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The death of job boards? Ahem…

I’ve been in the job board world since 1998, which probably makes me some sort of dinosaur or masochist. Strangely enough, the imminent death of job boards has been proclaimed almost since their inception.

Today is no different. Whether it’s here or here or here, the word on the street (or in the blog, as it were) is that the job board’s days are numbered because of a changing employment environment, Twitter, job board greed and incompetence, a surplus of recruiters, social networks, or a as-yet unknown technological innovation.

Why? What drives this desire to proclaim the imminent demise of job boards? Let me propose a few ideas:

  1. They’re too damn simple. The average job board just lets a job seeker apply for a job and lets the employer receive the application. There has to be more elegant and complex solutions, right?
  2. Anyone can start one. If pretty much anybody can start a job board, they must be worthless. They have to be.
  3. They’re outdated. Essentially this is a restatement of item 1. The job board should have x, y, and z to be worthwhile.
  4. They don’t deliver. Job seekers don’t get what they want (jobs) and employers don’t get what they want (quality candidates). Instead, they should be using (insert your favorite solution).
  5. They’re too expensive. You don’t get what you pay for (or in the case of free job boards, what you don’t pay for).

I obviously have a vested interest in the survival of job boards, and each of the comments above has some basis in reality. But I believe what will happen – is happening – is an evolution in the nature of job boards. They are changing – but they’re not going away. Why? They serve a fundamental need by aggregating groups of job seekers and then pairing them up with like-minded jobs.

I suggest that, rather than killing job boards, we simply make them better.

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Jeff, another stimulating post, thanks for getting us thinking. So… some rebuttals and qualifications:

    – It is critical to remember that people who blog have an agenda…always. It is good for Joel Cheesman’s business to scare people away from job boards, and scare job boards to need to buy his SEO, internet marketing, and consultation services. If Joel were to purport the great value and success of job boards, he’d be cutting off the oxygen supply to his business.

    In response to your ideas on the factors affecting the so called demise of job boards, I’ll respond to each in order:

    1. There really can’t be more elegant solutions if you are trying to capture a wide audience. What works best for one business, or one industry, or one geography, won’t necessarily work best for all. The real value of job boards is easy access to information for the job seekers. Indeed, professional services, consumer services, and media companies spend huge amounts of money to simplify their business models and user interface. Simplicity in business is a good thing.

    2. I disagree. Anyone can start a tv show on community access television, or an underground newspaper, or a radio show online (see, it takes no special expertise. Just because there are amateurs in the market, doesn’t make everything worthless. If that were true, than your consulting business would be worthless simply because anyone who can build a website can say they are a consulting. I don’t think what you do is worthless, though, and use this example to drive the point home. Just like how the wall street journal, 60 minutes, and npr are all valued resources, despite there being amateurs in their spaces.

    3. Okay, so SOME job boards are outdated, according to the tech early adopters. In truth, the general public uses only a thimble full of the available technology today. Yes, many people use Stubmleupon or Diigo, but most only use the SIMPLEST and most common features. Job Boards can only really be seen as outdated when their content is outdated, and people stop going to them. The last I knew, traffic to job boards is up.

    4. Again, yes, this is true of some job boards. But to lump all job boards into this deficit bucket is simply ignoring great success stories. Our job boards in New England out perform Monster and HotJobs combined, and are twice what CB is. We only allow real, in-state job opportunities, and only promote our services within our states to attract the best local talent. Job seekers who are looking to relocate will find us through our SEO and PPC efforts as well.

    5. Again, true of some, but not all. To use our company as an example, we offer subscription based pricing, so employers pay a flat rate and can post as many openings as they need and get unlimited access to our resume database and other tools. Pricing still is cheaper than the direct and labor costs associated with contracting recruiters, launching PPC/SEO programs, or managing multiple social media networks (where people DON’T want to get unsolicited offers all the time).

    This question of the lifespan of job boards goes back to the value proposition. To capture quality candidates, you need to cast a wide net. More people seeing your ad means an increase likelihood that the RIGHT people see your ad. It’s foolish to believe that you can always get the best candidates by targeting one specific industry resource. Your next great hire may not ever use that resource.

    Jeff, I think you’re on the right track with your business model and goals. Job Boards won’t die, there’s truly just too much value. The benefits of this simple resource are just too great.

    Again, thanks for getting my juices flowing!


  2. I beta tested a major australian job board in 1994 while I was in IT recruitment and was sure it would be the death knell for agencies, how wrong I was.

    I have so many recruiters telling me that job boards are defunct and that twitter/free media access with blogs etc will kill us off.

    Yet with so many happy employers and job seekers, why would they not come back when looking for new staff/jobs.

    yes, we need to offer extra services such as candidate alerts, (off line seminars and sales / .NET courses are proving very popular)slicker interface and more modenr feel to the whole experience for the user and maybe drop pricing a little, but we plan to still be delivering quality content to our advertisers as thats what its all about.

    Google has made the world a very very big place indeed and finding the EXACT information you want is now whats crucial, hence niche advertising works, it just makes sense:)

  3. Job board concept is quite elegant and potentially very efficient.
    There are some obstacles on the way, such as spam&scam and not perfect matching algorithms. But algorithms are getting better and better with every year.
    I don’t see why all job boards would die.
    Instead, the most efficient/useful job boards would grow and less efficient — disappear.

  4. I agree job boards need to be simple and affordable. After my experiences with the major boards i did what you said inone of your earlier post threw up my hands and quite. I remember one time just to register and get my resume done on monster took me almost 3 hours because of all the steps and it was slowwwwwww. This made me decide to build one of my own. We have what I think is the easiest jobs board to use. I believe that it should be simple to just go in add a couple of things about yourself and upload or paste your resume and not have it take more then 15 minutes or less. The best thing is not being tricked into signing up for some school or something like that. For employers we are very affordable and don’t ever charge those ridiculious rates the other guys charge. I think the best jobs board is simple, clear and to the point, after all even employers dont want to have to spend a lot of time posting their openings so we will even do it for them no extra charge. Thanks for the advice and input your blog gives.


  5. Great post.

    I recently started a job board (gasp!) and reading all the negative/scary press would have been a bit depressing – if I’d believe it. Job boards serve a purpose and have value. Is it the death of recruiters? No. Will matching sites take over? Maybe. All I know is that the simplicity of posting a job and having interested parties apply is something that works – whether online or real life.

    Our site’s goal is to remove as many ads as possible and help job applicants track the progression of their application. The bottom line is that if you create value and help people, your product is useful.

  6. Good Post

    I believe that many job boards will suffer do to the generic fashion in which they were created with Employer Postings and Candidates Submitting Resumes BLAH BLAH BLAH. In a age when you have companies out there offering free job boards and you generate revenues on a pay per click basis and one job board populates another and another and one candidates resumes goes out to 6 million recruiters so they are all vying for the same candidates In my opinion those Job boards will eventually fade out. That is why this is a time to create a different concept in which to recruit. At we have done that and will be positioned as the market recovers to be in a position to work with employers now and long into the future.

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