There is something almost archaic about the term job board. It connotes a dirty tack ridden area with pamphlets adorned across its frayed wooden edges. This is a place where a multitude of companies each place their latest and greatest positions for individuals to cluster around, sneer and glean any piece of vital information that can assist their application.
It’s almost scandalous just how long the term job board has been around. Why do we accept this term? The pace of innovation in the online job market has been glacial. At the end of the day, someone posts a job to the figurative wall and passersby are meant to observe, reflect on their qualifications and then apply.
One of the great running themes, or not so great, of the job board is the fact that it is a one-way street with little signage. As I drive down the job description, I observe that Company A wants me to perform roughly the same job that I’m doing. Meanwhile, Company B offers nearly the same thing. There’s going to be some variation, some nuances and some idiosyncracies that a recruiter is ultimately looking for in a candidate. However, a candidate does not have the perspicacity to delve into the realms of the recruiter’s brain to unlock every secret about the job.
This one-way traffic rule, where candidates drive to a destination but no one ever drives to the candidate, has been a mainstay of job boards. These career portals plunder and seize and rarely proffer a gem in return. It’s all filling out a plethora of mindnumbing material and questions so that the recruiter can ascertain who I am. But not the other way round.
Enough of it. Just stop. Begin to realize how much time you’re occupying reading countless applications that ought not to be there. Appreciate that the candidate experience is more often than not a slugfest of dreary, laborious and repetitive data fields, resumes and cover letters.
No no no no no.
What we need is a job space.
A job space takes the board, takes the one way tunnel and demolishes it. In their stead is an open field of opportunities.
This all sounds rather magical and fantastical. So let me add some meat to the pan. I’ll even season it properly.
People need a centralized location to find their jobs. Networking is great and more power to individuals who have networks and people coming out of their Blackberries and contact books where they can land a job on a moment’s notice. But not everyone is like them. People still need a central repository of opportunities. The death of this repository is long overstated. But innovation is even longer overdue.
With this in mind, the mechanics behind a job space retain the same elements of a traditional job board – I am still able to search for a job and results are shown. Beyond that, we finesse away the board’s imperfections to create a place where people feel like they’re getting somewhere.
First, we enable potential candidates to interact with companies by way of open comments. In an age of Facebook and Twitter, people are used to demanding and publicizing their opinions, queries and concerns. For so long, candidates must jump over every hurdle imaginable before they can reach the recruiter. Why not come back to square one – is this person even suited to the job? The job seeker no doubt will have queries about the job. Let them ask questions. Let them ask questions that probably twenty other candidates are thinking. We talk about engagement in the social media space until the cheeks glow an unhealthy blue. Yet so few actually engage.
Here is your surest form of engagement – enabling banter before the application and actually answering their questions. You find out what candidates are thinking, who can compose a thoughtful discussion, you eliminate those who shouldn’t be there, and the candidates feel connected. Positive initial reactions are more likely to lead to advocacy and a yearning to apply. Erecting 200 foot walls prior to applying is enough to send someone into an apoplectic fit.
What we’ve just given the candidate is space – space to stretch their legs and their thoughts before the application. Also, there is a sense of empowerment that they can own this job. That’s vital.
A job space needs more than comments to succeed. It needs a two-way street of opportunities. The job search grind is enough to make many applicants weep. They feel as though they must find every job suited to them and that no job is going to come knocking on their door.
Well, why the hell shouldn’t they? Referral hires make up the number two source of hire outside of job boards and company career pages. Yet, their worst problem is that the employees must actively seek out their friends and recommend potential jobs. That may be all swell, but a job space could eliminate that entirely.
Within a job space, companies and their employees invite their networks to the space. Once a job is approved, the recruiter can post the job for network-eyes only. Usually, Company A asks employee Bob if he knows anyone. He does. He knows Susan. If we remove the reliance on Bob to recommend Susan, we can immediately publish the job to her without delay. The only requirement would be to ask Bob in advance which group of people he would vouch for. They could also run filters on who is fit and quickly collate a list of potential applicants.
It’s almost disappointing to see how many companies join the referral band wagon without thinking through the process. For Susan, she suddenly has an exclusive job offering within the space. This was an opportunity that found her. This was something that came about because she tapped into her network without trying. In effect, she had her own private space to dwell in and utilize if she so desired. Oh and look! She can comment and ask the recruiter about the position before pressing the go-button. All without the intermediary of Bob, at least for the time being.
A job space also needs to give candidates an idea about where they stand amongst the pack. An ATS can give all sorts of reporting to recruiters. But what about candidates? They ought to know how they stack up against the competition.
Within each job, a set of informative statistics outlining qualifications and keyword matches could reveal just how suited a person is. A list of the most commonly used keywords within each profile, the percentage of people with two years experience or five years experience, the number of contacts per person, the percentage of people working for startups, Fortune 500 or small and medium businesses. It’s about empowering the individual to make a conscious decision on whether they are suited or not.
The notion that this may detract people from applying is also muted in a number of ways. Numerous industries publish statistics on minimum requirements, think college applications, yet people still apply when they don’t hit the mark entirely. Transparency is going to demystify the competitive nature of applications. Since the year dot, candidates throw out an application and hope for the best without ever appreciating their standing. This would give pause each time one reaches for the Apply button.
My final note in this extended blog post is that data sharing between a job space and a company career page is an absolute imperative. Job seekers fill out an exhausting number of profile and data fields only for the next company to ask for the same information. Closeting information in this instance is insidious. An API or a simple Excel import with all the fields ready to go ought to be in place. Thousands upon thousands of wasted man hours for job seekers will be restored, and their experience all the warmer.
Job boards: you are loved and reviled by many. Candidates love you for providing jobs. They loathe you for making them seek out jobs without feedback or transparency. Recruiters love you for drawing in candidates they never would have found. They loathe you because of the excess of ill qualified candidates who lack the ability to see the uncovered facets of the job or the competition.
Job spaces open up a window of fresh air. They look at job boards and exclaim, “You've got the search idea right and not much else”. But now we need to redefine the candidate and recruiter relationship. We need jobs that easily find us and not always the other way round. We need to innovate and cast off the shackles of the old hunt. Give recruiters and candidates a job space of engagement and transparency.
At the end of the day, we could all use a little more space.