Written by
July 25, 2017

It’s fair to say the one resource humanity does not lack at present is access to information. The exponential growth of information being stored and shared across the internet has been a hallmark of the past few decades.


This is indeed the very definition of exponential growth


The challenge associated with such a surfeit of information is finding what you need when you need it  – a.k.a. finding the needle in the haystack. A recent article that focused on the problems arising from the combination of massive content quantity and poor content quality got me thinking about the needle in the haystack problem with regard to work and careers.

We’ve written before about the challenges associated with hiring using resumes – trying to identify the right person for the role and team is rarely a straightforward process. Sometimes it’s a problem of not having enough applicants, but often times it’s not a quantity problem at all, it’s a quality problem, i.e. trying to find the needle in the haystack.

There are 330M people in the U.S. alone, of whom about half are in the workforce. There are plenty of people to choose from as potential employees, regardless of the role in question. It’s a matter of finding the right people, the best people, for the role. Best doesn’t necessarily mean Harvard graduates (although sometimes it does), it means the person who will be the right fit for the role and team in question.

Ok sure, hiring managers are looking for the best match for their needs, but there are a 150M or so people capable of working. Organizations don’t want to just hire anyone, they want to hire people who can not only do the job but excel at it.

So maybe these hiring teams are looking for graduates. Well, for the 2016-2017 school year, expectations were for almost 2M bachelor degrees, and another 1M masters and PhDs to be attained by students. That’s 3M people each year coming into the workforce with higher education degrees.

However, in 2016, the U.S. created just over 2M new jobs. If we have over a million additional people for the number of jobs that were created then maybe it’s simply a question of not enough graduates having the right degree. After all, we need more STEM grads, right? Turns out, that’s not the problem either.

In fact, it’s a selection problem – trying to identify the right person for the job from among all the available people. If the average job at a company is getting hundreds, thousands, or 10s of 1000s, of applicants, would the hiring team even know if the right person was applying? Worse, does the right person even know the job exists?

This same dynamic holds true for the career seeker. Depending on the data you source, there are somewhere between 146M and 153M jobs in the United States alone. Researching and analyzing all those jobs to find the right one is beyond anyone’s capacity. If we start with just the companies, perhaps that would be easier? (hint: nope. there are over 5 million companies and over 5 million people hired each month)

Again, it’s not a quantity problem. Since we all see the world through a soda straw, how do we know which job at which company is the best fit for our capabilities and goals since we may not even be aware of its existence? In other words, how do we find the needle in the haystack?

Most people see the haystack of applicants of available jobs, contemplate it for a little while, mentally gripe about how difficult this is going to be, then roll up their sleeves and get to work. This is a long, exhausting, boring process that only occasionally leads to success.

It’s a hell of a lot easier to just use a magnet.


You can also burn the hay or throw it in water. However, burning companies and drowning applicants might not be the best solution, so let’s not take the metaphor too literally…


The goal isn’t the process, it’s achieving a successful outcome: find the right employee, find the right job. Given the number of people in the workforce and the number of jobs available, both of these goals are attainable – it’s just a question of finding those needles in all that hay. Thankfully, that’s now possible.