For the most part, I think applying on line is a good thing. However, there are some companies that seem to make the job application process too high of a hurdle. You spend twenty minutes filling out their online form and then you get to that one question that is just impossible to answer, and there is no way to "Next" around it. So you try the whole process again to see if there is some way around that question-if perhaps you made some silly mistake in the application process that brought you to this roadblock, and once again you hit a brick wall. And then you see that same opportunity on the job board three months later and you say to yourself, "Yep, I know why it is still there. Because nobody can get by that question. Har!" Online applications should be easy to fill out. In fact I would suggest that the last question for the application should be, "was this easy to fill out", along with a text box for comments and suggestions to improve their application process. There is a real art to creating a good straight-forward, streamlined online application process, and there are a few companies out there that fall far short.
You know I'd LIKE to agree with you, to be able to say that the workplace functions as an effective meritocracy. But I've worked a lot in fields like software which are tricky to assess. I knew even in school that the clever code thief looks brilliant (and fast!) next to the honest craftsman, and that was a long time before the term "open source" was even invented (and it's also not just an ethical question but also one of liability too). There's a second problem that managers in this field are generally poorly qualified to assess capability and effort, and so many of these are multi-party efforts which makes it even more difficult to measure individual contributions. But I DO agree degrees and formal licenses don't cut it either! Nor is anybody making a serious effort trying to solve this. So if you're just getting out of school, beware in the real world you'll often find yourself walking away without credit for some of your most committed efforts because in the final analysis "no one (in management) knew what was going on".
As a headhunter with many, many years of experience I saw the handwriting on the wall and high tailed it out of the business also many years ago. Simple reason, economics but also the advent of computer based job search made me puke. I stayed in contact with a few cohorts they were chagrined at how the work of a recruiter was based on performance metrics related to computer job boards. Yeech, over the last year however because of the very dismal record of computer based job search the phone has become the weapon of choice. Use your imagination make up stories get the hiring manager on the phone pitch him pitch your candidate , take no politely but call back in a week two weeks three week months years, eventually it works. Fastest placement over phone 1 day 150K that was the fee, not the guys salary,hit the phones, get people excited if you haven't pissed someone off today and your looking for a job your being a candy ass, hit the phones, hit em hard.
I was able to find jobs in good economy and bad using online applications, so the premise of the author of the article is false. Finding a new job is hard work, very stressful, and very frustrating. Doing it in the absence of personal contacts makes it much harder. You need to treat it like a project. Use best practices, learn from your mistakes, research and then research some more. The author seems to be saying "don't bother trying, just give up and shake your fist at the man!". Pathetic.
Ability is ability. Licensing laws are bogus attempts to exclude able people, to install guarantees and provide comfort. But they don't work well at all, and making them mandatory won't make things any better. In certain fields I have found the degreed engineers are rarely the brightest or most creative or qualified. I would never recommend that anyone bypass the educational system, but that's due to the entry restrictions she/he will encounter, not because of capability.
Regarding law school, that's probably an even worse career path than engineering! Quite the glut of law grads out there chasing very few positions. In fact, a number of law schools are being sued over cooking their books on graduate placement stats by hiring their own graduates short-term so they can boost their job placement ratio. Leave to lawyers to come up with that solution!
BTW, there are more and more fake interviews being held to get free advice on the problem of the day. Having had enough of this practice, I sent a bill to the last 'job creator' that tried this. If everyone did this, they might get a clue that we're on to them.
Sorry, but it's guys like you that make HR think they can hire people off the street to fill and 'engineering' job. ALL engineers should be degreed and licensed. Then lobby congress that certain jobs like defense, avionics, automotive safety, medical should only be handled by licensed engineers. This would cut down on the flood of H1Bs and outsourcing. This debate was had in the 90s and the free market zeaalots won. Now we suffer for the mistakes of past generations.