Using resumes to hunt for a job is often like throwing a hundred message-carrying bottles into Boston Harbor and hoping one washes up on Miami Beach.
So a handful of new companies are beginning to apply computer technology to the job hunting process in hopes of trimming costs for employers and cutting both costs and frustration for job candidates.
''Now individuals do not have to blindly send out 200 resumes without having any idea if the company is interested. The expense of that is just outrageous,'' says Robert Goldberg, a marketing analyst at Career Placement Registry Inc. of Alexandria, Va., one of the fledgling computer job banks. CPR now runs a job bank for recent college graduates and will start one for experienced workers April 10.
Matching job seekers and employers by computer is ''better, faster, and cheaper'' for employers than traditional candidate selection systems, contends Dale H. Learn, president of CareerSystem Inc., a Palm Beach, Fla., job bank for managerial, technical, and professional employees which began operating earlier this year.
Different computerized employment firms work in varying ways. But the basic idea is for a job hunter to provide the information that would normally appear on a resume: career goal, education, job history, and salary requirements. All the data are entered in a computer, where the information is stored.
When a personnnel department is asked to find a worker with a certain set of characteristics, it turns to a computer terminal linked to one of the job banks and asks the computer to search its files for a suitable candidate. Depending on the job seeker's wishes, the computer either spits out a list of qualified candidates and their resumes or it produces code numbers that let the job bank contact the candidates.
A number of sizable corporations are experimenting with getting some new workers through computer banks, including Nalco Chemical Company, R.H. Macy T Co., Container Corporation of America, and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company.
Meanwhile, several major engineering societies, including the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, have hired Database Innovations of Ossining, N.Y., to run a computer job bank for their members.
Most engineers have no trouble finding jobs. They sign up because ''they do not want to be bothered (by potential employers), and we offer them a privacy feature,'' notes John Elsoffer, vice-president of Database. When an engineer's resume is matched with an employer's request, the engineer's name and address do not appear. Contact must be arranged by the job bank.
Corporations that sign up with job banks are seeking significant cost savings as well as more efficient candidate searches. A company might have to pay an employment agency 25 percent of an applicant's salary. By contrast, a CareerSystem client would pay a $100 monthly fee and $1.50 for each minute spent searching the firm's files.
Despite the potential cost savings, several of the data bank's corporate clients are reserving judgment on the idea. ''We are testing the whole concept to see if it fits,'' says John Burke, manager of professional employment at Nalco Chemical.
''One problem is whether the data bases would attract the necessary quality and quantity of candidates'' for management jobs, says the corporate recruiting manager at another company that's using a job bank.
This official also worries about having a new worker hired away if his name stays in the job bank after a new position is secured. Getting additional offers from the job bank ''is too much temptation,'' he says.
And traditional placement firms contend that the computer data banks ''do not include what our members are paid for, which is personal advocacy,'' says David Strachan, executive vice-president of the National Association of Personnel Consultants.
Nevertheless, the use of computerized job searches is likely to grow as the cost of computer time contines to fall. The automated searches will probably be most useful in finding clerical workers and low- and middle-level managers. ''If you are looking for top people, you will use your own personal network (of contacts),'' notes Mary Anne Devanna, of the Career Development Center at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business.
Companies are also expected to make greater use of computers in selecting employees for advancement. American Telephone & Telegraph Company has been testing computerized internal selection systems at several of its operating companies. As a result, ''we are getting better candidates and more qualified candidates,'' says Alfred J. Walker, AT&T's division manager for human resources data. ''With the computer you do not miss anybody.''
Computerized job-hunting companies at a glance Company cost to Types of positions job seeker available Career Placement $8.00/6 months Registry Inc. for students 302 Swann Ave.$15-$40/6 months Clerical, Alexandria, Va. professional, 800-368-3093 managerial, technical CareerSystem Inc. 49.50/year Professional, PO Box 3097 managerial, Palm Beach, Fla. technical 800-228-5509 Database Free Engineering Innovations Inc. PO Box 511 Ossining, N.Y. 800-431-2616