Where is the Job Application Transparency?

December 11, 2009

I’ve been trying to think of the best way to present this, and each time I end up arguing with myself. One side tosses up the pros while the other shoots them down with the cons.

As you may know, I use Meebo to chat with people on just about every IM client, and I think it is a good model for a Web Dashboard application. I’m a fan of Meebo not only because I can talk to many people on different IM clients at once, from one window, but also because of its simplicity. It isn’t busy, like Gchat or Facebook chat. Those open up in Gmail and Facebook, respectively, which means I have to stare at my overflowing inbox and stuff people post to Facebook. Sometimes, I just want to chat without all that distraction.

Every once in awhile, I need to refresh the screen, which prompts me to log in again. That happened today, and my eyes fell on a new blog post: “Hiring Secret Sauce.” I couldn’t believe it. Was a company actually providing more than a cursory glimpse into its hiring practices? Was it, *GASP* being transparent?

Yes, as a matter of fact, it was.

Elaine states that “Without amazing hiring practices, you’ll never find or attract the team that will build amazing products,” which seems to be the mantra all companies strive for but never actually vocalize in such a succinct manner. Really. Ever notice how much text is on a corporate Careers page? And how the content often sounds boastful, like you’re a complete idiot for NOT wanting to work at such-and-such a company. It seems to me that companies would rather keep their Careers sections a secret, especially when the only way to find the section is through a Google search.

So, amazing hiring practices are necessary to attract a team to build amazing products. That almost seems like a no-brainer. It is this “amazing hiring practices,” or just “hiring practices” at all, that is puzzling. To be perfectly blunt, it’s a black hole. The Internet is overflowing with news articles, blog posts, tweets and other information about it. You send out countless resumes and receive, more often than not, one of two things as your reward: silence or the cookie-cutter rejection.

Reading about the “Meebo simulation,” then, was rather refreshing and a bit encouraging. It also seems like a common-sense approach to hiring, and one other companies might be more apt to employ.

The post describes it as this:

a 3-hour exercise that represents a typical task that someone would expect on day one in that role. For instance, a potential Visual Designer might be asked to create three icon concepts, work with the team to narrow it down to one, and then spend the remaining time polishing that concept. Just like a day-one experience, candidates are encouraged to ask questions and to consult whatever resources they’d normally have available to them (online searches, favorite books, even previous snippets of code written).

It achieves two goals: it showcases whether or not a candidate has the skills candidate claims to have, and it introduces the candidate to expected functions of the position. I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it: experience is an irreplaceable tutor.

Being told what the job functions are, even reading the job functions (so often for the same position at different companies you have them memorized), does little to prepare you for the actual work itself in the actual environment. You get that experience during the “probation” period, those first 90 days when you and the company get to know one another.

Meebo’s “simulation” takes care of that at once. Or at least it sounds like it does. You basically get to be a Meebo Employee for a day, which seems to be more effective than shadowing, or going through round after round of interviews and the other, standard hiring methods. Meebo immediately caters to your strengths, which presumably are why you applied for a particular position.

It strikes me as a fresh approach to job hunting, from the other side of aisle. I still think there is a better way to look for a job than endlessly sending out resumes, networking and other standard methods. For one, being able to submit a resume to one, or all, of the software recruiting firms (Taleo, BrassRing) instead of creating account after account at different corporations, educational institutions and the like, would make a difference. That discussion, however, I will save for a later post.

Suffice to say, there is now a glimmer of hope in bringing transparency to the job application process.

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Is a Dashboard for the Web Possible?

December 2, 2009

I’ve been rolling this idea around in my head for awhile (right Twitter followers?), and I mentioned it briefly in my Shortcts.in post: a dashboard from which I can access the various Web apps and communities I use on a daily basis.

People nod their heads when I talk about it, and the example I have often used to help illustrate my idea is iGoogle. Except that iGoogle is just for Google products or widgets people have built for iGoogle, like weather widgets, games and such. I like that I easily check my Gmail and my Calendar, see if there is anything immediate, but I still have to open another browser tab to access any other Web app or community.

I started thinking about the Web apps and communities I use all the time, which lead to me checking out all the tabs I leave open…and I leave quite a few open. Here’s just a sample:

Toss in teaching email and the education portal, and it starts to get a bit unruly. I’ve taken to breaking them up into different browser windows. One with communication apps, one with communities and one with news and miscellaneous. When researching, I open yet another browser window and multiple tabs, but close it when I’m finished.

You might ask why I just don’t log of all of them, close the browser at night and fire it up again in the morning. FireFox does, after all, let you save your browser and all its tabs, as is. While that makes sense, let’s think about this for a minute.

Logging out means I have to log back in. Now, if I used the exact same username and password each time, that would be easy, not only for me, but or anyone interested in seeing what I do in all these places. So, alas, I don’t use the same username and password for each one. Now that means, every day, I have to remember the username and password for all of those listed (and many others not listed), and then type in the username and password, every day, for each one. That is 15 login credentials. Each day. Right now.

Think about that. 15 different logins. And that doesn’t include any financial sites, either, or open source discussion boards, the T-Mobile discussion boards…the types of sites visited periodically.

Perhaps I am just used to opening my laptop every morning and immediately starting to work, but I don’t think I’m the only one. And I think there has to be a better way to manage all of this, especially as more and more desktop applications move to the Web.

Ugh. Right. Google Docs is another open tab. Which leads to more open tabs whenever I open an existing, or create a new, document. Thankfully it is connected to Google, so just logging into one Google product gives me access to the rest, but again, it’s another series of tabs to manage.

Anyway. So iGoogle had been my common, visual example. But then I was chatting with a good friend of mine through Meebo, which is a Web app that allows you to communicate with people you know in, well, just about all the different IM clients: Gchat, AIM, Yahoo!, Facebook, ICQ, MySpace, MSN…and it hit me. You can communicate with people on all those different clients from one, yes, one single browser window.

Where is the Meebo equivalent for all the different Web apps and communities I use every day?

I have two answers:

  1. No one has thought of it yet (Ahem, I did!)
  2. There are a myriad of technical hurdles to overcome

I’m guessing that the second reason is more the culprit than the first. I’ve thought of it, been pondering it and finally have a solid comparison. So now comes the hard part: implementation.

Meebo grew out of the same frustration I’m currently experiencing, only it was limited to IM clients. One of the founders, Sandy, had to remember 13 different usernames and passwords, all related to various chat clients used at work, at home, with friends, etc. You can read more about it here. The story goes on to explain “playing around with Ajax IM” and proving doubters wrong.

And this is where my technical expertise, that “dangerous v. deadly” comparison I made before, comes into play. I know enough cursory information on Ajax to understand what it does. In fact, I had to write up some SEO-friendly content on the subject a few years ago, but I have no idea how the guts of it actually work.

So, those of you very tech-centric people that read this blog, is it possible to create a Meebo for the rest of the Web? Is it possible to create a central dashboard, accessed from a Web browser, from which I can see and access all the different communities listed above (to start)?

Shortcts.in came up with a solution for finding keyboard shortcuts. Meebo has come up with a solution for accessing multiple IM clients from one browser window.

So who can help me see if this Dashboard for the Web is a solution for the chaos of my (and others) browser tab woes? I guess my real question is this: is a a Dashboard for the Web technically feasible? Or have I just thought up a really big idea that has absolutely no ability to be implemented?

Comment, tweet me, let me know. There really must be a solution.