Wow. Here it is 11 o'clock at night and all I want is to drink a beer and call it a day. Maybe watch Dirty Jobs or something. Then I start checking my RSS reader, and I see a post on TechCrunch by web strategy consultant, Steve Poland. Mr. Poland's post is titled Online Job Hunt 10 Years Later - Still Sucks, and I can't resist getting sucked into it.
You can read Mr. Poland's post for the foreplay, but the main thrust of his article is that ...
"I want to see a company come out and eHarmony-ize the job market. Make it so candidates go through a 15- to 30-minute application process that might include various tests related to their claimed skillsets. Allow recruiters to specify what skillsets are required and make them somehow rank the importance of the required skillsets. I’d also like to see some social networking aspects along the lines of LinkedIn — allow people to refer their friends to jobs."
Now, I know I've been wrong before -- but I just don't see that happening EVER. And believe me, I've thought long and hard about it.
Here's five reasons why I'm right (this time):
I. Companies often don't know what they want the new employee to do -- and therefore, they don't know how to identify the talent they need. It's is the client-side of the problem I outline in this recent post. Earlier this year I handled a VP-level search for a catalog retailer who changed the job spec three times before they hired my candidate. I owe the six previous candidates some holiday whisky for helping the client figure out what they wanted. Try as I might, there just doesn't seem to be any correcting this problem -- especially where politically charged, committee based hiring is involved.
II. Many jobs have no defined skill set -- and therefore are nearly impossible to "taxonimize." Everyone has used a pull-down menu of states in an email form. That menu is called a taxonomy. What Mr. Poland wants to see is a taxonomy of job attributes that can be electronically matched with a corresponding taxonomy of candidate skills. Certainly, for CPAs and the like, this may be possible. But in many jobs that involve emerging technologies, or emerging uses of existing technologies, this just isn't possible. And it simply would be unwanted in jobs that involve proprietary processes or technologies.
III. People are terrified to specialize -- and therefore will refuse to commit to one set definition of what they do professionally at the exclusion of everything else. Singles on eHarmony are unlikely to transition from one member classification to another (for example, "SBJF" to "SBJM") -- and they embrace rigid classifications of who they are.
This is the total opposite of what job seekers want, and they will reject any attempt to rigidly classify their skills for fear that it may limit their options. For example, I have spoken with more than one legal or accounting marketer who thinks they are qualified to run a major online retail store. People should stick to their knitting. But they don't -- and they will gamely resist filling out an online profile such as the one Mr. Poland envisions.
IV. All candidates are liars. We are all delusional to some degree. Most men think they are good looking, for example. Given human nature, the oldest joke in the executive search business is that "You are only perfect twice in your life: at birth and on your resume." To the extent that candidates can game the form or keyword-load their online bios, they will -- rendering the entire method suspect, and therefore useless. And any attempt for a future jobsite (ie Google Base) to datamine the super rich surfing patterns of its users to find out "who they really are" would be met with howls of protest from the likes of the ACLU.
V. Resumes and online "profiles" aren't people. Just because someone has a great resume or did well on the GMAT doesn't mean they will create value for your company. Indeed, Enron was loaded with Harvard MBA's and Enron went straight to hell. The fact is, a resume is like an X-ray: An X-ray will tell you what your bone structure looks like, but very often the cancer that kills a career is poor people skills, a drinking problem, poor chemistry with senior management, etc.
Do you think I'm smart?
Well, my boss at BellSouth thought I was a disaster, and I would have likely been fired if I hadn't left when I did. Even as I type those words, I think to myself "Should I really tell my readers this? That I was a FAILURE in a job? That might ruin their opinion of me."
Then I think "Sure, why not? It's my duty to enlighten anyone who has made it this far in my post. Besides, I'm self employed. What the hell is the difference?"
But most people aren't self-employed. Most people are scraping out a living and terrified of failure. They are terrified to be exposed for who they (are afraid they) are.
Do you honestly think that the average candidate is going to allow himself to be pigeonholed by an eHarmony for recruiting? Not if he can help it.
Just four years ago I was unemployed and flat broke. My resume made me look like "a food guy," and that was the end of the matter as far as recruiters and hiring managers were concerned. I had been typecast as a food guy -- and every recruiter's database that contains my resume and profile says that I'm good for one thing: Buying and selling frozen food. End of story.
One small problem: Nobody in the food industry was hiring in 2002, and I was trying desperately to change industries in order to feed my family.
It didn't matter that I was bright. It mattered less that I have decent people skills, because nobody would talk to me. Eventually, I went into business for myself. I'm not being negative. I'm just saying that I have walked a couple of miles in the shoes of a down-and-out jobseeker. It sucks.
Bottom line: "Information intensive" products (products about which there is much to be known, like books and music) are only marketable online because the products themselves have no feeling regarding what is being said about them. It's a very different story for candidates.
We all care a great deal (perhaps too much) what the world thinks of us. How many times have you seen a photograph of yourself an insisted "That's not me! I'm not that fat!"?
Well, take heart. Right now, there are millions people on Monster, LinkedIn, and eHarmony who share your insecurities. Except that those people on eHarmony's livelihoods aren't threatened by the prospect of poverty if you don't fancy them.
And good luck getting passive candidates to suffer through such an undignified process.