Reimagine first time job hunting
Focus on empathy, not just accuracy
Understand the true issues in job hunting
Reduce anxiety, depression, and stress
An ingrained way of doing things
Validation of 'dating-style' process
Multiple audiences, multiple systems
Anxiety-inducing job hunting stigma
Mana is a job-hunting app that levels up first-time candidates through a value based matching system, catered mentorship, and the dissemination of tribal knowledge.
It ended up looking like this ⬇︎
Mana’s mission is not to achieve the fastest job hunt in history, nor is it meant to be a completely disengaged process full of automation and robotic emails. Mana aims to make a candidate more hireable than when they came in, leading in most cases to a job better than they expected. Through this focus on empowerment, candidates gain soft skills normally reserved for those who have already been through the job hunting process.
You can liken this experiential style to that of Match, OKCupid, and a slew of other successful digital dating platforms who put a focus on the true value, personal drivers, values, weaknesses, dreams, aspirations, fears, and needs of the participant. In the same vein, mana creates an ecosystem that caters opportunities, mentors, and next best actions through a candidate's emotional buildout.
For candidates, this process results in less heartache, anxiety, depression, and sometimes humiliation that is thought to be sewn into the fabric of a job hunt. By exposing knowledge that in most ways is tribal and “learned,” by connecting candidates with industry professionals who have had similar experiences, and by surfacing next best actions when applying, mana creates a uniquely empowering environment to find jobs.
For businesses, this process provides not only capable, candidates, but candidates that are emotionally ready to start a new role, candidates that are emotionally connected to the values of the company, and candidates that have shown a true desire to improve themselves. The process allows for one to be a culture fit before their initial interview; it helps businesses hire humans, not data
Well, something like this should exist because...
As you might know, job hunting sucks. For first timers especially, it’s common to go through the process feeling under prepared, under connected, and overly anxious.
The problem exposed itself to me initially while I was watching my friend Michael go through a first-time job hunt out of college.From overtly contradicting requirements and titles, to stress-inducing manual tracking, to simply feeling like his application is just stuck in the void, Michael was feeling everything but inspired to continue his job hunt. This feeling culminated when one night he sent me a Snapchat of his LinkedIn and I saw he was being served “Entry Level” jobs with a required “15 years of experience.” I knew right then there was a real problem at hand.
I wanted to learn about the strategies of the companies causing this issue, and what their products might have already offered as potential solutions. I aimed to find any and all market gaps that might exist.
The data-driven power of LinkedIn can’t be understated. Its ability to aggregate information about you and matches it with paralleled business needs is unmatched.
Strengths: Again, data. LinkedIn knows everything about your professional profile and can use that information to surface opportunities at a high rate of frequency. They are also poised to conquer the mass job-hunting market by providing a one-stop shop for all professional happenings.
Shortcomings: Quantity is valued above quality. LinkedIn is relentlessly spammy in its attempt to serve up opportunities it thinks you might want to see. It also has almost next to no data on your goals, culture likes, or professional and person drivers making its opportunity engine miss half of the equation.
TL;DR: More is not automatically better and overt automation can cause a product to lose focus on what truly makes a good fit.
A system dripping in hand delivered opportunities is appealing, and focusing on the times most desirable candidate segment must be nice for stakeholders.
Strengths: Hired takes the anxiety out of the job hunt by offering a more catered approach to everything from opportunity surfacing to the application processes. The experience of dealing with them is seamless and has lead to an industry-leading performance rating.
Shortcomings: Let’s start by noting that Hired silos its efforts to software and technology, so exclusion is a weak spot. It's matching algorithm also falls into the usual paradigm of focusing on “simple stuff” like titles, compensation, and location and missing the bigger picture of the candidate.
TL;DR: A crafted experience can take you fairly far, but it won't be able to produce a perfect outcome if the algorithm it’s built on has missing parts.
The largest manifest of available jobs from all markets, for all levels, and in all places is a nice thing to have available to a first timer as well as a business needing quick action.
Strengths: Indeed is able to surface massive amounts of opportunities and does so with a fairly intelligent algorithm that can divulge from your experience level what types of roles it should be surfacing. It uses a process that is minimally invasive to your everyday life and turns the agony of a long job hunt into something you can do on the side.
Shortcomings: Have I said quantity over quality before? Indeed’s business model is solely built on collecting (almost) every available job on the market which makes it lose focus on the candidate. There is little experiential quality to the process which makes it feels far more like filling out a form than finding that dream job.
TL;DR: Losing focus on the person using the tool ultimately produces a worse hire for the business and a worse job for the candidate.
The core problem that I saw with these tools is that they apathetically focus on input matching and quantity of options leaving first-time job hunters anxious, depressed, and settling for less than they should.
To get a broader perspective on the issue I sent a questionnaire to 15 people who were in the middle of, or just completed a first-time job hunt.
The full questionnaire looked like this ⬇︎
Reaching Out - Thank You
- - -
Seriously, thanks for helping me. I’m trying to validate some ideas about the potential impact that machine learning, personality data, and clever design can have on helping people find better suiting jobs quicker. If you could take a minute (seriously no rush) and fill out these questions, it will make my path forward a lot more clear.
1. What is your current Job Title?
2. Can you briefly describe your role?
3. Are you a Full-Time Employee? Contract? Part Time?
4. When was the last time you looked for a job?
5. How did you search when you were looking?
6. How long did you search before finding your job?
7. Describe the experience of your recent job hunt?
8. What was the best part?
9. What was the worst part?
10. What could have made it a better experience?
Just shoot me your responses when you get a sec, no rush, and never stop dreaming.
Most participants searched digitally with little reinforcement from professional connections
8 - LinkedIn
4 - Internal Job Boards
2 - Indeed
1 - Google Jobs
Over 75% of the participants searched for over a month for their first job.
3 - 6+ Months
5 - 2-5 Months
4 - 1-2 Months
2 - Under a month
1 - A matter of days
With the qualitative information sorted out, the open-ended questions revealed interesting thought patterns.
Describe the overall experience of your job hunt.
“It felt like throwing darts into a dark room.”
“Time-consuming and stressful.”
“I felt so burnt out by the time it was done.”
What could have made it a better experience?
“Mental health/moral check-ins.”
“A better filtering system to match what employers are looking for and what job hunters are interested in.”
“Help from industry professionals.”
To start this off let’s lock down who’s using it and why.
Digital Designer & First Time Job Hunter
Context: Shea is proficient in all things design but has an affinity for research and design systems. She has had several jobs around creative industries, one-off freelance projects, and an internship, but has had no full-time professional design employment.
Characteristics: Shea loves to go to meetups and learn more about user experience and product design. She reacts positively to human interaction and is a generally trusting person. She constantly strives to be better but has trouble seeing what success really is.
Criteria: Shea likes productivity apps like Notion, Spark, and Slack due to their intelligent system design and creative brand storytelling. She needs simplicity and directness in her life and gets frustrated when products stray from their real problem.
Considerations: Shea is a detail-oriented person and notices when things aren’t exactly as they should be; she might be a bit of a neat freak. She likes her interactions online to be quick and seamless in order to get her off onto her work as soon as possible.
And since we know what Shea wants to get out of it, we can section-ize the app to make sure it intuitively meets all her criteria.
Opportunities: So that Shea can easily find information about her potential roles and apply for the ones she feels connected with.
Tracker: So that Shea can keep track of her in-progress applications and find opportunities to improve her chances within them.
Knowledge Base: So that Shea can level her self up by learning more about the areas of her application where she might be weakest.
Conversations: So that Shea can have engaging mentorship while receiving a boost of encouragement and guidance throughout her journey.
Buildout: So that Shea can see how her profile is set up in regard to her job titles, career drivers, culture fits, aggressiveness, and so on.
With concrete ideas in hand, I set out to design the main areas of the app and in turn, test their fundamental usability.
Onboarding: Since the onboarding set-up determined how the entire app would interact with a candidate, I set up a test to vet the onboarding flow.
1. Can a user get through the entire flow in under 5 minutes?
All participants completed the flow in under 5 minutes with an average of 4.5 minutes.
2. Do the questions evoke a high level of in-app personalization?
All participants noted that the questions felt like they were sussing out more than just table-stake details.
3. Did any of the questions not make sense?
While there were minor notes on some wording, all in all, the questions made sense to all the participants.
4. Would the participant want to see any questions added?
One participant noted that seeing an area to denote skills that they lacked would be valuable for the system to know.
5. Did all the questions feel useful?
While all the information felt valuable, two participants noted areas where combining questions might expedite the process.
Applications: Since the real use of the app is to apply and get jobs, testing the usability of the application process was critical.
1. Can the participant easily navigate through their roles?
All participants understood how to move through their role list and dive deeper into one they wanted to move forward with.
2. Can the participants figure out how to apply for a role?
All participants understood how to apply to their chosen role.
3. Does the application process make sense?
One participant noted it was a bit confusing to denote if their application was as solid as it could be, while the other two participants noted that it was clear but wanted an extra signifier.
4. Did the participant feel they successfully applied for a role?
All participants noted they had successfully completed the application after landing on the successive confirmation page.
5. Did the participant know what next steps they could take?
All three participants understood that after they applied to a role that application could be found via the Tracker.
Mentors: One of the fundamental differentiators of mana from the other guys is embedded and programmatic mentorship, but does it work?
1. Do participants understand that mentorship is part of mana?
As participants looked at their application tracker, all noted that mentorship was part of their application opportunities.
2. Do participants understand how to converse with a mentor?
All participants understood how to start, send and receive messages with their selected mentor.
3. Do participants know why mentors are involved in the app?
All participants understood the value of having a mentor provided to them with regard to specific applications.
4. Did participants know why they got matched with a mentor?
While all participants understood that they received specific mentors based on their application and buildout, two did not understand the connection between industries and mentors.
With valuable testing solidified, I set out to construct the entire UI of the app and iterate on my initial wireframes.
The Opportunities page is home base. It serves as the landing page for the app and acts as the primary hub for major interaction; this is an app about finding jobs after all. This page is built out of a series of Role Cards which hold the candidates connecting attribute to a provided role along with specifications about things like position, compensation, location, and the recency of the posting.
The Tracker page is your personal analyst. The page is built out of adapted Role Cards which evolve and change as your application moves through the process. It holds the keys to creating a better application, interview, review, and overall process by supplying the user with catered opportunities for each in-progress application.
The Knowledge Base is your mobile sage. Filled with handpicked information specifically surfaced to align with your unique candidate experience, the Knowledge Base is a manifest of everything you might need to know. It is built out of articles, videos, general assets, and baked in with both mentorship and meetup opportunities.
The Conversation page is your ticket to programmatic mentorship. By embedding mentors into every aspect of the app, promoting mentor content creation via the Knowledge Base, and utilizing intelligent matching practices, the mentor that you’ve been waiting for is closer than you think.
The Buildout page is your personal drivers, professional goals, and your dreams, aggregated. With the app evolving based on your needs and, since it’s fully designed to cater to individual specifications, the Buildout page serves as a hub for all information pertaining to you. Oh, and you can change and update your profile photo here.
To pitch the idea around design and product communities in Denver and beyond, I prepped a product website to explain the main points of the app.
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