The virtual careers network

Having recently arrived back in Sydneytown, I’m hitting the job sites (the ubiquitous SEEK, and MyCareer) and a variety of agencies to deploy my numerous skills to work, and hopefully, earn a half decent pay packet in the meantime. Even compared with 5 years ago, it’s a different ball game. It’s fair to say that the application process is now fully “real-time”, with paper applications (and even the quaint practice of scouring the Saturday papers) put in the Windows Recycle bin, replaced by …

The application

You’ve got to have one, but you have to wonder if there’s any point in a cover letter. Harassed HR execs having to peruse 100’s of applications will go straight to the CV … a good thing?

  1. Realistically, most graduates are likely to send the same intro for every job, with minor modifications at best. Whilst on the surface this lessens the importance paid to each application, both sides have to realise it’s a numbers game.
  2. On the other hand, this is likely the one thing in the written application that will definitely have been written by the candidate themselves (think resume advisers and so on). For jobs requiring written communication – especially for email – it’s a good tester.
  3. Cutting out the cover letter in favour of the CV encourages recuiters and job seekers to categorise pretty much everything: experience, education, skills etc; this omits the key skill of being able to take a big picture view and relate different concepts.

Nos. 1 and 2, given the increasing speed of transactions, seem to be too firmly entrenched to be reversed. In this case, is it possible to solve no.3 creatively? Giving users an online test, for example abstract reasoning, might serve to recover some of the personality that has been lost. This should not be difficult to set up for any medium sized and above recruiting firm.

The CV

CVs themselves have likely changed little over the past few years, bar a standardisation and (general) improvement in design via packages such as Microsoft Word. No doubt a bonus for recruiters, who can compare and scan CVs more easily.

This efficiency improvement, however, has been overwhelmed by email giving job seekers the ability to send their CV to tens and hundreds of recruiters at a time. The more popular the job, the less attention recruiters get to pay to each individual throwing their hat in the ring – and the greater the chance of strong candidates not even getting an interview.

The jobs site

In the Australian market, reaching the majority of job seekers means recruiters have to go to one of the main job sites – SEEK, My Career and possibly CareerOne – no doubt restrictive, but with tools available to tailor the application and find the right candidate.

A major mistake made by agencies and big organisations illustrates that many have yet to grasp the nature of the new application process – forcing candidates to register, create a username and password and complete a lengthy list of questions. It’s unlikely the candidate will manage a job account anywhere else but on the large career sites: this process wastes the time of the user and the resources of the organisation.

The interview process

Everything getting faster and faster, with less time on each component part – the interview process is no exception. The phone call and first impression become more important, as a mistake can often spell instant elimination. As with other areas, categorisation becomes imperative leaving less time for an overall picture of personality.


In every instance, pressure is increasing for quicker results and better fit to each job – contradictory requirements in most cases. From recent experience, the solution seems simple – go back to basics. Get to know candidates, get to know clients, and use intuition and experience to make the best match between the two. Numbers, facts and figures can be easily compared, but at the core, it’s actual people that are working – which should always be the main focus.

The overall answers are complex and vary for each industry, but here’s three ideas to start with:

  1. Cut out as much administration as possible. You’re interested in what the candidate can do in the job, not whether they can add their details to a database.
  2. As a filter, ask some brief questions specific to the role. This could be a mix of general questions, for example qualifications, as well as specifics on industry knowledge – jobs with critical technical requirements can often be easily tested.
  3. Create the opportunity for users to show something about their personality – for example, their problem-solving skills. Open ended questions can break job seekers out of an automated process and give you an idea of how they would actually approach the job and your organisation.

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