My posting about TheLadders has more comments on it than any blog entry I’ve ever written (including while I was blogging for InfoWorld). What’s interesting is that no one defends TheLadders. Even people with embarrassing stories about wasting their money and getting burned came forward to share their pain and anger.

Then a recruiter posted a comment about how she has found some good candidates on TheLadders. I’m posting my reply here because, well, it’s my blog and I can post where I want ;-). Sorry for pulling rank and bumping up my comment…

Check Audrey Chernoff’s post in the comments section. I don’t know Audrey, but she sounds like a nice, responsible recruiter who tries to do the job right and with integrity. But she blames job hunters for diluting the quality of responses she gets from her Ladders job postings. Give me a break. The problem is bigger.


You raise an important point about people not reading job postings carefully and applying for the wrong jobs, but I don’t think any recruiter has a right to complain when they rely on a massive-listings job board. Of course people will respond without reading carefully. Ladders and other big boards are crap shoots. When employers and recruiters dump every position they have in one place, they get back every resume on the planet in response. This system quickly teaches people to apply for almost any job that’s posted. Let the data base sort it all out.

What else do you expect?

Using a job board is not job hunting and it’s not recruiting. It’s spinning a roulette wheel and hoping your number will come up. It might be more productive to stand on a corner handing out resumes. There’s a guy who did that. It’s an interesting story.

I think the bottom line is, the fraud that is TheLadders (and other big job boards like CareerBuilder, Monster, HotJobs) is spawned by lazy practices of HR departments, and by the desperation of job hunters. Who actually goes out and recruits any more? It’s all done from a cushy chair sitting in front of a computer.

In the Information Technology world, there’s an expression for this phenomenon. Actually, it’s an explanation for the problem you describe: Garbage in, Garbage out.

It’s time for HR departments and “recruiters” to take responsibility for turning recruiting into a massively multiplayer online role-playing game.

What do you expect?

Please don’t complain about job hunters, Audrey. You’re not paying them any money to get their applications. Perhaps once it figures out how to limit its data base to “ONLY $100k+ JOBS. ONLY $100k+ CANDIDATES,” TheLadders will figure out how to sort the credible candidates from the role-players. After all, you’re paying good money for this service.

  1. I can understand jobhunters who apply to everything they see. They may be desperate and get lucky. What tickles me is posting a resume with specific skills and getting calls from headhunters looking to fill totally unrelated slots.
    Resume: “Expert in IBM mainframes”
    HH: “I have a SysAdmin opening for a SQL DB on Windows servers”.
    Twenty year ago, I got unsolicited calls from HH about once month, just trolling, hoping to find someone looking to change jobs. Guess the HH today are just the next generation of useless twits.

  2. Hi agree with both Nick and Ray. Today, the so called recruiters, work exclusively by keywords. An example? About 1 year and half ago, on my job posting I wrote that I was “developing right now skills on Ruby on Rails”. What does this mean? That I was (and still I am) a beginner with the language and its frame, with no experience whatsoever. Well a recruiter contacted me, asking for at least 5-7 years experience in Ruby on Rails. According to Wikipedia Rails (the application framework for Ruby) was released in the summer of 2004; by the way this information is correct. So my question is: who the heck can have (Fall 2007) 5-7 years experience on something released only 3 years earlier?

  3. This reconfirms for me this magical line that each side in job hunting have to note and not fall on the wrong side:

    For job hunters, sending out 100s of resumes believing that, “I only need 1% to get me interviews and I’ll be fine,” thinking.

    For employers, receiving 100s of resumes believing that, “There will be some quality candidates here,” thinking.

    What kind of magic are each side really thinking here? I’m often thinking that both sides are trying to do the minimal amount of work to get what they want without realizing that it likely works much better if care is taken at the beginning of the process and oh yeah it may be hard work to find a good job as opposed to just any job. That somehow computers will provide people from lying or embellishing either job descriptions or resumes? Seriously? Even I knew better 15 years ago when there wasn’t much interest in the world wide web as Netscape was just getting off the ground.

  4. Just thought I’d put my two cents worth into this mix. Most people that post their public resumes fall prey to some of the not so experienced recruiters out there. In this type of a job market, I understand that the scared job hunters are trying every avenue known to mankind to get noticed. It’s also true that over the last decade, more and more of this “getting noticed” takes place over the internet. This is part of what I call, the “want it now” situation. Immediate gratification for a small investment.
    When people don’t take the time to meet with each other and find ways to connect, it’s impossible to get rid of the lousy recruiters who don’t want to spend real time working.
    There are plenty of dopey internal and external recruiters out there who read “ruby on rails” and want to talk with you, Angelo when you post your resume on line.

    The people that are the good recruiters, who don’t see your resume on line, who want to develop a relationship with you now in the event at some point in the future there may be a great opportunity you want to hear about — don’t surf the boards looking for people.

    The great recruiters are few and far between and it’s as difficult for them to find you as it is for you to find them. My advice is to do some research in your area of expertise, and locate 3-5 recruiters and interview them.
    Long term, it can boost your career potential, help you land the job you do want, and give you an experience working with professionals.

    I’m always on the look out for talent – and finding the great people when my customers are seeking them is difficult. As is, finding a great job. If you’re spending time on the boards, you’ll get the same poor quality with most everyone you’re in contact with.

    If you bust out of the easy way out, you’ll find great people to network with that will land you that next great job – and in some cases, that network will include a recruiter!

  5. I’m (still) employed by a bankrupt company with a jet-jockey CEO who drove it into the ground and got a big bonus for it. The HR department runs entirely on a job-board engine, although when I hired there years ago it was via networking.

    I’m beginning to think we have created a generation of fools who have peter-principled themselves into all the seats of power, these sons and daughters of the “greatest generation”.

  6. Nick is right. In the ‘old’ days, recruiting tools were a rolodex and a telephone (the really good recruiters still use them). If you were lucky, your office had a fax machine. Thanks to the internet, both recruiters and job hunters now rely on the ‘Apply now’ buttons on the job boards.

    Most resumes submitted in this manner either receive a standard letter acknowleding receipt, or nothing at at. Granted, recruiters are being bombarded with resumes these days, so job hunters need to know how to be squeaky wheels and “get the grease.” In today’s market, the so-called traditional (eg online) methods are ineffective and require a radical mindset overhaul — for both recruiters and job hunters.

    My advice to job hunters is to avoid the boards and hone up on your Google skills. You’d be amazed at the job and contact information you’ll find outside of the job boards.

  7. I have to agree with some of these – as a CPA with a tax background, I get e-mails from recruiters who are ‘spaghetti-ing’ their efforts. I find it really annoying to get interested in a position, only to find that the client had quite different expectations. All that results in is a waste of my time and theirs, and some bad feelings on both sides.

  8. After almost 3 years I am posting here again. That recruiter complaining for job hunters answering to all advertised job, should look at recruiters’ practice. They do exactly the same. After 3 years I still have to see a recruiters doing his/her job in the right way. Lately Indians gave a new meaning to the word “unskilled”. I was/am not racist but boy, I could publish a book with all the stupid emails I get from recruiters!

  9. Hi Nick,
    Agree with your point about a broken system that incentivizes lots of waste on both sides (HR dept/recruiter and job seeker).

    I was interested in your last paragraph – seems like with modern IT and some old fashioned stats, it would be doable to build a more exclusive network identifying strong candidates, that could then be a very useful tool for placing good people in good companies. But I haven’t seen it yet – do you know of any websites or networks that meet your criteria (“ONLY $100k+ JOBS. ONLY $100k+ CANDIDATES”)?

  10. @Kelly: I know of no “exclusive” public networks. Two industry stalwarts are the members-only Netshare and Execunet. I don’t think it’s an IT issue. I think the problem is that the people who run job boards are too focused on the databases, and not on relationships. LinkedIn seemed to be going in teh right direction, but then the dopes fell back on the same-old job board model that others use. The joke is that HR departments now “rely” on LinkedIn as a job board because “it’s not a job board.” B.S. It’s nothing but a job board with a fancy phonebook attached.

  11. Thanks Nick,
    Funny you mention LinkedIn – I was just reading your more recent post that includes the more detailed rant:

    From what I am reading, it looks like your position is not that technology and social network cannot be helpful in job search, but that it hasn’t been done yet. Did I get that right?

    Reason I am interested – I am somewhat of a data nerd and have been brainstorming about the ability of analytics to help identify the best people from the “weak link,” extended networks. Not a replacement for relationship-based recruiting, but a technology-fueled enhancement. Like Moneyball for HR…Or Angie’s List…

  12. @Kelly: Technology is a tool. Social networks are an idea. Both can be useful in job search and recruiting. But you can’t make a car go by putting a wrench next to a tire rim, or have a party by sending out notes telling people they’re your friends. There’s a lot of important “inbetween” that’s necessary. I just have not seen any tools that actually help people land the right jobs. All the current tools do is put people’s data next to job descriptions. There’s no benefit in that.

    I admire that you’re noodling on this – so am I! But identifying people and creating relationships are two very different things. The former may be sufficient to get a job connection started, but the latter is necessary in my view.

    Some systems have been tried, where you pay to participate. The idea is that if you pay, the match is more likely to be a good one. I don’t agree with that at all. (Though I like the idea of making money at this!)