Job Search

I am not a church officer, I am not a travel agent, nor am I a social media guru, a butcher, an IT specialist, a corporate finance intern, or a boutique manager. But according to the numerous job sites I’ve signed up for, this is who I am. Well I’ve got something to say job sites: you don’t know me!

Job searching is important – it is your future after all. It’s as important, perhaps, as the search for your ‘significant other’ considering the amount of time you spend on either of them, so let’s compare the two.

According to current trends, significantly more people are using dating sites to find a perfect match than ever before. Online dating has become a phenomenon in recent years. It seems to be the way nowadays to find your true love – someone that fits you – your perfect match and it seems to be working too. For example, eHarmony proudly claims that in the USA alone, 1 in 5 married couples met on their dating platform.

So how does matching work on dating sites?

Imagine: your heart aches for a new adventure and you decide to try an online singles website. You spend days filling out questionnaires, perfecting your profile, and maybe (probably) photo-shopping your picture. You fill out all the questions asked, and make it pretty clear what you’re looking for. Finished! Then comes the waiting. Next day you check your inbox: 3 matches. Great! Now, what does the lineup look like?

  1. A 45-year old, red-haired Twilight fan who hates children, and has 15 cats.
  2. A feisty lumberjack whose ideal location for a first date is a roadside steakhouse where he likes his meat still twitching on the plate.
  3. And lastly, an 80-year old swinger looking for a casual, one-night thing.

You’re a 30-year old male, looking for a lovely blonde woman of a similar age, or younger, to settle down with, have some kids, and share a vegan lifestyle…and oh, you hate cats.

Maybe you share something in common with these suggested matches? Maybe you think, “ehh, why not”, right?

Wrong! When it comes to something as important as your true love, you wouldn’t settle for anyone who has nothing or very little in common with you, or, more likely, is less than perfect. These aren’t the type of results that people have come to expect on date-matching sites. They aren’t the results delivered, and people certainly would not tolerate them.

So why do we settle with the job offers that pile into our inboxes?

With dreamy eyes, and butterflies in my tummy, I set out to find a perfect job match. Being a graduate of Human Rights and International Relations studies, I search primarily in these fields, for an associate or intern position in an NGO, or NPO. I prepare my CV and find a few job sites that promise to help me find job matches from their huge list of companies. Sounds tempting…

First – job boards:

First up, I pin my hopes on several job boards – some of the largest sites in the country and a few global platforms. I upload my CV to each and here comes my first concern: I am told that it is now visible to recruiters, that it is ‘active’, but what does that mean? How is it active? What do they see? Why do they see it? Most importantly, where? All of my personal information, my photograph, is all somewhere everyone can see it. Everyone but me, apparently. There are even so-called ‘aggregators’ who find and piece all of my online information together, aggregating my total online presence into a profile on their site without me even knowing. I am now most likely a tiny part of a massive base of big data, now one of thousands, millions joining a digital list of potential candidates comparable to the effect that a mountain of hardcopy CVs has on a hiring manager’s desk, easily overlooked or even given just a fleeting glance. I ask myself what purpose this all serves.

I also use one of the largest professional networks to explore the hype of the so called ‘social recruiting’ realm. This platform promises something additional: a chance to connect with others who can either serve as references or advice-givers. But here too, there is a mismatch. I highly doubt my high school teacher or next door neighbor will lead the safari to my dream job. This method brings yet another ominous issue. The search engine is also collecting my data, as I would expect, but this time it’s not only about my personal experiences, but also the topics I follow and relationships – enter the creepy ‘Friends You May Know’ page.

So, on to the outcome and what comes of all this effort. I am provided with instant results and in some cases emails, all of which claim to have ‘matched’ my skills and qualifications. It’s surprising, then, that I somehow suddenly have almost all the talents needed to be a chemical engineer. Exasperated, I leave them to do their thing and focus on my own search. There is only so much that accurately matches my profile when I only have the option to include a ‘what’ and ‘where’ in the instant search criteria. ‘What’ plus ‘Where’: this is the secret equation that my dream career sits at the apex of?

Regardless of whether I use a national or global site, the quality of the results are the same, while only the scale and length of the results vary, or the chances of being found. The results I receive from my experience of searching job boards and social media sites are in most cases inappropriate, and more often downright irrelevant.  Around ten percent proved a relatively suitable match, in my case. The online career search brings with it stress and frustration over poor results, and more importantly, privacy concerns.

I also had to wonder if I was alone in this confusion, if there was perhaps something I was doing wrong. But after speaking with some coworkers, I found that my experience was not all too uncommon. One colleague, a television producer received suggestions from a social networking site, indicating he apply to a promising career as a synthetic materials engineer. Another, a professional English Teacher looking for a position in New York City had the same issues. After creating his profile and attaching a supplementary CV, he was also sent ridiculous results, the funniest being a position for a ‘registered nurse’.

We spend hours searching for jobs. Recruiters spend hours parsing through CVs. And this is the central question: with each party’s data in the same location, why not reconcile them? And by this I mean merge all of the specifications a user provides with proper suggestions.  Not just by finding results based on two simple keywords and not just by searching listings with only these specific terms. Instead, by accurately matching various criteria. After all, any potential employer will need to know about candidates’ ability, qualifications, or work permits.

So why do we tolerate inappropriate matches? Why do we settle?

We don’t do it when it comes to our true love, so why do we do it with our job search?

I think, because there doesn’t seem to be any alternative. After I conducted my research I heard about a new technology called semantic matching which seems to be the newfangled way of really matching people to jobs and vice-versa. I had a look into a couple of these new platforms (briefly I admit) and one with the quirky name of JANZZ. After a couple of test searches it seems that the technology is on the right track. The search results were much better than the others I’ve tried in this article – they still had some ‘lumberjacks’ in the results but the success rate was closer to seventy percent than ten.

Anyhow, to all you inadequate job-search engines, I hate to disappoint, but I am not, and never will be a ‘’talented vegan chef with flair for puff pastries!’’ I don’t speak French, can’t use Java or power tools for that matter, and have no experience in documentary filmmaking.  (Although now I’m rethinking my life choices…)

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