While automation will make the hiring process faster and easier, it has some major caveats

The U.S. economy lost 33,000 jobs last month — but people who are out of work may soon have an easier time finding new employment thanks to technological innovation.

Automation technology promises to alter dramatically how people apply for jobs and how recruiters scout potential candidates. From simpler application forms to the death of the cover letter, there are myriad ways in which technology will improve the job search. In fact, some 67% of people are worried rather that algorithms will evaluate and choose job candidates, a survey of more than 4,000 workers by the Pew Research Center found this week.

They’re not wrong. Or paranoid.

Automation has already altered hiring methods. Employers today can use keyword searches on résumés and job applications. “Recruiting has changed a lot — 20 years ago, you would submit a résumé and the thickness of the paper was looked at to find a higher quality candidate,” said Brian Kropp, HR practice leader at CEB, a subsidiary of consulting company Gartner. “Now more progressive companies are trying to determine the characteristics from a LinkedIn profile or résumé.”

Restless Bandit was founded three years ago by the team that created the job search startup Bright.com, which LinkedIn bought in 2014. It sells “talent rediscovery” technology to employers. Its algorithms aim to search the content of résumés to find potential candidates.

The technology could dramatically speed up the recruiting process, since roughly 40% of the résumés an employer receives are from people already in its database, said Steve Goodman, Restless Bandit’s CEO and co-founder. “I fundamentally believe that we’re in a paradigm shift from where a job seeker looks for jobs to where the job finds the job seeker,” Goodman said.

Looking for a job online is not unlike looking for a date: People are turned off by too much eagerness. It’s cheaper to hire someone who applied for a job rather than hiring a headhunter, Kropp said. But people may grow tired of recruiters. “We’ve grown wary of communication through social media,” said MaryJo Fitzgerald, community expert at job search website Glassdoor. So allowing people to apply en masse and using algorithms to sort applications seems like one obvious solution.

Cover letters could become as ’quaint’ as business cards

The same technologies that can scan résumés can also scan cover letters. But as hiring databases amass more information about potential candidates readily available online, their usefulness could diminish. “The idea of a cover letter is going to feel as quaint as a business card is starting to feel now,” Kropp said. The downside: Nuances about a person’s character and personality, and his or her extra-curricular experience may not always be detectable by a computer.

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