I’m a Responsible Babysitter, But Something Tells Me That Job Alerts Aren’t Working

I’m concerned about job alerts. These are the micro-apps that job boards, applicant tracking system vendors, and others, have created to keep candidates interested (warm) by pushing out opportunities to candidates that are supposed to be relevant to the candidate.

These products are touted as using the best search, matching, and semantic engines existing, blah blah blah, etc.

Here are see some recent examples that I’ve received. These are from multiple job board vendors and ATS solutions that I signed up for with my real profile. None of these match any criteria in my profile or key words: Executive Vice President, Talent Management Leader, Talent Acquisition Leader.

Something in my profile triggered these jobs to appear in my alert. Work needs to be done.

The solution is not just a vendor problem. It is too easy to always blame the vendor. It will take a combination of efforts and really a team (vendors, employers, candidates) effort, to make this work well.

The employer could have jobs sent to candidates based on loosely defined criteria. The job board vendor could have a tool that only looks for certain keywords, and not the meaning. The candidate may be poorly or incompletely filling out forms on their end.

We need to challenge our industry on several fronts:

First, we need candidates to know how to properly tweak their job alert to make the alert productive and useful based on the technology available to employers. Employers, ATS, and job board vendors need to show candidates best and worst practices, so that they may get the most out of the tool. Let candidates know how to refine the keywords, geographies, salaries, frequency, etc.

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Second, employers need to review their current job alert functionality, and have leaders test with their own real life profiles/examples. Employers need to challenge their job board and ATS vendors for improvements based on what was found during their testing.

Third, job board and ATS vendors need to hear from candidates and employers ways to have a better job alert product with specifics from the testing. Vendors are eager to focus on new lines of revenue and spend very little effort on fixing existing solutions. Employers need to push their service providers to have the best tools and fix bugs wherever possible, not just the bugs tied directly to revenue.

Fourth, reintroduce and reteach the job alerts for candidates. For organizations, this means having a paragraph or webpage showing best practices, maybe even a short video. Some of the largest ATS providers just have a check box saying “check this box if you want to see more jobs like this,” which might not even remotely match the job posting someone is reviewing.  We can do better at this, and doing better will help candidates find an opportunity at your organization as well as improve the candidate experience.

With all of these points, the key item is the candidate experience. Industry leaders, both consultants and employers, have made it clear how important the candidate experience is. We need to focus on job alerts as one of the components of a great candidate experience, not just a “check the box” to say that we have one. Having a great job alert feature can improve the candidate experience and have a positive effect on the organization’s brand, as well as a way to keep the candidates engaged.

What has been your experience with job alerts … Too much Spam? Not remotely close to your profile?

Frank Wittenauer has spent more than 20 years as a talent technology evangelist and process consultant going back to the days when recruiters used Resumix 2.1 on Sun UNIX boxes. He has provided organizations with talent solutions such as international mobility, career websites, online job boards, social media strategies, vendor management, SaaS/Cloud, and hosted solutions. He and his wife Christine reside in Monroe, Connecticut, with their twin daughters. Follow him at https://www.linkedin.com/in/frankwittenauer



7 Comments on “I’m a Responsible Babysitter, But Something Tells Me That Job Alerts Aren’t Working

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. From writing better job titles, paying closer attention to keywords and better matching algorithms we can make them much better.

  2. This will improve when vendors are willing to risk exciting QBR metrics driven by a high volume of low relevancy matches. It’s time for all the buzz around machine learning to pay dividends in better quality results without having to rely on sheer volume. We are up for the challenge. Stay tuned…

    1. Hi Joe, great to hear from you on this. Your firm is definitely ahead of others, keep at it. We’ve all heard about semantic search engines and who has the best of this or that tech, it does seem like the job alerts are just basically key word searches and most are missing the relevance piece.
      I think we would all be eager to hear what you are up with with AI and machine learning. Looking forward to it.

  3. Thanks, Joe. I’m curious if there are any studies which indicate what percentage of corporate jobs are filled by applicants responding to job alerts (as opposed to going to the company website, using a job board, etc.)

  4. Interesting article. I completely agree with you regarding changes that need to be made to the UX and to the matching technology. What amazes me about digital job alerts is how successful they are (in spite of themselves). This is especially true if a firm uses a recruitment marketing platform. If you check out the data, it illustrates that in terms of impacted hires (last 5 sources before applying) digital job alerts will be either second or third behind the career web site. And that data has been consistent over the past decade.

  5. My 3 ingredient recipe for defining “job alerts” or talent pipelines….

    Each Req in your ATS or Pipeline in your CRM is, at the simplest level, defined by this:

    (Job Family AND Job Function) + Location

    If you applied to a Recruiter job in Los Angeles and made it into a phone screen but did not get the job, I add you via the ATS into my Human Resources/Recruiter in Los Angeles Pipeline…which means you will get an alert the next time around for that position.

    Most job alerts only go one level…you need to go to. Otherwise, a recruiter like me gets jobs about being a comp analyst…because it’s in HR.

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