Doug Lighthouses | for editor and editor
The job market has become like Tinder. Let me explain to you.
As I took the first big step of my media career, I found myself in the “enviable” position of leading a news organization as we emerged from a recession. The local factories were in desperate need of people, and these help announcements made us so much money that we started aggressively going out and looking for more. During such a precarious time for everyone, but especially for us in print, local help ads generated more revenue per space than anything else in this newspaper.
The driving force behind the success of selling these job search ads was the fact that the entire recruitment advertising market was only accessible through newspapers. This was nothing new; it was just the first time I saw him on the side of the newspaper.
When I started out in life, I would go out on Saturday nights, pick up a copy of the Chicago Tribune, and dump out a third of the paper, which was just help ads. And now that I’m a bit older, I can appreciate how elegant this business model was.
Companies paid obscene sums to newspapers to run these ads; then job seekers paid to access where the employers were. Employers would receive resumes over the next week, sift through them, and then proceed with hiring them. In this way, you had newspapers as intermediaries between employers and workers, selling both parties access to the labor market.
But monopolies rarely last forever, and like every other facet of life, the Internet has arrived and disrupted traditional dynamics.
Today, this monopoly has disintegrated. Sites like Monster and Indeed have become the go-to place for job seekers, and the way people enter the job market has changed. With virtually no barriers to entry on either side, the growth of digital media has caused transaction volumes to skyrocket.
I don’t want to describe this as a totally negative change; undeniably, there are advantages to this new labor market. Once upon a time, if I saw a job I wanted to apply for, I had to print out my resume, get out my typewriter to write a cover letter, and then send it off to my future employer. It was an investment; you had to put some skin in the game just to get your name out there.
But now that friction has been greatly reduced, at least on the workers’ side. Employees can apply for any job they even have a passing interest in, and it’s often as simple as clicking “apply now.” And that’s not entirely a bad thing, but there are obvious downsides.
For employers, a list that previously got 20-40 candidates could now easily get several hundred or even thousands. And while a larger talent pool isn’t exactly an issue, there are logistical realities of processing so many applications, especially when half or more aren’t really interested or qualified for the job.
Solving this new problem required new services and other actors, so now automated systems recommend jobs to potential candidates and job seekers to employers (at an additional cost, of course). And this “solution” seems to please no one.
For companies, you have to set ridiculous standards for every job posting just to avoid being inundated with unqualified candidates. And job seekers have to stuff their resumes with keywords and exaggerate their experiences just to get their name in front of a hiring manager for a position they are more than capable of filling.
Applicants still have to apply too many to have a chance of being seen, let alone hired, and companies still get so many applicants that they can’t carefully review every application.
In this constant buzzing noise, there isn’t really time to do more than take a look at a job posting or candidate before deciding – to use what my kids assure me to be the language of the day – to swipe right or left.
So what’s the alternative to a dating app culture that’s becoming how we hire people? Really, I ask the question because as nice as it is for me to fantasize, I can’t see newspapers coming back to replace ZipRecruiter or LinkedIn.
Perhaps a more realistic solution will come in the form of a highly organized platform, with safeguards that put serious applicants ahead of employers (and vice versa).
This is a difficult situation, and I’d love to hear your solutions in the comments below. Is it going to take another developer to straighten this out? Are we all stuck in this space waiting for the next big hiring disruptor to arrive?
Doug Phares is the former CEO of Sandusky News Group. He is currently Managing Director of Silverwind Enterprises, which owns and provides management services to small businesses. He can be contacted at [email protected]