Apr 11, 2024 - Economy

Greenhouse co-founder demystifies online job application "black box"

Greenhouse president and co-founder Jon Stross seated during a stage interview with Axios reporter Hope King.

Greenhouse president and co-founder Jon Stross with Hope. Photo: Steven Duarte on behalf of Axios

Hiring platform Greenhouse doesn't "have some magic AI" that judges applicants, Jon Stross, the company's co-founder and president, tells Axios.

Why it matters: Being among the first to apply to a job, being relevant to the role and having an internal referral all help to make an applicant stand out, he says.

The big picture: The number of applicants per job has spiked in the past year, Stross says, adding that Greenhouse works with a lot of tech companies.

How it works: "Generally what happens is that you come into the system and we show the candidates in the order in which they come in."

  • Sometimes, if companies get a lot of applicants, they may look at referrals first, or look at the first 50, and once they have enough candidates that are "pretty good," they'll interview those and ignore the rest.
  • In some cases, for jobs that are really in demand, a company may "flash" a job — take down a posting right after they get a certain number of applicants.

Reality check: Applying to jobs online can be anxiety-inducing, with many people believing their resumes are sucked into a black hole.

By the numbers: On Greenhouse, the average job posting received 228 applications as of February, a 45% uptick from last year.

  • Meanwhile, the average recruiter, who may be working to fill multiple roles, reviewed nearly 400 applications in January 2024 — a 71% rise from January 2023.
  • The platform works with more than 7,000 companies, and saw 40 million candidates in the U.S. apply for jobs last year.

Driving the trends: Generative AI is making it "much easier" to write resumes and personalized cover letters.

  • And thanks to programs that can help job seekers apply to multiple companies with one resume, "there's also some spam." But Stross doesn't think it's the "bulk" of what's driving application volume.
  • "It's mostly about the supply and demand of jobs."

When and how to use AI remains a debate — even when it comes to landing a job.

  • Stross sees no problem with using it to build a resume or cover letter.
  • For those who learned English as a second language, for example, it can be a "huge advantage."
  • "People say 'Oh, what it if lies?' Well people lie on their resume all the time without AI, so if it helps you write a better document, I don't really have a problem with that," he said.

On the flip side: A candidate during a Zoom interview typing into a generative AI program on the side is not OK, says Stross.

  • Companies will at some point define when they will permit the use — for example, on take home tests.

What we're watching: As AI-boosted documents multiply and become harder to police, "the act of getting to know a human and seeing if they're good and then trying to convince them that they need this job ... is going to be as important as ever," says Stross.

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