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Looking for a job? How new tech is helping companies find potential employees

Job seekers participate in a career counseling session. The Government Accountability Office says the number of long-term unemployed 55 and older has more than doubled since the recession began back in 2007.

Boston College senior Isaiah Bien Aime checks out the latest job postings on his AfterCollege.com profile.  The 21-year-old economics major needs to find a job before he graduates this spring.

Technology is making all kinds of choices for us these days, like how Netflix and Pandora can use big data to tell us which movies and music we might like. Now, it’s changing the way job seekers and employers connect.  Case in point: 21-year-old Isaiah Bien Aime*, a Boston College senior who’s on track to graduate this spring with a major economics. 

 

He wants to get an MBA, but first he needs a job, so Bien Aime* signed on with AfterCollege.com. The free website sends college students and recent grads curated alerts with job and internship postings based on where and what they study. 

 

It also allows employers to contact students directly. Bien Aime signed up a month ago and says he’s already had two interviews. 

 

“I think they are capable of getting a sense of who I am as a person and tailoring my search to make sure that the jobs that they are posting are intriguing to me,” Bien Aime says.

 

The matchmaker at AfterCollege is a bunch of math; the website started in 1999 as a searchable job board and it’s kept track of who applied for what. Last year, the company fed all that data through an algorithm and started recommending jobs.

 

“You have basically a reduced likelihood that you’re going to end up in a job you don’t like, or that you’re going to become a worker that the employer doesn’t like,” says CEO Roberto Angulo.

 

AfterCollege is one of a growing number of companies that are developing high-tech tools for the job market. As the economy recovers millions of people still need jobs, and hiring methods are outdated, according to Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Relations at CareerBuilder.com. “You send in a piece of paper, whether it’s through a job board and it’s electronic or hard copy, and it’s, ‘here’s my life story, please recruiter read it.’”  She compares the interview process to going on a few dates, then getting married.  “What these products that are coming into the marketplace are really saying, is that there are so many more important parts to figuring if it’s a match.”

 

A new company called Knack makes video games employers can use to analyze job applicants’ personalities and talents. In one game dubbed “Wasabi Waiter” you play a server in a busy sushi bar who has to multitask to keep customers happy.

 

“From that they can infer all sorts of characteristics about you like your perseverance and your creativity, even your extroversion,” says Erik Brynjolfsson, a Knack adviser and Director of MIT’s Center for Digital Business.  “Those are things that don’t show up on your resume or your college transcript.”

 

Brynjolfsson says using big data to connect more companies with the right talent could have trillions of dollars in economic value. “Doing matchmaking for people’s careers and for the efficiency of companies and ultimately for the whole economy, that’s big money, and that’s something that’s going to hopefully lead to more fulfilling careers for a lot of people.”

 

He compares the way technology is opening up how companies work to what the microscope did for the study of biology. In the future, the future he believes more hiring decisions will be based on hard data, instead of software and gut reactions.

 

*CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, we misspelled the last name of Bien Aime.  The text has been corrected.

Boston College senior Isaiah Bien Aime checks out the latest job postings on his AfterCollege.com profile.  The 21-year-old economics major needs to find a job before he graduates this spring.

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Employers already have way too much power in shaping the sort of workforce they want by way of discrimination both legal and illegal. Once upon a time, the unemployed had some sort of representation and assistance in finding suitable employment. Nowadays, state funded employment centers concentrate on catering to whatever their “clients” (employers) demand. Imagine a truly PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT AGENCY (the term “Human Resources” suggests a shift in the perception of labor from humanity to commodity, i.e., fodder for industry) available for the unemployed, where a person could fill out ONE application ONCE, have government thoroughly vet this person for education, experience, legal status (taking responsibility for any form of fraud), and all requisites for a job; then require all companies to register with it and all employers who use the service to respond yea or nay to any employee they ask to come in for an interview. This would be a public service for all American citizens. (All businesses would be required to register with it and routinely update it with employee turnover data, but they could still hire outside of it; however, the information they provide would be used for national statistic gathering and their hiring practices might come under review at any time.)
The increased (potential) scrutiny would result in no more jobs posted that aren’t really there, except to satisfy a private HR service’s desire to fatten their files for POTENTIAL future openings; no more fraudulent postings designed to validate a company’s own HR service; no more bidding wages down as employers stipulate that no applicants be sent to them if they work for any of their competitors in a particular industry; no more wasting applicant’s time and money driving around to apply for jobs that are only posted to satisfy a legal requirement of sorts; no more age discrimination, or discrimination based on the length of time someone has been unemployed; no more “bait-and-switch” routines, where a new hire soon finds out that a full-time job comes with an agreement to sign a contract of binding arbitration that nullifies all state and federal legal rights designed to protect employees, reducing his or her position to on-call temp. work with no contributions to, or eligibility for, any state or federal benefits of any kind. (Be careful of this one—although employers encourage it, the I.R.S. seems to feel that employees are the ones who need to be investigated for income tax invasion.) In short, imagine a country and constitution designed of the people, by the people, for the people, rather than of corporations, by a ruling financial elite, for investor-led, for-profit industries who wish to rule autocratically with the help of irresponsible and undemocratic governments.

There's a corollary to this story though, and it isn't pleasant.
Companies are now requiring potential employees to pay $ to take tests, training courses, and paid credit checks, before they even consider their applications. It's all managed thru websites, and the candidates never get an opportunity to interact with a human from the company, or have any clue if they will even be considered for a future job.
Just registering at some of the employment websites that these companies require applicants to go thru, opens them up to new spammy solicitations.
It seems that some service sector companies have decided that the job applicant pipeline can now be turned into it's own profit center.

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