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I recently sent in an application for a position that I am qualified for and received this response: "We regret to inform you that your current qualifications do not match those needed for our current openings. We will retain your resume and if a position opens that closely matches your skill set, we will contact you at that time." The position listed required technical skills A, B, C, D, and E with nice-to-haves of X and Y. I listed in my resume and cover letter that I had experience with A through E as well as X. I don't have any experience with Y. This leads me to believe that I am qualified for the position and the Human Resources representative (who does not appear to be a part of the company) is wrong. I asked for a clarification of what qualifications I was missing, but have yet to receive a response.

I did a good bit of research about the company and the developers I would be working with and I think it would be a great place to work. I don't want to take no for an answer so easily. I am thinking about directly contacting the development lead (via Twitter) at the company and asking him to look at my resume. He does not know who I am. Is this a good idea?

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As an aside, did you say you had experience with "A through E as well as X" or "A, B, C, D, E, and X?" The reason I ask is that it's 50/50 whether a cover letter is read, and if there are a lot of resumes to read, most resumes will be glanced at for no more than 30 seconds (if at all by human eyes). –  Wonko the Sane Jul 22 '11 at 20:05
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the response they gave you is pretty much the generic thanks but no thanks response... It's very possible that they filtered you out for some other reason besides your skills. As techies we often times believe that the only true measure of a person should be their skills. However, in businesses many times it's non technical things they will look at and filter resumes, even things that are technically illegal like age & gender. –  AlanBarber Jul 22 '11 at 20:37

5 Answers 5

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I'm actually the hiring manager the original poster wrote about.

We're a small but growing company, and until quite recently, I was reviewing all the resumes personally. Our developers all work from home, so the jobs are open to every dev in the USA. This results in a flood of candidates, qualified and (mostly) otherwise.

Screening candidates started to become a full time job, so I hired a part-time screener to help. I made sure he had a background in hiring programmers so he wouldn't make rookie mistakes. I calibrated him using resumes from my current employees and made sure he understood the kinds of things I really care about (high evidence of passion, extra-curricular programming activities, contributions to open source, etc). We played some buzzword bingo.

It's pretty easy to submit for our jobs. We use an online system that accepts submissions and tracks candidates all the way through the hiring pipeline. But candidates still try to do an end-run around it. Sometimes they call our office phone number and try to get a resume to me through our office admin. Or they'll track me down online, and directly email me.

When it's obvious the candidate couldn't figure out how to submit online, I don't bother reviewing their resume. If a candidate chooses not to use the system we put in place and instead wastes the time of someone in my office, I usually ignore them. I'm sure this sounds harsh, especially to someone who has perhaps tried these tactics and failed, but if someone (especially a programmer) can't follow directions and doesn't respect the system and peoples' time, then I can't be bothered. You have to draw the line somewhere, and I draw it there, for better or for worse. The system exists for a reason, to streamline the process and make it as efficient as possible so we can get business done. No system is perfect, but we do the best we can. Occasionally, good people may fall through the cracks, but there's only so many hours in the day.

Now, the original poster didn't fall into the above category. Turns out he was rejected by my screener because his years of experience exceeded the limit set in our job posting. But not by much.

The OP did manage to locate my address and sent me a rather humorous email. So I am going to give him another look, because (a) he's not that far off the mark experience-wise, and (b) I really appreciate a good communicator with a sense of humor.

So, The Talking Walnut, expect a call.

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Larry, I have to ask - why is there an upper limit on years of experience? My old company used to do this, too, and I never understood it. Why not take candidates with more experience if they're willing? –  E.Z. Hart Jul 29 '11 at 23:31
    
It's a good question. We don't list salary range as a matter of policy, so the candidate needs some kind of indication whether he or she is over- or under-qualified. So we use years. It's not perfect; regardless of what we put in the job description, we get all kinds of people submitting, from fresh college grads to 30+ year veterans. –  Larry Silverman Aug 1 '11 at 13:52
    
A limit on years of experience sounds like you could be asking ofr an age discrimination law suit. Why not list salary range in this case? Could you elaborate on policy? –  JeffO Aug 2 '11 at 3:32
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Many employers choose to not list salary range. If you provide a range, the candidate always negotiates for the high end of the range. It makes the range moot. If they don't get the high end, you get resentment. One more point is that I hire devs from all over the country, and different places have different costs of living. $70K in New York City is not the same as $70K in a suburb of Detroit. –  Larry Silverman Aug 3 '11 at 15:55

I've personally witnessed many occasions, particularly in larger companies whose core competency isn't software development, where candidates who were obviously suited were rejected because the HR person didn't know how to screen the technical candidates correctly.

To be fair to the HR person, if they don't have a background in software development, then it's hard for them to know that, for example, if they require .NET experience and you list C#, that those two things are equivalent.

In the cases where the person involved figured out a way around HR to get their résumé in front of the right person, they have invariably succeeded in getting an interview, so you should definitely contact the development lead.

The other piece of advice I would give is to tailor your résumé and cover letter to precisely match the language used by that particular job advertisement. So for example, if they are asking for 5 years of .NET experience, don't put you have 5 years of experience in C#, because the HR person doing the initial screening may not realise those two things are the same. It might seem a small thing, but it's often the difference between getting your résumé in front of the right person and not even getting a phone screen.

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Yes, HR often doesn't understand "C Pound" –  Wonko the Sane Jul 22 '11 at 20:00
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+1. This is also an issue in the Java world, where your experience in "Java EE" might not match up with the HR filter's search for "J2EE". –  Adam Jaskiewicz Jul 22 '11 at 20:39
    
Yeah. Never in my life have I been hired through HR. Only once in my life have I not been hired when I talked with someone not in HR and in that case I rather suspect they didn't hire anybody. –  Loren Pechtel Jul 29 '11 at 23:30

YES! Often hiring managers are willing to make exceptions to things. If the position is Java development and you are a .NET developer but are good enough, a hiring manager may be willing to hire you anyway. While HR/Recruiters will see 5 years Java and filter everything else out...... Plus sometimes a position may list 20 technologies but really only 2 or 3 are core.

Some companies (especially on the west coast) are better and will say someone with x years software development experience which opens it up to people not working with those specific technologies. Or things like experience in an object oriented language and one or more scripting languages....

With the rate of frameworks changing, I think saying someone with 5 years experience in each of Java, Servlets, Spring, Ant, Ivy, etc... probably over limits candidates for whatever that job is. If you can't pick up Ant/Ivy in a few days...you are probably in the wrong career. Spring has so much "stuff" that it might take years to learn it all. But most places seem to be using a few small pieces of Spring that could be learned in less.....

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Hey, that has been my situation, I showed a PHP demo at an interview but the position was for Java and got hired anyways, maybe I was lucky, maybe I'm good, who knows (but I prefer to think it was the latter),there are always exceptions. –  Triztian Jul 30 '11 at 1:28

A business that has HR as the initial filter that keeps technical folks from seeing resumes might not be a very decent environment to work in.

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Just because a business has a bad choice of a partner doesn't necessarily mean they are a bad company. Red flag? Indication of something to watch out for? Definitely... Also might be something that a new hire can point out that wasn't noticed previously. –  WernerCD Jul 22 '11 at 19:35
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I'd also argue that a large portion, perhaps even a majority, of companies, particularly large companies, have some sort of first-line filter (HR, scanning software, what have you). Another argument for tailoring your resume to the position listed. –  Wonko the Sane Jul 22 '11 at 20:03
    
@WernerCD - user8865 was referring to the aspect of HR itself being used an initial filter and not the specific HR firm used. –  talonx Aug 2 '11 at 4:22

Yes.

If the development lead is involved in hiring (and if he cares about building a good team he should be), he would definitely look at your resume. If he refers you back to HR, well, I think you are better off not joining there.

I don't think you need to worry about bypassing HR, especially as you say that they're not part of the company.

The bottomline being - you have nothing to lose, and much to gain.

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+1 for "you have nothing to lose, and much to gain" –  Ian Jul 22 '11 at 16:37
    
In addition to contacting the dev lead through twitter, consider sending your resume and cover letter in hardcopy. Twitter contact (and email, especially if this person doesn't know you from Adam) can seem a little spammy. Address it to the company care of the dev lead. You've only got 41 cents to lose, and much to gain. –  E.Z. Hart Jul 29 '11 at 23:28

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