Firms use computers to scan resumes

September 20, 1992|By San Francisco Chronicle

Trying to spark up that resume to gain an edge with a bored personnel officer? You know, colored paper, fancy typeface, eloquent language? Spare the effort. Increasingly, it's a computer, rather than a human, that's got the first read on your carefully crafted curriculum vitae.

With many more job hunters than positions available, big employers like Apple Computer, Lockheed and Wells Fargo Bank get inundated with up to 3,000 resumes a month. To handle the flood -- and cut down on their own personnel costs -- these companies have turned to high-tech resume scanners to make the first cut.

"We're using the latest advances in artificial intelligence combined with the newest image-processing technology to come up with a better way to hire people," says Steve Leung, founder of Resumix Inc.

The Santa Clara high-tech firm sells electronic systems that scan thousands of resumes, cull candidates who don't have the appropriate jobs skills and spit out a list of those who pass muster.

A high-volume industrial optical scanner can "read" about 900 pages of resumes a day. The data are fed to a resume bank, where a computer can search for up to 60 so-called descriptors. These key factors include job titles, technical expertise, education, geographic location and employment history.

The electronically stored resume is then filed into existing job categories, matched with available openings and then even ranked against other resumes based on which applicant seems most qualified to the computer.

For the unqualified, the system can automatically print a rejection letter, complete with signature.

Applicants who make the grade get to take the next step and see a human being.

Too mechanistic and impersonal? Even Orwellian?

Maybe, but Mr. Leung emphasizes that the Resumix system doesn't interview candidates or make hiring decisions: people still do that. The computer's job is simply to whittle down the prospects to a more manageable level.

Also, computerized resume tracking can help applicants by ensuring their resumes are evaluated fairly -- or at least consistently.

It also can reduce the chance that a resume is lost or ignored.

Also, because the system is computer-based, other departments within a company can search its files, giving applicants more than one chance to get hired.

Founded with $500,000 in 1988, Resumix pioneered the field of electronic resume banks and so far has sold 70 systems to such companies as Advanced Micro Devices, Apple, AT&T, Digital Equipment, General Electric, General Motors, National Semiconductor and Walt Disney.

Although the price can run from $60,000 to $1 million -- depending on whether it's just software or a whole computer system -- customers say computerized resume banks can save thousands, even millions, of dollars on personnel staff time.

"If you have 8,000 resumes and you're looking for a COBOL programmer or a secretary who knows Word Perfect, this system can save you a lot of time," said Saundra Banks Loggins, an assistant vice president of recruitment at Wells Fargo, which uses Resumix.

But resume banks have their limits. "They tend to be good for entry-level jobs or technical positions anywhere the skill set is very specific," said Kent Black group vice president of Drake Beam Morin, the outplacement firm in San Francisco.

"It's less helpful when you're dealing with higher levels or more general skills."

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