Job board owners of the UK, how fantastic and spectacular a job board could you build for £17m?  You might say “that’s crazy money. You could build a world beating job board for half that.  You could even purchase any one of the technically brilliant, but commercially failing established recruitment web sites in the UK for a fraction of that figure”.  Well, £16.7m (to be precise), is the figure that the UK Department of Work and Pensions have contracted to pay Monster for their (sorry our) new recruitment website, to replace the old JobCentre Plus one.  You might think such an expensive project would be announced with some fanfare, rather than the very discreet under-the-radar approach taken on it’s launch on 19th November 2012.

Whilst some people have been getting very agitated about the Orwellian nature of this project – enough to start campaigns complaining about it – news of Universal JobMatch has largely slipped beneath the radar.  Contrary to initial claims, the DWP now plan to make it mandatory for individuals claiming JobSeekers Allowance to register.  Reports state that over 700,000 have done so, and are conducting 5m searches per day.  It is also claimed that over 370,000 employers have signed up, although that figure will include every employer and agency which previously had an account with Job Centre Plus.  In fact, I’d guess that actually includes every employer with a direct.gov gateway account for any government service.

Let’s summarise the claimed statistics

  • 700,000 registered candidates
  • 370,000 employers and recruitment agencies
  • 5m searches per day
  • 215,711 job adverts
  • 104,919 job adverts from employment agencies

The top advertisers, by volume are:

Top employers

Job Adverts

Agency Central Limited (Job Warehouse)

49070

CV Library (Job Warehouse Only)

22829

Monster Worldwide

11709

MyElectricalJobs Ltd (Job Ware

8729

Technojobs Job Warehouse Only

2333

If the top five advertisers are aggregated feeds from other job boards (94,670 job ads), and there are 104,919 from recruitment agencies, that leaves 16,122 job adverts submitted directly by employers themselves.  Not a fabulous conversion rate from the 370,000 employers claimed.

Leaving aside the fact that the contract has not gone to a British firm, and despite the UK teeming with expertise in this field, this is an unmitigated disaster of a deal which has delivered a lousy product for an astronomic cost.

Let’s forget that monumental price tag for a moment though, and have a look at the product itself.  The homepage https://www.gov.uk/jobs-jobsearch is about as amateur an attempt at an online jobsearch tool as I’ve seen in years (and I view thousands of job boards annually).  There is no one consistent way of applying for vacancies; as a candidate may be asked to apply via the site, call a number, click an email link, or click to connect to another originating site, from where the advert was reposted.  This in itself, makes it impossible for the DWP beancounters to accurately monitor the jobseeking activity of benefit claimants.  Overall, it’s a clunky, awkward system, which is poorly thought out, badly implemented, and frustrates candidates, who have come to expect much more than this from professional online recruitment services.

Frankly, this whole project throws up many more questions than answers, including (but not limited to):

  • Whilst those on JSA are compelled to register, would any other jobseeker really be attracted to this site of their own volition? 
  • If it’s titled Universal Jobmatch, why isn’t the website url called that?
  • Who else tendered for this?
  • Why did it cost as much as £17m?
  • Is this a one-off fee? Covering what period?
  • What about ongoing maintenance costs?
  • Are DWP staff trained to run it, or is that contracted out?
  • Who is the responsible person at the top?
  • How do I add a feed of my job board vacancy adverts to Universal Jobmatch, like Monster, CV-Library and Agency Central?

Responses in the media, and by campaigners have so far focussed on the mandatory aspect to the service, and the potential for identity theft of personal information, and the advertising of spurious vacancies by unverified employers.  These reports of hacking (blagging, not computer hacking) are misguided, as of course anyone can already pay for access to the CV database of most major job boards.  In fact, most job boards are easier to gain access to.

The driving force behind Universal JobMatch is the Department of Work and Pensions Minister Iain Duncan Smith. The former Tory Party leader is currently at the epicentre of a multitude of initiatives to reform work, pensions and benefits, and just might not be giving this his full undivided attention.   To give you an idea of how in touch he is, here’s a quote.  “Mr Duncan Smith said the system was “brilliant”, adding: “It will be accessible in internet cafes, libraries and on personal computers.” He also makes a point of stressing that the service is free to jobseekers – unlike of course, all those ones which charge.

There clearly exists a real desire for the DWP to deliver a comprehensive aggregated job search facility for both the unemployed and those in work.  I truly hope that this is not the finished article, as otherwise this has been a mammoth missed opportunity and a monumental waste of money.  I only now wish I had tendered for it myself.

 

PS. I don’t blame Monster for this shoddy project; I blame the civil servants and politicians.

Links:

http://consent.me.uk/universaljobmatch/critica/

Advertise:           https://jobvacancies.businesslink.gov.uk/IndexDwp.aspx

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/adviser/updates/universal-jobmatch/

http://zine.openrightsgroup.org/features/2012/looking-for-a-job-goes-orwellian

http://consent.me.uk/universaljobmatch/orwelljobmatch/

Channel 4 News item on cases of UJ hacking

http://www.channel4.com/news/hackers-use-government-jobs-site-to-steal-your-data

Spoof Employer Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXxwu9mG0Mk