Is LinkedIn a threat to job boards? If so, how?

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A few weeks back I posed the question “What is a job board?”. In the process of trying to answer that question, I mentioned LinkedIn as a prime example of something that looks like a job board, acts like a job board, but claims not to be a job board. The folks at LinkedIn aren’t stupid – they know that job boards are out of fashion with the recruiting and HR pundits. They also know that by creating their own category (i.e., LinkedIn), they don’t have to compete with other potential rivals for precious recruiting dollars. So a tip of the hat to their marketing team – they’ve done a fine job of selling the site.

But…I promise that if you put more than two job board operators in a room and give them a few seconds (and perhaps a few beers) to chat, the subject of LinkedIn as a competitive threat will come up. Along with LinkedIn’s marketing team, job board operators are not stupid – they recognize a competitor when they see one. Based on my own surveys of HR and recruiting professionals, we know that almost all (99%) companies are using LinkedIn in some fashion.  The ‘use’ may range from an occasional glance through profiles to see if any likely job candidates are around, to daily or even hourly use of the recruiting search tools and job posting products. If companies are using LinkedIn to find job candidates, then LinkedIn is competing with job boards. Period.

Ok. So LinkedIn is a competitor. Are they actually a threat? Do they have features or advantages that make them more fearsome that the run-of-the-mill (or even out of the ordinary) job board? Well…yes. To wit:

  • Money: Thanks to their IPO, LinkedIn has lots of money to throw around. That means they can invest in new technology, acquisitions, and marketing – the 3 things that their competitors (for example, Monster) may not be able to do at this particular point. Money may not buy you happiness, but it can certainly buy you market share.
  • Perception: I know LinkedIn is a job board and you know LinkedIn is a job board – but the vast majority of HR and recruiting buyers out there don’t necessarily think of it in the same terms. They instead consider it a social network (which it is in some ways) with candidate acquisition tools. In other words, not a job board. This can be a distinct advantage, particularly if your CEO is reading the latest ‘job boards are dying’ column from his or her favorite recruiting pundit.  In this world, the HR manager isn’t ‘wasting’ dollars on a job board – she’s investing it in social recruiting!
  • Reach: When you have 100+ million profiles in your database, you represent a lot of potential for the recruiter who is trying to find that proverbial purple squirrel.

So if you’re a job board, the above-mentioned threats are certainly real enough. LinkedIn is a well-heeled ‘we’re-not-a-job-board’, with high name recognition and reach. What are you gonna do?

  • Get innovative: Don’t sit on your behind waiting for change to come to your site! Find out what your employers want – what they don’t get from any source, including LinkedIn – and figure out a way to build it.
  • Quantify the threat: How many of your clients are using LinkedIn? How are they using it? How effective is it for them? What’s the cost in time and dollars? If you don’t know – find out.
  • Think and act strategically: You have the ability to ‘frame’ your site and its services. You simply have to think through how you will frame it and what the message is. If you do this, you’re way ahead – most sites never even try.

Yep, LinkedIn is a competitor – one with deep pockets, lots of reach, and some market forces on its side. Sounds a bit like Monster a few years back, doesn’t it?

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Jacco Valkenburg

    In my experience LinkedIn Jobs is a superior Job Board as I need only half the number of applicants via Job Postings on LinkedIn to fill one vacancy. Or in other words, I need twice the number of applicants from the (best performing) traditional Job Board to fill one vacancy. I think it’s fair to say that the quality of the applicants is higher and LinkedIn Jobs are more effective.
    Moreover, LinkedIn Jobs provide me with stats and insights of the profiles who viewed (!) my jobs. The idea behind this is to check if you reach the right audience. LinkedIn has become a very strong Job Board competitor.

  2. Cedrick Dunn

    I agree. Linkedin really is a job board in disguise with a social network to back it up. However, I do believe they’ve become a bit outdated and could invest a little more in technology because the site is overrun by recruiters without anything better to do. Something will come along and replace Linkedin and I’m sure it will be soon. Anyone tried Geoi9 yet? It looks promising.

  3. Andre

    Jeff, I agree with your viewpoint. LinkedIn is a “disguised” job board and a very livid threat to any real job board where jobseekers use LinkedIn to its fullest potential. Here in the Caribbean we don’t see Linked In as a potential threat as yet, because most professionals have only within the past 18 months or so, started to catch on to Linked In.
    But you have very useful insights in this article.
    Cheers!

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