Does Online Job Search Technology Work for Your Company?

I remember getting out of college in 1997, and being encouraged by my mother to look through the classified ads in The New York Times. I sent, by postal mail, a few resumes, and went on one interview, before retreating to graduate school, discouraged.

My resilience and motivation were non-existent, obviously, in the face of the tempting offer to attend graduate school on my parent’s dime and be a full-time student for another two years. But job-searching technology also didn’t exist back then, so the process was much harder than it is today—or is it really so much easier now?

A new survey by randrr makes it sound like the job-seeking process maybe isn’t made that much easier by technology. Some 71.6 percent of survey respondents described online job search technology as frustrating, 66.4 percent said it was disappointing, and 41.6 percent called it depressing. Few respondents find online job search technology intuitive (7.9 percent) or transparent (9.2 percent). Those negative feelings were consistent across job search activities: researching online for a job, networking with friends and professional connections, evaluating employers as a desirable place to work, applying for a job, and interviewing for a job.

From the employer’s perspective, how is this technology working for you? I suspect not great. An editor at my company shared with me the many unsuitable applicants who came to him through job-searching sites when a position on his staff opened up a few years ago. I’ve heard frequently that when new positions open up, it’s not unusual for employers to receive hundreds, or even a thousand, or more, applications. The online universe promises such a great pool of applicants, it’s often too much of a good thing. From an outsider’s perspective—one who has never had to hire anyone for anything—it seems that most of the job-searching sites lack effective filters. So, as I’ve experienced from the job-seeker’s side, an editor looking for a job is likely to get directed to administrative assistant positions, and an employer looking for an editor is likely to get sent applicants who have no more experience than having typed up their past employers’ letters.

Here’s an idea: What if job-seeking sites worked more like dating Websites or apps? The way it would work is you would fill out a form with your preferences, and then you would upload your resume—and then instead of scrolling through a poorly filtered list of possible list of jobs—the program’s algorithm would “set you up” with a list of employers that it calculates you would be a good “match” for. The employer’s side of the deal would be similar. The employer would have a form to fill out, including possibly the resumes or backgrounds of past employees who were a good fit. And then the program would use its algorithm to calculate, based on past patterns of success, which applicants would be the best matches.

Another analogy: It would be like a job-searching technology parallel of Apple Music’s “For You” feature, which uses your music collection and what you listen to most to determine which other music you might like. It often guesses right, surprisingly.

The tricky part from the employee’s perspective would be giving the system enough information about the kinds of jobs you’ve taken in the past, and were happy with, and what your other preferences or goals are, to make the algorithm work. Do you think that would be possible?

Would job-searching technology like this work from the employer’s perspective? What would some of the pitfalls be?

When the only information you’re inputting is qualifications and experience level, your pool of applicants will be unwieldy. It may not be quite as unwieldy if, in addition to qualifications and experience, the job-seeking program is able to think in terms of good matches based on a broader set of data, including the kind of people you ended up successfully hiring over the last five years.

Companies like to publicize how open-minded they are, but the truth is that most have a certain kind of employee they like to hire. And most applicants have a certain kind of ideal employer in mind. Wouldn’t it be nice to marry the more concrete search criteria, such as qualifications and experience, with the harder-to-define set of qualities that make your next new employee the one you’ve been waiting for?

What online job searching technology does your company use to find new employees? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this technology, and what is the best way to optimize the strengths and control for the weaknesses?

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