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A Good Conversation Indeed

Posted by Colin Kingsbury

Jul 13, 2006 2:10:00 PM

I have picked the occasional bone with John Sumser but as I hope I've made clear, I kid out of respect. Which is why I was flattered to receive this response to my recent critique of one of his daily articles. John says,
While that is very entertaining, the point we were making is that Jobby represents a generational difference, not an overnight sensation.
On that I could't agree more. Resumes are problematic to say the least, a "legacy format" if ever there was. But before we get too excited, it's worth considering this excerpt from the original article
The other day we visited a relatively new entrant to the recruiting software space. We tried to get them talking about Jobby. "Hmmm, this is very bad." They said. How do you control it? People could spam the system.
The more I think about this, the more I sympathize with the point of view given by the vendor.

The problem with resumes is that they are an unstructured document containing structured data. Unstructured data is the picture of a couple jogging on the front of the box of low-fat blueberry muffins. Structured data is the label on the back that tells you they replaced the fat with salt and sugar.

Tagging as implemented today is not that much different than the slogan on the front of the muffin box. They're keywords, with a little added salt and sugar. They are better in the one sense that you can search for ".NET programmer" and not have to worry about the hundred different ways those things might appear on a dead-tree resume. I like the way Jobby does search and refinement of results in terms of feel. Feel, as Steve Jobs has taught anyone who pays attention, is hugely important. But let's not get too distracted here. People long ago learned to "game" keywords to the point that they are remain useful only because there isn't anything much better at the moment.

The problem is in many ways precisely the one named by the anonymous vendor: spam. More precisely, it is the ability of the user to add unverified information to the system that defeats the purpose. The power of Wikipedia is not that anyone can write an article, but that anyone can edit it. For every person who wishes to inject junk, there is another who revels in flensing it out. This is the missing link in resumes, tagged or not.

Ultimately what we all want is honest information. The problem is that I don't see how we're going to get it. I've written before about how reputation systems play a critical role in the success of eBay. But eBay also has the benefit of running a dominant closed market where they can get away with forcing everyone to play the game their way. Recruiting currently enjoys nothing like this. Good people may set up profiles that expose them as they are, but mediocre or dishonest ones will probably not. No one with a brain will voluntarily air their dirty laundry. And various layers of government regulation (which are bound to get worse) will likely conspire against the more creative ideas that might force people to do so.

Perhaps pushing the good people up higher will be sufficient. But part of me thinks that would constitute a niche resource rather than a general solution.

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