The Staffing Crisis

The Wall Street Journal has an article (unfortunately pay-walled) titled Companies Need More Workers. Why Do They Reject Millions of Résumés? by Kathryn Dill on Sep 4, 2021 talking in detail about many aspects of the way modern hiring practices actually discard a huge number of qualified candidates.

Of course, the main tool for implementing those aspects are automated matching systems. I did a bit of an experiment a few months back when I was being bombarded with offers for gigs that made no sense for me. I changed my resume in an intentionally skewed way to ensure that I violated the criteria used by most computer matching systems.

In short, I intentionally broke my resume months before the article. That meant I was an unintentional test of that article.

The results were not what I expected…

The Good

I stopped getting the huge number of emails for low paying gigs in areas of which I had no experience at all.

For instance, I used to receive emails for computer hardware assembly and support. My old resume was a software developer’s resume. And yet, because among my many certifications was CompTia A+, automated systems were seeking me for those openings.

After the change, I still received basic software developer offerings, but for less experienced roles. Among other changes I made to my resume, I removed the lists of libraries, frameworks, and tools, leaving just languages and operating systems. That clearly meant I didn’t match Angular, React, Spring, and Kafka.

The Surprising

What happened instead was I now receive unsolicited requests for senior management and even executive positions.

Just to be clear: technically, I’m President of Grindwork Corporation. That’s a legal requirement, someone has to be and my partner didn’t want the position. I always said he was smarter than me …

However, I’m a software developer. I am certified as a project manager, among many others, but that’s the closest I get to being management.

So what would make me suddenly interesting to executive placement? Honestly, I think it’s that my resume spans decades and lists well known clients. I took my position as President of Grindwork off of my resume. Which means the only place it mentions it (outside of the Nevada Secretary of State) is my Linked-in profile, which would have to be looked up separately.

The thought of being a manager or an executive of any organization larger than a handful terrifies me. I know how to wrangle data and machines. I would do poorly (that’s probably a polite way to phrase it) as a CIO.

Needless to say, I am not taking advantage of these offers …

The (Supposedly) Bad

I also submitted my new resume for contractor listings. I received no responses for those seeking Java expertise. What isn’t obvious in the new resume was that I’ve done years of Java, including many very strange things for very complex enterprise systems. It wasn’t obvious because I pulled out the “magic names” of the libraries and tech. I simply listed Java.

On the flip side, I received multiple responses from Python and JS projects. They too have their lists of libraries and tooling, but for whatever reason, they are less conservative in their demand for an exact match of magic names.


Given that this is a one-person anecdotal experience don’t read too much into it. I’ve been contracting full-time since the early 90s, though, so it’s a (singular) real data-point.

There is no question that automated resume evaluation discards a huge number of resumes for people who could have been useful or excellent members of the organizations. My resume changes align with the WSJ article.

That said, the quality of the organization and their rates is reflected in the poor quality of their job postings. I’ve always had the best results with companies that didn’t “try to match me” to a list of magic terms. For a junior person, having a chair in a cube and pulling tickets to update code might make sense. Those positions are filled by “Programmer, Java, one each.” Those positions aren’t going to be good matches for any senior people.

For those of you who are seeking contract work — if you alter your resume to remove the “approved list of magic names” you’ll find it harder to get responses when you submit that resume. On the flip side, the responses you get will be from people who understand more than the nitwits that demand lists.

For those of you who are seeking developers (contractors or full-time) keep this in mind: if you want passionate and creative self-starters who drive their tasks to success you’re not going to get that if you demand resumes that violate creative self-starting and replace passion and innovation with a demand that the resume be stock and try to make people “interchangeable sets of skill lists.”

3 thoughts on “The Staffing Crisis

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