The corruption of our thinking began with learning things that we are unwilling to unlearn. Beginning with inventing the wheel and discovering fire, we eventually came to worship better technological advances. Often we found that automation alone was not the answer, but we failed to understand why.
Nobody who is a recruiter today would consider spending time by only placing ads in a newspaper and then watching the daily mail or a fax machine for paper copies of resumes. The savvy job seeker of yesteryear subscribed to multiple print publications, spread out those want-ads on the kitchen table, circled the best ones with a yellow highlighter, stuffed envelopes with preprinted resumes along with a stock cover letter, and then kissed it goodbye by licking and sticking stamps. Archaic? Yes, but it did work. Jobs were filled and people were hired. Then along came that infamous automation and we became our own worst enemy.
We do have it much better today. Recruiters scoff at old school practices and pride themselves on being smarter than their predecessors because they have now learned to use technology to ply their trade. Young job seekers brag about growing up with computers and a whole generation of know-it-all know-nothings pollute the job search conversation. What’s wrong with this picture? We have changed the medium but not the underlying logic. We evolved past job board infatuation and on to posting jobs on social media, but for the most part, we are still passively advertising and not engaging. As it became increasingly easy to apply for a job by clicking a hyperlink we have trained the new technorati generation to click without reading and then hoping to hit the job lottery. Back away for a minute. Looking down on this picture from space, nothing changed except for the speed and volume of posting and praying. We are unthinkingly doing the same thing we have always done; only now we can now make mistakes faster and more often.
If there is such a thing as evolution of thought, the new paradigm that discards everything we know and builds something unique is long overdue. Blow it all up and start over! There have been many missed opportunities. LinkedIn could have been the place where hirers and hirees could engage in a dialog for a better solution. Instead, most recruiters saw it as just another job board and LinkedIn has complied by giving them just what they wanted, not what they needed. Ask a job seeker where they look for jobs and most often it sounds like using the internet to replace that kitchen table/highlighter drill. Nothing has changed. Nobody sees the similarities of today’s methodology to the old ways, but everybody complains about how broken the process has become. It was always broken!
There are signs that people are searching for that better way of doing it. Several companies are rolling out job-to-candidate matching services following the online dating model. So far most of them fall short because it is a software programmer’s concept using the less expensive word matching model rather than any hint of the more expensive true artificial intelligence. Since money rules all, we trade efficiency and time for glitzy dumb systems that repeat the past. They have automated the buzz word bingo and eliminated the human element. It is sold to companies wanting to save a buck and job seekers wanting magic. The biggest flaw is the same as the dating models; it doesn’t work unless people are talking to each other. Ironically, the same people who are complaining that computers are narrowing their chances of a job through an applicant tracking system are hoping that a computer will find that perfect match painlessly and without any effort on their part.
The Zappos story is another unique attempt at changing the paradigm. There are no job postings… period! Well, how about that! One way to eliminate the recruiting black hole is to eliminate the one-way communications that it elicits. By promoting conversations between Zappos Ambassadors and Zappos Insiders a true dialog can be established with the end result of everybody being happy. How do job seekers get to be an Insider? By applying online. Oops! This is a major step toward fixing that broken system and it will be interesting to watch this culture evolve and mature. It will no doubt be improved with experience and is bound to be copied by many, rightly or wrongly.
The real answer to the problem is out there somewhere and one thing is clear: The best solution will always be one that does not disrespect the value of a person on either side of the interview table. It will not be solved by technology replacing humans, but by humans using technological tools to reach their goals more efficiently. The best solution will NOT be to repeat what we do today in a different format. We need to learn to unlearn things that we think we know.
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