Digital Government Assignment 1: What is wrong with JACK?

Hello! This is my assignment for the DPI662: Digital Government class at the Harvard Kennedy School, where I will propose a number of improvements to the JACK portal (acronym for Jobs and Careers for Harvard Kennedy School). 

What is JACK?

According to the platform, JACK is "the career platform designed especially for HKS students and alumni". It is administered by the Office of Career Advancement at the Harvard Kennedy School, and has a big number of functionalities: 

  • search job/internship postings
  • participate in the OCA Resume Books
  • create your own personal library of job search materials (resumes, cover letters, etc.)
  • view employer participation in our upcoming virtual career chats and events
  • make a 1-on-1 career coaching appointment
  • sign up for a 15-minute Quick Question
  • explore the employer database and more

JACK Product tear-down

I will start by saying that I am a regular JACK user -I periodically visit it to see what available jobs and opportunities are available- and thus I am thrilled that we can do a product tear-down where I can share what has and has not been working for me. 

The first thing that I have struggled with when using JACK is finding JACK, in the first place. I sometimes try to access it via KNET, which is also a complicated website, but most of the times what I do is Google it to locate it. This speaks to the fact that the JACK url is not user-friendly and it is not an easily-accessible website to use. 

The first improvement I would do is to make a customized url for JACK that users are able to remember. Right now, the url is and nothing about it alludes to the fact that the platform is called JACK! And it is impossible to remember. 

After signing in and logging into the platform, this is what you can find: 

I think the home page does not explain a lot about what you can do at JACK, and a lot of the screen space is occupied by a big moving banner that doesn't include a lot of information about how JACK works and/or all of the available services. You have to scroll down to almost the bottom of the page to find out what JACK is and its services. 

One of JACK's biggest functionalities is a database with available jobs for HKS students and alumni. When I click on "Search All Jobs/Create a Job Alert" this is the view that I get: 

The jobs are showed in a card-type format and arranged as part of a moving horizontal list. They are not chronologically ordered and the first jobs that appear to me are suggestions related to past jobs I have looked at. When I scroll down, what I find is another vertical, moving list of "Latest Jobs Posted in JACK" and "Jobs Expiring Soon". 

From my personal perspective, I would prefer it if the first thing I could see was an organized and easily accessible list -vertical instead of horizontal- of all of the available jobs on JACK, ordered by any criteria.  An evident problem of the current "card" format to show each job is that I can not read the entire information because a lot of the space inside the card is given to the "favorite" and "hands down" buttons. In some cases, I can not even read the entire name of the company because the space given to it is very reduced. I do not know if the "favorite" and "hands down" buttons are regularly used or not, but I know they obstruct the view of the job information I would like to see firsthand. 

I have to admit that before this assignment I did not know JACK had 11 modules and functionalities, since I have only used two of them: job searching and resume uploading. In the next image we can see the whole menu of features that the site offers. 

Which brings me to my second recommendation: to simplify the number of functionalities offered by the site. The interview with the OCA staff mentioned they are currently not tracking which functionalities are being used the most or how are users making use of the platform, so a first step for improvement woud be to track the data. From my personal perspective, I have only used the platform to search for jobs and upload my resume, and had never seen that you can also make an OCA career coaching appointment, view employer directory, sign up for interviews, etc. I suspect most students only use it to look for jobs and do not interact with secondary functionalities of the platform, but we can not know if I am wrong or right since there is no data to confirm or deny this

By tracking the data, we could either eliminate the functionalities that are not being used or group the functionalities that are regularly used together under the same category. We could also focus more on the functionality that generates the most traffic -which I suspect is the job bank- and focus our energies in improving it instead of wasting time on things that maybe users do not find useful. 

I will now end this rant/memo by saying that although I find JACK extremely important to advance my career and I appreciate the fact that the Office of Career Advancement thought of creating such a platform, I believe it still has a long way to go in terms of being a user-centered experience. During the interview to the JACK staff, I got the impression that although there is mutual feedback between HKS and Simplicity, the OCA and JACK staff are not getting enough feedback from students, and thus are planning and changing the platform without consulting with the final users


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