Kelly Goins recently entered the job market after earning her master’s degree, and to maximize her search she went to a career fair seeking tips.

“If you want to get an interview, use the words from the job description in your résumé,” she was told. “That’s your best opportunity to get noticed.”

Kelly wasn’t terribly happy with that bit of advice.

“Why isn’t it enough anymore to have an MBA and experience?” she responded to me in a LinkedIn discussion. “I have spent countless hours studying and have racked up student loans to get to the head of the line. Now I must alter my résumé to get chosen by a scanner?!”

Kelly’s reaction isn’t unlike any other job seeker’s after learning about electronic résumé screening, a practice oft-used by large businesses and firms that has a computer help reduce the influx of applicants by finding keywords in their materials.

The thinking behind this system was an admirable one. Recruiters and HR departments simply hoped to save time by cutting through the crap applications (let’s face it, that accounts for a solid 90% of them) and get straight to the quality ones whose materials match the job criteria/description/mission.

That was the idea, anyway.

But after several years of seeing the automated system in action – wherein some good candidates were cut arbitrarily, and there became less focus on the human review process – staffing industry professionals are torn on its usefulness.

Several we talked to said they’ve used these systems with “less than impressive results.” Imad Khalaf, a human resources professional in the UK, even went so far as to say they have 55%-65% accuracy and if you use them instead of in-person interviews you might as well eliminate recruiters while you’re at it. Another human resources pro, Roweza Pidlaoan, said she’d never choose a technology to interpret an application over a person.

So what has been your experience? Would you call electronic résumé screening a necessary evil, or is it total crap?

Tags: Linkedin, Business, Electronic resume screening, Imad Khalaf, Kelly Goins, Roweza Pidlaoan