Do you know what a black hole is? Basically a black hole is a spot in space that is so dense it creates a gravitational pull so powerful that not even light can escape. In other words, once you get sucked in, you’re not coming out.
Until recently black holes could be examined only through literature, movies and the theoretical imaginings of scientists far smarter than I. However, startling research in the last twelve months has uncovered the existence of black holes much closer to home than originally hypothesized. As it turns out black holes have been forming within HR organizations for some time and have grown steadily bigger as the job market has worsened. A direct correlation appears to exist between the number of unemployed workers and the intensity of the black hole’s gravitational pull.
Let’s break down this phenomenon and clearly examine what is occurring. As the economy worsens, more and more unemployed people hit the job market and apply for the scarce number of job openings. These online job postings, whether posted to a job board or on a company’s website, are then inundated in some instances with hundreds of resumes. Qualified candidates are clicking “submit,” but their online applications are often drawn into a void from whence corporate replies rarely come. According to a survey conducted by The Talent Board, a non-profit seeking to improve the job application process, only 1 in 10 employers say they respond to every candidate. “You’re submitting your résumé to a black hole,” concurs Dr. John Sullivan, a human resources consultant for large companies who teaches management at San Francisco StateUniversity.
Some companies like Google, Proctor & Gamble and Starbucks, which alone had 7.6 million applicants last year, have 150 to 500 people apply to each open position. Perhaps the largest known job black hole on record was described by Peter Cappelli, a Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Human Resources at Wharton. His continuous research into the job market revealed a black hole at a staffing firm so large it swallowed 25,000 job applications for a “general engineer” position. Though the belief is that a small percentage of the applicants did receive a reply of some sort, not one resume out of 25,000 resulted in a hire.
Can job candidates do anything more than click “submit” and say a prayer when sending their resumes into the abyss? “You need to have (current) employees make referrals for you if you want to find a job,” suggests John Sullivan.
Black holes affect not only the candidate but also the hiring organization. Top talent enters but fails to exit the black hole on the hiring manager’s side seemingly disappearing into an ATS wormhole of sorts. Job openings then remain vacant. As a result big companies like Ernst and Young are adopting Dr. Sullivan’s referral suggestion and are increasingly using their own employees to find new hires. Employee referrals now account for 45% of their non-entry hires and they hope to reach 50%.
The referral behaves much like a homing beacon or tether between the applicant and referring employee. The resume can journey through the black hole quicker and with greater success. Riju Parakh, for example, a passive candidate not even looking for a job, was hired by Ernst and Young within three weeks after receiving an employee referral while thousands of other weekly applicant resumes wallowed untouched in the darkness.
Though I write this post with a bit of jest, resume black holes are very real and increasing. Be careful not to let your resume blindly go where thousands of others have gone before.