Rob Schipul, Senior Director of Customer Experience Management for Monster, spoke to us about the role technology and data play in bringing humanity back to the job search.
“Twenty-five years ago, when the company started, searching for a job was a much different experience,” says Rob. “You had to do a ton of work and a lot of sleuthing, and you were willing to do it because that’s the way it worked. That’s how the industry worked.”
When Monster came around, in Rob’s words, it “flipped that on its head.” As a first-mover in the online job search category, Monster revolutionized the experience of finding a job by putting all the opportunities in one place and making it easy for job seekers to uncover the information they needed. But inventing a category doesn’t guarantee success. Monster soon found itself besieged by newcomers in what became a crowded space—while simultaneously struggling with the worst impulses of the marketplace for digital attention.
“As soon as we put [jobs] online, that started to become a commodity, and the category’s changed quite a bit over the past ten-plus years. We’ve really seen a shift towards people getting treated like monetizable audiences,” Rob explains. “You are a visitor to a website, or you’re doing a search, and there are algorithms that are bidding against your attention to drive you to whatever that algorithm thinks is the right answer for you based on your search. And what’s happened that’s really kind of gross is that these algorithms are being paid for by ad revenues, and companies are making money purely by sending quantity of impressions to a job ad versus quality impressions. Everybody has been doing that in the past ten-plus years—and honestly, we joined in that too. And we frankly lost our way.”
To survive in a now-crowded space, Monster has had to rediscover its original mission: creating a better, less stressful experience for job seekers. Says Rob, “We’re getting back to this idea that you are not a commodity to buy and sell on the open market. You as a job seeker, you’re worth more than that…It’s a really crappy process, and it’s a really emotionally draining process. We’ve seen that firsthand; we’ve lived that firsthand. And now we’re getting back to being about the user and trying to make that a better process for them.
“That means creating a more honest and respectful partnership with candidates and employees that provides visibility, two-way dialogue, follow-up, and the careful handling of personal information. This will help us deliver the right fit, so that both employees and employers can get the best possible experience that create mutual opportunities.”
The million dollar question remains: How can Monster deliver on that promise to bring humanity back into the job hunt while also doing it at the scale they need to be successful?
The unexpected answer is to lean in to what’s possible with technology—but to consistently temper it with a human lens. “We are a tech company at our heart, and that’s how we started,” says Rob, “but I think where we’re going is the merging of technology and humanity to transform our category.”
By way of illustration, Rob shared a test he found particularly exciting. For one group of job seekers, they supplemented the core title and location data they typically use for job matching with behavioral data cues of what people were doing on the site. They compared this group against job seekers whom they had explicitly asked for that supplemental information, rather than trying to distil it from their onsite behavior, and were pleasantly surprised to find that many of their assumptions were wrong.
“The really cool thing that I love about working with Jebbit is this disarming the user, asking them a series of questions. Because when we can bring that information into the behavioral data and the algorithms, that’s when it starts to get really interesting, and it makes them more human. I really think it is the beginning of the merger of the human part of the job search and the data behind it,” Rob says.
This ability to ask questions and have a conversation like two humans would, he says, has the dual benefit of diffusing the job seeker’s anxiety and stress while also helping Monster get at what that person is really trying to do.
Rob theorizes that the job search is multidimensional and nuanced in a way that is only imperfectly captured by a job search interface: “When you’re thinking about where you want to go next in your career, whether you’re working in a construction company and you’re trying to move up through the union, or you’re working in corporate America and you’re trying to climb the ladder through title promotions, it’s not just as simple a thing as, ‘I want this role in this part of the world.’ It’s much more nuanced. So for example, maybe I’m in between jobs and I just need to make some money right now and I’m willing to take something outside of my skill set so that I can have a paycheck next week. OK, that’s a very direct question, but a very real reason as to why somebody might be searching for Uber driver roles versus a marketing role.”
He rattles off company values, confidence with networking, and resume-writing skills as just a few of the other intangibles that influence the job search but don’t play into the typical search experience. How much better would your job hunt experience be if Monster could take these variables and direct you to the right content to enhance your skill set and to job listings that offer the right cultural fit?
Rob’s expansive view of the opportunities that more thoughtful collection of customer data could bring about—and the responsibilities that go hand in hand with those opportunities—permeates our conversation.
“The average person who goes through the job search process uses three-plus platforms…and the way the industry has created that experience is very transactional,” he says. “I think we have the responsibility and the opportunity to connect with people across the whole journey to support them where they’re at. And again, it goes back to data.”
Rob cites stats that suggest up to 85 percent of people at any given point in time are considering looking for a new job, but only 20 to 24 percent actually change their job in a given year. Providing the opportunity for those people to self-identify their point in the job search journey gives Monster a chance to proactively provide the tools and content they need and to engage with them across a wider slice of their customer journey. “It requires building that trust and showing value at each one of those stages so it can actually help them move forward from where they’re at,” says Rob. “It’s pretty exciting, but it’s a pretty big undertaking because it widens the scope of the experience and the relationship that the brand could be having with people instead of being reactive to when someone’s in that search mindset.”
That cross-journey mindset also requires stepping out of the channel mindset. Rob shares that while he was brought on to lead what was primarily an email marketing group, he advocates that the insights they gather in any channel inform the omnichannel experience. “Email is just a jumping-off point from all of these other touchpoints of the experience…You can’t create an email strategy without really knowing who your audience is, what insights you have on them, what behavior you’re trying to encourage or drive and make better or easier,” he says. “I think there’s an onus on us to be the champions of the experience even if we feel like we’re just a little part of it…All of us, regardless of what we’re doing, have a responsibility to take those insights that we have with our channels and our audiences and use them to better serve the overall experience.”
Rob freely admits that what’s possible in theory is not always what’s possible in actuality—yet.
“The hardest part—and I don’t think anybody in the industry really figured it out yet—is how to execute on it quickly and effectively. Meaning, you want to be able to have all the information available to you so that you can do fits and matches based on any one of those inputs. The trouble is not all that information exists in a central place today, or if it does, it’s not always easily extractable to bring out in the match,” he says.
“I think this is where data collection has to be really thoughtful, because you can’t ask for a lot of stuff and not deliver on it immediately. We’re trying to go through the balance of how much of this do we ask someone so that we can create a longer-term, better relationship with them, even if we can’t pay all of it off in that initial visit.”
Despite the challenges of striking that balance, the future for Monster is bright. Their thoughtful and empathetic approach to using customer data creates opportunities for job seekers and their own brand alike.
Rob Schipul, Senior Director of Customer Experience Management at Monster, speaks alongside marketers from brands like the NFL, WarnerMedia, Express, and more at Declared 2019, taking place on May 30th in Boston. Learn more.