Why Job Sites Suck

One of the features of the ‘new economy’ has been the proliferation of websites that host job listings. “Looking for work” in the modern sense means uploading your resume to one such platform after another, but never getting any feedback in return. These sites suck and rarely lead to getting a job. They suck for employers, and they suck for potential employees. Let me count the ways.

For job seekers, the land of job sites is a festering morass of fraud and dead-end queues. Fraud comes on a spectrum from bait-and-switch job postings to click farming to credit and identity theft. How many times have we entered our resume and information into a site, only to be sent to another asking for the same information that sends us to yet another? How many times have we applied to jobs that were seemingly never hired for? Or to “jobs” that turn out to be gift card scams?

I have a specialized, niche skill that commands a high salary. When I look at job postings, it is not unusual for there to be an indication that hundreds of people have applied for a single job. I avoid applying for such jobs, not because I don’t think I would stand out, but because it appears like incompetence to not be able to hire from a pool of several hundred applicants. If they can’t do that, can they manage devops? Keep a customer?Cut a check? I can afford to be extremely picky about who I even apply to, and I doubt I’m alone in this matter.

The big problem is the one everyone has: job sites are black holes that you dump resumes and cash into without any real hope of any return. It’s not that there aren’t jobs available – unemployment is at record lows, and hundreds of thousands of jobs are created every month. The problem is that the system filters out all of the resumes.

People still hand out the advice that to stand out, you need to have a unique resume. Consequently, resume formatting is all over the map, and automated systems designed to read this information into a comprehensive database consequently fail to a great degree to adequately capture this information. Given the trouble such sites have in simply reading my resume in on application, I presume that it’s far worse on the inside. Which is why most places have you upload a resume, and then clean up the mess their resume reader made and then put your real information into the form that repeats everything in your resume.

A second and related reason that job sites filter away all of the candidates is that the complexities of variable job skills needed to perform a task don’t translate well to simple boolean filters. A job listing will have twenty “requirements”, and another twenty “nice to haves”, which in the hiring manager’s mind means that if a candidate has 85% of the requirements and at least 20% of the “nice to haves”, they would be interested in interviewing that person.

But the job sites see “requirements” and expect 100% compliance with every word. If a listing asks for “robust coding practices” as a “requirement” and the resume does not include those exact words, it will be rejected. The jobs sites see “nice to haves” and lump them in with “requirements,” creating a filter that is guaranteed to eliminate all candidates. HR folks know what they need and try to use the tools they have as best as they can, but the designers of software make assumptions that don’t always turn out for the best. Over time, I expect this to improve if the use of this sort of system isn’t rejected entirely. For now, if a job is listed too simply, too many applicants get through the filter, but if it’s too complex, it can cut off the flow entirely.

All of this presumes that both the job site and the job posting are both legitimate and working in good faith. Quite often, the posting itself is an old, farmed post from a third (or fourth) party site, and job posting accumulators (like Google) don’t descriminate between sites that actually have live jobs and those that are just trying to capture your information. Just setting yourself as ‘active’ on a job board can be enough to spur waves of spam email and phone calls. Hunting for work on the Internet literally endangers you.

Another game job hunters often see are the jobs posted with no intention of hiring outside the company or simply no intention of actually hiring. These postings keep pressure high on competitors competing over resources and current employees, keeping salaries low. But there is no indication on such postings that the application email forwards everything to the trash can. It just sucks away ten or fifteen minutes of your time that wasn’t used on a real listing or on your family or on yourself.

For employers, the situation is equally problematic. Good employees are increasingly hard to find, forcing employers to use these job sites that nickle-and-dime them to death promising an endless stream of job candidates, rarely generating results. Even when they act entirely in good faith with a reliable job board, they are also bombarded with spam, fake applications, and fishing attempts.

Someday, hopefully soon, folks will figure out how to organize themselves better work-wise, and these kinds of problems will be a thing of the past. Until then, people who want workers and folks who want to work will continue to be stuck on opposite sides of the firewall.


One response to “Why Job Sites Suck”

  1. Katrina Prati Avatar
    Katrina Prati

    I’m glad you are working for a company that values their good employees and you can focus on work and not job hunting.

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