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The eternal truths of online recruiting – and what they mean for job boards

eternal truths of online recruitingMaybe it come from having been in the industry for a while, but some eternal truths of online recruiting just keep recurring: Bill Warren, John Sumser, Joel Cheesman, and job matching sites, to name a few. Seriously, though – although much has changed since the mid 90s, some things really haven’t. Ignore them at your own peril. For instance:

  • Resumes rule: Despite repeated attempts to kill, eliminate, or otherwise obliterate them, resumes continue to be the lingua franca for the recruiting world. Why? Because, in their own quaint way, resumes offer at least a passing glance at standardization of candidate information. Will they someday disappear? Maybe – but they’ve been remarkably tenacious thus far.
  • Candidate behavior is slow to change: It took the job board industry about a decade (and millions of dollars) to train candidates to look at job boards first when searching for jobs. Social recruiting – which has had more trouble monetizing itself – may take another 5-10 years to change candidate behavior. Or it may not – some job boards are folding social recruiting into their offerings, and some social recruiting companies (think LinkedIn) resemble job boards more and more.
  • Referrals don’t get no respect: Despite showing up as the #1 source of hire in almost every survey from the past decade, referrals have yet to attract the investment and innovation that social recruiting, job boards, ATSs, and other links in the employment chain have. Why? I don’t know. I’ve seen a number of promising attempts to harness the power of a referral network – but with the possible exception of LinkedIn, I haven’t seen anything gain any traction in the marketplace. Maybe 2013 will be the year of referrals?
  • Technology matters: Why did job boards dislodge newspapers as the primary purveyor of job ads? Technology. They were cheaper, faster, and better. Jump forward to now: what technological changes seem to matter most in the recruiting world? For my money, it’s the omnipresence of mobile devices. They’re the computing platform for many candidates. If a particular technology or platform matters to candidates, then it has to matter to the recruiting industry.
  • HR moves slowly: Face it – the HR department is always overworked, understaffed, and underfunded. Does that sound like a recipe for rapid change? Not really. When HR finds something that works, they stick with it – particularly if it’s inexpensive and quantifiable. For job boards, that means delivering reliable, repeatable results at a fair price. For those who would dislodge job boards, that means…a challenge.

Please don’t misunderstand me – the above eternal truths of online recruiting are not meant to imply that nothing is changing . Quite the opposite. But even in the midst of changes, some things stay the same. It’s worth your while to step back – understanding that candidate and HR behavior change very slowly is critical in determining how a new service or feature can succeed.

So…what other eternal truths of online recruiting did I miss? Let me know!

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. I agree that job boards largely displaced newspapers as the primary source for job postings and that social media sites such as LinkedIn are trying to displace job boards as the primary source for job postings. I also agree that those social media sites look more and more like job boards and would cite as a further example the Social Recruiting App recently launched to much fanfare (and criticism) on Facebook as well as somewhat similar apps added to Facebook pages by companies such as Jobcast (i.e., and Work4Labs.

    But where I disagree is the implication that mobile poses a similar threat as social media sites pose to job boards. Mobile in and of itself is simply a different platform. Do Apple computers pose a greater threat to job boards than PC’s? Of course not. Do laptops pose a greater threat to job boards than desktop computers? Of course not. Do tablets or cell phones pose a greater threat to job boards than laptops? That question has yet to be answered but I believe they do but only to a small number of boards which won’t adapt to the different way that mobile devices are used and that mobile in and of itself poses far less threat and far greater opportunity to the job board industry.

    One of the problems our industry has is that most candidates have little to no time to search our sites, read the career-related content on our sites, and apply to the jobs advertised on our sites. Most candidates either don’t have high speed Internet access at home or have little time to use the Internet at home as they’re busy taking care of their kids, making dinner, trying to get to sleep at a decent time, etc. Most candidates also know better than to use our sites while at work. But put a mobile device in their hands and now all of that time on the bus, train, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office becomes time that they can spend on our sites. If we play our cards right and make our sites mobile compatible then our visits, page views, and applications generated should all increase simply because more and more of our potential users are using their mobiles more and more. And as their mobiles become faster, cheaper, easier, and better, that trend will only accelerate.

    My message to my fellow job boarders is not to fear the dawning of the age of mobile but instead to embrace it.

  2. Steven, great thoughts as always. I agree with your comments on mobile – except I have seen a reluctance by ATSs and job boards to take the platform shift to mobile seriously. So – if a job board doesn’t have an adequate mobile interface, then they are going to lose a big chunk of the market, and fail. – Jeff

  3. Jeff,
    One thing that has not changed is that this is a customer driven rather than technology driven business. Knowing your customers – both employers and job seekers – and understanding where they are – physically, technically and culturally- will drive your business.

  4. Guys, I keep a close eye on all things mobile for reasons outlined here. We get 1-2 messages a day via mobile email from job seekers usually mistaking us for an agency !!(We always reply) but when I check our Google analytics, I can see that 4% of our visitors pm are mobile and 3% of that 4% are on iPad’s which is the same as a laptop anyway so while 2 of our main sites have become “Mobile compatible” – I still don’t see the need to spend 5K on a mobile app as yet. Am guessing about 2015 will be the time.

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