I was on the web doing some research the other day when I came across a really interesting article that makes some predictions about the future of the online job searching model. These predictions fit naturally with some of the ideas I have been writing about lately, so I decided to devote this month’s article to discussing some of those predictions. “The Career Networks” The article I am referring to is a summary of a Forrester Research report entitled “The Career Networks.” Even though this article was published in 2000, it still provides excellent, research-based information about the dissatisfaction with the state of the online job searching process. Forrester’s research blames the disjointed and widely scattered nature of web-based job searching as the culprit for dissatisfaction among both job seekers and recruiters. The report goes on to suggest that this dissatisfaction will create enough critical mass to fuel the rise of meta sites that integrate training, assessment, and placement services. Forrester refers to these sites as “Career Networks.” It predicts that these sites will capture 55% of the $7.1 billion online recruitment market by 2005. Forrester expects that career networks will evolve out of alliances formed by partnerships as well as acquisitions between job boards and other high-traffic portals on the web. While the Forrester report does not suggest the gory details of what these career networks will look like, it does suggest that these networks must include three critical components:
- A profile database
- A jobs database
- A matching engine
Forrester suggests that these elements must work together as a system to help provide the tools needed to tap into the economy provided by a one stop career shop. Sound Familiar? In last month’s article, I talked in detail about some of the frustrations faced by both job seekers and recruiters and I clearly highlighted the role that assessment based profiles and matching engines will play in building systems designed to help to alleviate these frustrations. The concept of the career network is exciting to me because it helps these ideas find a home. The remainder of this article is devoted to discussing details of the current frustrations with online career searching and how career networks can use assessment to help alleviate these frustrations. Where Are We Now? Forrester suggests that dissatisfaction among recruiters and job seekers (this back in 2000; you can imagine the level of dissatisfaction today) will provide the critical mass needed to fuel the rise of career networks. An understanding of the value could be provided by career networks requires a quick look at the shortcomings of the present online job search model. At the present time, job seekers are forced to:
- Make important decisions based on limited information. Job boards do very little to help users understand the requirements of a job or learn about themselves relative to these requirements.
- Deal with “search spam.” Most searching tools do a poor job of helping users find jobs for which they are really qualified.
- Visit multiple job sites. Candidates often must visit many job boards, and create and manage a different resume or profile(s) for each board.
- Send information into a black hole. The expectation at the present time is that when you send a resume, you will probably not hear back from the employer, nor will you have any way of knowing where you stand in their process.
At the present time, recruiters often must:
- Look under lots of rocks. Most of the time recruiters are forced to make multiple postings and search multiple databases to access viable candidates.
- Look for needles in haystacks. Inefficient searching and evaluation tools mean more unqualified resumes and more difficulty in identifying the best applicants.
- Juggle. Often recruiters must use multiple portals and systems to fill their requisitions.
The continued evolution of the online job searching model requires the resolution of these issues. The concept of an assessment-based career network creates a viable platform for doing this by providing job seekers and recruiters with tools that add efficiency and effectiveness to the job search process. So What Will a Career Network Look Like? The career network will help us move away from the concept of molecular “job searches” towards the more holistic concept of “career management.” The idea here is to provide users with a highly personalized experience that allows them to manage their career-related affairs from one centralized location. This location will provide tools that will allow job seekers to obtain a deep level of self understanding and to subsequently utilize this understanding to focus on fulfilling career-related goals and objectives. The functionality associated with career networks will allow users to:
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- Build a profile. When users enter the career network for the first time, they will have access to a variety of self-profiling assessment tools. These will include tools that help users to understand their work values, motivators, personality, and knowledge/skill levels. Bigby-Havis’ CareerWay tool (you can see my latest newsletter for a complete review of this tool) is an excellent example of such a tool. These tools can be accessed on an ongoing basis to provide users with the ability to update their profiles. When combined with additional personal information, such as experience and basic qualifications, the results of these assessments will serve to help users search a centralized database to locate jobs that fit their profile. These assessments will also serve to help users identify skills and experience gaps and create developmental plans for bridging these gaps, as well as provide access to training materials aimed at facilitating continued development. The profile will be the cornerstone of the career management process and will serve to paint a clear picture of who a user is that goes beyond the resume.
- Access a virtual “career coach.” Users will be provided with a personal electronic relationship agent, or “coach,” that understands who they are and helps them manage their career based on this understanding. This may include providing seekers tools that will help them determine what available jobs best fit their profile, that will recommend developmental resources, and that will assist them in creating important job search materials such as resumes and cover letters.
- Utilize niche-based career channels. While the central goal of career networks is to aggregate job postings from a large number of sources into one centralized database, this database will be segmented into “career channels.” These channels will grow via the integration of niche job boards into the larger career network.
- Conduct highly efficient searches. Job postings will be based on the same basic profile elements utilized by job seekers. A highly intelligent matching engine will facilitate the process of matching seekers to jobs based on how well a seeker’s profile meets the requirements of the job in question.
- Track their search process. An essential part of the career network will be the ability facilitate a two-way communication process with organizations who have posted a job or who are looking for individuals whose profiles will allow them to enter a career track within the organization. Candidates will have a desktop much like the one provided to recruiters via ATS systems. This desktop will allow them to see who has reviewed their profile, understand why they may not be a good match for a particular job, and track and manage multiple job searches.
- Become a member of a community. Career channels will be oriented towards allowing users to become a member of a community. They will have the ability to network and chat with other community members using tools such as instant messengers and bulletin boards.
- Conduct research. Users will be provided with the ability to research salary and relocation information as well as information about jobs and careers.
These functionalities will also benefit recruiters, in that they will need to use only one or two locations to find and communicate with qualified applicants. Recruiters will also benefit greatly from the improved searching functionality provide by assessment based profile matching. What Will It Take To Get There? Here are some of the things that will need to happen in order for career networks to become a reality.
- Understanding the central role of screening and assessment. The career network will be built on personalization and deep relationships. The career network’s promise of the ability to provide personalized matching requires a complete understanding of both the seeker and the job. Assessment is the tool that will provide this capability.
- Understanding the link between assessment for selection and training/development. Few organizations currently see the link between assessment for selection and the creation of training and development programs. With their broader focus on careers rather than jobs, career networks must integrate training-and-development-related functionality into the services offered to job seekers.
- Aggregation that goes beyond alliances to real integration. Niche job boards are going to have to merge with or integrate into the career network to create career channels that are linked to one centralized database.
- Offering something of substance to job seekers. Job seeker aren’t suckers; they are consumers and they want something of value. Providing them with a relationship aimed at understand themselves relative to the world of work is essential if career networks are to become a reality. While career networks have many benefits for organizations, their primary focus must be on the job seeker.
- Improved communication. Providing an improved means of communication between job seekers and recruiters is an essential facet of the personalization process.
- Advanced technology. All of this will require some complex and innovative technology. While much of this technology currently exists, great effort will be needed to weave it together into a complete system.
Of course I am only making guesses with all of this. I cannot say for sure if niche job boards will go the way of the dodo, nor can I predict if the landscape will eventually be ruled by just one or two meta job boards. What I do know is that change is inevitable, and no matter what happens, screening and assessment will be the cornerstone of future efforts to match people with jobs. Those who begin to get onboard now are going to be happily eating their part of the $7 billion pie in 2005 and beyond. I am eager to participate in the development of career networks ó so if anyone is thinking in this direction please let me know if you need some help!