The Remote Job Marketplace Has So Much Potential. But It’s Also So Badly Broken.

 


Right now, the internet is saturated with news about how remote working is the new big thing.

Log into LinkedIn, or Twitter, and behold the avalanche of posts proclaiming the advent of this exciting new era.

We’re told that this isn’t just a coronavirus thing. The statistics about the ranks of those joining the remote workforce — or revolting against the move back to the office — are eye-opening.

And yet, the remote job market that many applicants are encountering is …. something quite different indeed.

Mislabeled Opportunities, US-Only Jobs Among Some Of The Roadblocks Applicants Are Encountering

Recently, I began exploring the job market for remote and hybrid opportunities.

After a little more than three years spent running my own marketing communications practice, with clients from literally all over the world, I felt that working remotely for one company made more sense than freelancing for five or six of them. (The reasons for this decision are multifactorial; I’ll get round to sharing them in another post).

Besides, wasn’t remotely working all the rage?

I’m a huge exponent of both the power of remote working and the benefits of asynchronous communications in this context — to facilitate collaboration between colleagues on different continents and working from different time zones.

You can back remote working with words. Or you can actually go ahead and … join a distributed team. Besides the career aspect, this, the more ideological reason, also appealed to me.

No sooner had I stuck my head out the door, however, that it became clear that when it came to the remote job market, all that glitters — or which we’re told glitters — is always gold.

Some of the ‘bugs’ in the system that I encountered very early on (within the first month):

  • Mislabeled remote opportunity. Go onto any social media forum populated by remote job seekers, these days, and you’ll see many aggrieved job seekers complaining about the vast amount of incorrectly described remote jobs on the market. I reported a few months ago, here, that the first dissenting voices were cropping up on LinkedIn complaining about this.
  • Limited internationally-accessible opportunity: Predictably, the US, the world’s largest English-speaking workforce, has been able to set the agenda when it comes to remote working. ‘International’ remote opportunity is set in reference to America. If you’re not based in the US — no matter where you are in the world — you’re considered an ‘international’ applicant. In other cases, companies limit their potential talent pool to those residing in EU member states or some other geographical catchment. Their rationale is understandable, although this greatly frustrates the potential of remote work to mobilize a truly global workforce working with companies in a limitless pool of countries. As I’ve remarked here before, the pragmatics of today’s world — rife with laws governing taxation and preventing the free movement of labor across borders— don’t exactly go out of their way to make remote work possible. In fact, they make it cumbersome for companies to get on board with the movement.
  • Poor hiring practices: I recently made it to round three of a remote interviewing process with a US-based company, around billed as the final one, and after a fairly exhaustive written assessment. Unfortunately, the interviewer never showed up and I never heard from the company again. Ignoring and ghosting an applicant after two face-to-face remote interviews, and the investment of hours of time is extremely poor practice. During successive rounds of in-office job hunting, it’s not something I ever encountered. And yet during my very first month of remote job hunting — there it was. Remote job seekers are in a vulnerable position. Right now, the only recourse that candidates have to call out bad practices is leaving Glassdoor reviews. We need more robust mechanisms.

The Remote Marketplace Needs A Better Filtering System Too

The world is a big place. For remote jobseekers, this isn’t always a good thing. Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

One other problem quickly stood out to me as I made my first forays into interviews: the world is a very big place. And for remote job seekers, that’s not always a good thing. Because job boards really don’t scale very well when the pool of applicants, and the pool of employers, both become virtually limitless.

Let’s start by looking at things from the jobseeker’s side of the fence. The pool of potential opportunities, when you’re looking for a remote job, is vast.

The result can be a chaotic avalanche of what, from a marketing perspective, would be called the top-of-funnel opportunity for candidates.

My sleep schedule over the past three weeks has been all over the place.

I’ve had late-night meetings with clients and potential jobs on the West coast of the US (a 10 hour offset from Israel). And early morning ones, and in-person interviews, with companies here.

Between the work I’m paid to do, process-related assignments, interviews, and jobhunting, I haven’t taken a single day off in three weeks. Processes move quickly. Sometimes it’s too much. During the three years, I’ve spent running my own company, prospecting calls and lead nurturing have been regular features of my workweek. But this has been the most exhausting job hunt that I’ve ever undertaken.

More presciently, it’s become clear to me that when the job search scales up to “anybody on the planet” the process works neither for applicants nor for companies.

Let’s say I’m a marketing communications specialist with a background working in technology companies. I’m looking for a similar organization to make my next mark upon. Naturally, I’m also looking for a nice team and decent compensation. But most importantly, I would argue, I’m looking to join a company I believe in. The mission is vital. But who has time to read the mission statement of every potential employer …. on the planet?

Nevertheless, things whittle down. If for no better reason than the restrictive hiring practices that I outlined above. But we’re still talking about a potential hiring pool of potentially tens of thousands of employers. No job applicant is going to have the time and tenacity to be able to sift through all of that in order to find the perfect opportunity the moment it comes to market. The result? From the perspective of both applicants and employers something like an iceberg effect: the majority of opportunity, and potential talent, goes unseen.

What’s happening instead?

Both applicants and companies are (paradoxically, ironically) giving up on this so-promising new form of recruitment and falling back on the more traditional ways in which people found jobs and companies landed talent who they knew stood a reasonable chance of being good fits: they’re tapping into existing professional networks, asking what school you went to, etc.

Remote working has been likened to a new industrial revolution.

The shift which it can graft onto our societies, and our world, is no less far-reaching.

And yet, the hype — much of it meticulously crafted by vendors manufacturing technology to support remote working — is often falling quite gapingly out of sync with reality. At least the one that many remote jobseekers encounter.

Much work has been done in encouraging companies to throw their hat in the ring of remote and hybrid work.

But those drinking the Kool Aid risk believing a reality that isn’t there yet, or at least not universally so.

Hiring parties need to up their game when it comes to putting processes in place that work for remote talent.

And we need far better systems for making matches than the generic job boards that attempt to connect talent and companies through a listings system. This is the format most remote-specific boards are taking and it’s simply not enough to make an appreciable difference towards solving this challenge of scalability. Unfortunately, the traditional job-hunting practices just break down when the level of scale becomes global.

Much good work has been done. But there’s a lot still left to do.

The incentive to make that happen is enormous: remote work can make the planet a better and less restrictive place for just about anybody not holding down a geographically-constrained job.

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