How we get rid of Resume Spam

At Shop It To Me, we recently posted some new job openings on our website (for a Ruby Engineer, an Office Manager and some interns).

Unfortunately, when we post the jobs on job boards or public networks, we usually get a few great candidates and hundreds of people who send us what I call “Resume SPAM”.  These are usually people who are either not qualified for the job, and/or not interested in us in particular — they’re interested in a job.  They make a generic version of their resume and cover letter and blast it to every job opening. We actually have had a few who have accidentally sent us a cover letter saying “My dream job is to work for…”, but forgot to change a competitor’s name with ours…

If you are currently helping out with hiring, you probably have seen the same thing — a couple interesting candidates who take the time to show interest in your company, and a whole bunch who are basically looking for any job and basically sending out resume SPAM to every job.

Here’s how we handle it:

Rather than having a team of people weed out the SPAM, we post a puzzle or question on every application, and ask the candidate to solve it and put their answer. The question has three qualifications:  it can be done in about 15-20 minutes, it is relevant to the job, and ideally it is fun to do for the right candidate.   The answer not only tells us whether or not they are qualified, but also whether they care enough about working for us (or like the puzzle enough) to apply.   We can quickly select out the good candidates from the quality of their answers.  Anyone who does not answer the question or does not answer adequately is removed from consideration.

To give you a few examples,  our Office Manager must be able to be a self-starter and figure out complex issues,  so the question on the application is:

Please research and tell us:  What are the minimum employee benefits for a 15 person company located in the city of San Francisco? How does that change for a 25 person company? And, for a bonus, how is that different from a 125 person company?

On our Ruby Software Engineer job posting, we make them both solve the  Ruby puzzle below and an assignment (which is too long to list here). A good Ruby developer should be able to do both in under 15 minutes.

answer = you.sort!.inject(you[12] + " "){|a,b| a+(b<"FREE"|| "REDUCE" < b || b.length < 3 ? "": b.gsub("AI", "ACE").gsub("ON","CAFFEINE").gsub(/E.T./,"UFO")[4-a.length..4-a.length])}
puts answer

If you are applying for a job (particularly with Shop It To Me), here is how to get noticed.

1) Write a custom cover letter to us that talks about things unique to our company.  We always read the cover letter and can tell if it is generic. Do some research on us and see if this is the right place for you to work.

2) Spend time to solve the puzzles in the application if they exists.  It shows you care and will be somewhat similar to the challenges you will have on the job.  If you don’t like the puzzles, don’t apply.

3) If possible, network your way into the company via a friend you know here or a friend of a friend.  Referrals are always the best ways to get into a new company. (You still need to do the puzzles though!)

4) And if you are applying for a job at Shop It To Me and are reading this, good for you!  Tell us  “I am excited about Friday waffle and fresh juice breakfasts”  somewhere in your cover letter.  That way we’ll at least know you are doing some research on us…