What’s wrong with job search?

Rob @ offpaper
Mar 11, 2019 · 4 min read

I’ve struggled a fair bit (and by ‘fair bit’ I mean most days) with how the offpaper mission translates into something useful, right now. I’ve experienced so much support around taking the fight to the CV, and helping people showcase more of their unique human value. But how this finds an application in the current recruitment ecosystem is a tough question. There are more forces at play than I can hope to tackle in one go.

It’s no news that I think CVs are terrible as a showcase of human strength. But then I think job adverts are rubbish too. I also think company careers sites are paper thin, and that interviews are a bit of a circus where it’s hard to find a real connection because everyone’s on their weirdly-accommodating A-Game. There are loads of problems, but no theme.

But then I got it. It’s hidden information…

The root of all problems, and therefore the answer to the bigger picture stuff, lies in the shallow layer of data we use for the traditional ‘Search’ and ‘Selection’ journey in recruitment. Historically, that journey has gone something like this:

  1. Company posts job advertisement,
  2. Humans search job advertisements,
  3. Company selects the best candidate based on CV.

Let’s look quickly at each bit of that:

1) Company posts job advertisement. Usually they’re pretty transactional, outlining the main responsibilities of the position. Fine. These factual criteria make a job ad ‘searchable’ and play to the filtering tools of Indeed, LinkedIn jobs, Adzuna etc.

But job ads are written for everyone, and no-one. Companies can’t convey much about the human qualities they’re looking for or the nuanced ‘softer’ skills — except for in a few bullet points down at the bottom perhaps. Job ads are 90% ‘Background’ ‘Job Title’ and ‘Responsibilities’ with very little of anything else. That makes them static, emotionless, and commoditised. That raises the value of transactional skills, and stifles the value of human ones.

2) Humans search job advertisements. Search and filter apps are normal I guess, but when it feels like all listings are the same it gets dull, fast. (Search for black jeans on ASOS if you don’t believe me). Indeed.co.uk, for example has millions of jobs listed, and I’m expected to scratch my way through pages them with filters like ‘location’ ‘industry’ ‘company’ or ‘job title’. Get lost.

As a consumer in 2019, I’m lazy.

Cue cries: “See! Lazy millennials, can’t even be bothered to find a job!”.

True. The internet made me that way. Me and 50% of the working population by next year, actually. So yes, I want you (company) to bring things to me — metaphorically and literally. Some newer job sites have picked up on the curated approach vs searching. It’s better, but for me still misses the mark because the matching criteria haven’t changed. It’s still the traditional inputs like ‘location’ or ‘job title’. UX aside, it’s still the wrong focus.

I would really love someone to help me understand which of these millions of jobs is right for me. Personally. Which potential employers are going to help me feel happy and purposeful every day? Which are going to value me as an authentic individual, where my innate strengths and personality will contribute most to making an impact? It’s almost impossible for me to answer those questions as a job seeker.

Right now, as a hunter, I’ve got a blunt spear and a murky swamp — jabbing around blindly for a bit before giving up and going back to a slightly curly tuna sandwich.

3) Company selects best candidate based on CV. Most job sites have made it super easy for me to apply with my CV at this point. Awesome. Spam cannon central. And not unreasonably either — our CV is what we’ve got to sell with, and it’s the first thing an employer uses in screening. Of course we improve our odds by sharing it with more than one potential.

But imagine if, instead, our odds were defined by more than what’s on our CV. If more of our innate human qualities were visible, and valued, then surely the game changes through the availability of way more useful data to create a real connection.

To seriously re-define human value, we have to raise boats on both sides.

On one side, we’ve got to help people discover what makes them unique. No question. There’s so much power in taking some time to dissect what it is that makes us tick and what makes us happy. The power to change how we feel about life, if my own personal experience is anything to go by. Yet so many of us go through life without digging into that — moving from job to job based on past experience and not deeper values and unique strengths. We can make this easily accessible to more people.

The other side needs to play ball too. For companies that believe in the power of uniquely human qualities, ‘soft’ skills, and how the combination of these contribute to business performance — lifting the lid on internal culture and ‘how’ things are done is critical. Allowing people to discover and understand more about how your group of people works, is an important step in the journey to a more enlightened matching process.

In the mission to raise the value and appreciation of unique human qualities, I realised I can’t ignore the ‘context’. Opening up more information on both sides is what will move us from the current, severely lacking, journey .The key to improving the experience for candidates also relies on collaboration with companies opening up on culture.

Otherwise I’m just giving the hunters a sharper spear at the same murky lake.

We need to make the water clearer, and give people more to fish with.

Rob @ offpaper

Written by

Humans > CVs. Let’s do something about it.

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