The Age of the Meander

If asked to list the most popular websites on the planet, you would probably say Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, Twitter, The BBC, and LinkedIn. People not only visit these sites frequently, but can rack up hours in a session, moving from one interesting item to the other. What these sites all have in common is not only heaps of rich content, but an innate ability to prevent people from leaving with the offer of just one more funny video, bargain book, stupid revue, photo album or network connection. We are experiencing the Age of the Meander, where we can easily lose an afternoon wandering around the content of a site, being continually delighted, shocked, amused and educated.

With these sites as examples, surely job boards could perform the same feat? They certainly have massive amounts of fresh content, updated by the minute, and an audience that is now compelled to use them, as print advertising is no more. Shouldn’t it now be possible for job seekers to start with an initial search, and wend their merry way from one job advert to another, finding gems and making applications as they go? Shouldn’t candidates be continually delighted by what they find, amazed by the choice of jobs available, and the in depth details provided on currently recruiting employers?

Well imagine this; Amazon filled with dull unpriced products, with no connections leading to other items, LinkedIn didn’t allow any access to the profile you’re not yet connected to, YouTube suggested no related videos, and twitter had no user avatars. These, and many more, are the perverse ways in which the job board market attempts to destroy itself (or at the very least is being dragged downmarket by advertisers).

Chief amongst those reasons is that most vacancies are advertised anonymously, do not state an accurate location, salary, job description, and make very little effort to persuade appropriate people to apply. As job boards refuse to do much about the quality of products on their virtual shelves, the primary responsibility for this lies with recruitment agencies, who post more than 75% of all job ads. How idiotic is it, for example, to anonymise job ads in a feeble attempt to keep the name of their client employer a secret from their competitors, when it is almost always already public knowledge? I realise most agencies fear losing clients, when they are already working on a non-exclusive, speculative contingency basis, but even the most paranoid should know that the quality and volume of applications increases enormously when the employer is named. Further details, like accurate salary, specific location and detailed description actually reduce the rate of bad applications too.

So if recruitment agencies are too scared to changed, what can job boards do to improve the product served to job seekers? For a start, I would recommend a discount for ads that identified the specific employer, rather than the inflated rates currently charged for direct employer adverts. Secondly, as S1jobs does, I would allow candidates to separate job search results to filter out anonymous adverts. If not this, then display adverts with named employers above those which do not.  Armed with this information, job boards could then have richer information with which they can encourage candidates to “meander” through the site, making applications as they go.

I’m shortly to begin the process for the 13th annual National Online Recruitment Awards, and frankly I’ll be looking for more intelligent and strategic plays from all contenders in all categories. This is 2013, and recruitment should be much smarter than this.

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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