a cautionary tale – Job Board Doctor

: iowa caucusesDid you know the Doc­tor lives in Iowa? Well…he does. And a few weeks back, he par­tic­i­pat­ed in the famous Iowa Cau­cus­es (per­haps for the last time? We shall see). You may have heard there were a few prob­lems. But how, exact­ly, does the cau­cus­es’ prob­lems have any­thing to do with job boards? Let’s see.

For those who don’t fol­low U.S. or Iowa pol­i­tics, a brief overview. four years, pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates flock to Iowa. Why? Because it holds the ‘first in the ’ assess­ment of pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates. We don’t vote per se in Iowa – we cau­cus. Cit­i­zens into small , advo­cate for their favorite can­di­dates, and (even­tu­al­ly) are tal­lied up to deter­mine can­di­date had the most peo­ple, sec­ond most, and so on. Then these num­bers are trans­lat­ed into state del­e­gates. It’s kind of com­pli­cat­ed but Iowans have been doing this for decades and are used to it. Kind of like through the Polar Vor­tex.

This year, the nation­al Par­ty told Iowa to make changes to the process. Most of these changes revolved around report­ing, but some involved broad­en­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion. At the local lev­el, those of us who were involved had been work­ing on train­ing for the cau­cus for months.

The night of the cau­cus, all around the state, the word com­ing back from the local precincts was good: every­thing was run­ning smooth­ly. Folks liked the changes. Folks under­stood how it worked. Except

At the end of the cau­cus­es, each precinct chair had to report their results to the state party…and the tool they had been giv­en – an app – was­n’t work­ing. So they called the hot­line – just like they did before the app came along.

And the hot­line was jammed up with calls from Trump sup­port­ers, news orga­ni­za­tions, and oth­er precincts. Chaos ensued. Chaos which, in , did not end for days.

This series of events made me think of cer­tain job board ‘roll outs’ I’ve par­tic­i­pat­ed in or observed. Why? Well…

  • Changes have to be thought through – to the end: so you’re chang­ing your can­di­date match­ing process? Remem­ber that it isn’t just a few algo­rithm changes. It also changes how the end (the employ­er) will behave. It may very well have an uneven effect – work­ing great for some employ­ers, and hor­ri­bly for oth­ers. If you have 50 employ­er cat­e­gories, you need to test for each.
  • You have to test – mul­ti­ple times: Get this – the Iowa Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty nev­er test­ed the report­ing app. NEVER. Now, sure­ly you have NEVER rolled out a fea­ture or ser­vice with­out test­ing it, right? Right? Please tell me you haven’t!
  • Your back­ups need back­ups: It was entire­ly pre­dictable that mis­chief in the form of fake phone calls might ensue – yet there was no prepa­ra­tion. The same goes for job board roll outs. What if your new text-based job alerts are wild­ly suc­cess­ful? Can you han­dle a tripling of load? Can you han­dle the influx of hack­ers lured by the poten­tial of hun­dreds of thou­sands of cell phone num­bers?

Final­ly, remem­ber that every action is linked to oth­er actions – in mul­ti­ple direc­tions. You can’t coast on past suc­cess. You can’t take short cuts. You have to assume that what­ev­er can fail, will fail. If you do that, I promise that your job board will end up with a bet­ter rep­u­ta­tion than the Iowa Cau­cus­es – which would be a good thing.

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