SmartRecruiters Blog

Occupy Technology to Hire

“We need to leverage technology to bring recruiting back to its roots as a social activity,” said SmartRecruiters CEO Jerome Ternynck.

Everyday, more of the public takes occupation in the streets. More than 14 million Americans are unemployed, actively searching for a job. And 3.4 million jobs remain open, an increase of 22% over the last year.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 671,000 less private sector jobs existed in the first quarter of 2011 when compared to the previous quarter. This full first quarter report was not published until November 17th


I’m not relying on the government to put the six plus million workers who have been unemployed for six plus months back to work.

From the tents in the city parks to the debates for unemployment benefits in the federal buildings to police brutality, the frustration with the economy is on the tip of our unsatisfied tongues. Without satisfying work, humans are just not satisfied. McGill University reported that prolonged unemployment while under the age of 50 increases a man’s chances of dying prematurely by 63%. On top of that, Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index measured underemployed workers as 83% more likely to be diagnosed with depression than fully employed workers.

In my opinion, the frustration spewing from the Occupy Movement is due to the lack of fiscal accountability in the financial crisis and ensuing bailouts. Transparency was missing. Speculators, who were at the root of crisis, received the bailout tax dollars of the speculators and the average worker, creating more disgruntled workers. To satisfy the 14 million unemployed and 9 million underemployed Americans, the practices in the labor market must combat the frustration of the Occupy Movement by becoming more transparent today.

The Internet will increase transparency, which will increase accountability, in the labor markets. On November 15 in TechCrunch, Erik Schonfeld pointed out the Internet’s ability to match jobs: “New forms of work that use the Internet as its organizing principle (instead of the firm) are beginning to become more commonplace.” While social networks have a lot more of our information and footprint than a resume, social networks are still young. Social networks are maturing to the technology in terms of the sharing only the relevant information.

Even with all the personal and connected information on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Facebook Apps, the barriers to entry for the candidate to get an interview remains too high. In a recent survey by research firm, 47% of job candidates said they had not applied to a particular employer because the firm’s hiring process was too frustrating. It is taxing enough to choose a suitable job (for culture, talent, location, compensation, and timing) out of over 3 million, let alone expend the energy to actually apply.

“Nothing keeps the best candidates away like a lengthy and bureaucratic form,” said SmartRecruiters CEO Jerome Ternynck.

There is no business without talent. Too often businesses expect to hire the perfect candidate. The vast majority of entry-level job descriptions “require” 2+ years experience. It is not rational for a business to expect a new entrant in the labor market to have 2+ years experience.

Recently, Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post (“The Great Jobs Mismatch” ) and Peter Cappelli in the Wall Street Journal (“Why Companies Aren’t Getting the Employees They Need” ) both described this situation as a “Catch-22.” Samuelson wrote:

“You can’t get hired unless you have experience; but you can’t get experience unless you’re hired. With technology changing rapidly, workers need to know more, even as their skills-support systems weaken.”

Samuelson is correct; today, the worker must evolve quicker. However, with rapidly improving technology at the worker’s disposal, the worker will be able to learn new skills faster. Cappelli aptly points this out, “Only about 10% of the people in IT jobs during the Silicon Valley tech boom of the 1990s, for example, had IT-related degrees.”

Race Against the Machine,” a book by Erik Brynjollffson and Andrew McAfee, both of MIT’s Center for Digital Business, elaborated on how technology is a tool to empower the worker because technology allows the individual worker to become more productive. They wrote, “the key to winning the race is not to compete against machines but to compete with machines.

As the rate of technology accelerates, the skills “required” for the job accelerate. This means – that over the same duration – less percentage of candidates will possess all the “required” skills upon being hired. Now, more than ever, companies must abide by the 80 / 20 rule for skills / training. Candidates that can perform 80% of the tasks initially, will learn the other 20% upon working, and should be hired today, possibly with steady pay scaling to more accurately compensate the worker for the increased fluidity of skills accumulation in today’s economy.

Abiding by the 25 bullet points on a job description of “required” is purely hubris. It’s very unlikely that any candidate will have all 25 skills. And if someone did, that candidate probably has more than those 25 skills, so paying him or her for only those 25 skills would be a gross underpayment. Businesses must adjust their expectations. Cappelli described this results based approach as, “Jobs can be organized in many different ways so that candidates who have very different credentials can do them successfully.”

While jobs in tech companies are booming, this type of hiring for raw skill is not occurring across enough industries. A recent survey of 2,000 firms by McKinsey Global found that 40% had positions open at least six months because they couldn’t find suitable candidates. Businesses must re-evaluate what determines “suitable.”

When the economy tightens, businesses must fight the urge to apply tension to spending. Businesses must not hold out for the perfect candidate because they will never regain the lost production through the period. If businesses communicate to the candidate what tasks need completed – as opposed to what skills need to be present – transparency will create more hires.

By David Smooke, an Internet enthusiast who brings free recruiting software to market.

Photo Credit David Smooke

David Smooke

David Smooke was the Director of Content Marketing and Social Media at SmartRecruiters and is the Founder of ArtMap Inc & AMI Publications.