Idealpeople Blog: Why online recruitment sites mostly suck

Monday, October 15, 2007

Why online recruitment sites mostly suck

We've noticed recently that it's very difficult to find much in the way of opinion about job boards. We've tried hunting down some feedback on the type of service candidates are getting. But it seems that people don't seem to have a view on them. The general job-hunting public don't seem to have any problems or complaints about their job-board based trials or tribulations. We tried all sorts of searches on Google, with very little opinion from candidates featuring in the result.

Recruitment companies, on the other hand, are a different story. We found this , this and this, without even trying. Harsh, negative feedback, all based on the quality of service being offered by recruiters to candidates.

Now we don't think that this is particularly fair. Why are we getting the stick (and indeed in part accepting responsibility) and the job boards coming off so lightly?

We can break down the complaints that candidates have about the recruitment process into a few key subdivisions:

1) The agent didn't listen to me/didn't know what they were talking about
2) The agent lied to me/sent my CV without permission/keeps calling me about jobs I'm not interested in.
3) I never received a response to a job I replied for

The first two complaints are clearly the fault of the agent in question. The third complaint - one of the most common that we're aware of, is always targeted at the recruiter, but - in fact - is rarely the recruiter's fault. The blame, in truth, should lie firmly with the job boards.

The online job board industry has been around for some ten years. The idea behind the entire industry was to make it easier to apply for jobs, and to make it easier to fill jobs. By easier, what we actually mean is quicker. You see, rather than taking time and care over applying for a job - putting effort into writing a strong covering letter and taking time on a CV, candidates can now click a few boxes (often hundreds of boxes) and send off generic CVs with a one-line covering letter to as many jobs as they like, all at once. Great.

Now, we see recruiting as a multi-dimensional contact sport, and we know that we would be lazy if we were whining about the job boards mainly because they are our only or even main channel. We also take time to maximise our impact on these boards with compelling copy - rather than cut and paste job descriptions impersonating adverts, like some of our competitors do. We feel we have a right to moan, as we pay for a service, measure the ROI, and frankly, aren't getting enough of it!

Part of the problem comes from candidates who don't get the reply they want from a submission to a job they thought they were perfect for, who will then (often to protect the Ego!) occasionally assume that "The job wasn't real anyway". This really isn't helped by job boards out there from re-posting expired ads to boost their content when the job had been filled weeks, months, even years ago. Central to a job board's pitch to advertisers is that "we have X number of candidates", and in order to attract candidates they need lots of jobs. So they just keep posting jobs that we've asked to be removed. We won't name names here, but it has happened to us, even after we asked them to please stop it. We've also lost count of the number of times we receive calls from candidates asking for feedback for job applications that we've never received. We always put direct contact details for all of our Consultants in our adverts for this very reason.

Our key gripe though comes from the user experience that job boards offer candidates. The job board is responsible for allowing candidates to apply for a job. The job boards are the ones setting the criteria for who applies. The job boards make no effort to introduce screening procedures or functionality which might screen candidates. The job boards make no provision (with one exception that we know of) for us to quickly offer feedback to candidates or to update an "application tracking" chart, and they offer no facility for a candidate to find out whether the application was received, what the response was or indeed any kind of interactivity. Instead, they leave recruiters to fend off the blame for the experience that the job boards are providing. (And remember, it's the job boards' technology which allows your mobile number to be visible to thousands of recruiters, so is it fair to blame those recruiters for constantly calling?)

There's one particular example of a job board which exemplifies this perfectly.

This particular site offer candidates the chance to "rate the agency". When we first heard that a major job board was going to allow candidates to rate the service of the agent/agency that they had applied to, we smelled trouble. This system is then used on their homepage to list the "ten best agencies" - great PR for those lucky enough to be at the top, although maybe not so great for the companies not on that list. I wonder what would happen if we ranked our clients (our paying customers) in terms of quality of work environment, or salaries offered, on our homepage? What would the customers outside of the top ten think?) In principle, the idea of feedback on a service is a great one.

However, let's look at a scenario:

- Recruiter Posts Advert
- Every candidate who has registered an interest in hearing about jobs within that sector is e-mailed and encouraged to apply. Hundreds do. Just as many use the site's basic search functionality (which, by the way, encourages terrible adverts to come up first in the results by virtue of the number times a particular search term is used)
- Recruiter Brings in 140 CVs for that specific role
- Recruiter selects the best of the candidates (For the sake of argument, lets say 10)
- Recruiter disregards all applications from those who aren't even remotely qualified, whose CVs don't make sense or those who just aren't quite right
- Recruiter interviews selected candidates
- And the cycle continues

Most recruiters will have at least ten live adverts at any one time (not counting the ones which have been filled but which are still being advertised by the job board). So that's over 1000 candidates who haven't been successful, who either receive a generic "thanks but no thanks" response, or nothing at all. Either way, it's far too high a number for one recruiter to be able to go back to and offer in-depth feedback, which, in the absence of any sort of candidate-focused update system on this site, becomes a major bug-bear for candidates.

This particular job board actually allows ALL those people to rate the agency (based on their experience). Now, let's assume that all the 10 people short-listed and interviewed found the recruiter was professional, warm, knowledgeable about the market in question, the client, the role, and was ever-so-helpful in providing detailed feedback, sensitively. In short, they had a great customer experience. Lets also assume that they went to the feedback form on the job board, and gave a positive appraisal of the agency and the agent; and here's the important bit - because they experienced all aspects of the service.

Fair Enough. But what about those other people? What about the 130 who didn't make it? Is it fair or legitimate for them to give a complete appraisal on a 'marks out of 5' basis on aspects of the agencies service that they never even had!!? We are talking here about things like "Market Knowledge" as well as other areas which would have required a more involved interaction for anyone to make a fair assessment.

We even had an Account Manager (employed by the job board in question) who dismissed this system as "Laughable". "It doesn't mean anything" - they said. So why should we suffer this nonsensical appraisal system?

It's fine to measure satisfaction guys, but please, it's not fine to ask people who didn't experience a service to rate it. It's not fine to put this on your homepage.

Recruiters for the most part, see you as a jobseeker as a real living talking sleeping walking human being. Recruiters have to treat every candidate they seriously interact with as a prospective client. Good logic. The job boards, however, are big, ugly, sweating machines that genuinely do see their game as purely based on numbers.

Next time you apply for a job, why not consider the experience that the job board have offered you? They facilitate you to apply for 50 jobs in one go. What do they do to help you keep track of those? What do they do to help you get feedback or status updates? When you put your CV up there, whose fault is it that you got 75 calls the next day? What do they do to make sure your CV is only seen by suitably qualified candidates? What do they do to protect your personal information? Who are they regulated by? What did you think of their service? Do they let you give them feedback? How many e-mails did they send you about jobs which were unsuitable? What kind of information do they ensure that recruiters provide about advertised jobs? What do they actually do apart from make a lot of money for running rubbish adverts? What value is there in using them? Whose fault is it that you didn't receive a response?

We have plenty more to say on this front - so keep your eyes peeled for more (including the end-of-year statistical analysis of all the major job boards - which we figure we can publish, on our homepage)

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