You don’t have to look far to find complaints about the job boards, including LinkedIn, Indeed, ZipRecruiter and the rest. I’ve seen some ridiculous claims about how many jobs these websites actually fill, but nothing scientific. Has the government tried to rein these guys in? Has there been any attempt to regulate the job boards?
A quick search for “job board success rates” turns up nothing those boards can be proud of. At best, you’ll find loads of criticism about job boards. Several years ago, for a column I was writing for PBS NewsHour, I interviewed CareerBuilder. A spokesperson claimed the job board filled almost half of all jobs in the U.S. but no, she could not show me any data. Around the same time Indeed claimed 65% of hires. I’m still laughing.
“An applicant who applied directly from a company careers page was 23 times more likely to be hired than an applicant from a job board.”
“An applicant who applied from a referral was 85 times more likely to be hired than an applicant from a job board.”
When I hear that boards are helpful, it seems to be mainly freelancers and contractors (that don’t want permanent jobs) that defend them.
What are job boards good at? Producing job applications — up to 88% of them. The “job boards produce quantity,” reports CareerPlug, “but not always quality.” Virtually every study I’ve encountered concludes other sources of hires are dramatically more productive. More applications don’t yield more hires. The job boards are simply delivering more wrong candidates and more wrong job “matches.”
So, why do the job boards dominate the employment system and suck up the bulk of recruiting dollars? I think it’s simply because they are not regulated.
Time to regulate the job boards?
It’s long past time the federal government properly investigated this database industry — because it’s not a recruiting industry. It’s an amalgam of database jockeys and marketers producing and hawking software that fails epically at recruiting because it does little more than keyword matching. No job board I’ve encountered seems to understand the rudiments of recruiting.
What should be regulated? I’d settle, to start, for basic disclosures.
Require from all job boards:
Outcomes Analysis: Show us the success rates for job hunters and employers that use a job board.
Substantiate the marketing claims: Show us an audit trail for a job or resume posting.
Disclose the source of each job posting (employer, recruiter, another job board?).
Verify and certify that a job posting is real, and take down ones that are filled or canceled.
Publish the original job post date and fill date.
Disclose on each posting how many people have applied to date.
Publish flowcharts of processes behind every job board.
Disclose algorithms a board uses to make matches and rejections.
Disclose salaries for all posted jobs. (This is already required by law in some states.)
That’s just a start.
Where is job board regulation?
To answer your question, I don’t believe government agencies have ever really attempted to regulate the job boards. Oh, there are anti-discrimination laws, truth-in-advertising laws, and more recently salary disclosure laws, but there is scant oversight and regulation of the recruitment advertising business. The Federal Trade Commission has prosecuted some recruitment scammers, but enforcement is too little and too rare. Chasing one-off scams does nothing to address the major players that dominate how you look for jobs and how employers try to hire.
I’m not a fan of regulation for its own sake, but an important purpose of government is to protect consumers from misinformation and systemic deceit in business. Interview 100 job seekers about their experiences with job boards and you’ll find plenty of deceit to justify a federal investigation — and regulation.
Do you think job boards should be regulated? What disclosures do you want to see? What regulations do you believe are necessary? What misrepresentations and deceits have you encountered? Is there a way to regulate job boards into being truly effective?
I’ve been applying to job postings for which I meet all the criteria, and I mean all of them. I figure that’s one way to beat my competition — to really stand out. How much job competition am I likely to have if I do that? I was one of over 70 people they screened and one of 16 they interviewed. And it happened again, I didn’t get an offer. I wasn’t even a finalist. There has to be a way to minimize competition from the start, I just haven’t figured it out. Is it really possible that 70 other applicants met all the criteria? I doubt it, so why do companies entertain so many candidates? How do I improve my odds from the start?
Employers complain they can’t find the right people to hire and I think it’s because their recruiting is a herding task. They solicit too widely. This yields a preponderance of undistinguished candidates with a low probability of finding anyone that stands out.
Recruiting job applicants: More is not better
When employers post a job online, they’re casting a wide net. But more is not better. And it’s even worse because cattle-call “recruiting technology” makes it so easy to invite loads of marginal or even totally wrong applicants. It yields more of the same.
Look at the math. In your case 70 applicants were screened and 16 interviewed. HR will tell us “We got a lot of candidates to pick from!” This means they made 70-16=54 errors. That’s a lot of wasted overhead. Imagine how often this plays out. Employers will routinely sort through thousands of applications, whether manually or via software. They believe (irrationally) that the more candidates they have to choose from, the better the hire they will eventually make. (See Reductionist Recruiting: A short history of why you can’t get hired.)
Your competition is loads of wrong applicants
I believe this approach is actually likely to diminish the quality of hire they make, simply because they are sorting and interviewing many more wrong candidates than necessary. Often, the result is that they hire none and are mystified about why.
When a company hires the best of a large number of candidates, most of whom are disqualified, it is gambling, not really selecting. If the best hire it could possibly make is among loads of “noise” — dozens or hundreds of wrong applicants — what goes up is not the chances of making the right hire, but of missing the best hire among the noise.
Avoid job competition
What does all this have to do with the job competition you face, and how can you avoid it to increase your chances of really matching a job and getting an offer? This “more is better” fallacy reveals a really straightforward alternative that you can immediately use to diminish your competition and increase your chances of getting hired: The best way to avoid competition is to not go near it. That is, stay away from the databases full of applicants that are stocked by online job postings and job boards like LinkedIn and Indeed.
When I lived in Palo Alto, California, I often had guests from the east coast. I’d take them touring around the Bay Area. When we got to San Francisco, everyone wanted to go to Fisherman’s Wharf. It was all I could do to dissuade them: “Fisherman’s Wharf is a tourist trap.”
“No, no — we heard it’s great! Everyone told us to go there! We want to see Pier 39! We want to eat crabs and sourdough bread!”
Of course everyone told them to go there. That’s San Francisco’s crowd-management marketing at work.
The HR Corral: Where the cattle go
San Francisco is a small city, surrounded by water on three sides, with no possibility of sprawling out. Residents and people that work in the city suffer enormous congestion on streets and sidewalks. I’ve always surmised that the city intentionally drives visitors to aggregate in and around Fisherman’s Wharf. The city’s marketing seems to keep visitors corralled there, offering many distractions that attract tourist dollars and time — while keeping those teeming hordes out of everyone else’s way.
The job boards and databases serve the same purpose, if unintentionally. They are a corral not unlike Fisherman’s Wharf. Job seekers flock to them because HR tells them to gather there, stand and wait, like tourists eager to be fleeced, like cattle to the slaughter. “Jobs websites” are designed and marketed to make them seem the best way to apply for jobs. Even HR believes they are the easiest way to recruit and hire.
Steer away from job competition
If you steer away from the madding crowds of Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll find a lovely city with interesting things to do and people to meet. Every city dweller has a tip about the best restaurants, the hippest bars, the best neighborhood shopping and the coolest little-known sights. All you have to do is circulate solo, without a frightening horde surrounding you. You’ll find all kinds of wonderful experiences in San Francisco — and little interference from competition.
This is why you can’t seem to beat the odds: you’re allowing yourself to be corralled with all your competition. It’s easy to avoid the competition. Don’t go where the competition accumulates. Reduce your competition and increase your chances of getting hired.
5 tips for less job competition
Skip any gate or doorway to job-database corrals. Go where “the locals” hang out. Managers with hidden job needs, and people that can introduce you to their managers, hang out in accessible places that aren’t crowded with your competitors.
Attend continuing education and training programs where you’ll find people that do the work you want to do.
Participate in professional events where your future colleagues gather. It’s a low-pressure, fun way to meet insiders that can help you.
Go have a drink or a meal where employees of your target companies socialize.
Join in and contribute to the online work-related forums frequented by professionals you’d like to work with.
Study the business media that cover the people, work, products, technologies and business dealings of companies you’d like to work for. Make it a game or puzzle: Try to suss out what jobs may be opening up based on news about a company. Contact the movers and shakers you read about, ask about their work and ask for advice.
Avoid Fisherman’s Wharf. Avoid corrals where your competition is penned up — but be grateful for them! Less competition means more high quality professional contacts for you. To improve your odds from the start, go where the insiders are more likely to welcome you because you’re not part of a cattle drive.
What’s the best way to avoid the herd (and job competition) when looking for work? Or, is it better to “play the numbers” and apply to job postings everyone else uses?
For a flat fee, an employer that’s hiring can get over 9 million resumes from ZipRecruiter. That’s great news, because with unemployment in the U.S. at record lows (3.7% in July 2019), employers need more job applicants!
Not. Actually, employers are drowning in resumes and job applicants.
“In 2018, hiring managers took 33 days to make an offer after interviewing a candidate. That’s an 84 percent increase compared to 2010. The extended timeframe led to a 16 percent reduction in accepted offers.”
What changed in 8 years? An employer can get over 9 million resumes for a few bucks.
And you wonder why hiring managers take forever to decide whether to hire you? More jobs stay vacant longer because HR and hiring managers are so overwhelmed with wrong job applicants that they can’t decide who are the good ones.
What hiring slow-down means to job seekers
You need to account for poor management when you interview for a job.
You should avoid the cattle call of the job boards.
Indeed.com – what a joke! The first time we used Indeed was last year. We got scads of applications and scheduled four interviews. One candidate showed. The rest were all no-shows. Fortunately, we got really lucky and hired the one person who showed up. To be fair, for another job we scheduled four interviews and only one was a no-call, no-show.
The last time we used Indeed was for an accounting position. Again, we received scads of resumes (53) and reached out to 10 people for interviews. Only four accepted. We then scheduled and confirmed them. None showed up or bothered to call to cancel.
What interested me about your article (The Bogus-ness of Indeed.com) was that we had been attributing the no-call, no-show behavior to “Millennials,” but your article has caused me to think that it may also be a by-product of using an online job board. We stopped using Craigslist for the same reason.
This is the problem with job boards. They are completely anonymous with no accountability. As a result, their “applicants” are free to be flaky without recourse. This is the last time we will use Indeed.com. Do you think anything has changed since your 2014 article?
Maybe we can all put our heads together. I’d like to know what members of this community conclude by analyzing Indeed’s marketing and Indeed’s claims about its “success rate” in filling jobs.
What’s up at Indeed?
Something big changed at Indeed.com since that 2014 article. Indeed’s revenues went from $434 million (2014) to $777 million (2015) to $1.229 billion (2016).
In its 2018 annual report, Indeed’s Japanese parent, Recruit Holdings Co., LTD., reported 2017 revenues of $1.976 billion attributed to Indeed.com.
That’s a 355% increase in revenues over three years. (Gosh! Do you think somebody in HR is spending a awful lot of money on Indeed?)
What did you say was Indeed’s success rate getting Indeed’s job applicants to show up for interviews?
Since it seems you actually hired one person across three jobs you posted on Indeed in the course of a year, I suppose that’s a 33% success rate, eh?
“The site aggregates job listings from thousands of websites, including job boards, staffing firms, associations, and company career pages.”
“As a single-topic search engine, it is also an example of vertical search.”
Indeed.com is a search engine that searches for just one thing, everywhere: job listings. Calling Indeed the source of 65% of all hires seems akin to calling Google the #1 source of all information because people use it to search all other websites.
The report claims to be a “quantitative survey” of more than “1,000 customers using SilkRoad’s applicant tracking system (SilkRoad Recruiting),” based on “15 Million Applicants, 392,00 Hires, 655,000 Interviews.” However, the survey, sampling, data gathering, and analysis methodology are not described.
The report tells us where employers found the people they hired. It breaks the “sources” of hires into two categories:
Internal Sources of Hire: employee and personal referrals, HR, a company’s own careers web page, and internal employee movement like promotions
External Sources of Hire: other job boards and online sources
Here’s how SilkRoad presents the numbers. Please pay attention.
52% of hires are made via Internal Sources
48% of hires are made via External Sources
65% of External hires are attributed to Indeed
What SilkRoad never calculates for the reader is the percentage of all hires that are attributed to Indeed. It’s a simple calculation: 65% X 48% = 31% of all hires.
Every HR manager I know says that virtually all jobs are posted online to comply with equal opportunity hiring regulations. So I’d like to know what readers think: How can SilkRoad tease apart “Internal” and “External” Sources of hires?
What does it mean that “Indeed Delivers 65% of Hires… from Job Sites”?
According to comScore, Indeed.com was the #1 job site worldwide in 2018 based on total visits. Since Indeed “aggregates job listings from thousands of websites, including job boards, staffing firms, associations, and company career pages,” WTF are we really talking about? Is anyone impressed by that?
Take a quick look at the SilkRoad “report” and Indeed’s claims in its blog posting. What do you think it means?
Indeed at the CareerXroads
Going back to the turn of the century, my good buddies at CareerXroads — the first real job-board watchdog — conducted annual surveys of the Source of Hires at hundreds of companies. (Check this example.)
I eagerly read every one of the annual reports they issued. In over a decade, the results did not meaningfully change. Accounting for “internal” and “external” and “all” hires, every year all the major job boards in aggregate seemed to deliver only around 10% of all hires to companies surveyed.
The quality of the data currently found within ALL ATSs [Applicant Tracking Systems] is still, and especially today, too ugly to use for effective decision making. Vendors who bolt on other solutions to cherry pick internet candidate movement collect equally flawed data. They [mostly] embarrass themselves with their hype over their claims to be measuring ‘best source of hire data’.
If the oldest job-board watchdog gives up on trying to suss out the “Source of Hires” after over a decade of trying, what’s up with SilkRoad’s conclusion that Indeed is the source of 65% of any kinds of hires?
What do you think?
Back to our hiring manager
I’d like to thank the manager who submitted this week’s question and commentary. Yours is one of the most compelling critiques of Indeed that I’ve seen from an employer. Thanks for sharing it. Even if you filled one out of three jobs you posted in Indeed, the stunning no-show rate may be the most interesting bit of data in your story. It seems to suggest that Indeed delivers drive-by job applications. (I agree with you — I wouldn’t blame Millennials.)
Members of this community continue to recount in detail their experiences with drive-by recruiters “soliciting” them via Indeed and other job boards.
I’ve contended for years that when employers post jobs on heavily trafficked job boards, all they’re doing is turning on a fire hose. Scads of people apply just because they can click a button. Indeed and its ilk teach people that job hunting is a crap shoot, a lottery, a numbers game, a mindless enterprise. Even if you win, you know that if you show up for an interview, you’ll probably lose. So why show up? (See Reductionist Recruiting: A short history of why you can’t get hired.)
This in turn leads those very employers to criticize the quality of America’s workers — they complain there’s a “talent shortage.” But when companies go dumpster diving for job candidates, they shouldn’t be surprised at what they (don’t) find.
What’s your take?
“Indeed delivers 65% of hires.” Yup? I know job seekers are frustrated with the likes of Indeed, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor (which is now owned by the same company that owns Indeed) — because you tell me right here on this forum.
But I’d love your take — your analysis — of the marketing information published by Indeed and SilkRoad and the other data described above. Do me a favor and run some of the numbers that are designed to make employers spend their billions of recruiting dollars on automated recruiting.
What does it all add up to? 65%? 31%? Of what? Nothing is going to change if we don’t figure it out and talk about it earnestly and loudly.
A company’s best hope for finding and hiring great workers is its own managers, because they know the work best
HR (Human Resources) may be a close second — when HR actually goes out to look for and recruit workers.
But ZipRecruiter, Indeed, LinkedIn and a league of database companies have succeeded in killing HR’s recruiting role — and the initiative of hiring managers.
Stripped of the function that once gave HR bragging rights for a company’s most competitive advantage — hiring great workers — HR now serves as little more than the fire hose that overwhelms companies with millions of inappropriate incoming job applications, and as the spigot that pours billions of corporate dollars into the pockets of database jockeys who know nothing about matching real people to real jobs.
Killing HR in 30 seconds
This is what the wildly successful marketing campaign to kill HR looks like:
This commercial — and others like it — have literally killed recruiting because they have replaced it in employers’ minds with a substitute that has no nutritional value.
Here’s how an HR vice president with a Fortune 50 company put it to me when the online “recruiting” industry first launched its brainwashing campaign:
“Executives from the online job boards wine and dine our top executives so relentlessly that virtually every dime of our recruiting budget now goes directly to them. I can’t get a few bucks any more to take a candidate to dinner to actually recruit them!”
A massive marketing campaign driven by database jockeys has replaced people — workers, job seekers, the actual talent — with automated streams of keywords and database records. Employers have de-funded real recruiting to the point where the task no longer has anything to do with actively pursuing, seducing, cajoling, convincing the best people to join your company.
A powerful, long-running marketing campaign has successfully sold the idea that “recruiting” no longer requires talent to do it, like other jobs require talent. “Recruiting” is now the automated churning and turning of databases. (See Job boards say they fill most jobs. Employer says “LMAO!”)
How can a 30-second commercial kill an entire profession?
The insecurity of HR
The success of this campaign to automate recruiting and bury HR is due not only to its persistence, but to the acquiescence of the HR profession itself.
With few notable exceptions, HR executives and professional associations across the board have slit HR’s throat and outsourced HR’s key job to database jockeys who have wowed them with “high tech solutions.” The HR profession as a whole was never very secure in the C-suite, and never very bright, so it folded quickly when fast-talking salespeople embarrassed its leaders with big terms like “algorithm” and “database” and “intelligent agents” and “semantic processing” — terms so misapplied and misconstrued in the HR context that they are laughable.
Loathe to admit their ignorance, HR leaders feigned excitement while their “HR consultant” brethren fed them white papers about the newest “best practices” that should be “implemented in software” immediately. (See HR Technology: Terrorizing the candidates.)
So, HR arrived fully brainwashed into a new era and promptly ran the talent ship aground in the shoals of the job boards, taking big parts of the economy down with it.
The brainwashing of HR
TV commercials like the one above from ZipRecruiter pound four dangerous ideas into the heads of corporate leaders, HR executives and hiring managers.
Recruiting and hiring are nasty work nobody wants to do.
Recruiting and hiring are very difficult tasks.
Nobody is good at recruiting and hiring.
ZipRecruiter (and Indeed and LinkedIn and other database companies) will do it for you if you pay them.
The trouble is, none of that is true. Those are some of the most dangerous lies ever created by marketing copy writers.
Count the lies
Recruiting and hiring are mission-critical tasks best done by you and your company — face-to-face, not by diddling a keyboard to pay a middle man who pretends to do it for you. Recruiting and hiring are so critical to your company’s mission that leaving them to firms that have no skin in the game is not only irresponsible — it’s an insane fool’s errand.
So, is it insanity or foolishness that leads employers and their HR departments to buy what the database jockeys sell under the guise of “recruiting?”
Please watch the commercial above. It’s short — 30 seconds. Here’s what the guy says:
“Hiring was always always a huge challenge. Endless hours on job sites with not a lot to show for it. Then, I found ZipRecruiter. They figured out hiring. I post my job. They put it all over the web. And they send me the right people. Because their technology is smart. ZipRecruiter often sends me the right person in 24 hours.”
Count the lies.
1. “Hiring was always always a huge challenge.”
The truth: Hiring is your job; your number-one job. When ZipRecruiter characterizes hiring as something “huge” — something beyond you and your company — Zip disparages you and insults you. It also convinces you that the most important part of your job is a problem you should unload.
2. “Endless hours on job sites with not a lot to show for it.”
The truth: If you’re spending endless hours on job sites, diddling databases, and sorting keywords, then I guarantee you have nothing to show for it — because that’s not where hires come from.
But that’s what ZipRecruiter sells — databases and keywords!
Zip, Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkedIn and countless others of their ilk sell an excuse for not recruiting and hiring.
If you want something to show for your recruiting efforts, invest your time participating actively in your professional community, cultivating and meeting the movers and shakers and opinion makers who know all the best workers. Share valuable experiences with your peers and they will lead you to great people you can hire. No one ever wasted their time talking with peers.
3. “Then, I found ZipRecruiter. They figured out hiring.”
The truth: This is the biggest lie. ZipRecruiter and its ilk have not figured out hiring. They figured out their own business plan: how to make money.
The marketing trick is to convince you they are on your side, helping you do your job. But spend 10 seconds thinking about the business model behind these operations and you will see the blinding flash of the obvious:
These companies make money when you do not fill jobs.
They make money when you keep searching their databases looking for hires.
If ZipRecruiter had figured out hiring, its home page and its marketing would blare out audited metrics about employers’ success rates when they pay Zip for lists of job seekers. But that’s not what Zip has figured out, and it’s not what Zip is selling you or what you’re paying for.
Here’s what ZipRecruiter blares out on its website — this is what your company is paying for:
ZipRecruiter makes money when you keep paying for job applications — not when you fill jobs. I can find no metrics on Zip’s website and no evidence that ZipRecruiter has “figured out hiring.”
If you work in HR and this strikes you as an unreasonable criticism, call me when ZipRecruiter starts charging you only for the applicants you actually hire.
4. “I post my job. They put it all over the web.”
The truth: If you work in HR, or if you’re a hiring manager — you know, one of those people who pays ZipRecruiter to deliver millions of candidate applications — you can put your job posting all over the web yourself. While it’s true Zip does that, too, you don’t need it. The secret sauce of the web is that it’s designed so anyone can find anyone else easily.
Why would any HR manager with a brain want their job opening posted “all over the web?” What you get for that is 49,106,149 candidate applications. Is that what you really want? Because more is not better. Perhaps the single biggest talent problem HR faces today is overload. Having access to every resume on the planet — but no way to find actual people — has resulted in a kind of catatonia that HR executives disingenuously refer to as “the talent shortage.”
5. “And they send me the right people.”
The truth: ZipRecruiter makes no claims about how often it sends employers “the right people.” That’s left to the actor playing the restaurant owner in the commercial.
Let’s do a reality check. Not to pick on ZipRecruiter alone, let’s check another major “online recruiting service,” Jobvite.
In an April 4, 2018 press release Jobvite “announced that it has surpassed one million jobs filled, with 270,000 hires in 2017 alone.” Then it claims, “Nearly 54 million jobseekers [sic] visited a Jobvite-powered hiring website in the past year.”
We’re looking for success metrics. Do the math. 270,000/54 million is 0.5% — a one-half of one percent success rate for job seekers. While one might argue that there cannot possibly be a job for every job seeker, the more evident problem is that a robustly designed system should not indiscriminately snort 53,730,000 job seekers just so it can spit out a fraction of 1% into jobs.
Finding the best people to recruit is not a database problem.
Hiring is not a database problem.
Let’s do another reality check. ZipRecruiter claims it has “over 8 million jobs.” The U.S. Department of Labor reported on June 5, 2018 that there were only 6.7 million jobs available during the month of April. Ask any job seeker — they already know something is very wrong with all those job postings.
Let’s ask the restaurateur, just who are the “right people” for 1.3 million non-existent jobs?
6. “Because their technology is smart.”
The truth: The manager in the commercial closes his laptop after apparently posting a job.
How has ZipRecruiter solved his “huge challenge” of hiring so quickly? How has Zip made it so easy for him to find talent?
It’s frighteningly stupid. Zip has eliminated the very best filters in the hiring process. Zip has cut out all the humans with specialized training in Human Resources, Engineering, Finance, the restaurant business, and a multitude of other professional disciplines — all the humans who are qualified to judge the myriad qualities that make the best candidate special. None of them are needed in this business model. Zip has made it all easier by replacing expert judgment with recruiting technology so trivial it has generated a false talent shortage.
Yep, the truth is, all you folks in HR are superfluous. All your company needs is someone in Accounting to make an automatic payment to ZipRecruiter, Jobvite, and any of the other databases loaded with millions of job seekers. (See HR’s submission to ZipRecruiter.)
Ask any job seeker. They’ll tell you they feel like a drop of water in a fire hose turned on employers — one of the 49,106,149 applicants delivered in the sales pitch Zip makes to employers.
Except when Zip promises just the one right person, delivered the same day.
7. “ZipRecruiter often sends me the right person in 24 hours.”
The truth: ZipRecruiter doesn’t dare tell you just how often the woman in the video — who just waltzed into the restaurant — gets hired. (The marketing magic implies she gets hired instantly, the first time.)
Zip offers no success-rate metrics (audited or otherwise) about hiring or getting hired. The guy in the commercial does that.
ZipRecruiter CEO Ian Siegel has raised tens of millions of dollars in venture funding for his company (see recode), valuing it at close to $1 billion. While he offers no explanation on his website about how he finds jobs for people — or how he fills jobs for employers that pay him to deliver tens of millions of job applications — he says he wakes up every day thinking about it.
I think he wakes up each day counting the HR departments he has laid to rest while their recruiting budgets have been redirected to his coffers. I’d like to introduce him to the former HR executive who told me, “I can’t get a few bucks any more to take a candidate to dinner to actually recruit them!”
If Siegel and his ilk are to be recognized for anything, it’s for a business model that produces profits without results. They have designed marketing campaigns that have killed off HR and what was once known as recruiting.
They don’t make money when jobs are filled. They make money when you don’t fill jobs and don’t get hired. Their business model requires that you keep paying to search their databases.
If HR is going to be brought back to life, it has to remove its recruiting prosthetics, shake off the ZipRecruiters and Indeeds that are sucking its blood, and flex its hiring muscles again. A company’s best hope for finding and hiring great workers is its own managers and a healthy, robust HR department.
I just showed you a TV commercial that I think undermines and insults HR professionals, hiring managers and business owners by trivializing one of the most critical tasks in any business — hiring. But ZipRecruiter is not alone. We’ve discussed the stunning failures of Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn, Monster, CareerBuilder and TheLadders, among others.
Here’s another example of a commercial that kills HR — from Indeed. Can you find the holes in this “#1 job site” and explain to us how the commercial corrupts HR and undermines effective recruiting, hiring and job hunting? Or am I unreasonable and nuts?
Is HR really dead? Is real recruiting a dead art? Are these commercials a marketing plot to undermine the hiring process so database jockeys can profit from the resulting mess? Maybe you think our modern hiring systems are just fine. If you think some other bugaboo makes it unreasonably hard to hire and get hired, please tell us what it is.
I am a manager looking for reasons why candidates that apply for my jobs either:
Don’t respond when I reach out to schedule an interview, or
Don’t show up for an interview.
You often write about how irresponsibly employers, HR and recruiters behave toward job applicants. [SeeHow HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.] I don’t disagree, but it appears that there’s some fishiness happening on both sides of this. Why do you think candidates don’t respond and don’t show up? Aren’t they just hurting themselves?
I agree with you. Candidates hurt themselves when they apply to jobs or when you reach out to them, but then fail to follow up or show up. But often they’re not hurting themselves for the reasons you think.
Their real mistake is applying for jobs they don’t really want or care about. The people who are ignoring you have responded to cattle-call recruiting, and I’m afraid that’s on you — and on all employers that rely on it.
The problem with recruiting via job boards
The way the employment system works encourages people to apply for virtually any job that pops up in front of them. That’s the behavior you’re encouraging when you — as an employer — post your jobs on huge job boards where anyone and everyone can easily click and gamble. The system encourages people to apply to all the jobs they can. That’s how job boards like CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, Indeed and others make money.
Is it any wonder the job applicants you’re puzzled about get fed up? The system dulls their motivation because it conditions them to a 99.9% failure rate. And if the job you’re contacting them about is a marginal one anyway — one they just clicked on for the heck of it — then if they’ve got a really interesting opportunity cooking, you’re just a bother.
How the system fails employers and job seekers
If you’re using job boards to solicit applicants, most of them are probably applying blindly, just because they saw the posting, not because it’s a job they really want. They apply to so many jobs this way that they just can’t keep up — or, by the time you get in touch, they’ve moved on. That’s why many are ignoring you. This is how the employment system fails you.
The problem is that when employers solicit so broadly from the pool of “everyone out there,” the rate of failure is virtually guaranteed to be huge.
Recruiting right requires work
My suggestion is, don’t solicit widely by using job boards. Figure out where the best potential candidates hang out. Carefully identify the people you’d really like to interview — and go look for them in those narrow hangouts. I think your hit rate will go up dramatically. Do the work to recruit right. (See Recruiting: How to get your hands dirty and hire.)
For example, if you’re recruiting programmers, go to a conference or training program where the kinds of specialized programmers you want congregate. This takes work, but of course it does. The automated method you’re using takes almost no work — and that’s why it doesn’t work.
I know that posting on job boards is what employers do. LinkedIn, Indeed, Zip make it seem so easy and they promise they will take care of everything. That’s nonsense. Please consider this: Job boards make money only when job seekers keep job hunting and when employers do not fill jobs. Everyone keeps spinning the roulette wheel. Only “the house” wins.
People who respond to cattle calls are not likely to be the people you want to hire. So please, employers — stop issuing cattle calls!
Do you ever ignore employers or blow off job interviews? Does the system dull your motivation? What can employers do better to hire the right people?
My wife runs a popular retail chain store and recently took to Indeed.com to find qualified applicants. In Los Angeles, at a high profile new location opening (it’s in the news), she received just three applicants, all of whom had simply uploaded their resume and clicked any title that closely matched their interests. None of the three even knew who the company was, or what the details of the job posted were, they simply clicked “send resume.”
Two didn’t speak high-school level English, the third had never heard of the company and wasn’t sure where it was located, but applied just the same.
I’m sure there are people really looking for work. Are they using the potential of Indeed? Glassdoor? Monster?
I know what you think of the job boards, Nick, but I doubt you’ve had to look for a job recently. I wonder what your readers think. Can you ask them what their experiences have been with the big job boards like the ones we’ve had such bad luck with?
I’m happy to put your question to our community. They love red meat. (That’s a joke, vegans and vegetarians among us!)
Do job boards really fill most jobs?
Thanks for your story about your wife’s problems with job applicants from Indeed and other job boards. It would be interesting to hear from more employers, who don’t seem to say much (at least in public) about how effective the job boards are.
Indeed cites a report from SilkRoad (“the world’s leader in Talent Activation”) that claims “Indeed delivers 65% of hires and 72% of interviews from job sites.” (The actual report is free but must be downloaded from SilkRoad.)
What’s not to like? Game over. Problem solved.
A few years ago, while I was researching a story I wrote for PBS NewsHour (Is LinkedIn Cheating Employers and Job Seekers Alike?) a CareerBuilder spokesperson claimed the job board accounted for nearly 50% of all jobs filled by staffing and recruiting firms — but told me the study behind the numbers was not published.
So, what’s the problem with all those vacant jobs?
Year after year, job-board watcher CareerXRoads has reported that around 25%-30% of external hires come from job boards.
Now go back and read those claims about where employers find their hires one more time. I’ve been watching these numbers for over two decades and I’ve learned the code. Can you find the tricks in those claims?
I’m really glad to get a question from an employer (well, from her spouse) on this topic. And I’m glad you’re asking Ask The Headhunter readers for their experiences and opinions — rather than me.
Okay, employers — big and small — are job boards delivering the hires you need?
You don’t have to be an employer to play. What do you make of Indeed’s (and SilkRoad’s) claims? I think there’s a deft sleight of hand — and some clever word play — in how SilkRoad, Indeed, and other job-boards characterize their “findings.”
Let’s get at the truth about job boards, folks. And if you’ve got some expertise in big data analysis, I’d really love to know your take on these reports. Do job boards really fill most jobs?
I was recently asked to interview at a company that at first I was excited to have a chance at joining. Their industry is interesting and familiar to me, and the position itself is a great next step in my career.
After my interview was scheduled I did my due diligence and started doing research to prepare. Sh*t hit the fan when I got to employment reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed.
Except for the one or two company-planted positive reviews, the clear majority for the past four years have been scathing and disheartening. To summarize: Employees say upper management rules with an iron fist, takes credit for employees’ successes, and compensation is not competitive.
I can understand a couple of bad reviews that might be from disgruntled people, but with a consistent theme delivered on multiple websites spanning a few years, I’m beginning to second-guess my effort.
My big question to you is: What is the best way to bring up my findings to learn the truth? I feel I absolutely have to ask because I not only want to see how they answer, but I also want to see if they own up to the need to change. I’m worried they’ll blacklist me for bringing it up, and I’ll never know whether the environment is truly terrible or not. I want to approach this with respect and good manners so that I don’t look like a bad seed trying to be planted.
How do I look behind the curtain? Is this worth the effort or should I just run now?
I’d invest more effort to get the truth about this company firsthand, but only if the company passes the first test. So let’s cut to the chase.
The first test
I doubt you’d take this job in if the compensation is not competitive. So let’s get this deal-breaker out of the way because it may save you further effort and later frustration.
Since they asked you to interview, it’s incumbent on them to provide information you need. I’d ask about compensation before taking any more steps. It’s best to ask the hiring manager this question, but if HR is the best you can do, that’s fine.
Make a phone call. (Do not use e-mail. This is too important.)
How to Say It “What’s the pay like for this job?”
That’s it. Do not elaborate. This simple, off-the-cuff, obvious question says it all. It’s friendly and it’s clear.
If they won’t give you a salary range, I’d thank them for their interest (always be polite) and explain that you can’t invest your time in interviews if you’re not all on the same salary page. If they decline to state a range and instead ask you your current salary or your desired range, I’d politely reply that they’re asking you to interview — and they need to confirm the salary range. (See The employer is hiding the salary!)
If they won’t tell you, you’re done.
Glassdoor reviews are not enough
I’m not a fan of company reviews, especially the way Glassdoor presents them. There’s no accountability. Anyone can post anything anonymously. Nonetheless, when strong criticism spans lots of time and multiple websites, you’re right to be concerned. Just remind yourself that every bit of the criticism could be wrong. Could. It probably isn’t, given the extent of it. But you seem to want to find out for yourself, so take the next step.
Since you’re still excited about the job as you understand it, it’s worth going in to find out for yourself what’s up. You don’t need to confront them with the online reviews. In fact, I would not, because consider their best defense. If I were the employer, I’d respond that those reviews are not proof of a problem and the critics are all hiding behind anonymity.
The company can quickly render your question as a fact-less accusation, and you’ll come off like a person who makes decisions and judgments without solid evidence. Glassdoor is not solid because critics are not personally accountable.
If you had nothing else to go on but all you’ve read, and you had to make a choice right now about this company, the prudent decision is probably to walk away. But you can get firsthand evidence on which to base a sound judgment — and you should, because online reviews are not enough to make a defensible judgment.
Killer methods to judge the employer
Here’s what I’d do. Go to the interview. Answer their questions, and ask the normal kinds of questions you’d ask even a very good company. Then use one or more of these killer employer-vetting techniques. Here’s what to ask the employer (preferably the hiring manager):
How to Say It “If you could change anything about your company instantly, what would you change?”
See how they handle that. If they’re aware of their online reputation, it gives them a chance to explain without you actually bringing it up.
How to Say It “I’d like to meet some of the people I’d be working with if I were hired, and I’m willing to invest some extra time to do that. I’d also like to see where I’d be working. Can you give me a cook’s tour of your facility? If today’s not a good time, I’d be glad to come back.” If they let you do this immediately, that’s a good sign. If they put it off, do they quickly schedule that next visit, or do they never get back to you?
Ask the employees
If you get the tour and have a chance to meet other employees on the team, try to get a few minutes with each one privately. Ask this question.
How to Say It
“So, what’s it really like to work here?”
Do not share what you’ve read online. Let them talk. Their reactions will tell you all you need to know. Remember: Your goal is not to show how much you know, because that gains you nothing. Your goal is to confirm what you’ve read and to learn even more.
Leverage the job offer
This is the most powerful way to judge an employer. If you get an offer, they’ve demonstrated they want you — and they want you to say yes. They’re waiting. People don’t realize what incredible leverage they have at this point. It’s the most control you’ll ever have in negotiations. It’s time to vet the company.
Tell them you’re thrilled to get the offer – “Thank you!” Then take more control and learn the truth.
How to Say It “Before I accept your offer, I’d like to meet some of your key people – managers of departments related to the department I’d be working in. I’d like to make sure I’m a fit for your team and I’d like to get the bigger picture of the work environment.”
For example, if you’d be working in manufacturing, you’d want to meet the heads of engineering and product development, because they create the products your team builds. You’d want to meet heads of sales and marketing, because their job is to make money from what manufacturing produces. If they’re not all great people doing great work, then your team (and you) will fail. Get the idea?
Find your own truth
Glassdoor and online company reviews are not the truth. They’re the partial, questionable truth. The best way to get the whole truth about a company is to talk to key people inside, and to talk with people you’d be working with every day. There is no need to bring up Glassdoor reviews. (You might find that the company’s reputation online is not deserved.) Get the facts for yourself.
Any company that declines to let you meet the people I’ve suggested – even though it’s an unusual request – probably has too many skeletons in its closet, or has a lousy attitude about transparency.
Formulate these questions in a way that’s comfortable for you. Don’t use my exact words. I like that you want to be respectful and well-mannered. Always assume the best, and politely ferret out the truth. Then deal with it, either way.
I hope this is helpful. It’s probably more work than you’d like to do, but consider what you’re investing here – the next several years of your work life. It’s worth the extra effort to find your own truth.
If you need more suggestions about how to vet this company, these two books will help. Check the tables of contents at these links:
Recent reports from the Federal Reserve suggest that switching jobs — and probably employers — is the best way to boost your salary and your career.
In this special edition, we’ll explore what the Federal Reserve doesn’t know about recruiters, and why you should stay away from recruiters who waste your time with been-there-done-that jobs and lower salaries.
Are recruiters killing careers and the economy?
The best recruiters and headhunters boost employers’ productivity by finding discounted talent and up-and-coming talent to fill jobs those people may not have done before. By stimulating capable job candidates with new, motivating career challenges, insightful recruiters help create value for an employer — and boost our economy.
But untrained, inept recruiters lack insight and foresight. They don’t bother to understand an employer’s future needs or a job candidate’s untapped potential. They look for quick and easy “perfect matches” turned up by automated recruiting algorithms. These keyboard jockeys do little but process resumes whose key words match key words in job descriptions. They add no value. They kill career growth and job productivity.
Inept recruiters far outnumber good ones, and that’s killing our economy. Companies aren’t filling jobs with the best hires. But the fault lies with employers themselves, and with Human Resources executives, who buy — hook, line and sinker, and at enormous cost — the reductionist job applicant sorting systems that drive hiring today. (See Why HR should get out of the hiring business.)
New research and analysis from Federal Reserve economists reveals a problem of mismatches between workers, salaries and productivity, but fails to identify and discuss the structural cause of the problem — counter-productive recruiting.
The mad rush to fill jobs mindlessly
With the Department of Labor reporting lower unemployment and increasingly scarce talent, employers are rushing to fill jobs by relying on methods that yield staggeringly low signal-to-noise ratios.
By design, these systems actively solicit as many applicants as possible for each job. (Consider the applicant funnel ZipRecruiter, which exhorts HR managers to post a job on “one hundred-plus job sites.”) The ease with which these systems enable and encourage job seekers to apply for any job in a mindless feeding frenzy contributes to understandably low yields. Then HR managers, who fail to realize that more is not better, claim to be shocked and cry “talent shortage.”
When matches are made, they’re often undesirable to the candidate. It’s a common complaint among Ask The Headhunter readers: Employers want to hire you for a job only if you’ve done that job for three, four or five years already — and they’ll often pay you less. Even when they offer you a raise, the job is usually a lateral move. It’s not a career opportunity or a chance for you to hone new skills — it’s just an easy database match.
This seems to be much more than a job-seeker frustration. According to economists reporting from several branches of the Federal Reserve, it may be one of the causes of inflation and lower productivity. (See Bloomberg Businessweek:Job Switchers Solve An Inflation Mystery.)
But the economists don’t attempt to explain why employers are making such short-sighted, self-defeating hiring decisions — and I think it’s because the problem is so pervasive that it’s invisible. Although job seekers have long been very vocal and angry about it, the backdrop of reductionist, rude, automated recruiting across America seems to be such a necessary evil that no one but the job seeker sees or questions it. (See HR Technology: Terrorizing the candidates.)
The compelling need to fill jobs obscures the importance of planning to hire strategically and wisely — not just to fill round holes with round pegs quickly. American companies seem unaware of their mad rush to fill jobs mindlessly, and economists seem content to accept the prevalent recruiting infrastructure without reviewing it, simply because employers are content to keep paying for it.
This seems to be what the Fed’s economists don’t know about recruiters and the job market.
The failure is on the front line
Job seekers report wasting enormous amounts of time today fielding fruitless recruiting inquiries and participating in interviews for the wrong jobs. The question arises:
Why do employers look for perfect matches between workers and jobs?
The assumptions behind this quixotic search are incorporated into the ads that candidate vendors like Indeed, LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter run constantly:
Employers must hire without training anyone or allowing time for a learning curve.
Perfect hires are best.
Talent can be had at a discount.
Employers don’t have time to find talent on their own.
Every job can be posted to “a hundred-plus” job boards instantly.
“Big data” makes perfect hiring possible.
More job applicants is better.
And so on.
These assumptions push employers head-long into automated recruiting. But when we start questioning those assumptions, we’re left with the boots on the ground that create the biggest constraint on hiring the best talent: Inept recruiters on the front line.
When complex factors make it difficult to suss out what triggers the choices business people make, I get lazy. Though I’m not a scientist, I was trained as one, and I find that even if a problem seems complicated, it’s best to start with the law of parsimony: The simplest explanation is probably the right one.
If employers had better recruiters, they’d hire better people, increase productivity and stimulate the economy.
Yet, an employer’s first contact with an engineer, a scientist, a software developer, a machinist, an accountant — anyone the employer needs to hire — is through a person who is probably the least likely to understand qualities and characteristics that make the candidate the best one for the employer. It’s a person least likely to understand the work and the job. Except in rare, wonderful cases where employers have very good recruiters, it’s an incompetent recruiter.
Because employers believe they now have “intelligent applicant systems” at their disposal, many (I think most) dispense with highly trained and skilled recruiters. Employers on the whole have unsophisticated, untrained recruiters who quickly eliminate the best candidates because they’re rewarded for making the easy choices, not the best ones.
The Federal Reserve connects the dots between talent, pay and productivity
Bet you’ve been waiting to see how the Fed fits into this. Let’s dive in.
The job boards say employers can hire the best talent for less money because their databases are bottomless and the perfect candidate is in there, if you just keep looking.
But the Federal Reserve says higher productivity coupled with better career opportunities and higher salaries is better for everyone — and for the economy.
“Labor economists… are increasingly studying how job-hopping Americans drive compensation gains and affect the traditional interplay of low unemployment, wage gains, and inflation.”
It turns out those economists are now focused on what we already know: The surest way to get a big salary boost is to change employers and stretch yourself.
Consider this handful of factoids and data cited by Bloomberg, from economists at the Chicago Fed, the Atlanta Fed, the New York Fed, and the St. Louis Fed:
“23 percent of employees are actively looking for another job on any given week, putting in four or five applications over a four-week period.”
“Employers are poaching workers, as 27 percent of offers to the employed are unsolicited.”
“Job switchers earned 4.3 percent more money in July 2016 than a year earlier, while people who remained in the same job enjoyed only a 3 percent increase.”
“The so-called quit rate, a favorite indicator of [Fed Chair Janet] Yellen that measures voluntary separations from an employer… has almost recovered to levels seen before the recession of 2007-2009.”
“Job-to-job changes and the threat of job-to-job mobility are strongly predictive of wage increases.”
“Job switching is ‘a good sign for the economy’ and ‘an indication of dynamism,’ according to the [Atlanta] Fed’s [President Dennis] Lockhart.”
And note this nugget of gold in the Bloomberg story:
“While [St. Louis Fed economist David] Wiczer said that the bulk of wage hikes occur from job switching, he cautioned that the gains are highly cyclical, as the median job switcher didn’t reap much of a salary increase during recessions.”
What this means to you: With the economy shifting from recession to inflation, your best bet to make more money today is to switch jobs. I’ll stick my neck out and say that my reading of the Fed analysis — and my own experience and reports from Ask Headhunter readers — is that that you also need to switch employers if you want that dramatic pay increase.
But you can and should optimize that bet by making sure the next job you take also enables you to be more productive. Of course, recruiters sabotage that objective almost daily when they solicit you for jobs that would set your career back five or ten years.
We already know that most recruiters love to stick you into a “new” job that’s not new at all. They don’t get paid to give you a chance at career development — or to help a manager hire for the future. They offer the same job you’ve been doing because you’re the least risky choice for them.
They pluck you from thousands of job applicants only when their database algorithms show that you’re already doing the exact job they’re trying to fill. There’s no need to train you. You will require no learning curve. You are the safest bet and, if you’re unemployed, the recruiter knows he can probably nab your desperate ass for less than you were earning at your last job because you need a job.
But that recruiter is dangerously naïve. The “perfect match” won’t increase productivity because you’re being plugged into the same job you were doing elsewhere, and your motivation is going to plummet along with your value.
Even if the new job pays more than your last one, this is a huge red flag for employers, warns Giuseppe Moscarini, a visiting scholar from Yale at the Philadelphia Fed:
“What we should worry about are wage raises for workers who stay on the same job and are not getting more productive.” [Bloomberg Businessweek]
Whether the “same job” is at the same employer or a new one, Moscarini suggests wage inflation without higher productivity seems to fuel inflation in the economy.
I don’t think employers or economists see the razor that’s cutting into productivity and economic growth. But it should be clear to any Ask The Headhunter reader.
It’s the recruiters.
Most recruiters look for an exact match of a resume to a list of key words in a job description. They’re not assessing job candidates to find value a competitor missed or the value an employer can leverage into higher productivity and profit over time. They tell managers to interview any candidates the automated recruiting system flashes on their displays.
Recruiters, who are an employer’s front line in the talent war, are generally not equipped to do their own jobs. They’re doomed to fail because they’re not really recruiting. They’re checking boxes on a database app. The result is hires that are less than optimally productive.
Job Seekers: Follow the money!
The Fed economists are offering job seekers and career-oriented workers a gift of tremendous insight, even if it seems obvious: Your smartest career move may be to switch jobs and employers.
Pursue only jobs that offer you substantially more money and require you to stretch your skills and capabilities — that is, to do more productive work that’s more profitable for you.
That strategy, they also suggest, may be best for employers and for the economy.
Smart workers don’t change jobs or employers without an opportunity to learn and develop new skills, to take on greater responsibility or authority, to stretch themselves — and to make more money. Those who accept been-there-done-that jobs do it reluctantly or because they feel they have no choice, especially if they’re unemployed.
The Fed tells us not only that lots (23%) of employees are actively looking for new jobs, but that competitors are trying to steal them away. Done for the right reasons and for the right opportunities, switching jobs and companies can pay off big. Employers give people who switch 40% higher raises than they give to people who stay where they are (4.3% vs. 3%).
So, follow the money. When a recruiter pitches you a re-run job for little or no extra money, suggest he go find a job he’s better at — because he’s not helping you or the employer. He could be killing your career and the economy. Has anyone told that to the Fed’s economists?
Did you get a better raise for staying in your job, or for switching out? What was the percentage? Did a recruiter move you into another same-old job, or help you advance your career? What’s your take on the Fed’s findings and conclusions?
Yeah, I know — it’s awkward to meet people to get a job. (It makes you cringe, right?) You’re in good company. And everybody in that company is wrong.
When I bring up making new personal contacts, everyone likes to excuse themselves by saying they just don’t have professional contacts, their old work buddies are long gone, no one can help them.
My answer is: Bunk.
It’s an excuse, my friend. We all learn to be lazy because we feel awkward reaching out to new people. You have to get over it.
Meeting people, making contacts, making new friends and talking shop is a skill. You learn it and practice it. (Please see I don’t know anybody.) If you don’t practice this important skill, you lose — and the job boards and online applications will not be your automated substitute for the 40-70% of jobs that are filled via personal contacts.
If you quietly fill out online job applications, you’re at the mercy of HR departments that process database records all day long while you wait for them to contact you. You already know that doesn’t work, so why do you keep pretending?
The only alternative is the one that has worked for centuries:
Personal Contacts: Go talk to people.
Meeting people to get introduced to hiring managers and new job opportunities makes sense. You know it does — but you just don’t want to think about it. I know it’s awkward for many people. So go into your bathroom, lock the door, look in the mirror. Smile at yourself for a few seconds, then scream at yourself:
PRETENDING A DATABASE IS GONNA FIND ME A JOB IS BUNK! I KNOW BETTER!
Those companies make more money when you can’t find a job and when employers can’t fill jobs. That’s how the employment industry works. It’s not how people get hired.
I’m not beating you up, just shaking you a bit. Please listen.
For more about making personal contacts, see “A Good Network Is A Circle of Friends” and “How to initiate insider contacts” in How Can I Change Careers? It’s not just for career changers — it’s for anyone who wants to stand out when applying for a job. Until Dec. 5, 2016, you can get 40% offany Ask The Headhunter PDF book — at checkout, use discount code=MERRYATH.