Career Q+A: Applying online, Alcohol and interviews

Questions from Readers of Cynopsis Classified Advantage
Answered by Michael Pollock


Applying for jobs online
Q: I really enjoy the newsletter and I’m hoping that the experts might be able to provide some insight on the HR software programs that are being used so much by networks and large organizations.

I’ve found the process incredibly frustrating and often very time consuming. What I’d really like to know is how quickly does the screening of your resume for key words and responses to their questions eliminate you from the position. I always incorporate key words from the job description into my resume and cover letter, but if they ask, for example “how many years experience do you have in marketing?” and you have 2 1/2 years as opposed to the 3 they are looking for, are you automatically disqualified?

There have been a number of positions that I’ve applied (and am qualified for) but never received a request for an interview. As there’s no way to follow up, I’m curious to know what I could be doing wrong or how automated these processes really are.

A: The level of automation can be quite extensive.  As resumes come into the systems they are parsed – which basically means scanned and entered into a database.  The hirer has the ability to set up questions to which certain answers will trigger automatic rejection.  But this is in the control of the user  the software merely enables it.

Then there is a search phase where the user does what is called a Boolean search; here they are searching on keywords to select certain combinations of criteria, for example: ((Project Manager OR Team Leader) AND (MS Project)).  This is most likely to be on skills and job titles.

As for the 2.5 years, it is more likely that they will review the employment periods once they have narrowed their pool to those resumes with the required criteria.

So the bottom line is  the automation is very much in the control of the recruiter and its filters will vary not just from company to company but from position to position.  But it certainly is possible for the hirer to build in automatic instant rejection if they choose.


Alcohol and interviews

Q: After my recent interview, I was asked out to lunch for a more informal interview with the team I might eventually work with. They all ordered an alcoholic beverage while I ordered a water. I know that people are looking for a good fit, did I just blow it by not ordering a drink more in line with what everyone else was drinking?

A: It is sadly possible that you blew it, though you were smart not to indulge in the alcohol while you were on trial, as it were. You do need to have your spidey sense tuned on such occasions.

If they were looking for a kindred spirit and they had decided that kindredness involves alcohol consumption, then they may have decided you were not for them.  If alcohol was a deciding factor for them, then was that the right group for you anyhow?

One way to go might have been to order a beer or Perfect Manhattan or whatever – and also ask for a glass of water: a totally normal request.  Then you could take just a sip or two of the alcohol but use the water to replenish the fluids you might be sweating out.