'The job you've always wanted is just a click away!'




Do you open emails with subject lines like these? Or do you just delete them or filter them out? Every time I think I'm making progress in eliminating unwanted emails that promise (and don't deliver) solutions to my ills, newfound wealth, or the secret to bypassing my cable TV encryption system, another dozen messages (ALWAYS IN CAPS) manage to get through my filter. I'm still waiting for the one that says, "ELIMINATE ALL UNWANTED EMAILS INSTANTLY." That one I'll open.

'Joe job agent'

Lately, there is another type of spam email clogging my in box -- spam from job sites. Instead of "unwanted" emails, these are more in the "I thought I wanted it and stupidly asked for it" category. Yes, I opted in, but I didn't get what I expected. This isn't the "give us your résumé and the employer will search and contact you" pitch. Instead, I'm speaking about the wonderful offer many job sites have, the one were they'll "push" job matches directly to your desktop via an agent. Unfortunately, Mark and I are beginning to believe that this ubiquitous "Joe job agent" is no cybersleuth working on our behalf. Its promise to send only jobs that match a candidate's interests is beginning to look like all the other spam -- more sizzle than steak. Despite the opt-in nature of these potentially valuable services, job seekers are turning off and ignoring or canceling messages that don't deliver.

Maybe its just that we are in the midst of reviewing thousands of job sites. More than half offer their visitors an option to register. Mark and I have been submitting our interests and creating a profile of a typical job seeker. Sometimes we register as a sales rep looking for a job anywhere in the country; more typically, we pretend to be an IT professional with specialized programming skills and an interest in a position in a major technology center. Unfortunately, we've found that the typical job site has more in common with a used car salesperson than with the career counselor that these sites typically compare themselves to.

The promises

Most sites with job agents claim that the operation of those agents are:

  • Convenient: "You won't need to search the job database over and over."
  • Easy: "Just answer a few questions about yourself and we'll take care of the rest."
  • Accurate: "Only the positions that match your interests will be sent to you".
  • Confidential: "They will never know who you are."

The reality

  • Convenient? Not when I have to return to the site, post my password, and drill through the ads to get to the so-called "job of a lifetime." Why not just send me all the information about the job (including the contact information)? The reason I have to jump through all these hoops is a simple matter of Web economics: every time I'm forced back through the job site, I'm counted as a unique visitor and my page views will be added up to bolster the numbers that site claims. (Of course, the higher the page views, the more the site can charge for banner ads or job listings.) This wouldn't be so bad for someone only registered at one site; increasingly, however, job seekers are exploring major hubs, IT career networks, niche specialty sites, and local sites for places they can gain an edge. The last thing a candidate wants is to get emails from 10 sites that say nothing but "come back and build up our traffic." If you've got the goods, deliver it.

  • Easy? I'm hard pressed to see any difference between submitting a résumé and registering to receive jobs that match my interests. Passive candidates will be less likely to answer all these questionnaires: they're too intrusive, they're too long, and they're unnecessary. All the site really needs from an applicant is an email address and an indication of location and skill level. At least give me the short form as an option.

  • Accurate? I want New Jersey. I get Syracuse, N.Y. I'm looking for a programmer analyst position but am offered a help desk support job. I get one great match out of 10 in a two week span and then, when I return to the site and search manually, I find twelve other positions posted during the last week with the same criteria I set my agent to search on.

  • Confidential? The only thing confidential on too many sites is their privacy policy; when I can find it, it usually reads like our insurance policy. I don't read insurance policies. What I want is assurances that my personal information is not being sold or used for other purposes, and that when my contact information is provided, it won't be released. Despite my efforts, a suspicious number of third-party recruiters still reach me thinking I'm a programmer analyst. I just tell them I really wanted the help desk job.

Recruiters spending their companies' money on third-party job sites would be well advised to register themselves as the candidate they seek. Or, to put it another way: if you want to find one, pretend you are one. In addition to getting a sense of whether your target audience will use the site, you might also test to find whether or not the job you (the recruiter) just posted will also be pushed out to you (the candidate) by Joe job agent. As an added bonus, you'll also get to see the jobs your competitors are advertising. Comparing these offers with your own opening will be enlightening at the very least.

As someone who wants to manage a career efficiently and productively, I'm always looking for an edge. Sites that meet their promises that provide useable information -- and only the information that is requested -- are more likely to build trust and credibility with the communities they target. As a recruiter, I want to find and work with these sites -- and only these sites.

ITWorld DealPost: The best in tech deals and discounts.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon