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Job searching has got complicated. Anyone who’s looked for a job online recently will tell you that.

In many ways, of course, it’s easier than ever to look for work. There are hundreds of online job boards, thousands of recruitment agencies (24,000 in the UK) and millions of individuals to connect with on LinkedIn. We’ve got more places than ever to look for work…

…and yet, ‘looking for a job’ isn’t the end goal. What we want is a job. Specifically, the right job, or at least the best one we can get. We want to feel like we’ve had reasonable access to relevant opportunities, and been given a fair shot at landing one of them.

Far too often, that basic need feels impossible to achieve. Why? Because the job market has become needlessly complex, often bewilderingly so. The network of advertisers, agencies, employers and opportunities a job seeker needs to navigate can be vast. As they compete for attention, these advertisers embellish opportunities, obscure important details, and even double-up on adverts, adding fuel to the fire of confusion and wasting job seekers’ time and effort.

For the experienced job seeker, all this can be off-putting – or at the very least fail to inspire a job move. For those new to work, though, the process can be positively bewildering. And this really matters: jobs are fundamental to our prosperity, daily lives and even our identity. It’s a system well worth fixing.

Fixing The Job Market

The job market – like all marketplaces – will never be ‘perfect’. And in fact, recruitment is more prone to imperfection than most markets, because one-size absolutely doesn’t fit all.

Yet if the ‘perfect’ job market should provide something like the best match between job seeker and job in the most efficient manner possible… well, we’re way off that.

If this were another market (say, air travel or groceries), the consequence of such inefficiency would be lost revenue or slimmer profit margins (both those markets are evidence of how transformational digital tools can be in this regard.) Evidently, though – with job advert marketplaces thriving, and clearly lining a fair few pockets – ‘efficiency’ doesn’t always make the most money in recruitment: in fact the opposite can be true. Instead, any inefficiencies have a far more direct and significant impact on us, the job seekers.

To improve, we need to re-find the human-to-human element of job-seeking. To do this, we need to strip back and simplifying the digital job seeking process, partly by trimming down much of the rubbish that clutters the market, and partly by creating or upgrading better job seeking systems. Short term, this may be costly – even fatally so for some of the least valuable middle-men – but business will benefit long term from an improved system that better identifies and organises talent.

Crucially, though, we should do this with a keen eye on the human users, and a real appreciation that job seeking is not just a commercial transaction but a personal one, worthy of our care and attention as well as efficiency of design. Done well, this will be achieved absolutely in-sync with business goals

First on the list, there’s an awful lot of ‘noise’ to be stripped out before we can start building a job market that’s better for all involved.

Still Searching: Candidates Bewildered and Demotivated

The onslaught of online opportunities to ‘look for a job’ had turned ‘finding a job’ into an often frustrating and fruitless process. The job seeker prowls 1000’s of jobs, tailors huge numbers of personalised applications and frequently hears diddly squat back.

It can feel like looking for a needle in a stack of hay, when every day way more hay is dumped on top of the pile, making it ever more impossible to focus your efforts on any kind of needle, let alone the needle of your “dreams” (ha, dreams!), then chancing on a perfect needle only to find it doesn’t even have the decency to give a toss about your efforts to find it.

Overwhelmed, job seekers come to see the offers of work as white noise, of little substance.

Still Hiring: Employers Struggle to Fill Roles (Despite Full Inboxes)

Employers, meanwhile, regularly report ever-more unfilled vacancies. They’ll tell you the talent isn’t there, or that candidates lack ambition, all the while feeling little need to engage with those candidates who’ve taken the journey to their inbox.

Hiring isn’t easy. No longer can you post an Ad and wait for responses.

Instead, HRs and hiring managers find themselves deluged with marketing options, from specialist job boards to high-traffic search engines. They’ll pay high premiums – often many £ thousands – for exposure to a bewildered audience of candidates. And you’ll need an appealing ’employer brand’ to boot.

Problems worsen when you add to the mix ‘multi-agency adverts’, where two or more third parties advertise a single role, a factor that can add multitudes to the apparent number of ‘available’ jobs advertised.

Unsure of their suitability and without access to answers, candidates apply left right and centre, filling recruiters’ inboxes. So perhaps little wonder candidates rarely receive a reply.

The sector remains quite a mess.

Mess = Money For Short-Termist Businesses…

Where there’s mess and confusion comes business opportunity.

Many offer legitimate and valuable services, but the job market is also a playground for hawkers, many of whom have donned sophisticated facades that feign usefulness but hide what little lies beneath.

Who are the culprits? Job boards that stagnate yet pester for employers’ cash; services which offer to ‘hunt down’ candidates, forgetting the vital human element; bogus recruitment agencies who add little value and chase immediate cash with no social regard.

These are not ‘solutions’ to the problems of either job seekers or employers. Instead they add clutter that makes life harder for employers and candidates alike.

…But Properly-Designed Tech Could Improve Job Seeking For All Involved

“Solving” recruitment is a challenge being taken up by many. There’s a big payoff – recruitment is a huge market, after all – but its also an area fundamental to all our working lives.

Technologists are looking to apply the lessons learned from advances in commerce, media consumption and transportation to the job market. LinkedIn and Google are the big players, but smaller organisations like Glassdoor, various CRM systems and specialist job boards are shifting the landscape too.

The goal, perhaps, is to make job searching simpler, allowing more space for human interactions.

Let’s Create Better Human Connections by Simplifying The Digital Recruitment Landscape

Why do we need all the mess? Unnecessary channels, options and clutter could be stripped away. Simple searches would allow you to really match skills and requirements with available work, cutting out all the middle-men and taking you direct to the employer.

There’s a wonderful tech way to describe this phenomenon: signal Vs noise. Signal = the nugget of useful information your user needs. Noise = everything else which needs to be hidden for the signal to become clear.

The recruitment sector is full of noise. We’ve done a great job of that. Next step: honing in on the signal. And that’s certainly where things are headed, with AI-powered algorithms and advanced screening processes. In other words: the industry is evolving.

Yet we must remember this job seeking is often an intensely human-to-human interaction.AI and advanced algorithms have been successfully applied in sectors like air travel, e-commerce, even medicine…

…But job searches are quite different. Job searches are: 1 – personal, with significant implications for our lives and identities; and 2 – fundamental, affecting the stability of ourselves and our families. This is a far more challenging area than it often gets credit for.

Of course, the digital world has already utterly revolutionised the way we work, and find work. But changes soon to come still have the potential to change things far further still.

So, how far could things change? And what is it we want all this new-fangled AI and digital platforms to DO? What improvements could they actually deliver?

10 Ways We Can Evolve Digital Recruitment

Here’s what I think should be top of the agenda as we look to evolve the job seeking process for everyone:

1 – Cut and Consolidate Job Boards

Candidates must have confidence that they can search ‘the whole market’. This has to come at the expense of numerous job boards, search engines and specialist recruitment sites which add confusion and duplication. We need centralised, organised sources of reliable information.

2 – Promote Original, Genuine and Open Opportunities

For job adverts to have the ‘attraction’ factor, they have to ooze authenticity. We’ll achieve that by ditching the often-relied-upon approach of ‘disguising details’ and ‘dumping ads left right and centre’, instead properly communicating key information. We have to get used to acknowledging and replying to applicants too, or trust will plummet.

3 – Rethink The CV to Accommodate ‘Ambition’

You can tell a lot from someone’s background, but not everything. A recruiter’s first question? “What’s your next step?” We have to find a way to accommodate that in the digital space, and replace (or reinstate) the now-largely-redundant cover letter.

4 – Actively Encourage Inclusivity

Or “get out there, reach new people and show them a path to new, positive careers.” Job postings are not enough. They’re too narrow-minded, focussing only on the most obvious, immediate candidates. Let’s go beyond and bring new people into jobs where they could perform brilliantly, given the right motivation.

5 – Build Better Data Links: Candidate > Hirer

To make digital job seeking more human, we need robust ‘back-end’ infrastructure. Recruiters and employers are too often provided with an incomplete picture of the candidate who’s reached out to them, not for want of trying, but because the data’s become obscured. We need to make sure that useful information makes it across the desk.

6 – Hire With ‘On-The-Job Learning’ In Mind

Skills are no longer for life. In the age of ‘disruption’ and frequent change to the status quo, employers will need to recognise the need to learn on the job, and therefore to hire candidates who have an open attitude to learning and the right motivation, rather than the perfect skillset. Again, this will require a change in the ‘judge a book by it’s cover’ mindset.

7 – Interview Less Formally (And More Quickly!)

Let’s talk! Digital tools shouldn’t just be a way to automate job seeking: they can help candidates and employers engage with each other much more naturally. And without all the structure of formal interviewing, we should better reach the all-important substance. Of course, businesses will always need a formal decision-making process, but why not start sooner and more openly?

8 – Provide Better Platforms for All-In-One Freelancers

Like it or not, the freelance / remote working / zero hours trend is on the indelible rise. If we’re to accommodate a growing mass of service-providing individuals, we need better platforms for them to market themselves too. Specifically, we need ones that don’t just facilitate bargain-basement assignments, and instead reward quality of work.

9 – Promote Salary Transparency

In the fight against skyrocketing inequality, transparency will become a key weapon. Openness will never reach 100% but already tools like Glassdoor and Google for Jobs are starting to force the issue – by, for example, publishing company data or requiring adverts to list salary ranges – and legislators too seem keen to open the book.

10 – Utilise “Augmented Skill Screening”

To allow recruiters to better use their time for relationship-building, tech tools can help screen candidates in other regards. Stack Overflow does this brilliantly in the tech community, by building a score of candidates’ activity: a reliable indicator of their genuine aptitude. We need more of these systems to help with the basics, if we’re to spend time interacting more deeply.

Final Thought

There’s incredible potential for huge transformations in the job market. Done right, this could not only upgrade the process itself for millions of job seekers and hirers, but also radically improve lives by better matching individuals with suitable jobs.

The solutions are not necessarily simple, but they’re logical. In fact, it’s perhaps only been through excitement of the potential of new digital tools that we’ve over-complicated the market. Simplifying and re-humanising things should, in many ways, feel fairly natural.

Transformation is certainly going to take some time and effort, though, with both casualties and teething problems along the way. But for the good of all involved, it’s well worth doing. 

What Do You Think?

Comment below or drop me a message and let me know your thoughts on the future of digital recruitment.

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