Eureka! There’s Gold In That Mountain of Resumes

 In Company Culture/People At Work, Michael's Corner

Michael Carrillo Co-Founder/President

Modern technology and a relatively soft job market can mean sifting through a mountain of applications for every job opening. But I believe there’s plenty of potential in that mountain of resumes.

Companies that use unscreened applicant sources like the Internet and newspaper classifieds may receive hundreds of applications for every executive-level job. It’s an enormous task just to sift through this volume. Many employers just pick out a few and throw the rest away. That’s a big mistake.

These other applications should not be considered a dead end for either you or the candidate. Think of each as a hub from which new relationships and new referrals can grow. Many unused applicants can be an asset to your company and its recruiting efforts.

Referrals, referrals, referrals

The primary and most immediate benefit you can derive from applications are referrals to other candidates. If you like the candidate’s background and value their work history, then by all means contact them and ask them to refer other candidates for the job. They are almost certain to know someone qualified to fill the position. If they are generous by nature and secure in their own abilities, they will be happy to help.

Treat this call as an opportunity to gather vital information about other candidates and their organizations. Inquire about the other candidates’ experience, reputation and qualifications. Learn what you can about the organization and how it is structured so you can uncover other potential candidates. Think of yourself as a journalist. You are gathering information and cultivating a source that you can use now and in the future.

Feel free to speak freely, but don’t press. The candidate should feel that you are doing a thorough job, not pumping them. And ease their disappointment by explaining that while they aren’t right for this job, you are impressed with their qualifications and would like to stay in touch.

When you view every qualified candidate as a starting point instead of a dead end, your recruiting efforts will expand exponentially. You will receive invaluable referrals, gather vital industry intelligence and build networks in organizations that can be a rich source of future candidates.

To establish recruiting networks from a mountain of applicant data, you’ll need a system. Companies that use outside services or computer software and scanning equipment have a head start on mining the hundreds, or even thousands, of contacts made each year.

Most companies find that today’s contact volume is just too much for their over-worked HR staffs to handle. If you’re not using a third-party vendor like CPGjobs, you’ll need sophisticated internal technology to help ensure you build a top-notch recruiting system.

The gold standard of such systems would be a relational database that tracks candidates, skill sets, contacts, referrals, organizations and other key information. But even low-tech methods, like filing and retaining resumes for a year, have value. Active outreach backed by solid record-keeping will give you a good idea of what’s available at any given time. You may even find you have the perfect candidate right at hand.

Stay in touch

Once qualified candidates are organized in a usable database, they can be easily accessed and contacted. You can send them job bulletins, invite them to your website, tell them about industry events or company job fairs, and send them e-mail newsletters. Most candidates will be glad to hear from you, and your continued outreach will turn the negative energy generally associated with “rejection” into a positive relationship that can pay dividends now and in the future.

When you maintain a cordial ongoing relationship, previous applicants are more likely to accept an invitation for any new openings you have, or to recommend a friend. Chances are they’ll share this positive attitude with other people in their company and in the industry.

While you probably won’t have time to personally contact every applicant, a nicely worded e-mail is easily sent and much appreciated. It’s also a good opportunity to ask permission to keep communicating with them. Remember this is someone who works in your industry — their opinion counts.

When you get thousands of applications each year it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that every resume represents a person – and an asset. Finding a way to show each candidate that you value them as an individual is an investment that will pay real dividends. Don’t throw unhired applicants away – utilize them!

Michael Carrillo is president of CPGjobs, the CPG industry’s leading candidate referral service for HR professionals and employers. You may contact him at or call (626) 535-0143.

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