It probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about how to better connect people to jobs, particularly in the industries that we serve at Apploi (retail, restaurant, hospitality, and services).

What continues to bother me is that we still have 8 million people unemployed in the U.S. and that teenagers have the highest unemployment rate of any working group at 16.1 percent. Further, more than 2 million of the unemployed are long-term unemployed, and this number hasn’t changed substantially in months.

What’s also striking is that there are more than 5 million job openings in the U.S. right now!

What is the hurdle that stands in the way? While I don’t claim to have all the answers, there are some recurring themes that I see every day in running Apploi:

The Point of Capture

In the service and support industries, job seekers are predominantly found either at open houses (during which the store will shut off revenue-generating space to meet prospective employees/have them fill out paper forms) or via the company’s website (which treats candidates as if they are applying to a corporate office job).

Of course, neither is ideal. Candidates are customers, especially in these industries, and they need to be captured in a simpler and more meaningful way. Many members of the demographics we serve (who find it the hardest to secure work) don’t have easy access to computers, nor do they have the means to make it to recruiting events. Often, they also lack the guidance and support they need to land a job.

To connect teenagers, the long-term unemployed, and other struggling groups with open jobs, we need to move away from what we’re doing now. When today’s six-year-olds are ready to send in their first job applications in ten short years from now, it is inconceivable to think we’ll still be doing things the way we do them today. After all, these six-year-olds complain when movies take too long to load!

I’m certainly not of the opinion that applying to a job is or should be a fun exercise, but I do believe that the application process should be a connector, not a hurdle. Let’s provide quick, cross-platform capture points that job seekers can use to express their interest in a job effectively and efficiently, no matter where they are or when they need to express said interest.

iPhoneFor those who don’t have their own computers or mobile devices, we need to ensure that there are easy-to-reach public access points where they can discover real jobs close to their locations.

The Resume

When we enter an art competition, we pull together our most beautiful portfolio of work; when we want to become pop stars, we enter shows like The X-Factor; when we search for dates, we showcase our best selfies.

But when it comes to finding our next job, we still use a black-and-white piece of paper to represent ourselves!

Many of the jobs available on Apploi are for customer service employees. How can any useful judgment be made about a candidate for one of these roles just by looking at a piece of paper? No wonder turnover rates in these industries average more than 75 percent per year.

The resume can also act as a hurdle to job seekers, especially job seekers in the populations mentioned above. For teenagers with limited experience or the long-term unemployed, a resume doesn’t really provide an opportunity to impress employers.

Facebook profile pictures are moving to video, the iPhone camera now defaults to recording a second’s worth of video rather than capturing a still photo, and YouTube is one the most visited websites in the world. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million. The resume needs to adapt to the times if it wants to give employers meaningful information and job seekers the chance to demonstrate their value. In the industries in which we operate, a video clip in which a candidate responds to a difficult customer can make all the difference.

Guidance and Support

Job searching is not easy. Teenagers, people who have struggled with securing employment in the past, new immigrants, graduates, and many others need help with this difficult process.

It’s interesting how innovative eCommerce brands like Warby Parker have decided that the online shopping experience is not enough – that it needs to be blended with a real-world store experience. The same is true with respect to the job search: Why do we assume that just because a job is posted somewhere online, that means everyone knows where it is and how to appropriately respond? Why do we assume that every valuable candidate must have a computer and/or a data plan?

We need to capture job seekers in easy and efficient ways, both on- and offline. Job seekers often feel frustrated and vulnerable. We need to put some power back into their hands and give them tools that will allow them to connect with and land jobs that are right for them.

The Store Manager

TabletStore managers in the industries in which we work are tasked with a certain amount of responsibility in the hiring process. However, they are not trained recruiters, nor is hiring their top priority (store sales will always trump recruiting).

So, not only do job seekers face hurdles in the hiring process – the hiring managers do, too.

In today’s highly competitive and ever-changing environment, the store manager needs to focus on hitting sales targets. They don’t have the time, training, or background to act as professional, full-time recruiters. Because store managers are usually on the go, they rarely have easy access to computers. To respond to urgent hiring needs, they need to make speedy decisions – but they often have to do with limited information. That leads to high turnover rates, and high turnover rates lead to low morale, never-ending hiring cycles, and constant training for new employees.

We need intuitive and consumerfied products built specifically for these store and/or district managers. We need to provide them with simple ways to review job seekers on any device so they can make quick, but informed, decisions about who should progress forward in the hiring process.

And today’s progressive ATS companies (like iCIMS, an Apploi partner) are developing strong APIs that will allow this to happen.

This is a big challenge, but not one that can’t be solved! We are talking about millions of peoples’ livelihoods and senses of purposed – so we should definitely have the motivation we need to solve these problems! If we don’t start addressing these issues now, things will only get worse as the generation that was born holding an iPhone begins to enter the workforce.

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