Some context: I applied for a temp technician job (stated to be a 3 months job) recently. Though the role was stated to prefer people who can start immediately, I just submitted my resume, having a leap of hope that I might have a chance to work for that company. In my resume I stated that I can only start working from May 2021, the reason being I am still an undergraduate and May-Aug is the only time I can work. When the HR called me, she sounded as if she has not seen my resume/profile and was like "I don't understand why you can only start working in May?". Is it a usual sight for HR to just call applicants without screening their profiles/resume first?
I wouldn't see it as a red flag.
They might have missed it in the resume, people don't spend a long time reviewing these and could have looked more into the skills/experience section, depends on how clear it was from a quick skim through.
It also could be that one person reviews submissions and shortlists candidates, then a different person is responsible for contacting people. The second person would potentially go by contact details instead of reading the resume again at length.
For some candidates, it could be that circumstances changed since submitting an application, so confirming the possible start date is a very frequent question. Given starting date is potentially flexible depending on the circumstances, and it allows the company to assess this.
Why would they ask? If you stated you can work May to August, and they need someone to start mid April, it is obvious that they would ask you if you could possibly start two weeks earlier. It is the old principle "if you don't ask, you won't get". It's fine to say "no". If they have five new employees arriving on 1st of May, they'd ask everyone, and there is a good chance that one out of the five can start earlier. If they don't ask, they won't find anyone.
HR Doesn't know the specifics of your own situation.
While they may be interested in you as a candidate from the details of your resume and your interview, it's possible that you have forgotten that your preferred start date is on your resume - after all, I assume this isn't the only job you've applied to, and you may forget that you've listed a start date there, or it may have changed over time.
By asking you to confirm the start date, they are hedging their bets and making sure you personally commit to a date that you know will work for you - and give you a chance to update it in case the 'given' date isn't appropriate anymore.
Anecdotally, I have had two jobs where I provided a very clear start date and subsequently had HR ask if I could start earlier.
On one occasion my new boss would be on vacation for my first 2 weeks and I was asked if I was available to start 3 days early so he could get on-boarding kicked-off and bring me up to speed before he left.
On the other occasion there was a specific (and useful) week-long training for the team they wanted me to attend 2 weeks before the start date I had provided.
I was able (and happy) to accommodate both requests, so it was worthwhile for HR to ask, despite my original availability declaration..
Yes, why assume HR read all the document?
But seriously, HR do ask as they may need someone to start asap due to a planning change (or error or failure), and if you were just having an extended break they could get you.
Since it seems it was clear from your CV when exactly you were available it may mean HR was working from a standard list of questions.
Besides the other answers, there is also the negotiation/haggling part.
In the EU (broadly speaking) you have 3 months of notice. Many companies will still ask you whether you could try to negotiate a shorter notice. This is possible and ultimately depends on how much you are needed during the notice period (to pass on the lknowledge or do minimal work), and how much you are a liability.
It's not what they said, it's how they said it:
I don't understand why you can only start working in May?
The above statement is confrontational an borderline demeaning. My knee-jerk reaction would be "I think your lack of understanding stems from your lack of reading my resume" but that's obviously not constructive...
To me it signals that the HR person disagrees that May is the earliest you can start work. The other possibility is they feel disrespected that you applied for a position which prefers people who can start work immediately.
Now it might be some sort of language barrier or maybe the HR person was having a bad day or maybe they were on a power trip and assumed they could do no wrong.
At any rate, how you handle the situation is what's most important. I hope you responded with something along the lines of:
My apologies, in my resume I mentioned that I have classes up until May. I understand that you prefer people who can start working immediately and I am really interested in this position but I cannot cut my studies short.
What the HR person should have said is:
It looks like you cannot start work until May, I'd like to find out more. Do you have some time to talk?
A resume is not a contract
A contract of employment requires a clear offer and a clear acceptance affirmed by both parties in writing.*
If a clear starting date is not agreed, they can't hold you to it and you can't hold them to it. It is to your benefit to get everything in writing, including remuneration and the nature of your duties. Also you should ask for details of any benefits such as health insurance or pension contributions that you negotiated in the interview. Sloppy contracts result in sloppy lawsuits as you will know if you have ever watched Judge Judy!
*Verbal/spoken contracts are possible but they are usually very difficult to prove. Any contract involving substantial worth should be in writing.
In my industry it's nothing special to get a 100+ applicants over the course of a weekend. These will be screened and the good ones will be forwarded to HR/Recruiting to set up an interview. So HR is only responsible for setting meetings up and the mony side and the departments choose the people they want. You can't expect HR to be a specialist in all jobs and since they have a lot of other things to do, why should they bother reading them at all?