Is ‘free’ the wave of the future for job boards?

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You can’t cough these days without bumping into a ‘free’ job board, i.e., a job board where employers can post their jobs at no charge. Free job site, free Tweets, free everything. Now, there have always been a few of these boards around, but in the past year or so, it seems like they’ve been reproducing like the proverbial rabbits.

What gives? Some would argue that Free, by Chris Anderson, put a voice to a burgeoning movement: “In a marketplace with low marginal costs and many competitors, (free) feels inevitable for most digital goods.” (For a roundup of the arguments surrounding this assertion, go here).

Hmm? I guess I wasn’t the only one who choked on that: “I do agree with Anderson and Godin’s underlying point, the “freemium” model — giving away some content while offering a more valuable experience for a premium — but it’s neither a new idea nor a terribly innovative one,” said Guy LeCharles Gonzalez in a recent blog post. “The containers may change and get cheaper, but it’s the content that gives them value, and the creation and distribution of quality content isn’t free.”

So too with job boards.  Next time you see a ‘free’ job board, look at the business model. Will it endure? Is it based on providing value to employers and job seekers, or is it simply a way of grabbing some AdWord dollars for a few months? Is it extracting revenue from job seekers – and if so, does that make it a good bet for employers?

Much of the excitement about Twitter and ‘free’ in the job board world springs, I would suggest, from dissatisfaction with the ‘Big 3’ boards. Over the past decade, they’ve grown larger and more removed from their audience, increasingly fixated with extracting additional revenue from employers and job seekers without adding value, and guilty of making some bad decisions in the name of keep their stock prices up.

So how does ‘free’ resolve this dissatisfaction? Well….it doesn’t. Yes, it takes away the cost issue – sort of. Let’s say you’re given the choice of posting on Joe’s Free Job Board vs. a targeted niche board. Joe’s is free, the niche board isn’t. Joe will give you a little bit of every kind of job seeker. The niche board just gives you the seekers in its target. What happens? Joe shifts the cost of ‘free’ to you – you’re burning your time shuffling through your ‘free’ resumes and job applications, looking for someone who fits your need.

How much is your time worth? Is it free?

Mine isn’t.

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. funnelthru.com

    Free is considerably harder on the job boards because the main (not only) way to account for that missing revenue is in advertising.

    Right now the big 3 not only charge hundreds per job posting they also inundate users with ads. Free job board have even more ads to cover up the difference – and on top of it may be selling your data for more money.

    It’s not even so much about a sustainable business model as it is about trust and authenticity. No one is acting in the best interest of the users.

  2. Bob

    The job aggregators like Indeed.com and Simplyhired helping push the Free model. The more popular those sites become (and they are gaining traction like crazy everyday, especially Indeed), the less people will need paid job boards. The funny thing is that these sites are cannibalizing their main source of revenue…sponsored job postings from job boards. Job postings are now just a commodity product.

  3. Mike A

    I agree that free job boards are poping up everywhere. I have learned how to take advantage of some of their tools though to help our job board grow, by taking advantage of there popularity I invite them to aggregate
    our jobs thus helping to give us exposure. I have learned and believe me i tried the Free thing that I can not maintain a job board and not get paid. The last thing I wanted to do was fill it with ads that pop up everytime you click on something. We do have just a few google ads on the site but not making much from that. We decided long before we launched the job site that we wanted it simple to use and not cluttered. We have very low overhead so we don’t have to charge a lot of money for job postings, in fact we only charge $5 per job posting which I think is very reasonible.
    Great post……

    Thanks,
    Mike

  4. Tim Rush

    There are no “free” job boards. If a board is operating on a “free post” model it is safe to say it is feeding someone, somewhere. I would venture to guess 90%+ of the free boards out there are simply creative sourcing tools for staffing and recruitment agencies large and small. Heck, I started my fee (not free) based board when I was the VP of sales and marketing for a medical staffing company. My ownership of a board was a huge boost to that company and the most valuable tool in its recruitment tool box until I resigned.

    The difference is when I started my boards they were designed to be an exit strategy from staffing and not as the core a staffing companies client sourcing and recruitment methodologies. I wanted to remove the conflict of interest ASAP and focus on building a fee based model designed to feed recruitment firms and employers quality candidates nationwide.

    Come on why would someone pay over a buck per click on Google ad sense to promote a “Free Posting Site”? The free post model uses other companies posts to feed the job aggregators which in turn provides significant “free advertising” back to the “Free Boards” core interests. Those interest are more often than not to source quality candidate for their paying client’s openings and not their “free job postings”.

    I believe that there will always be free job boards. That said they will peak and then begin to decline as a growing number of employers and recruiters become leery of “Free job boards”. They are not built to serve the “greater good” with the interests of a “Free Posting” as their focus. They are built to serve the needs of the board operator. Results from sourced clients and or candidates is what justifies their cost on the balance sheet.

    The fee for post boards need to do a better job explaining what makes us different. We also need to explain our value proposition better and clearly differentiate our model from that of a staffing firm owned “free board”. Owning and running a successful board in not without costs with designers, developers, customer service reps, branding, ESPs and heck last I checked Google Ad sense and other CPC vendors do not work for fee. Those of us who are passionate about building a fee based employment job board do not need to run a desk to help pay the bills. This is a 50 billion dollar international industry. We just need to get the message out that there are no “FREE JOB BOARDS” and challenge employers to ask “if this is free than how do you pay the bills?”.

  5. Pingback: Are Job Boards Dead, or Are Your Job Ads Just Deadly Dull? « The Staffing Advisor

  6. Shane

    Free or pay-per-post have no value either way if the owner is not competent enough to operate the model.

  7. Robert

    My site(s) are free and the results are spectacular. Many are ranked from 1 to 75 on all search engines. I won’t make you cry with what what they cost to host per month, okay <$10. Free job postings and job boards is where things are going. You would have to be a fool to pay for a job posting these days. Any real recruiter knows that job postings are for the most part useless in attracting the candidates hiring managers want to see anyway, no offense. The ads that people say are bad are all incredibly relevant to the job seeker for their specialty on our sites. They must like them because a whole lot of people hit them everyday. A job posting is an ad anyway, right?

  8. Pingback: Are Job Boards Dead, or Are Your Job Ads Just Deadly Dull? | Staffing Advisors

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