The beauty and tragedy of posting for jobs online

Since the advent of the World Wide Web, businesses have tapped into it for various reasons, including marketing, sales, customer service, and beyond. There’s another area, however, that may not have improved its user experience as technology has made it easier, and that’s job posting and applicant tracking.

From early pioneers like CareerBuilder (née Netstart) to Hotjobs, Monster, and other 90s upstarts, we’ve now reached a point of having fairly sophisticated services that businesses and job posters alike are using every single day. There are platforms that singlehandedly remove the need for paper applications to be entered by an in-house staffer, provide online listings, and deliver digitally screened “results” to hiring managers and HR teams. There are third-party services that reach people where they already are, such as LinkedIn’s Jobs area, which offers an opportunity to collect “easy” applications where a user simply uploads a resume and shares his or her LinkedIn profile, or sends users to a company recruiting website, directly to the job that’s being reviewed. Some services are premium, others specialize in particular industries, such as Poached in the hospitality space, or Dice in the technology arena.

Seems great, right? Well, it’s not at all perfect.

For one thing, both job seekers and job posters aren’t managing the expectations of the other party. It’s become extremely easy to fire off a dozen applications and ignore even simple adjustments to a resume that might bust through the clutter for job hunters. Lots of hiring managers are leaving job hunters almost completely in the dark after an application is submitted. Again, not ALL hiring managers, but many are. I took an informal survey via Twitter, and the results were actually more grim than I expected.

In it, a whopping 75% of respondents said they received ANY sort of response (interview opportunity, follow-up for more information, decline) less than one-quarter of the time. Another 19% said they heard something back 26-50% of the time. All told, 94% say they hear back from a hiring company less than half of the time they post for jobs.

So with all that data, all that sophistication, one of the most simple things that could have been done – clicking a button to send declines to anyone who didn’t get selected for an interview, isn’t being done MOST of the time. If you spend less than five minutes searching online, you’ll see myriad complaints about this very topic. When I posted about this on Facebook, a few people commented or messaged me privately to say they’d actually really like to know they weren’t being considered, rather than be left in the dark. It’s a sentiment I agree with, and it only increases as you post for positions. On a personal note, I’ve applied for 150 jobs since the beginning of October. Some have gone through emails to hiring managers, others have been personal references, and I fall in that 0-25% bucket.

At first, I thought it was just me. As someone who’s hunted for jobs a few times in the last 20 years, I’ve learned a lot about having multiple versions of your resume, not simply copy-and-pasting your cover letters, and so forth. I’ve asked hiring managers for feedback on my resume or received unrequested feedback about it, which has been extremely helpful. It’s not just me.

After having spoken with a few friends that were hunting for jobs in three U.S. cities in the last 12-18 months, I figured it was worth asking those on the other side of the equation about online job posting platforms, and how they screened candidates. One is an in-house recruiter and the other works at a talent agency.

The in-house recruiter let me know that while his company’s online system did review and screen resumes, his team did actually review each and every resume that crossed their desk. Additionally, his company had created a color-coded system to flag positions, which individual departments were able to “set” based on a variety of factors. Still, the team reviewed the resumes that were funneled to them by the online system. His company does send out notices to those who don’t make it into the interview rounds.

The recruiter at the talent firm stated that he didn’t think a lot of the systems were as helpful for his purposes and found that people “just apply to any role they can if a company is of interest to them.” He also stated that keywords are definitely important when attempting to filter resumes and that while some Applicant Tracking Services had algorithms to attempt to show the most qualified candidates, it’s not a perfect science.

Beyond these details, he also shared that many recruiters would probably welcome a warm greeting or an emailed introduction rather than simply having candidates go through a system and send a cover letter. He recommends tracking down a hiring manager’s name or asking friends who work at an organization to help make an introduction, rather than simply submitting your application blindly.

For me, the challenge is that some of these application services take a fair amount of time to fill out, and it’s extremely frustrating to literally hear nothing after sending one along. While many services will parse an uploaded resume, no software is perfect, and you still need to review each of your positions for upload errors, including punctuation or spacing. It’s not always as “easy” as simply pasting your resume into a field and moving on. I’d rather get the decline and grasp that perhaps someone was on the other end.

This is clearly a frustration by users, and based on a few anecdotes, it doesn’t seem like hiring managers are all completely enamored by these services, either. At this point, it seems that taking the extra step of tracking down a hiring manager and reaching out directly is absolutely recommended. While not always a simple task, perhaps that’s the “clutter buster” that is required in today’s competitive environment where the ease of access to dozens and dozens (and dozens) of jobs makes it easy for individuals to apply at will.

My hope is that in the future, job searchers do a little less “willy nilly” posting for things that are creating clutter on the other end, and that those hiring for jobs can leverage the great technologies they have at their fingertips to keep applicants in the loop, without making it a burden on their own jobs.

Why the “Wait, everything isn’t free?” economy is a problem

On Tuesday, my friend Derek tweeted something that spurred my brain onto a topic that I’ve struggled with for quite some time. Namely, the expectation that so many of the things we read, watch or do should just be free, for some reason or another. Or no reason.


In this case, he’s referring to Nintendo’s “Super Mario Run,” which become a top-grossing game on iOS devices shortly after its launch two weeks ago. It has since suffered significantly after the $9.99 cost to keep playing after a handful of levels was apparently higher than expectations of its players, and its ratings in the App Store have taken a major hit because of this.

That isn’t to say that $9.99 was the right price for this game, but it speaks to people’s interests in paying for goods and services. A game that was downloaded an estimated 40 million times in four days seemed like like a statistically significant example, don’t you think?

To the media!

While the actual numbers vary from survey to survey, a mid-2016 survey by eMarketer showed that roughly 25% of U.S. users deployed some sort of ad blocking software on their devices. Their estimates on the year-over-year growth of ad blocker usage are staggering, too. Are people blocking ads simply because they don’t like them? Sure, some probably are. In other cases, people are doing so because some ads have become seriously intrusive, others because they have concerns about malware. The reasons for ad blocking are myriad.

Personally, I keep an ad blocker on my computer for when I visit websites that are running dozens and dozens (and dozens) of trackers, and the ads running on the page actually slow my machine down. That shouldn’t happen, no matter how old your computer is. Generally speaking, I leave the ad blocker off unless I’m visiting an unfamiliar site because the outlet has to make money somehow.

So why do people do it? This answer on Quora to the question “Why are people willing to pay $4 for a bag of chips but not $1 for an app?” nails it in its conclusion: “Cloud apps and mobile apps came at a time when people thought information goods should be free and thus, we have anchors at $0.”

Think about that for a second and realize what it means. Boiling it down, anyone involved with the growth (guilty as charged) of the digital economy and its apps, news, games, storage, video, etc. basically shot our future selves in the feet because of the expectations created by giving away just about anything for free, or having “freemium” models.

That’s not to say that the decision to go that route was wrong, but it had such a lasting effect on downloaders, customers, users, what have you, that it became rote, and cracking that code will probably be a challenge for the foreseeable future.

So what?

Over of the last 10-11 years, I’ve worked with dozens and dozens (and dozens) of startups, and have tried to stay in tune with their “mood,” as it has been helpful in knowing what was going on behind the scenes with their investors and advisors. You could absolutely tell when the marketplace was turning one way or another by asking some pretty simple questions. As I am putting together this blog post I caught this story, “Silicon Valley sobers up,” which includes quotes like “They had only known a world where another fund-raise was just around the corner” from Evernote CEO Chris O’Neill. That’s gotta tell you something. All of these things are related, even if only indirectly.

We’ve been surviving on the gravy train that has been continually refilled by angel investors and A- and B- (and C-) rounds of funding. Contrary to popular belief, the dining car on that train does close from time to time, even though it seems like it might be 24/7/365.

Let’s leave the talk about censorship, cyberbullying and free speech aside for a second, and realize that we live in a world where the average person would likely walk away from Facebook, Twitter and other services in a second were they asked to pay a nominal monthly fee to use them. Those same people abandoned daily newspapers that cost less than a cup of coffee because they saw the opportunity to read “the same news” online for free (with ads that they subsequently blocked), so why wouldn’t they simply move on to the next new digital watercooler where they could talk with their friends and family? Don’t think so? It’s happened before, simply because Facebook built a better mousetrap.

These are companies that a decent portion of our economy is built on. The amount of money brands spend to engage, market and sell on these platforms is staggering. Those dollars weren’t spent blindly, they have a revenue number against them. Hell, the effect of Facebook stock tanking would create ripples across that marketplace of investors putting their eggs into other startups’ baskets, compounding the whole thing. But somehow, we all chug along just expecting our news feed or tweets to be there in the morning, not even blinking an eye on how these services fund themselves, or intentionally hindering them from doing so. It’s just not sustainable.

Beyond that, let’s talk about how these attitudes affect the broader media landscape. Irrelevant of where you stand on the political aisle, it’d be silly to not think that the rise of so-called “fake news” and the shrinking (or downright demise) of thousands and thousands of media outlets due to lost revenues aren’t related. That isn’t at all to say that “fake news” hasn’t blossomed because of people’s (shrinking) attention spans and the ease of digital publishing, but it has certainly taken more of a hold than it might have given previous levels of journalism in the world, in my estimation.

<shrug>

This isn’t meant to be a lecture, I’m simply trying to take 1,000 (okay, 1,013 as of now) words to point out that while we’re all enjoying the run-up to 2017 that we need to bear some responsibility for the future of the digital economy we all know and love. That doesn’t mean you have to run out and purchase a newspaper subscription or make some in-app purchases, however. I just think it would be smart for all of us to consider how all these things “fit together” and recognize that while “information wants to be free,” the tools, websites, apps and platforms we use every day aren’t just magically running out there. They’re curated, coded, hosted, shared, designed and so forth.

Let’s try and make sure we can “have nice things” in the future, K?

Free Speech?

According to the UK’s Independent, a $100MM lawsuit has been filed against Rockstar, the company who makes the ultra-cool Grand Theft Auto video game for console systems like Sony’s PlayStation and for the PC. The case was filed after two teenage boys, Joshua Buckner (age 14), and William Buckner (age 16), who are stepbrothers from Newport, Tennessee, shot and killed a 45 year old man and serious injured a 19 year old woman. They claim they got the idea from the Grand Theft Auto series.

We’ve been hearing the same theories on video games in the last 10-15 years that were said about television long before that – which are very similar to the focus of the film “Footloose”, in that music desensitizes you in such a way where it makes you do things you might not do – or that in this case, the violent images the kids see cause them to think that they could do this for real, without the repercussions of real life – because they always get away with it in the video game.

Personally, I get to a point with this where I feel if you start disallowing games and such like this, you start down the slippery slope to “Fahrenheit 451”, which is not a place I’d like to go, thankyouverymuch. Perhaps that seems a bit extreme – but I think the film, television and video game industries, along with the music biz have done a solid job at trying to keep materials out of the hands of those it’s not suitable for. They can’t control the kid at the video store who lets the 12 year old rent this video game or that one.

Right or wrong, this seems a little bit extreme to me, and opens up some doors I don’t think companies are going to want to go through. Soon enough, we won’t have anything entertaining, water lilies will be everywhere, and we’ll all be sitting crosslegged and chanting “om” for the rest of our lives.

That’s my opinion. [link via Drudge]

Screw caps on wine? Stop the insanity!

Screw caps on wine? Not on my vintage. I’m not sure I’d become a big fan of this – I suppose they are saying it does work these days, perhaps as well as a traditional cork. But isn’t there just something about pulling the cork from a bottle, trying ever so hard not to drop some bits of cork into the wine itself, or busting out that new corkscrew or gadget to open bottles? Perhaps it’s just me.