Millions of people across America find themselves stuck in job search hell and many of them simply can't understand why they might not be getting anywhere in their job search process. As someone immersed in tech, I have to admit I'm stumped on this one too. How is it humanly possible that given all the cool tech we build - drones, VR / AR, Mobile apps, self driving cars etc. that our job search process is stuck in the dark ages?
When you work in startups you go in and out of jobs. That's just the name of the game. So on a personal level I've found myself in between jobs more than once. However, I'm continuously amazed by how arcane our job search process is. So I figured I would go out and talk to a number of recruiters, HR people and professional recruitment firms and see if some of my theories were right. Here's the conclusion I came to:
1. Recruiters generally have to play it safe. Even when I was at Google, there was a generally accepted norm when it came to hiring: look inside Google first. The reason was simple: existing Googlers had the skills, know the culture, products, pace and processes. They'll would get up to speed faster, require less on-boarding and pose less risk. In startups it's very much the same thing once the company starts to really grow and get traction. Whereas a bad hire at Google won't kill the company, if you hire the wrong head of sales in a startup and revenues go "poof" then you could be out of business. Most firms always look for people with experience (at least on paper). To make things harder, external recruiters generally have to reimburse the company or find a replacement candidate if the candidate they put forward doesn't work out within a set time period. So both internally and externally most organizations are incentivized to find the "safest" candidate which may not always the "best" candidate.
2. There's no money in helping consumers find jobs (yet). This sounds harsh but the money in the recruitment business is on the enterprise side. Linkedin, Executive Search Firms, Glassdoor, Monster and Co all make money from who? From companies looking to hire talent. To date nobody has really done a good enough job to encourage job seekers to spend money on recruitment services. By default if you're looking for a job then you're probably cashflow negative (ie losing money each month) so forking over more money on job search tools / services will be a tough sell for job seekers (unless of course these can guarantee you find a job). The good news is some people are trying to create marketplaces for both job seekers and companies that serve both. Hired is attempting to do just that. Though the site only accepts resumes from candidates that they curate (ie - select) they will pay candidates a cash bonus if they find a job through the site. They also focus more on "active" instead of passive candidates making it easier for firms to find people who are actually looking for a job instead of people who aren't looking to move.
3. Experience Trumps "passion". Steve Jobs once said: "Do what you love and you'll never work another day in your life." The literature is there to back it up too. Survey after survey shows that passionate employees are significantly more productive than others with the same skills who aren't passionate. In addition, passionate employees are often more motivated, have more energy, motivate those around them and lead healthier lives. They even have a greater chance of having stronger personal relationships as an article in the Huffington Post pointed out in 2015. When you're happy at work and feeling that what you do has purpose, you're more likely to go home happy and treat those you love more kindly than you would otherwise. But the reality is that measuring passion and assigning a value to it is really hard to do. Companies and recruiters can more easily point to actual skills, work experience and accomplishments to "predict" what a possible candidate will deliver for the company. Passion and enthusiasm will rarely trump experience though the combination of the two is unbeatable.
(The Lord of The Rings is a trademark of its respective trademark owners)
4. The application review process is still manual and impersonal. Have you ever gotten one of those emails that says: "Thanks for applying for the role of super duper cookie cutter. Your application is important to us and we'll get back to you as soon as we've reviewed your profile." 6 months later you still have no reply from the company. Sound familiar? The reality is that despite the fact that software companies like Lever, Jobvite, Greenhouse and are helping companies with better Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) the entire process is still incredibly manual. In small and medium sized companies the recruiting and HR teams (which are often one and the same) still need to review every resume manually, feed it to the respective hiring managers and then decide if they want to interview the candidate. Software services like those mentioned above help expedite the process by encouraging those involved in the interview process to provide feedback, ask questions and track candidates but the actual screening and feedback of every candidate is still a manual process. In some cases there might be tens or even hundreds of resumes for a single role so the process of evaluating, let alone, replying to every inquiry becomes herculean. That's not to say that companies couldn't do a better job of creating templates and responding in some manner to every candidate but even this take time that's often more needed for other things.
5. People sometimes don't know what they want. It's easy to bitch and moan that "company X never got back to me" or "I just don't have the skills for that job" but in 2 decades of hiring and managing teams I've also come across more than one candidate that simply didn't know what he / she wanted. I once interviewed a candidate for a role in the company I worked for who admitted to me: "Honestly, I'm not quite sure at this point of my career what I want. I'm still trying to figure that out." I thought to myself: "Seriously, if that's the case why are you here wasting my time?" Respect has to go both ways. In the same vein that candidates would like companies to get back to them and update them on the status of their applications they should also come prepared to the interview and have a really clear idea of what they are looking for, why their skills matter and what they have to offer the company in question. Candidates should spend more time understanding what they are good at, what careers match those strengths and connect the dots.
6. Situations change. Sadly, most companies don't bother notifying a candidate when this happens but often the skills, experience or description of a role might change based on the manager's feedback. In other instances maybe the headcount for a particular role gets pushed back and the company decides to postpone the hire or de-prioritize it in favor of another role. Many companies don't do a good enough job notifying candidates of this fact or simply don't have all the facts to answer candidates' questions.
OK great, so what can applicants do to improve the odds?
One thing job hunters can do is get a better understanding of themselves: their skills, strengths, weaknesses, motivations and passions. Knowing yourself better will allow you to be more focused in your job search. If you're not sure what you want or what makes you happy have a look at the post I wrote on happiness. Many of the tools in that post helped me figure out what I wanted to do next and ultimately made me decide simply to branch out on my own.
In addition, there's a lot you can do to on a personal level to improve your efficiency, stay sane and lead a healthy lifestyle while you look for your next adventure. I wrote an entire post with 10 Tips you can do to stay sane while job hunting which should help as well. The process is frustrating but following these tips should help you manage the uncertainty.
I've always been an optimist at heart and I truly believe that each one of us has unique gifts, abilities and talents that we can turn into something that not only helps us pay the rent but also taps into our passions. We can wait for the system to change or for enterprising entrepreneurs to fix it for us (some like Talent Works are trying and have promise) or we can get a grip on what we do well, find our purpose and set about finding a way to monetize our strengths and passions. Part of the answer lies within us. Which would you rather do?
The next time you're frustrated with the job hunt process have a look at this rejection of rejection letter and always remember: Keep smilin'.
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Happy Job Hunting!