Online Dating from Hell (or Modern Job Hunting)

Several months ago I was in France and realized I would need to get a job upon my return to North America. In today’s interconnected world, I thought doing my job search through the Internet would be the way to do it. It turned out to be both brilliant and brutal, all at the same time.

The Brilliant

The Internet has made distances, for many purposes, very small indeed. From France, I could search though hundreds of possible jobs from scores of companies across North America. That sure beat flipping through the classifieds, one local paper at a time. Search engines and job boards made it easy to find even more possible jobs. When I found a position I was interested in, email allowed me to submit my resume without having to find a FAX machine or worry about the eight hour time difference.

The Brutal

While the Internet has reworked the world in wonderful ways, not all the implications have been dealt with.

Let me return to the metaphor I mentioned in the title. Imagine an Internet dating site. You’ve been told this is THE site, the one where everyone hangs out on (and no, it’s not Facebook…). It’s free to sign up so you start looking around. You find a couple of cute girls and decide to try and get a date and that’s when it all starts going downhill. Each girl wants your vital stats, your relationship history, and a few other random pieces of information you don’t normally tell complete strangers. More annoying is the fact that there’s no standardized way to enter the information; every other girl sends you to her own website to enter it and no two of them look the same. After spending every night for two weeks doing this, you’re made it through about ten ‘applications’ so you sit back and wait for someone to get back to you.

Then you look up the numbers, just out of curiosity. In a nutshell, they’re dismal:

  • About 1 in 10 will write back and tell you they’re dating someone else;
  • About 1 in 20 will get back to you and ask for more information;
  • Only about 1 in 100 will offer you a first date and of those only about 1 in 5 (so 1 in 500 of you original ‘applications’) will call you up for a second date.

If I would have known my odds were 0.2% going in, I probably would have taken a cardboard sign down go the local street corner! At the very least, I’d have a better story than spending weeks and months in front of the computer…

My Job Search

In the beginning, my job search was relatively simple, spending time on the Internet with a goal of 2 or 3 applications a week. I spent about three months at this until my internet connection suddenly died (French customer service can be the subject of another post…grrr).

On returning to Canada, I rewrote my resume (twice) and then hit the pavement. My 40 online applications netted me nothing, but of my 8 walk-ins, one landed me an interview and then a job.

My Suggestions — To Those Offering Jobs

My experience is just my own, but there are some lessons I hope I can pass along.

  • Online job hunting is a great idea but it needs to be implemented well. Keep in mind that most job hunters will have to deal with several of these sites. Too many sites were clunky, slow, and hard to navigate. The longer it takes for me to apply, the more likely I am to abandon part way through or to never come back. And although there might be a lot less effort to apply to the second job, I have to finish the first application.
  • Keep your website up to date. Do you know, for a fact, that your phone number and address are on your website and are current? Also, if you hire someone, take down the job posting; it’s very frustrating to prepare an application, call to get the submission email and at that point find out the position was filled last week.
  • Have good job descriptions. Too many job descriptions are filled with advertising copy for the company and too little about the actual position. If I’m applying for this job, you’ve already sold me on your company. Tell me about the specifics of the job and what I need to be able to do it. And if I have to call to get those details, let me talk to someone who actually knows the details of the job. Please.
  • You only get one chance to make a first impression - how does your receptionist greet job seekers? With a smile and then have someone from HR come out to meet with them for two minutes? Or do they turn up their nose at a paper resume and tell the job seeker “We’re a Green company [whatever that means…] and only accept online resumes”? I got both; the first type I followed up with while the second I crossed off my list (Where do you think I got their office address from? I had already visited their website and their tortured job section…).
  • And most importantly, keep it personal! If the Internet has destroyed relationships, it’s the relationships between businesses and individuals. Too often in my job search I felt like I was being ignored by a computer. Much of my second phase of job hunting was about trying to figure out how I could talk to a living breathing human being! After a while, even the emails saying someone else had been selected started to be appreciated…

The wonders of the Internet have changed the way many things are done in business, but when it comes to filling positions, let’s not forget that it’s real people applying.

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