Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Monday, May 7, 2007

Can We Make Job Listings Better for Job Seekers?

First of all, it should be admitted that some of our clients have difficulty even finding Service Canada's Job Bank, let alone searching it once they've found it. I sense that skills that might suffice for casual recreational surfing create a lot of anxiety when attempts are made to apply them where there is a real need for information.

I have also become aware how easy it is frighten away clients whose occupations do not involve using computers when we rush to suggest to them that we use the Job Bank to identify vacancies. One needs to go carefully, to be sure of offering what a client is ready to accept.

As far as I am concerned though, as a data source, the Job Bank is a thing of beauty! Lots of jobs, one can get one's mitts on lots of records and an attempt is made to provide the NOC code for each job that is advertised. With reference to that last point, from the point of view of pure efficiency one would like to simply suggest that job seekers conduct their searches using these codes alone and let the Job Bank work its magic. However, there are a few problems with this approach in practice; let me mention a few:

  • I am told that sometimes job are advertised with incorrect codes.
  • Some job seekers are uncomfortable using the codes; they prefer to search for words that seem to them to directly relate to jobs and occupations.
  • Some job seekers are willing to consider jobs in a number of NOC categories and they may not know how to construct Boolean expressions.
The obvious problem with conducting searches for jobs using exact words is that it is very easy to miss suitable vacancies. For example, as an career develoment practitioner I might search on the term "career" alone and miss jobs with titles that include the word "employment".

Here's an approach that we have been experimenting with in the agency where I have spent the past few months. We provide a browser-displayable list of jobs available in our geographical area, drawn from the Job Bank, with a word index into the titles of the jobs. The image above shows the way part of the list appears.

By scrolling down through the pane on the left the job seeker can consider words in job titles. Having spotted what might be an interesting one, s/he can click on one of the job titles under the word and the pane to the right will scroll to bring the corresponding job information into view. The jobs in the righthand pane are grouped by NOC code so that, once the job seeker has identifed a single job that is appropriate s/he will find any others than might be available. If a few jobs have been misclassified they are still accessible using the word list in the right pane.

The main benefits to job seekers might be that the system suggests words to them, rather than forcing them volunteer them, and that it groups similar jobs.

I would be very interesting in hearing about other ways of enhancing the searchability of the Job Bank or other similar products.

[Previously posted in another blog; access to that blog via Dashboard lost.]