Study Finds Automated Hiring Process Eliminates “Hidden Workers”



Written by ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

Companies that rely on an automated hiring process “routinely screen out all applicants except those who most closely match the specified job requirements” and “these workers are therefore hidden from consideration by design and implementation. carrying out the very processes that were supposed to maximize a company’s access to qualified and available talent, ”according to the Harvard Business School study “Hidden workers: untapped talents”.

The study published in September 2021 with Accenture found that companies continue to struggle to find the people with the skills they need. “At the same time, a huge and growing group of people are unemployed or underemployed, eager to find a job or increase their working hours. However, they effectively remain “hidden” from most companies who would benefit from hiring them through the very processes these companies use to find talent. “

The to study – which included a survey of over 8,000 hidden workers and over 2,250 executives – found that ‘hidden workers’ fell into three categories: ‘missing hours’ (working one or more part-time jobs but willing and able to work full time); “Absent from work” (long-term unemployed but looking for a job); or “absent from the labor market” (not working and not looking for a job but wants and can work in the right situation).

The study estimated that there are more than 27 million hidden workers in the United States and “the sheer size of this population reveals the potential impact their substantial reintegration into the workforce” would have. So what is keeping these workers hidden? The study identified several barriers that significantly help prevent companies from viewing hidden workers as candidates to meet their skills needs. They understand:

  • A growing training gap. “The rapid pace of change in many occupations, driven in large part by advanced technologies, has made it extremely difficult for workers to acquire relevant skills. Changing job content has outstripped the ability of traditional skill providers, such as education systems and other labor intermediaries, to adapt. The perverse consequence is that the development of the capacities sought by employers increasingly requires that the candidate be employed.
  • Rigidly configured automated recruiting systems. “An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a workflow-oriented tool that helps organizations manage and track the pipeline of applicants through every step of the recruiting process. A Marketing or Recruitment Management System (RMS) complements ATS and supports recruiters in all activities related to marketing open positions, sourcing key talent, building talent pools and automating aspects of the recruitment process such as automated scoring of candidates and scheduling interviews. These systems are vital; however, they are designed to maximize the efficiency of the process. This causes them to focus on candidates, using very precise parameters, in order to minimize the number of candidates actively considered… to exclude a candidate from consideration regardless of their other qualifications. As a result, they exclude from consideration viable applicants whose resumes do not meet the criteria but who could perform at a high standard with training.
  • Failure to recognize and elevate the business case. “Most of the companies that have engaged with hidden workers have done so through their corporate foundations or corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. These are laudable pursuits, but they also inherently reinforce the myth that hiring hidden workers is an act of charity or corporate citizenship, rather than a source of competitive advantage.

The study noted that the research found that 99% of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS, and the survey of employers contained in the study confirmed that mid-sized companies with between 50 and 999 employees use quite extensively. this filtering technology. For large companies with more than 1,000 workers, the percentage of employers using an RMS rose to 69%. In the United States, 75% of employers use these technologies.

The study recommended that companies “can take several steps to include hidden workers and in doing so create a new and valuable pipeline of talent. Main among them: reforming their global approach to talent acquisition and developing a personalized approach to hiring hidden workers. »The full study is available at

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