Job Hunting Sucks. This Programmer Filled Out 250 Applications to Find Out Why

After he landed an interview, Sachdev spent 40 hours scouring job sites for tips, cramming his notebook full of hypothetical questions and their responses, compiling a presentation the company required—and totally neglecting his coursework. Half a dozen interviews later, he got the job. His heart soared, but not for long. When he explained his immigration status to the recruiter, she rescinded the offer. Sachdev started over, eventually landing a job with a startup willing to sponsor his H-1B visa, and decided to parlay his experience into a career blog offering help to other hapless job questers.

Job hunters have long complained about the process, but it developed fresh annoyances after moving online starting in the mid-’90s, says Chris Russell, managing director of the recruitment consultancy RecTech Media. Online job boards like Monster and CareerBuilder flooded companies with candidates, giving rise to applicant tracking systems built to help recruiters manage the deluge.

These systems promised to save recruiters time by automatically ranking and filtering applicants based on keywords. From the perspective of applicants required to laboriously enter their information into the software, they felt like a new barrier. “These systems were built with the companies in mind,” says Russell. “They never really considered the user experience from the job seeker’s point of view.” A cottage industry sprang up of tools and résumé whisperers promising to help job seekers get past the automated scanners.

In recent years, new features like psychological assessments and “digital interviews,” in which applicants answer prepared questions into their webcams, only placed more barriers between candidates and human decisionmakers. Meanwhile, the fundamentals of hiring remain stuck in the past, says Scott Dobroski, a career trends expert at jobs platform Indeed. It takes three and a half months for most Indeed users to find a job, he says. “All the other parts of our lives have sped up. The hiring process has not caught up.”

Time Wasters

While job hunters have much to gripe about, from “ghost jobs” to the dreaded “résumé black hole,” Sachdev decided to focus his efforts on the initial application process. He identified three main factors that affected the time it took to apply: the size of a company, the industry it was part of, and the applicant tracking software it used.

Applicant tracking software was a major source of Sachdev’s frustration. The most common systems he encountered were Workday, Taleo, Greenhouse, Lever, and Phenom, which adds AI-powered features on top of systems like Workday. More established systems such as Workday and Taleo redirected him away from the careers page and made him create a separate account for each application, adding significant time and vexation. By the end of his 250 applications, he had 83 separate accounts.

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