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IBM automates parsing of resumés (Mint, July 11, 2011)

International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), much like any other reputed organization in India, has to cope with a more or less constant flood of resumés--both unsolicited and otherwise. Picking the best prospects from this is not always easy.

Now the company's Indian research wing has come up with a way to automate the process and is planning to market this workforce management solution to companies that need to hire a large number of people. Using advanced analytics, it aims to cover the entire spectrum from hiring and deployment to strategic planning.

The exercise was initially aimed at creating a tool to optimally assign people to projects internally, at IBM. Resumé screening followed.

“IBM received tens of thousands of resumés every month. We wanted a solution with sophisticated analysis that extracts not only essential details like number of years of experience, but make(s) qualitative judgements, like how good a developer is this person,“ Manish Gupta, director, IBM Research - India, and chief technologist, IBM India, said in an interview.

The programme is based on concepts that are broad enough to be applied to other industries, with the relevant domain customization, he said. “That is our ambition.“

Automating the sifting of resumés is an interesting and relevant innovation that still has many challenges to overcome, said Nitin Khanapurkar, executive director at consulting firm KPMG.

Associated costs, specific domain knowledge and the ability of the solution to integrate with existing enterprise systems will be critical, he said with reference to the programme. I

IBM aims to target retail and health care, besides other information technology (IT) services organizations.

Parts of the solution will also be deployed in an ambitious pilot project that IBM is preparing to launch with the government of Karnataka to enable blue-collar workers such as carpenters, construction workers and plumbers in villages to find jobs and upgrade skills.

“We are just waiting for some logistical requirements like telephone lines to fall into place. We are ready,“ Gupta said. The project will use IBM India's Spoken Web technolo- gy -- the Internet accessed through the spoken voice and audio rendering.

“These workers, when looking for a job, their options are between word of mouth or the kind of village job fair that happens. With the Spoken Web, they will answer a few questions, creating the equivalent of a voice resumé. Likewise, the employer will have a voice site with his requirements. And we can provide the matching,“ Gupta said.

The six-month pilot will be operative in two districts -- Mandya near Bangalore and Bijapur in north Karnataka. Also integral to the project will be the vocational training agencies, which will point workers to skills upgrade programmes tailored to available, higher-paying jobs, Gupta said.

IBM's partner is the state-run Karnataka Vocational Training and Skills Development Commission. Gupta did not elaborate on the actual investments or revenue models involved.

There will still be several “outstanding challenges in navigation and search, which are very very hard problems“ in Spoken Web technology, Gupta said. Apart from language and dialect recognition issues, audio itself is a sequential medium, which means the data has to be accessed in a predetermined, ordered sequence. IBM has worked on tools to speed up audio rendering, bookmarks and so on. “Search is like a game of 20 questions from the computer. Hopefully, we will get to what the user wants in far fewer questions,“ Gupta said.

He said the IBM human resources solution was one of the most sophisticated of such tools to have been developed. “Services is very people-intensive. Today, there is talk of a war for talent. When we look at company surveys, attracting the right kind of people is a challenge, yet unemployment is very high. Our solution applies sophisticated analytics to workforce management,“ he said.

IBM has 10 research centres worldwide, including two new ones in Australia and Brazil, and spends about $6 billion--6% of revenue--on research.

Mint - July 11, 2011