How does Monster.com use gender and ethnicity information?

Glaskowsky notices something odd on the Monster.com signup form.

I've been signing up with some of the major job sites. I started with NotchUp.com, mostly because I was curious about NotchUp's rather unusual strategy. Candidates are paid for interviews set up through NotchUp.com, while NotchUp itself gets fees from the participating companies.

NotchUp recommends that candidates ask for approximately a full day's pay for an interview. That seems like an extraordinarily high price. Companies are free to make a lower offer, though. I set my asking price well below that day's-pay level, and I'm still not surprised I've had no inquiries. I wonder if it's working for anyone else.

On the recommendation of a friend in the business (he actually works for a different jobs site), I also signed up for TheLadders.com, which specializes in jobs with salaries above $100K/year (which we in California refer to as a "subsistence wage").

TheLadders' strategy is relatively simple: get people to sign up for free Basic accounts, then hammer them mercilessly with promotional emails hinting at hundreds of great jobs they can't see until they upgrade to a paid account.

I'll probably do that at some point, but for now I'm just marveling at the intensity of TheLadders' hard-sell techniques. For example, once I uploaded and configured my resume (a lengthy process), I lost all control of it-- with this free account, at least, there's no way to edit a resume without deleting it and starting over. It feels like they're demanding a ransom!

And the site doesn't seem to be very effective. Although I have a good resume, in a month on TheLadders it's only been viewed once.

But all of those issues are just for context, because I was surprised today when I signed up for Monster.com to discover that the site regards a candidate's gender and ethnicity as useful information for "providing offers that are relevant to you" or that "may be of more interest to you."

Here, see for yourself. Here's the section of the form:

The form reads: "Answering the following optional questions will help us customize your Monster experience by providing offers that are relevant to you."
Monster.com's signup form requests gender and ethnicity information so the site can provide 'offers that are relevant to you.' Monster.com

And here's the explanation behind that "Learn more" link:

The text reads: "Gender and Ethnicity. When you provide us with your gender and ethnicity, Monster can customize the ads and offers you see on the site so that they may be of more interest to you. These fields are strictly optional."
Monster's explanation from a pop-up window. Monster.com

Now, it's clear from these illustrations that the information is merely requested, not required, and there appear to be good reasons to ask-- but I think Monster ought to provide a more complete and forthright explanation on the form.

You may be wondering why they would even ask, but there are a couple of good reasons explained in Monster's privacy policy.

First, having this kind of information about its users helps Monster to be a better company. If Monster were to notice that (e.g.) women or hispanics were underrepresented in its listings vs. the known population of workers in the economy, or were relatively less effective at finding jobs through Monster, it could figure out why and make the appropriate changes.

Also, Monster says that "Some employers are required by law to gather this information from job applicants for reporting and record-keeping requirements," so Monster can help these employers by collecting this information on their behalf.

But neither of these explanations apply to the claimed reason for collecting the information.

The word "offers" is ambiguous here. Does it apply to job offers? Monster refers to "ads and offers" in the explanation, but that doesn't really help. I really doubt that companies specify whether they'd prefer to have their jobs filled by men, women, or persons of particular ethnicities. So I don't really see how the presentation of job offers could be affected by this information.

I suspect this language was just not very carefully considered by Monster.com, and I hope someone brings this issue to their attention (if this post doesn't) and they find a better way to explain why're they're asking for this information.

If it's strictly for promotional offers and not for job offers, Monster should just say "promotional offers." It may be less likely to get the information it wants, which could diminish the value of its advertising, but at least it would be more honest.

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About the author

    Peter N. Glaskowsky is a computer architect in Silicon Valley and a technology analyst for the Envisioneering Group. He has designed chip- and board-level products in the defense and computer industries, managed design teams, and served as editor in chief of the industry newsletter "Microprocessor Report." He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure.

     

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