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It is better
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the web than
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John Sumser

is more
it seems.
John Gall


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(November 20, 2003) - Long term readers understand our reluctance to believe in matching software. Egged on by massive volumes of resume data and the feeling of market supremacy, businesses are increasingly viewing talent as a commodity. A great view in a buyer's market, we wonder if things will really work like this.

We've been experimenting heavily with Yahoo!'s new Launch service (internet radio that tunes itself to you), betting that deep use of a matching system would drive insights into the recruiting question. As heavy Amazon customers, we're extremely dissatisfied with what passes for matching in that environment. Perhaps, we thought, a fixed environment (all of music) would introduce efficiencies and create a new level of effectiveness.

Yahoo's tool (like Amazon) has a terrible tendency to drive choices towards the mediocre. Although the service theoretically allows a user to fine tune the system towards personal tastes, what happens is really driven by the majority taste. In the recommendation process (again, like Amazon), the majority of users are considered, driving suggestions away from the fringes. (It's amazing how many fringe artists are supposed to share common ground with very mainstream celebrities.)

It's a straightforward thing, really. There's an essential sameness about cultural preferences for certain types of music, art, books and workers. Unfortunately, building a powerful organization requires discovery of the "difference that makes a difference". Innovation and creativity are the polar opposites of predictability.

Yesterday, we mentioned (again) that we are inhabiting very interesting times. The media description of the job market as difficult is coloring the thinking of hiring authorities who have no reason to question the underlying rationale. As a result, matching tools are gaining ground from a variety if influences. By making decision making easier (and more justified) they are driving hiring decisions in the wrong direction.

Right now is a powerful time for companies to pick up creative contributors. The market will get tight quickly and the competition will grow. If you are using a matching system to drive your screening process, be careful. Bad habits cultivated now will result in destructive behavior as the markets heat up.

John Sumser

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