Thanks to databases and nifty analytics, targeted advertising is almost magic. But nothing is perfect, as some notable clunkers make clear.
Isabel: University of Ottawa
I glance at the apparently personalized subject line on the email from my professional networking site and frown. What’s this about the U of O? Hovering my mouse over said inbox entry, I glance at the viewing pane to the right.
Jobs you may be interested in
I note the ending preposition and the ambiguous ‘may’—are they suggesting a possibility or graciously offering me permission?—and wonder why they don’t just say, Jobs that might interest you. But these stylistic nits quickly fade from mind as my eye wanders down the list of said jobs.
Executive Director, Communications Directorate
Hmm. Communications jobs in Ottawa generally require proficient bilingualism, one reason I have been self-employed since moving from Alberta a dozen/douzaine years ago. Given that this first job I may be interested in is at the officially bilingual University of Ottawa, it’s a sure bet that English/French bilingualism (oral, aural, reading, ’riting, and likely ’rithmetic) is a non-negotiable requirement. The forms I filled out on my professional networking site make it clear that I am not bilingual. How did this job ad get matched to me? I look at the next one.
Director Human Resources
Now, from time to time I have been directive with humans who were not being sufficiently resourceful, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the qualification they have in mind for this position.
Wealth Management Consultant, High Net Worth (Bilingual)
Good grief. Nothing in my profile suggests even a passing familiarity with high net worth, much less the ability to counsel others on how to manage it, once achieved.
Batting zero for three, I dial up the speed of my perusal.
The recruiters for Chief Financial Officer undoubtedly want an accounting or financial designation that I lack. Next!
The screeners for Program Manager, Library Program Development, likely want a library degree. Or a project management designation. Or both. Next!
And surely each member of the technical trio—Manager, Systems Engineering, Federal; Director, Transportation Infrastructure; and Professor, Bachelor of Building Science—requires an engineering or engineering-like education: topics I have avoided studiously, as it were.
I scan the list again, puzzled as to how it came to be in my inbox, since I lack the technical qualifications, work history, progressive management experience, and bilingualism that would qualify me to apply for any of these positions. There is just one clue: these jobs are all based in Ottawa. So am I.
As I deep-six the email and get back to doing work for which I am actually qualified—not just located—I wonder why they can’t do better than this.
And then I wonder when it was that I started to expect better. When did I start taking for granted that Amazon.com or Signals.com offer suggestions—and reasonable ones—about similar products I might like to buy? When did my usual airline start sending me emails highlighting deals for trips to my usual destinations? When did my drugstore start emailing me coupons based on my purchase patterns? Wait a minute: that last one was just three months ago.
But when was it that I first even saw these capabilities or something like them? This, like so many things, is lost in the mists of time or the fog of my brain, but it seems like a long time.
Certainly it’s long enough that I’m dismissive of an email site whose best effort is to offer me a dating service for singles in my area, although I fail the singles test and blow the top off their age categories. Not that I was looking.
And long enough that I’m impatient with a professional networking site that doesn’t consult the very information it collected from me and use it to target job ads based on more than my location. What, do they think they’re a newspaper?
And long enough that what I once saw as pure magic, evoking amazement, I now see as standard business practice, provoking irritation when it doesn’t meet my expectations.
And if it’s only actually a matter of a few years in which all that has happened, well, that’s a long time in computer years. I wonder what I’ll take for granted next year?