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Simplicity versus complexity – why the former is always better

Have you tried applying for a job lately? If the employer is of any size, you will probably be directed into an applicant tracking system (ATS), where you will fill out many pages of questions. It can be a time-consuming process – and this is prior to actually applying for the specific job.

It is complex, and it is a pain.

What happened to the wonderful old days when you submitted your resume and cover letter, and called it good?

“But Jeff, making the job application simple just generates more applications – many of them unqualified. If you make it time-consuming, then you weed out the riff raff.”

Yeah, but…you also weed out qualified candidates who do not have hours each day to fill out forms that will probably result in little or no response from the employer. If you’re a qualified, skilled, competent candidate, you already have a job. Maybe you stumbled over the job ad and thought it was interesting…until you hit the ATS. Hey, life’s too short. The candidate moves on.

“But Jeff, we need that info from the candidate to figure out if he or she is qualified.”

Yeah, right. I don’t buy it. You need that info because your ATS allows you to collect it. So you do.

Look around you. Simple always conquers complex. There were digital music players before the iPod. But the iPod made everything simple – and became the big digital music success story.

Now, I’m not saying that simple isn’t complex. In fact, simple is often hiding great complexity. Think about the coding and engineering behind the iPod - that’s complex. But the operation of the thing is simple. The genius of simplicity is often in how it hides complexity.

So where can job boards reduce complexity and increase simplicity? (And how will they convince employers to go along?):

  • Search: I ask you – why must a job seeker know Boolean to get good results? And why must they type? Why can’t they just submit their resume and have it turned into a search query?
  • MobileNo, the job seeker does not want everything on the mobile site. Just the good stuff.
  • Apply: Maybe the job board has no control over the ATS, but it does have control over the application process for employers without ATSs. Keep it simple.
  • Register: If the job board wants candidates to register, then keep it simple – name and email. The rest of the info can come later.

And as far employers and ATSs go – please, folks: think hard before you add those 45 questions to the application process. Do you really need them? Your (qualified) candidates will thank you!

Bottom line: as a user, give me simplicity. And if you must give me complexity, please cloak it in simplicity.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Karsten Wikke

    April 9, 2013, 8:01 am

    Great article as always Jeff and I completely agree. I see so many job boards that restrict people from sending an application without being registered – and that is even before they have to start answering 40 odd questions for assessment purposes.

    At MatchWork we believe in making it easy for the applicant and allowing them to send applications without being registered – they naturally get lots of benefits if they are registered such as quick access to reusing their CV, documents, cover letter and so forth but we think it is key not to making it cumbersome for people to apply.

  • Steven Rothberg CollegeRecruiter.com

    April 9, 2013, 11:19 am

    We also allow candidates to apply to jobs without registering, whether they’re applying on our site or through the employer’s ATS. Many and probably most job boards do not because they value registrations more than they value applications. We believe that is misguided.

    I really liked your article, Jeff, but area where I think we may disagree is your reference to allowing candidates to just submit their resume and have it turned into a search query. The problem with that is that it assumes that the resume is well written and forward looking. As any recruiter will tell you, most resumes aren’t well written and virtually none are forward looking.

    I have yet to see any data whatsoever that would support the argument that a well written resume correlates with a high performing employee other than perhaps those who write resumes for a living. If a java programmer has a poorly written resume, does that make her less likely to be a high performing java programmer?

    As for forward looking, resumes are like alibis. They help employers understand where you’ve been and what you’ve done, but there’s typically no information in them about what you want to do. If you’re a college student or recent graduate like the vast majority of the candidates who use CollegeRecruiter.com, how much experience can you possibly have? Is your major and perhaps an internship or two enough for an algorithm to accurately infer your career goals? Maybe if you’re in a specialized major like electrical engineering and you’ve lived your entire life in the same metro and your two internships were in electrical engineering, but the vast, vast majority of college students and grads have majors, work experience, and geographic information on their resumes which have little to nothing to do with what work they want to do upon graduation.

  • Sam Eddy

    April 9, 2013, 12:43 pm

    I would agree that simple almost always trumps complex, which is most often excused under the guise of ‘comprehensive.’ Employers & seekers, like ourselves, appreciate simple, clean & efficient processes. No surprise!

  • Job Board Doctor

    April 9, 2013, 1:19 pm

    Steven, Perhaps I should have said ‘alternatives to Boolean’ rather than offering up the resume as search string. I think my key point is that at many job boards, if you don’t know Boolean, you’re not going to get very useful results when looking for a job. This is a job board problem – not a user problem. I suspect it can be made better in myriad ways – Jeff

  • Steve Raffner

    April 17, 2013, 12:55 pm

    “Dinosaurus Jobboardus” went extinct at the beginning of the simplicity Era.

    Phoenix solutions featuring visual interface, UX and supa magic power like Eldorajob’s JobVisualizer will soon offer a reliable alternative for both recruiters and candidates.

    We loved your article !