Sometimes, in our day-to-day of focusing on user research and wireframes and cross-team communication, we lose sight of the breadth and applicability of UX principles. And then in a moment, we’re brought up against an experience that is so frustrating or unhelpful, and our eyes are reopened to the beauty of what we do. We make things better for people.
In recent months, one area has come up over and over that would benefit greatly from a user-focused overhaul: searching and applying for jobs online.
You’ve seen sites like Monster.com, NFT jobs and Indeed.com. You’ve probably even typed in a job title at some point to see what results pop up in your area. “Monster” feels like an appropriate word choice on these sites — they contain so much information, that’s entered by so many different companies, as well as promoted listings, ads, and uber-helpful “Upload Your Resume Now” and “Get Jobs in Your Inbox” CTAs.
What’s frustrating about these sites is the lack of consistency and lack of flexibility.
In a consistent job search experience, each listing would be formatted the same way, with clearly labeled sections (About this Company, Role Requirements, Job Description, Benefits, etc.), each in the same order as the others. Not only would this help make the pages easier to scan, but it would hold companies with open positions to consistent standards.
For instance, in the above examples, the UX Researcher listing includes internal company information (the Req. #) which appears to have no external value or meaning to the reader. While that listing has clear headings, they vary wildly from the Senior listing’s headers and language. One is a terse, bulleted list; the other looks like they took some time to inject the posting with a bit of humanity.
The lack of flexibility comes on the way job sites are built. They’ve structured their search as a keyword search, which works great for Google and general information. But in industries where job titles will inevitably vary from company to company, a quick “user research” search pulls any listing with either of those words in the post. There are probably search modifiers that can be used, but who is going to take the time to learn them?
Instead, why not build search so it can be modified by skill set or preferred tools and software or by years of experience? The filters they offer are deep, but pointed in the wrong direction. The goal should be to help searchers find the right job, not the most popular one. They’re halfway there – they offer a “sort by relevance” heading but the only tag under relevance is “date.” As a job seeker, there are a lot of things more relevant to a job search than just the date a posting was published.
In real life, there’s a feedback loop we go through when we put in a bid for something – whether it’s a job, a product in a store, or someone’s attention. We essentially show interest, gauge the response, and then continue engaging or move on. With online job applications, though, there’s a disconnect where we would read body language in real life.
The online application process can be incredibly jarring. Some sites offer a quick application, where you have a standard resume saved and they try to auto-fill as much as possible for you. But sometimes, when you expect to have a chance to tailor your information or even review what’s getting sent, it’s turned into an Amazon one-click purchase experience. “Your resume has been sent!” the success screen says. And there’s no email receipt of what was sent or next steps or setting expectations for the applicant. You’ve applied to the void.
Some job search sites do a pretty good job with distinguishing when you’re applying through them or clicking through to the company’s site to apply directly. But enough companies use third party application tools that even applying directly with the company becomes a hassle. With third party sites, there’s often a failure to pass relevant information in order to save the applicant time and repetition, and sometimes even a failure to identify which information the applicant should provide and which information the hiring company should provide.
For example, this company should have been able to track which job listing the user clicked “Apply” on and pass through the relevant internal company information (like which internal team that job fell under). But instead, they asked the user to supply the “desired job category” (a dropout list of the company’s internal departments), which required the applicant to know and understand the company’s internal structure (or to hazard a wild guess, which might count against them in the applicant reviews if they guess wrong – who knows?).
At the very least, some form of communication at each step that tells the applicant what is happening and where in the process they are would be helpful. For instance, this on-site application process, while not tied in real-time to an actual applicant’s status (which would be so cool!), at least gives a clear roadmap for what will happen next:
Once an application is through the tangled online system and into a recruiter’s hands, there’s still not enough focus on the end user — the applicant, in this case. The recruiter is usually on a deadline and often motivated by commission or bounties. They are one or two people, using their own filtering systems to weed through applicants and call the ones most likely to be hired.
What if recruiters were rewarded for finding the best candidate for that company and position – considering their skill sets, character, values, work ethic, and fit into the existing team? Or what if recruiters were given sets of needs on a team and asked to find people who met those needs? They would be free to hire based on strengths and character, rather than a list of capabilities and certifications.
Which really feels like the crux of the problem with the online job search industry: the entire thing is backwards.
Why do people who want a new job have to be the ones to pursue companies that already have the resources and staff to spend time looking for worthy employees?
What if job boards were searchable directories of highly-skilled individuals, and recruiters did the work of filtering and refining and contacting the people they were interested in hiring? There are a few sites trying that out (see WorkingNotWorking.com for one example), but they’re currently limited to freelance or contract hires or specific industries.
How else could we revolutionize the online job search industry if we just shifted a little closer to a user-first approach and applied some of the UX best practices we use daily?