My employer’s not hiring—at least on the web

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Time Inc. launched its web site today. I know what you’re thinking. Now? It’s 2007! We’re the world’s leading magazine publishing company! We’re launching a web site now?!

Okay, give us a little credit. It’s not like Time Inc. has lacked a web presence. Each of its dozens of magazines has its own individual site. Plus, our parent company, Time Warner, has a site on which Time Inc. has long occupied a corner.

Why do we need our own web site now, you might ask (and by you I mean I)? It appears the corporate kahunas felt we needed to better market our overall brand against the Condé Nasts and the Hearsts. They have a point there. Your average American probably has no idea the Time Inc. umbrella shelters the likes of Coastal Living and InStyle.

So, like the involved employee I am, I checked the site out. It’s dull if slick, with four magazines popping up on the home-page welcome screen every few seconds. It’s a little odd they wouldn’t use the magazines’ actual covers, which are designed, we like to think, to be easily identifiable; TIME, for instance, is represented by a photo of Bill and HIllary Clinton laughing, sans the red border. Under the pop-up images are tabs leading to categories of brands. I bet Henry Luce would find it odd that News/Business Finance comes up fifth–after Entertainment, Home/Living, Life/Style, and something called “Luxury Portfolio.” I guess that’s what we’re calling the magazines we hope will attract marketers of expensive products. Fortune makes that cut. Time does not.

But what I really wanted to check out was the job-search function. Adding a good career tool is a smart move, as more and more job seekers turn to the web to conduct their hunt for work. The Conference Board reports today:

Job seekers are steadily increasing their use of the internet as a key part of their job search, The Conference Board reported today. In the most recent survey of workers who searched for a job between January and September 2007, 73 percent reported using the Internet compared to 66 percent of job seekers in the same time period in 2005.

Time Inc. is notoriously secretive about job openings; my employer, TIME, is worst of all. It’s easier to find work at the CIA. And maybe you should work at the CIA first, as you apparently have to be a spy to learn of a job opening here.

Sure enough, when I asked the “search agent” for all the editorial openings, not a one was at TIME magazine. Essence needs an associate editor. Fortune needs a reporter. Real Simple needs a senior style editor. TIME, apparently, needs no one.

And yet I know that’s not true. I know because new guys keep showing up. Just the other day I saw a white guy in a suit being trotted around the office, interviewing with the managers.

I’ve long bristled at my employer’s lack of transparency surrounding hiring. Not only does it smack of elitism to rely solely on the recommendations of insiders, it also results almost inevitably in a lack of diversity. The oft-repeated argument about keeping our hiring hush-hush is that TIME is such a desirable place to work that we would be flooded with applications should we advertise an opening.

So what? What’s wrong with soliciting a wide pool of applicants? The oft-repeated argument here is that our managers are so busy putting out a weekly magazine that they don’t have time to wade through mountains of cream-colored resumés. But hasn’t technology advanced to the point where computers will sift through those applicants and spew out the few that are to our liking?

I suspect this is a problem at many elite organizations. The very smart, very educated people at the top believe only they know talent. The trouble is that the talent winds up looking a lot like them. And in this day and age, that’s just not smart business. We keep that up and soon we won’t be in any danger of being flooded by job applicants.

How does your organization solicit talent?