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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Open Source Comes to the White House and Hopefully the Rest of Government

November 4, 2009

By now you’ve probably read the coverage whitehouse.gov received when it was revealed that it is built using Drupal, an open source content management system.

The White House is not the first to employ Drupal, nor will it be the last, but it does stand as an example to the rest of government. I’ve spent a great deal of time on government websites lately, and government website administrators would be wise to take their cue from the White House and institute change. Navigating, say, the Illinois CHIP website, is a real pain. It present information in a counter-intuitive, non-user-friendly manner, and is almost impossible to find anything, let alone know where you are on the site. Well, not impossible, but very cumbersome. It was actually easier to make a phone call for information than try to find anything on the site.

Perhaps other government agencies are taking notice, though. The Department of Labor website, for example, has gone through a design overhaul. It is much cleaner, and easier to find information. It provides a nice list of bulleted topics, FAQs, latest labor numbers and other rather useful information.

It’s good to see government agencies advancing into the 21st Century, and using open source software to do it. It is certainly a step in the right direction. Government is catching up with what many of already know: open source gets the job done.