time, but it does mean that you have to work to make yourself attractive in a large marketplace. The good news is that there are equally hundreds of companies and recruiters looking for desirable candidates, and so even with the heavy numbers, jobs and candidates are matched with each other every hour of the day.
• Having qualified your resume, the junior recruiter puts into a short list for repeat consideration. On this second pass, the junior recruiter digs deeper - actually reading the detail between the key words, trying to gauge your type of experience, level of language, actual capability and certifications, and age.
• In case you're wondering, restricting hires to people under a certain age is not yet illegal in Japan, and it probably won't be until the seniority pay system is killed off. In such a system, age matters. If you feel you're too old for a job (i.e., over 45), then get a recruiter to go in to pitch the business manager on a personal for you - this works, and you will be far more successful than if you try to get the position on your own.
• The exception to this advice is if you decide to apply with one of the many smaller companies doing business in Japan. At these companies, they will usually get 10-20 resumes per job advertised - thus ensuring that they are probably looking carefully and at a more senior level (often the resumes go straight to the CEO) of access.
• If you pass these automated checks, then your resume will be handed to a regular recruiting person for a phone call or meeting and initial screening. At the screening, they will be assessing basic presentation, personality, and technical abilities. Again, the objective here is to drop in sufficient key words to have the interviewer feel that you are indeed qualified. If you are an expert in your field, don't hide the fact.
• Finally, if you clear the screening, you will get in front of someone meaningful, and you will be interviewed by a business or technical manager, who can quickly and fairly judge your actual competencies. Phew!