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Room 4 Improvement 6

(March 31, 2006)  Fit is a difficult question full of murky side issues. It's one thing to imagine that a tailor, with complete access to the hidden reaches of your body, can create a perfect fit in a suit. It's another thing to think about the relationship between an employee and employer on those terms.

Like many adult bodies, the employer goes through lean times and, um, less lean times. When things are thin, fit is critical. When things are less thin, fit can be more flexible. How the employee and employer interact as a system is almost entirely a function of the organization's fate in the economic cycle.

Many voices, ranging from the industrial psychologists to the search algorithm enthusiasts, suggest that the output of the Job Boards could (and should) be improved by addressing the "fit" question. The hard thing is that the definition of fit is a moving target. Particularly in knowledge work enterprises, the best employee this month may be maladaptive next month. While assembly line workers might be measured for fit (and some retail workers), the vast majority of the work force hold jobs that are unique to their circumstances.

In other words, "fit" is a red herring on one level. It's an idea left over from the days when employment lasted long enough for it to matter. It's a marketing concept used to deliver sketchy services and plausible deniability.

In the knowledge economy, the initial job is a gateway to the company. The likelihood that the job bears deep resemblance to the initial job description is very low. What really happens is that the early phases of the employer - employee relationship are all about sizing each other up and adjusting to the realities of the relationship. If the relationship survives the first project, fit becomes an interesting issue.

The next issue raised about job boards is the Reach question. That is, how do you reach the people that job boards can't or don't. For an interesting perspective on this question, see Michael Kelemen's article on Microsoft's sourcing techniques.

We asked Hans Gieskes (founder and CEO of H3.com) to think about the job board issues we're covering. A long term industry player, with stints at the head of Monster, he says:

Spot on I've made similar comments to journalists when they asked me to say negative things about job boards.

My position has always been:

1. It's unwise for a start-up to announce the early demise of 800 pound gorillas, because they can squash you and have the last laugh. They can afford to get it wrong and try again, most start-ups do not have that luxury, their CEOs in particular!

2. Yes, there are faults in their system, but name one sourcing methods that is without fault. I think the major job boards have the resources & talent to fix these things, but do they have the imagination - that's the question. They have been conditioning their customers with lots of "mosts", i.e. most resumes, most jobs, but never with the "right" jobs and right size shortlist ...

3. Job boards are now the wall paper of every recruiting campaign with annual subs that get renewed, benefiting from the fact that canceling often reqires more energy than renewing. Nobody ever got fired for posting jobs on Monster.com. It is just like placing ads in newspapers in the nineties. Newspapers were slow to start fixing things, but ended up owning Careerbuilder, Indeed.com. They also have a new chance to excel with localized job boards with heavy doses of local social networking

Totally agree that we'll never be East Germany and have only one tool / one flavor for everything. The key thing that has changed is that employees are now increasingly aware of how (electronically) networked they are, what the demographics are in their area and exactly what their value is, which means that both persuading them to interview and refer will get more costly

So employers and recruiters be nice, be honest (both pay in the long run) and roll up your sleeves or find another profession

Have a good weekend.

 John Sumser . - . Permalink . - . Today's Bugler

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