The Need for Change

So why Tooq?

I work as a software tester, or did until recently anyways. After leaving the veritable safety of a job with a large multi-national company to go work in the exciting world of a start-up, I found myself six months later without a job at all. Start-ups, while exciting, are volatile and sometimes don’t pan out as expected. The application got built, and is now in the wild, but funds were low and I was the last guy on board. I was sent to talk with a group about taking on some contract work under the start-up, but the work was not testing and I came across as uninterested (and likely a little lot arrogant) in the meeting. That’s a story for another day.

All throughout my careers, I have always floated a resume in the market. My theory has been that  you never know when an opportunity will come by and you better be in the market if it comes along. It’s not to say I’m disloyal to my employer at the time, but I am loyal to growing, learning and expanding my horizons. I’ve turned down a lot of the opportunities that have come along. Some could have been better to follow-up on in hindsight, others allowed me the opportunity to see what was happening in the market. You can learn a lot by interviewing with a company.

After having a resume out in the market for the last 18-20 years or so(online and off), I’ve seen sites like Monster and Workopolis come along with a good idea, revolutionary for the time even, and grow and revise their products. I’ve interviewed with recruiters, looked through job boards and signed up for sites like Elance, Guru, Rent-a-Coder and the like. While each approach has some distinct and competitive advantages over the others, each form of job matching/advertising/employment getting ends up lacking in something.

 

So to answer the queston “Why Tooq?”, let’s look at what’s out there:

Big Box Job Sites – Monster, Workopolis, etc.

I honestly can’t remember ever having acquired a job from one of these sites. I know that I have had several interviews through Monster. In fact my resume is still posted and active there today. I have maybe found employment once there, but I can’t say for sure. What I do find is that  unless I actively look through the listings, I don’t have much interaction from them. I know there are tech jobs posted that match my profile, but I don’t have a lot of job emails come to me (the one exception being the first couple of weeks after I make changes to my resume). My guess is, most tech companies are not paying the fee to troll resumes and make cold calls.  When I do get emails out of the blue, two-thirds of them are for jobs completely out of my targeting zone. A few months ago, I received an email from a company that had taken my resume from Monster and created an account for me on their system and publically posted my resume there (all without my permission).

I find the search functionality on Monster to be limited at best, mostly due to HR people using cut and paste to post the details and Monster having little to go on other than the job title. Also, being a software tester, my job titles tend to vary greatly and get lumped in under obscure IT categories. This leads to a lot of noise when searching for positions on the site.

Lastly, the big box job sites were a huge idea when the internet was young. They could speed up the recruitment process and allow a place to keep a resume floating that couldn’t happen before. The idea was (and arguably still is) a good one with a good business model that created a need. These sites became a main avenue for recruiters to find candidates and streamline their costs while minimizing time. The big box sites have added a fee to the bottom line of the fee of hiring a recruiter.

So our big box sites are generally medium priced, seem to work fairly well for a business (I’m guessing), but create a fair amount of noise and spam for the candidate user.

 

Recruiters

Recruiters are known for having plenty of contacts and are often the choice of medium and large size companies to find candidates. There are plenty of different plans and ways that they get paid (You can read more about recruiters pay structures here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recruiter). I’ve noticed on the linked article that range given is now 10-35%, whereas a while ago it was 20-30%. While wiki is not the best source of resource information, it does make me wonder if recruiters are having a tough time in the current labor market or if someone has changed it to reflect a little better on the industry. Even with the reduced numbers, that is a lot of money taken off the table before someone is even hired.

My experience with recruiters (which is by no means extensive), is that the percentage that they make is not normally disclosed to the candidate (If you are a recruiter and can clarify this, please add to the comments). Even at 10%, for a software tester, that seemed a pretty steep price for a 40 minute long interview with someone who didn’t actually do the hiring. I do know of a verifiable case that the fee was 23.3% of the tester’s salary. Ouch. Now, I guess if they can land you your dream job that only uses recruiters and you wouldn’t be able to get your foot in the door any other way, then maybe the price tag is worth it.

To sum up our recruiter friends: You might get deluxe service, but the price tag is hefty.

 

Freelancer Websites

The last category I’ll look at is the sites like Elance, Guru, Rent-a-Coder, Utest, and the like. I signed up for a bunch of these sites over the last year or so. I figured that I could maybe take on some extra short-term work, freelance projects, and maybe some consulting work. Many of them have pretty snazzy interfaces and lots of postings for work, and some of them seem to be doing very well.

My biggest problems with them? Noise, Tokens, and Bidding. As to noise, some of these sites bury ‘software tester’ even worse than the big box sites do. Half of the posts about testing are looking for programmers, while any viable testing jobs are buried away under some other incorrect category title. Signing up for alerts results in several emails per day from Guru with jobs that are nowhere near my profiled skill set. It seems that my choice is to either get nothing or to sift through the haystack to find the applicable jobs.

Tokens have been shown on at least one similar site (none that I named as I wouldn’t sign up for them). Somehow, someone at the company that created the app had a way to monetize their user base (which I’m fine with), but decided it was a good idea to cloud the actual cost with a token system. So now to bid on a job it will cost me 15 tokens, but a premium bid costs 5 extra tokens, and other things cost even more tokens. It seemed like a bad joke. I had to nearly complete the full sign-up to find out how much tokens were actually valued at. Now they weren’t very expensive, but if you can’t tell your user what your service will cost in actual dollars, it sets off red flags for me that there is something amiss. I don’t know if there was at this site or not, but it seemed incredibly unneccessary to me to confuse the payment amounts.

Lastly, Bidding. I know that bidding has been a successful way of awarding work for a lot of industries for a long time. I think the bidding system can be made to work and in some cases does. I’m not convinced that it does for IT work. A lot of the jobs are bid very low by shops that are located offshore (which I don’t have a problem with), but often the savings on the low bid are eaten into by the difficulties in working with an offshore team (mostly communication with a twelve-hour time difference). Offshoring has come a very long way in the last few years and it continues to get easier to get work completed on time, of sufficient quality and close to the expected cost from offshore suppliers. That being said, cost of living is much lower for many of the offshorer’s employees (which is why they can bid so much lower). So what does a North American based designer, developer, tester, tech writer, etc do? Either bid below the cost of providing the service or spend a long time building a stellar reputation to garner work at reasonable rates (which should be done anyways). I have a heard a few horror stories about some of the projects on these sites (bid low then hold project hostage or people having to have work redone), but that could, and likely does, happen with freelancers all over the world, not just offshore. I plan to do some digging and customer research on this type of work placement and will share my findings in future posts.

 

The Times They Are a Changin’

Noise, spam, cost, privacy, tokens and bidding. Seems to sum up what I believe are the biggest opportunities for change when pairing people with work on the web. That’s the answer to “Why Tooq?”. While each of the venues listed has some definitive strengths, I think that Tooq can combine what works with changes for what doesn’t work. I also think we can bring some other things not mentioned in this post to the table that will improve life for contractors, employers, freelancers and employees.  The first step towards changing things launches in a month.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments. I’d like to hear thoughts on your experiences with big box job sites, recruiters, and freelancer sites. I’d especially love to hear from current or former recruiters. Looking for work or looking to fill a position, chime on in.

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