The Jobseeker of the Future…

In this great post by my friend Dave Lefkow at Jobster, my first Recruitment Marketing related post has been inspired.

The head of the interactive department in my company came to me a couple of weeks ago, asking me for some ideas on what the “market” has to say these days about interactive marketing. He and I share a common goal of aiming to be “thought leaders” in our field and hence are always trying to think beyond what’s currently out there for the really big ideas that shape the future of recruiting. Dave makes a really great point in his post about getting away from planning based on “best practices” which I agree with and have often mentioned in my own presentations and discussions with clients. The ironic thing about most of the published best practices is that, as Dave says, they basically take a look at everything that everyone has been doing for the last umpteen years and highlights the 15 or 20 most successful tactics and then “they” declare that these are the best practices.
The problem with this approach is that it does not look forward, it looks backward… hence it’s kind of counter-intuitive to use “best practices” as inspiration for your next big idea. Best practices are important in that they are the “price of admission” for success in many cases. For example, a recent article on ERExchange.com listed “easy to access job postings” as a “best practice ” for your company’s Employment web site. But who’s honestly going to visit your site and go “Wow, these guys are on the cutting edge of recruiting technology! I was able to get to their job postings in one click!! Oh my god! John!! You HAVE TO SEE THIS!!” Conversely, if you didn’t have easy to access job postings, it would significantly damage their experience of your site, because the average job-seeker has come to expect certain things of an employment site…

But that has nothing to do with innovation, does it? That’s not going to push the industry forward at all. In fact, I’ve personally found it kind of ironic that the published lists of best practices for the recruitment industry, tend to come from companies with services or tools that serve the recruiting industry… and surprisingly enough, the “best practices” they espouse tend to very closely match their product or suite of services. (No disrespect meant to any of these authors or to their published ideas, just an observation.). Not to say they have an “ulterior motive” because I’ve never seen them put a “bad idea” out there as a best practice, but I’ve seen a few that I didn’t think were very innovative.

I have often wanted to do what Dave Lefkow describes, sit down with some real “thinkers” and brainstorm really innovative ideas for the future of recruiting… where money and time were no object and we solved real problems without looking at the “best practices.”

I tend to take my inspiration from outside of the online recruiting arena and so as I was brainstorming on the things that “the market” should be thinking about, I landed on a concept I took from “Boxes and Arrows” a great site covering a range of topics including Information Architecture, Experience Design or Interaction Design. There was a post on boxes and arrows by Jason Hobbs about “user journeys” that discussed how good interactive designers and strategists are thinking about a person’s entire journey through a site (brand, ad campaign, etc) and thinking about how to best facilitate that experience into a mutually beneficial one – where every click leads to a deeper connection with the content and offers an opportunity to develop a more meaningful relationship with the user by appropriately channeling them through the process with relevant and timely information.

I realized that an important aspect of discovering innovative ways to connect companies with potential talent in this changing world lies in the ability to understand who today’s jobseekers are and what the jobseeker’s “journey to a new job” is like…

Now, I haven’t personally sat down and created a user journey for a site before – so I don’t claim to be an expert in this area – but I think that conceptually it could really help drive some new ideas.

Just thinking about today’s “experienced professional” – these people are in their late 20s to early 30s with a few years of professional experience under their belts. They are probably likely to be single, so they have a decent amount of disposable income – which means that they have cars, electronic gadgets, high-speed wireless access and so on. The “best practice” approach tends to come from thinking about how all of these factors affect our ability to market what we have to say to them (we can determine that we can deliver a video to them using Flash because they are likely to have the ability to view a Flash movie)… but what about thinking about how they want to receive all of this information (when they are sitting at their computer, would they even be interested in watching a Flash movie or would that be an interruption to their normal way of doing things)? These people also have TiVo, so they don’t watch TV like other people do. They have an iPod and may be downloading podcasts. They have a mobile phone that they send photos or small videos to their friends, they send and receive lots of text messages via their telephone and they are probably savvy enough to know how to filter out unwanted emails and pop-up adverstisements from appearing when they don’t want to see them.

My point here is that jobseekers are changing. Example: Having a “job agent” feature on your site may seem like a really innovative idea, now people can sign up to receive emails from your site about jobs that match their criteria. But perhaps the person you’re trying to hire has already figured out that “creating an agent” does not mean that they are going to be sent relevant job titles… and in fact, maybe they’ve gone away from it because their inbox was being clogged with emails from too many companies about available jobs. I have agents set up that I just delete the minute they hit my inbox. Now I prefer RSS feeds on my Yahoo! home page.

So perhaps it’s time to think about all of the ways in which someone can manage their career in the “interactive age” and adjust our tactics to them instead of thinking of new twists on the same old “best practices.”

A couple of concepts that interest me:

Tagging – What if someone could come to your site, look at your available jobs and then place them into their own (job-seeker oriented) categories. So now that Engineer II position is marked by someone as “great entry level opportunity” and that becomes a category that people can use to search for positions that you have available.
Industrial Psychology Based Assessments – I’m interested in this field for 2 reasons: 1) in a “candidate’s market” which is where we’re headed, people need to be convinced that you are the right environment for them… if you had an expert come in and help you characterize your work environment into information that you could use to help people determine if they are the right cultural fit before they apply and 2) doing this would also aid in retention because people would feel like they got what they signed up for…

I think that it’d be really cool to go to a site where you answered questions, played a game, or participated in some sort of interactive experience and at the end of it you were given feedback on whether or not you were the right match for company XXX. Or a job board that could help you identify companies that were a good match for your personality. All of the pieces are there, and some companies do some of it but nobody does all of it… and yet, if you think about today’s professional and how they are using the Web to live their lives – they are all about technology that helps filter out stuff that wastes their time.

Hopefully this post hasn’t wasted your time… what else can we do to improve online recruiting? I’m open to suggestions.

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