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Society - Written by on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 12:23 - 2 Comments

Denis Hancock
Can job search be eHarmonized?

It’s not uncommon to read about how sites like LinkedIn are becoming a more important way to find jobs (or, from the other side, employees) than sites like Monster.com. The reasons for this tend to be fairly straightforward – and many of them are centered around the power of referrals. Many companies have learned that if you have (say) one good employee, a decent way to find another one is through their network. And the recommendations people make for other people on the site, in general, are likely more truthful and accurate than (say) traditional recommendation letters. After all, if you put your opinion out there for everyone to see, you have a vested interest in only recommending people you actually think are good.

However, this approach is far from perfect. One of the major reasons is that the increased transparency helps bring out “the truth” a little bit, but there are many things that people opt not to share openly about themselves. And it got me thinking whether the job search process could learn a little something from what’s happening with the online dating scene – because there are a lot of interesting similarities.

Sites like Match.com were / are roughly the equivalent of Monster.com. Sites like Facebook, one can argue, are to Match.com what LinkedIn is to Monster.com – lots of people can use it to find / filter potential dates through their network of acquaintances (which is often seen as a superior method). But there is also a very successful site called eHarmony – where users answer hundreds of different questions, and based on these responses are matched up with people that are most likely to be similar.

The closest thing I’ve experienced to this in job searches is various tests and psychological profiles I’ve filled out when applying for various jobs – from trying to become a cashier at a large retail chain in my youth right through to more recent times. But in each case, this was a very one-way process – and I had a general idea of which types of responses the company was looking for.

So what if you took that to the next level – and tweaked it a bit. Imagine one central site, where every worker answered a detailed questionairre about themselves. But instead of having companies be able to peruse the results, let’s say each worker also provided details on where they’d worked in the past, in which roles, and how their experience was. And maybe you throw in companies defining (in detail, but “secretly”) which attributes they believed were most important for filling a certain role. Couldn’t all that information be combined to create a reasonably accurate prediction of which person was best suited for which role?

Now (of course) I’m not the first person to think of this by any stretch of the imagination. A quick search of “eHarmony job search” points me to a 2008 mashable article about a company called realmatch, which appears to be trying to do something like this. Other posts from 2008 point towards upstarts like itzbig, climber, and jobfox attempting to do the same thing. But none of them (according to Alexa) are anywhere near Monster.com in terms of traffic rankings (though JobFox does seem to be showing steady growth).

Now I haven’t actually tried any of these, but my sense from looking at each one is that one big piece of information is missing. Each seems to follow the model of companies saying what they want, and individuals filling out surveys to indicate what they’re looking for. I imagine a lot of people fill out these surveys trying to predict exactly what the companies are saying they want – focusing on opportunity rather than accuracy.

In turn, I personally believe the critical piece of missing information is a feedback from other people that have, or are, working for the company (in the same, or similar type, roles). This would help “balance the playing field” here – and by having a more “realistic” explanation of what’s required / what type of people are suited, individual applicants would have an increased incentive to tell the truth.

Of course the nuts and bolts of making it work would be hard – particularly since incredible scale would likely be required. But my hunch is that job matching sites are going to continue to evolve, on a lagged time line, in somewhat similar fashion to the online dating platforms. And the company that figures out how to best adapt the eHarmony model may well be the one that figures out how to bring in that additional data set.


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Luna Flesher
Oct 14, 2009 13:03

Interesting idea. I’d take a look at OKCupid’s model, too, since it’s slightly different than eHarmony. Most of OKCupid’s quiz questions come from the users themselves. So if I’m looking for a certain quality, I can ask that question. That question goes into the pool.

Also, not sure if eHarmony does this, but it doesn’t just ask your preferences, but it asks how you would prefer your potential mate answer the question, and how important that is to you.

I like how that could change the balance of power, from employers interviewing employees, to employees interviewing employers.

Potty Training
Feb 27, 2010 3:47

LOL i have never thought of job hunting that way but it’s actually true! If they do create an eharmoney for finding jobs I hope the commercials are not as cheesy as the ones on tv right now. This could almost be a sketch on a show like Saturday night live LOL

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