Technology can bring about an improvement in many processes, but filling vacant jobs might not be one of them.

Many employers have moved toward online-only job applications, but with that process also comes the expectation of a perfect match of the required “hard skills” of a job with an applicant. Finding someone who is a perfect match is difficult under the best of circumstances. The online-only vetting process also negates important and often badly needed “soft skills,” too.

It is kind of like hiring someone with the ideal educational training and work experience only to find out he or she might be a jerk who doesn’t get along well with others, is unable to effectively have face-to-face conversations or exhibits some other trait that doesn’t show up on paper. The recession has made employers pickier about who they choose, according to a report by David Wessel in the Wall Street Journal, while simultaneously  disqualifying some of the very candidates who are fast-learners, adaptable and conscientious.

The report included a story about an employee of a company who submitted an anonymous online application for his own company and couldn’t get through the online vetting process. Detailed by Peter Cappelli, a professor of management and human resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, the story highlighted that obviously something isn’t right about such reliance on technology to make hiring decisions.

Automation may well have streamlined things so well that the effortless aspect of hiring has blinded employers to the downside of the process. Using key words to decide who — and, more often, who not — to interview certainly isn’t helping put more people back to work. Including more people (and common sense) into the hiring process is essential to recognizing talent and filling positions with the most qualified candidate — even if he or she doesn’t look like that person on paper.


— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher