Addressing the challenges of ‘Text’ in recruitment technology

The form and structures of skills data, has huge implications in the recruitment function. Resumes and Job Descriptions are two key documents that are used in recruitment technology. Both are usually very text heavy. This text, though easy enough to process, poses inherent challenges when it comes matching people to jobs.

This might also impact other talent functions including development planning, resource planning and deployment, knowledge sharing and skills analytics. To keep it relatable, we will stick to recruitment.

Two major and widespread problems with recruitment.

  • Improper matching between jobs and people:
    The wrong people are frequently picked (sourced, screened and shortlisted) for a job.
  • Opportunity loss:
    Often a person who would actually be a good fit for a job is missed out in the sourcing, screening and shortlisting process

To a large extent these problems are the result of the basic constructs that everyone today uses to express skills, i.e., the text based format of resumes and job descriptions that are used to present skills both by the job seeker and the job publisher.

Let’s take a closer look at the problems that arise.

Semantics Related
People often express the same thing in different ways. For instance, take ReactJS – different people may refer to this skill in different ways – ReactJS, React.JS, React JS. This may seem a trivial difference, but it has profound implications.

Think of a recruiter searching for the phrase “ReactJS” as a requirement for a post he wishes to recruit for. Many resumes where the same skill has been written as React.JS or React JS would be missed, some of whom may be good candidates for the role. What adds to this is the use of different standards of the English language – US and UK – and the different spellings of words associated with them.

Synonyms Related

The same skill may be referred to in different words or phrases with the same meaning. To take the example of Digital Marketing, the same is referred to as Internet Marketing, Web Marketing, Online Marketing and so on by different people, but meaning the same thing.

Again, this is a major problem because searching for one of the synonymous words or phrases will mean that the others – which could also be potential opportunities or good fits for the requirement – could be left out.

Acronyms Related

The use of acronyms – especially for commonly used phrases – is a natural, almost instinctive process. A person may say the USA, or even US, for the United States of America. However, when different documents – for instance, resumes and job descriptions – do not consistently use acronyms, it becomes difficult to find and match these skills. This is another widespread issue faced in recruitment technology.

For instance, a set of resumes may use the acronym “DBA”, while the recruiter may search for the phrase “Database Administrator”, resulting in many relevant resumes being missed out.

Contextual references

Words, in conjunction with other words, can take on different meanings. For example, take “Oracle” – a person could be involved in Oracle Development or Oracle Administration or be a Consultant in Oracle Applications.

Or to look at another case, take the example of “Boilers” – a person could be involved in Designing or Engineering of Boilers or Maintenance of Boilers or Operation of Boilers. The skills involved are different in each of these cases. The probability is high that human beings, as well as parsers, would miss out on this contextual reference – for example, searching only for “Oracle” or “Boilers” can lead to a mismatch of jobs and people.

Same word or phrase understood differently

Each person has notions of what a particular phrase means based on their experience. And any two people could have a different interpretation of a given phrase based on different experiences.

For example, take two people working in two different companies. For one of them, a Project Manager’s responsibilities include delivery management, client management and also Profit & Loss. Not so for the other, in whose company, a Project Manager’s responsibilities are only delivery management and related activities. It is quite natural that when either one of these people articulates a requirement for filling a Project Manager position, they refer to two dissimilar sets of activities.

Many inefficiencies in recruitment technology occur due to such differences in understanding of phrases.

Is there an Alternative? All of these issues are related to the text-based nature of legacy formats of articulating skills – resumes and job descriptions. In order to tackle this problem, maybe we need to consider alternatives to resumes and job descriptions. It’s Your Skills attempts to do this with the Skills Ontology, a common language for skills, and Skills Profiler that helps create a standard profile for skills mapping.

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