Fed job board competition 'a popularity contest'

job searchOne thing that came out of President Obama's job summit last month was a national contest -- which ends Friday -- to come up with the best online job search and career advancement tools.

The U.S. Department of Labor plans to publish the highest ranking tools on its Web sites and encourage the nationwide network of One-Stop Career Centers to make them available to the more than 20 million job seekers they serve each year.

That's a lot of potential eyeballs to be directed to a career site. You'd think job search sites would pay, or do anything else they could, to get on a career center Web site sponsored by the federal government.

"This is right now a popularity contest," Gary Zukowski, founder of Tweetmyjobs.com, told me in a telephone interview.

And if you remember from high school, popularity contests don't always come up with the most qualified person, just the most popular.

Anyone can recommend a Web site on the Labor Department's job tool challenge, and a recent look of the top rated sites among 604 nominated shows the Employ Florida Marketplace leading with 437 "votes." That's great if you live in Florida, but what about the rest of the country?

The site for Florida job seekers is probably leading the contest because it asks users to go to the Labor Department and recommend it as a valuable resource.

Monster.com, a job board site, is also aggressively going after the top spot, getting seven of the top 10 rated sites in the government's challenge. Many of Monster's sites for various job categories were recommended by a woman who works for Monster.com.

There are several categories in the contest, so it's likely that at least a few different Web sites will be promoted by the federal government as the best ways to find a job. Such an endorsement would be like gold to any site trying to sell companies or the unemployed on its services.

Finding the best online job search tools is a good start, but the president's job summit of 150 business leaders should do much more -- like creating jobs.

"A tool does not create jobs," said Zukowski, whose company lists job channels on Twitter by location and title to make them easier to find.

"It's frustrating from the fact that we're trying to get this country back on track," he said. "This is the best that 150 minds can come up with?"

Zukowski is calling on the government to postpone the contest until it's cleaned up. At the least, e-mail addresses should be verified to take it away from being a popularity contest, he said. As the contest is now, a person or company can cast unlimited votes with fake names and e-mail addresses.

His company used a non-working e-mail with the name "Barack Obama" to vote, and five days later "Barack Obama" was still listed under "user activity."

The real question is what will the real Barack Obama do about getting Americans back to work? Hopefully it's more than a popularity contest for job boards.
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