Do Candidates Actually Read the Job Description?

by Peg Bogema

Efforts to simplify and expedite the application process for candidates are having an interesting consequence: candidates frequently don’t read the full job description for the roles they are applying for.

In some cases, AI algorithms tell candidates that they are a good match for a role—so the candidates click the APPLY button.

In other cases, candidates have search algorithms set up that scour job boards for specific job titles or key words. When the algorithms find a match, the candidates click the APPLY button.

And every now and then, candidates click the APPLY button for everything everywhere all the time.

In some respects, employers (collectively) only have themselves to blame. Being on the job hunt can be a soul-sucking experience for candidates. Among the many irritants, candidates intensely dislike the fact that they scour the Internet for a job that is a good fit, agonize over a perfect cover letter, and fill out an extensive application—only to hear nothing in response. Ever. So why shouldn’t they click the APPLY button with gleeful abandon?

Knowing this, employers are becoming increasingly quick to reject candidates whose resumes seem to be off target.

At Stout we recommend a different approach.

If we suspect that a candidate hasn’t read the job requirements, we reply with a brief self-assessment questionnaire. It might look something like this:

  • How many years’ experience do you have with C++ programming?
  • I’m not seeing a degree on your resume. Do you have a bachelor’s in computer science or a similar discipline?
  • Are you willing to relocate to the Detroit metro area?

A brief self-assessment like this is very fast for a candidate to answer because it asks for one-word responses. Receiving a questionnaire from an actual person is such an improvement over the typical ghosting, most candidates are happy to answer—even if only to tell you that they didn’t realize that the role would require them to relocate, etc.

But every now and again, a candidate’s resume is just missing details. And the candidate actually would be a good fit.

A self-assessment questionnaire will take a different form when the candidate appears to be over-qualified for the role they apply for. We usually write something like:

This role looks like it would be a step backward for you. Can you please tell me more about why you are interested in a developer role when you have been in leadership level roles most recently?

Again, most of the time the response shows that the job requirements weren’t read in detail. However there are candidates who genuinely do want to downshift—and your outreach gives them an opportunity to engage in dialog about why.

Most employers are bemoaning the lack of qualified applicants. Sifting through a bunch of candidates who aren’t anywhere close to meeting the job description adds to the frustration. But given the state of the candidate market that we find ourselves in, it makes sense to engage with candidates at every opportunity in hopes that more of them are good prospects than you might at first think.

This is a technical/business article catered to developers, hiring/project managers, and other technical staff looking to improve their skills. Sign up to receive our articles in your email inbox.

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Stout Systems is the software consulting and staffing company Fueled by the Most Powerful Technology Available: Human Intelligence®. We were founded in 1993 and are based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We have clients across the U.S. in domains including engineering, scientific, manufacturing, education, marketing, entertainment, small business and robotics. We provide expert level software, Web and embedded systems development consulting and staffing services along with direct-hire technical recruiting and placements.

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