9 min read

Why is Job Search So Hard? Part II

Superior distribution will change the way you search for jobs.
Why is Job Search So Hard? Part II

The Pallet Post features conversations with awesomely insightful professionals, jobs from companies they recommend, and some of our own takeaways from building a startup.

This is part two of our three part essay  - if you missed the first one, you can read it here.  I talked about the missing element of discovery when it comes to the search for jobs.  Here's a quick refresher on the argument:

Job aggregators are not really designed to understand your interests
Online jobs products are destinations, they take you away from the rest of your life so you can "be on the hunt"
Recruiting marketplaces have negative network effects— the larger they are, the noisier they get

Part Two: Distribution – How job search fits into our lives

When you decide you want to look for a job on the internet, is it a result of some other casual online interaction, or have you decided apriori that TODAY is going to be the day you sit down, and really get into it?  Increasingly, people are actually beginning with the former— yet jobs products haven't refined their experience to accommodate a job-search that's nicely embedded into the rest of our online lives.

Let's say its just another Tuesday and you log onto Twitter (for recreational purposes).  You're at a job and you're thinking of moving for some reason or another, but the thought isn't quite enough to get you into the slog of looking through tons of options, updating your resumé, and whatever else is a part of your process.

But as you're scrolling through your feed, in between some thought-leader's enormous thread on the difference between good and bad feedback and your favorite meme account making fun of Jeff Bezos for wanting to shoot himself into outer-space, you see a professional you respect highlighting a content marketing role at an up and coming startup.  

The job is relevant to you so you click through. You're taken away from Twitter (which is fine), but now you have to create a profile to apply to the job (that's okay), so you fill in your information; what school you went to, your past work experience and wrap it in an inauthentic, hyper-businessy coded language (because that's what everyone else does in this gated community) and finally, you apply for the job (where you'll be redirected and have to enter in your information, again.)

Maybe, if you're lucky, a couple days later you'll receive a response from the company, who's reviewed your profile which hits one of their key signals, either ivy-league school attendance or past experience at a FAANG company (spoiler, you have neither).  You rinse and repeat this cycle ad infinitum, where you switch between your Twitter or Discord personality to your LinkedIn personality, and you'll have entirely separate interactions on each platform.  The entire experience is fractured.

You realize, after doing all this, that it's been an hour since you saw that initial tweet and now instead of mindlessly scrolling through Twitter like you wanted, you've been thrown into "the hunt."

It's been happening for some time, but it feels clearer than ever that the internet is taking a larger market share in our personal lives. In a recent newsletter, Packy McCormick describes a feature of this personal and albeit collective phenomenon as The Great Online Game. Packy is observing a larger trend; where the line between our offline and online lives is blurring rapidly. Traditional modalities of winning in our real-life have shifted – the game of life is now largely being played online, Packy remarks:

"Getting good at the Great Online Game makes seemingly absurd things happen. Your business icon? In your DMs. That person whose videos you don’t miss? Just reached out for a collab. Your dream job? Reaching out to you to tell you why Company X might be a fit."

There is a new ecosystem that will drive career growth. The centers of gravity, particularly when it comes to hiring, have inexorably shifted.  Packy goes on to say:

"The way you play in one area unlocks opportunities in others. Sharing ideas on Twitter might get you invited to a Discord, your participation in that Discord might get you invited to work on a new project, and that new project might make you rich. Or it might bring you more followers on Twitter and more Discord invites and more project opportunities and new ideas that you want to explore which might kick off any number of new paths...The Game rewards community and cooperation over individualism and competition."

If this sounds nothing like your experience looking for jobs, you're not alone. If "The Game" rewards cooperation over individualism and competition, it's probably fair to say that online jobs products are poorly suited to be a part of it (this in spite of the fact that literally everything is supposed to be a part of it). Searching for a job online is a uniquely individual experience; it's something you rarely include other people in, and feels fiercely competitive every step of the way.

Part of this is natural— you're sure to be competing with all the other candidates that apply for the same job, but part of it is constructed (intentionally), the idea that your resumé must be color coded and done in the style of a Pentagram brand proposal in order to stand out.  Or the idea that you must include quoted references from your peers on your LinkedIn profile, even if its just fluffy comments of praise that have no indicating value of whether you'll be a good fit for X job.  

Are you truly trying to show your best self, or are you competing with the signals that everyone else on LinkedIn amplifies? Going on LinkedIn is like visiting a foreign country, the success of your trip is dependent on your ability to respectfully conform to the customs— regardless of how absurd they may appear.  

Outside of the context of job-search, a successful platform is supposed to offer you rich signaling opportunities. As I share more of my authentic self online, the more tethered to The Online Game I become. Twitter, Discord, TikTok, etc. allow (and certainly encourage) users to fall down rabbit-holes; serendipity is a product feature of social platforms.  

Jobs products should walk alongside these serendipitous events. And yet, current jobs products seem intent on acting as a gated endpoint to my online journey. While they are technically "online," they fragment my online experience in a way that pushes me "offline" aka, away from playing The Online Game.

If I'm on LinkedIn I'm no longer collaborating, no longer gaging my Twitter or discord community for genuine tips on how to interview better. Instead, I'm looking at a LinkedIn post that tells me to wake up every day at 5 am to spend hours each day updating what is supposed to be a one page outline of who I am.

Perhaps this is why more and more companies are beginning to showcase job posts on tools that don't require any sort of profile layer. If you've been around the startup scene, you've definitely seen a listing that exists directly on a Notion page, which usually connects candidates directly to the email of a hiring manager.  Take a look at Pipe's career page: (and notice how quickly you can come back!)

Notion – The all-in-one workspace for your notes, tasks, wikis, and databases.
A new tool that blends your everyday work apps into one. It’s the all-in-one workspace for you and your team

By comparison, try accessing the same exact information on LinkedIn and you're hit with this authentication layer.

This is to say, when you go on LinkedIn, LinkedIn wants you TO GO and to STAY on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a "social network," but the scope of its social interactions are incredibly narrow. The interactions are thinly veiled behind a "social layer," but rooted in transact-ability– companies and their recruiters come for candidates and job seekers come for jobs.  Everything else is fluff.  

While it's certainly not the most personable, collaborative, or social way to look for a job, it's a pipeline that is easy to optimize for.

As serendipity is a product feature of good social networks, funnel optimization is a feature of traditional job aggregators like LinkedIn, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter.

LinkedIn's user base currently stands at 740 Million users (that's a lot of inspirational posts to wade through). They achieved what Andy Rachleff (the current the CEO and co-founder of Wealthfront, and co-founder of Benchmark Capital) defines as Product-Market Fit.

"Identifying a compelling value hypothesis is what I call finding product/market fit...A value hypothesis is an attempt to articulate the key assumption that underlies why a customer is likely to use your product.”

As long as “...the dogs are eating the dog food,” according to Rachleff, you've achieved PMF.  However, according to Ben Horrowitz of A16z, there are two underlying myths of PMF.

"Once you achieve product/market fit, you can’t lose it"
“Once you have product/market fit, you don’t have to sweat the competition."

In the early days, horizontal platforms like Indeed and LinkedIn had achieved Product-Market Fit.  An overwhelming need to transfer hiring activity online brought them to Stage 4. To get to Stage 5 and scale their products, they optimized their funnels with the primary goal of hedging risk for recruiters. In doing so, horizontal platforms effectively boxed themselves into a narrow product scope, making it difficult to offer distribution "off-platform" in an era of diversified signaling. They are a destination when really what'd we'd rather have is a pit-stop.  

For recruiters, the opportunity cost of hiring the wrong VP, or mid-level candidate is very high – looking across the same signals is daunting, and provides very little relevant information to make a good decision. This is why recruiters tend to fall back on credentials. Credentialing is essentially a stamp of approval from a third-party institution – a candidate that attended an Ivy league school or a FAANG company is inherently less risky for a recruiter. This is also why referrals for companies are so vital, companies tend to recruit and poach from similar companies, which reduces the risk in question.

While seemingly less risky, they're largely outdated signals of success and competence. Optimizing your product funnel through a very limited scope might have been ideal historically, but the reality is, job search and recruitment has accelerated in informal pipelines. Water cooler conversations and networking events are now Twitter DM's, job interviews are shout-outs on Discord or a DM in your slack writing community. I don't want a database of roles to look through, the 10,873+ jobs I can find searching “Content Marketer” on Indeed, isn't a good experience.  Contrary to an app like Hinge, people are not serial daters, or in this case job seekers. As a job seeker, I want jobs recommended to me based on the signals I choose to amplify across the internet, not just the transactional ones I use on jobs products.  

If I have no professional experience, but I am one of the tiny number of people on a discord of engineers who contribute to projects build on solidity, there is no doubt I am qualified to work on companies leveraging blockchain tech.  Hell, you can even look at my comments and replies to gage what kind of person I am, and if I'd be a cultural fit.  And that's before you look at any resumé or hear any recommendations.  

That's not to say that referrals and experience aren't important.  They undoubtedly are.  But jobs platforms have been over-indexing on the items that appear on your resumé for a bit too long.  

Last essay we spoke of discovery of roles, and why jobs products are so ill-suited to create an engine that allows us to find what we want.  But just fixing that aspect won't fully solve the problem.  An even more core issue we're describing here is distribution. How can you get a job to appear, serendipitously, along the normal path of your life, which is predominantly happening online? And how can you view the job without undressing and re-dressing yourself with your shiny blue LinkedIn suit?

We think we've found a way.  And it starts with communities and creators.  The places and people that are actually being followed for their content, actually facilitating genuine interactions online, and actually capable of curating a job-search experience that fits nicely into the rest of your life.  

Just follow a guy like Lenny Rachitsky and find out.