Tag Archives: unemployment

Keywords, not experience, make the man

I had a chat with a recruitment agency today, the first useful one that I’ve had since I became unemployed. It was remarkably helpful, but also rather depressing. It was clear that she wasn’t actually looking at my CV, just searching for keywords and then expanding on them. The job was Unix system analyst. I have been a Solaris system administrator by trade for 15 years, and have worked with Linux for much of that time, but not so much professionally. My current CV has been trimmed for brevity: years as a contractor have seen to that as I have taken short jobs to fulfill functions and which means there’s nothing much to say about them. My actual paid Linux experience is ten years past and of course Linux has changed enormously since then.
It was clear that only Linux experience would do: 15 years of working in enterprise Solaris environments, including ones that matched the requirement, wasn’t enough. No doubt the client’s recruitment manager would look for the same keywords and make a decision in the same way. There was no suggestion that there would be any technical input before it presumably got to the Technical Manager.
The spec for this job was loose and didn’t really specify any skills different to any other Unix system administration role.
This is why I believe that the recruitment process doesn’t scale. When faced with 30 CVs for a post, an agent, who might be working from a vague requirement, can’t really do anything but grep keywords, so there’s no understanding of a candidate’s skills, just a bunch of boxes to tick. The client’s HR probably also doesn’t wholly understand the requirement, and applies the same criteria before presenting the filtered CVs to the person within the company who is making the final decision.
If every recruitment agency does that, then it comes as no surprise that those of us who might not have formal qualifications (a computing degree is easy to find), or with transferable skills that don’t include keywords that are exactly the same as what the agency is looking for, are struggling to get work. If I show my CV to technically oriented people they are impressed by my range of experience, but at the moment such people need cheap, and I can understand that, but it seems wrong that the process that I have made a living from in the good times fails in bad times. In my line of business that would be called a point of failure in a mission critical system. Recruitment agents would complain if their email systems failed, but their own system has failed and it’s affecting their candidates and clients.