Jobseekers are getting a raw deal and it is getting worse

Job hunting online

If you are in the sector, it is widely known that the current recruitment process is broken. Employers are often struggling to find top talent, in spite of the proliferation of technology, and job seekers struggle to find their ideal job, with the average time to find a new job, rising by 25% since 2008.

The advent of the online job board was the start of the problem within recruitment (in my opinion). More recently, new technology has arrived, but instead of solving the problem, it is exacerbating the problem for job seekers who are increasingly becoming a piece of data and a commodity. Jobseekers in my opinion are getting the ‘short end of the stick’.

Job Boards

Job Boards provided access to millions of jobs for potential job seekers. Job boards were so easy that they lulled jobseekers (and employers) into a false sense of security, that all you had to do to secure a new job was apply for jobs online. The problem was, everyone was applying online, resulting in hundreds of applicants for each job. To cope with the influx, many employers turned to technology to process applications.

The problem with the technology (ATS) is that it is reliant on resumes having the right key words and information. Most jobseekers don’t understand this and many recruiters and employers don’t define the right skills. The result, many jobseekers have been deemed unsuitable, even though they are qualified for the job.

Job boards are inherently tools built for employers (the client), masquerading as a solution to all jobseekers. While the job boards quote jobseeker visits per month and profiles searched, there is NO data available on the actual success rate for both jobseekers and employers.

I’ve spoken at length about job boards being the black hole to nowhere. For all their popularity, job boards have massive limitations for job seekers (and employers and recruiters) and in 2017 nothing has changed.

Social Recruiting

There is nothing new about social recruiting – it has been on the scene for a few years. But in spite of its proliferation, jobseekers are generally not aware that recruiters are using social platforms as a talent database. Since 2012 there has been a rise of tech companies using social recruiting applications to find and screen talent.

The problem with this trend, is the information and data being gathered on jobseekers is not moving beyond a critical mass of data based on evermore-sophisticated algorithms, without the questions being asked: How accurate is the dataset?   What are the inherent underlying biases of the data?  Kalev Leetaru in his Forbes article Does Social Media Actually Reflect Reality. 

“One of the most dominate themes of the ‘big data’ in the ‘big data’ era, is the tendency of data scientists to grab every shiny new dataset or tool and derive meaning from it without spending the necessary time to understand the underlying biases or nuances that might impact the questions being asked of it”

Put simply, data about you and other jobseekers from social recruiting, is at best incomplete and most likely inaccurate. Your future is being impacted by what you post online and your public persona, which generally does not reflect real life, your skills, capabilities and career ambitions.

The invasion of Privacy

New technology is increasingly invading the privacy of jobseekers. It is no secret that if you are online, privacy is already just an illusion, as this data is being farmed right now and being sold.

What is less evident to jobseekers is the extent that your resume /CV is being sold online and you having no control over who accesses that information. Your highly personalised information can be accessed globally from reputable sites such as Seek and Monster. You have no control over who views this information, whether it is a recruiter looking to place you into their database to garner business, or a genuine job opportunity.

While this is done with tactic approval (you did read the small print), most jobseekers are still unaware of the extent that their privacy is being impacted.  Maybe people are not concerned or uncomfortable with these practices? Personally, I find this unabated sharing and selling of candidate data concerning.

New technology promises the world but delivers very little

There are hundreds of start-ups globally promising to fix the recruitment problem, or new trends within the sector to make the recruiting process easier. The problem with the bulk of them is generally they play ‘lip service’ to jobseekers, as they know their ‘bread and butter’ is going to come from employers and recruiters (their clients), or they have very little understanding of the recruitment sector and are creating models that results in more abuse of job applicants.

We currently have a situation where talented, smart and creative jobseekers still need to fill out forms, take insulting tests, perform work for free and generally grovel to get recognised. Some of the new trends:

Asking for salary requirements

Many of the job platforms, including the SEEK profile option ask for salary requirements upfront. Now the problem for jobseekers is that by having access to your salary requirements, employers now have the upper hand during salary negotiations.

Interestingly liberal leaning jurisdictions in the US are moving toward prohibiting employers from asking job applicants about their salary history. For example, the Massachusetts Pay Equity Act, which will take effect in 2018, will prohibit employers from screening job candidates based on their previous salary, or asking salary-related questions until after an offer is made.

The reason you don’t want to be disclosing salary requirements or past salary history? Just ask Nick Crocodiles, The Headhunter:

“Revealing your salary history to an employer might be the worst negotiating mistake you ever make”.

Revealing what you require before you even know the requirements of the job is madness. Salary is a judgment of value and values change depending on the organisation or specific requirements of the job and your qualifications and experience.

Personality and Behavioural Profiling

There is a growing trend in the use of personality and behavioural profiling to shortlist job candidates amongst start-ups, from Elevated Careers by eHarmony, through to iRecruit here in Australia,

Now personality and behavioural profiling is very common in HR, they are part of the standard toolbox, in particular when managing teams of existing staff. What is interesting however is that their validity in the recruitment process is questionable.

You see personality and behaviour is not a valid tool for measuring job success or proficiency. They can reveal preferences, they can reveal personality, but they are not an accurate reflection of a person’s capability on the job.

Professor Petrina Coventry also notes in her article The market is psychometric testing is huge. But where is the proof that a personality test really works in weeding out candidates?  that not only is there at best a tenuous link between the personality test and the competency being assessed, but that psychometric tests can kill the ability to create a diverse workforce and a healthy culture.

Nobody is winning and until tests are empirically and scientifically sound and valid, they should not be used during the selection process.

Video Interviewing/ Automated Interviews

Becoming mainstream – video interviewing is designed to gain more insight on candidates in a fraction of the time it takes to conduct a phone interview. But just how effective are video interviews or automated digital interviews recorded by companies such as HireVue for job candidates, or for that matter for employers?

The reality is, most jobseekers are woefully unprepared for this type of interview. How many have cleaned the camera lens, ensured camera angles are just right, ensured that the lighting is perfect, that all connections are right, that they are looking at the camera, not the screen, that the background is just right, that they not using the camera and microphone on the computer and making sure their face looks beautiful (you know not shiny and distorted).

In addition, a study at Degroote University A comparative assessment of videoconference and face-to-face employment interviews, Sears, G.J., Zhang, H., Wiesner, W.H., Hackett, R.D, & Yuan, Y. (2013) demonstrated that video interviewing disadvantages both employers and candidates.

“Increasingly, video technology is being used in employment interviewing because companies feel it provides convenience and cost savings. Despite their growing use, our study shows that video conference interviews are not equivalent to face-to-face interviews,” Greg Sears, Associate Professor of Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour.

If a video interview is being used as a screening tool, rather than an option when the candidate is unavailable for a face-to-face interview, it is a symptom of HR processing way too many applicants, making it more difficult for managers to choose the right candidate and companies ensuring that they focus on going out and attracting the right talent.

Watching more videos won’t necessarily result in a better hire, and getting candidates to undergo an automated interview is just another hurdle jobseekers face, with top talent probably baulking at the idea.

My Advice to Jobseekers

What I’ve outlined above is just the tip of the iceberg and new start-ups and trends are evolving quickly. Most of these trends are not solving the problem, with the bulk of the technology having very little value to job seekers.

In the meantime, my advice to jobseekers:

  • Read the fine print and understand how your information will be shared on apps and job platforms.
  • Only apply for jobs on job boards you are qualified for.
  • Don’t provide your salary requirements or salary history upfront. If mandatory, provide a wide ‘ball park’ figure.
  • Make sure your social media sites only contain content that portrays you as professional, creative, an effective communicator etc.
  • Finally, use your judgement!

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