I’ve spoken recently at length, one-on-one, to over a hundred mid to senior engineering professionals across Australia, as part of my engagement process with those disillusioned by work or those finding it impossible to make a move from what are mind numbing, caustic, career depleting, dead-end, stifling work environments.

I’ve found that almost all, without exception, use mainly job boards or liaise with a recruitment consultant to find their ideal job.

That is their (if I can loosely call it that) strategy.

And without exception this does not work.


First job boards.

Let’s imagine for a second that you are going to purchase a commodity like a mandarin and you go to the mandarin section in a normal grocery store or at a greengrocer’s shop, looking for the best set of mandarins to select. From the thousands of mandarins you have before you on the shelves, which ones will you select? Is it easy or even physically possible each week to go through all the mandarins to select the “best set of mandarins” to take home? Do you wait for the next batch of fruit to come through – just in case the best mandarin turns up? Do you spend much time with each mandarin before they go into your basket or is it a process of generalisation getting the better of that decision making process?

No of course not; and that’s because they all look the same. Sure, some are a slightly squashed or a bit off colour but a majority of them look the same.

So selecting the best individual item from what is a commoditised line-up is impractical – perhaps for the first few times someone shops – but surely not the umpteenth time you go in to do this as part of the million and one things you need to also do on a daily basis.

Now let’s look at cvs in an email in-box where now-a-days anywhere from 100-400 applications are received all the time.

Sure, some are completely irrelevant so can be sifted out of the equation easily but a large proportion of applicants are suitable.

It has become a supply rich market and a far cry from prior to 2008 when demand for talent exceeded supply. Now supply far outstrips demand, so is it practical to assume that a recruiting manager, who looks at not one role only but at multiple roles each week on top of other recruitment related administrative activities, will sift through hundreds of applicants, times the number of jobs they sift through, to find the best candidate?

So what’s likely to happen?

Ideal candidates get overlooked. There is more often than not, no feedback to job applications made. Calls made pursuant to a job application being made are never returned back. Calls made to recruiting managers predominantly go to a gatekeeper called the voicemail – so you are never talking to a real person.

Then the individual gets frustrated and starts sending applications for every role remotely close to the one being aimed for, so if anything this process gets diluted even further. Instead of sending 1-3 targeted applications each week, the individual sends 12-30 applications each week and more, so the volume of supply increases and the capacity to sift through it decreases even more.

Also what tends to happen is those applying using this process, feel that they’ve sent 100’s of applications with no responses back – so the problem must exist with them.

So self-confidence starts getting affected. They begin to doubt themselves and question if something is wrong with them.

Getting the picture?

In a commoditised market, behaving like a commodity does not help.

And then comes the other “strategy” of speaking to recruitment agents who are open to seeing you.

Let’s reflect on who the recruitment agent actually represents.

He or she gets paid by the company hiring them, not by the person applying for the job. So their attention span is in trying to sift through qualifying the applicant as quickly as possible. Not in providing any mentoring advice or in any substantive guidance on where the market is at or which company is actually hiring and in which cases it is merely a resume building exercise.

On top of that is this “ubered” situation for the whole recruitment industry of LinkedIn having changed the whole candidate search dynamic.

LinkedIn is a mega resume service with the full CRM being built into the equation.

So if a mega resume service like this exists, why would any recruitment agent worth their salt rely on a job board and those applying via job boards – unless the job board was within a very narrow professional niche and there was some advantage of doing this?

So if you’ve been using job boards or recruitment agents and finding its getting you nowhere, think how you can act less like as a commodity and more as a differentiated offering.

There are ways to do this.

You just need to reflect on what’s not working and stop what is not working.

Then what works will have a chance to thrive.