What’s in a (job board) name? Lots.

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What's in a name?(Note: The Doctor was in Nashville at the IAEWS Congress, so today’s post is a blast from the past. Enjoy!)

Almost every week I see a blog post or tweet claiming that job boards are dead or dying. We’re talking about the top source for hiring outside of employee referrals here. A tool that almost every employer uses to locate some or all of their job candidates. A fixture on the recruiting scene for over 15 years. So what’s with the bad rep? Well, given my business name, you would expect me to give you a biased answer – and after reading the rest of this blog, you may think I did. But based on conversations with recruiters and HR professionals (and several years of survey data), I actually believe there are some factors that have nothing to do with the actual performance of job boards that drive the ‘ooh! job boards!’ movement. Let’s take a look:

  1. Job boards aren’t new and shiny: Let’s face it – new things are usually more interesting than old things. Job boards have been around for over 15 years – an eternity in the internet/technology/recruiting world. There’s a reason why the car companies rework their designs every year…
  2. Those who decry job boards have their reasons: Social recruiting ‘evangelists’ are exactly that – people who believe social recruiting solves almost every problem that currently faces the recruiting world. That’s ok – it’s their opinion, of course – but that’s also why they employ the common (and as many politicians will tell you, effective) technique of ‘going negative‘. It can be much easier to run down ‘job boards’ for their alleged failures than it is to demonstrate whether social recruiting can actually produce better results.
  3. What is a job board, exactly?: The term ‘job board’ is a catch-all that gathers such disparate players (in size, techniques, and effectiveness) as the big general sites (Monster, etc.), aggregators (Indeed, etc.), niche sites (Dice, etc.), social networking sites (LinkedIn) and classifieds sites (Craigslist, etc.). The phrase is so vague as to be meaningless – I’ve heard more than one recruiter say ‘Job boards are awful’, then follow up with a glowing recommendation of a niche site. They were obviously disenchanted with the large general sites – but not so much the smaller ones. I don’t expect ‘job board’ to fall out of common usage – it can be useful shorthand – but a bit more qualifying and precision of exactly what kind of job board is being discussed would be appreciated.

Those are three factors that don’t have a basis in actual job board performance. But there is a fourth factor that does:

  1. Sometimes job boards don’t work very well: It’s true. You put up a posting and get poor results. You search the resume database and don’t find what you need. Sometimes you use a job board whose technology remains firmly rooted in the mid 1990s. You know what to do in those situations? You quit using the board that sucks, and find the one that doesn’t. The failure of one job board does not make you immediately decide to drop all job boards, everywhere. That would be akin to going barefoot because you had a bad experience with a single shoe store. Instead, you look at the data – 20% of hires (plus an additional employment branding effect) comes out of your job board usage. So you adjust your buy and use the ones that work.

A final comment: I think job boards – specifically, niche and general sites – have not done as good a job as they might have in talking about their strengths. They haven’t always been aggressive enough in adopting and/or developing new technology. And they – like other players in the online recruiting world – sometime lose track of the real goal: to bring the right candidates and employers together, as quickly, cheaply, and effectively as possible. In a nutshell, they must evolve. So….what’s in a name? A lot.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Andy Kerney

    A really good, unbiased account of the Job Board landscape as it stands today. For all the detractors out there, the emergence of more niche job boards means they don’t look like going away anytime soon.

    But it’s relatively easy to see where some of the dissent towards job boards comes from. The initial barriers to entry into this space, namely cost and website traffic have become less of a factor over time. Numerous technology providers offer job board solutions as part of their product portfolio and they’re quick, easy and cheap to implement. Add aggregators keen to drive traffic towards any new job board and it’s easy to see why more keep appearing. Plus the new ones are not just limited to the pure job board or recruitment agency operators, online media sites and VC companies all feel they have something to add even though recruitment is not their primary business concern.

    Job Boards have not innovated because consumers have never demanded them to. Innovation is not about having a mobile website or being able to post jobs to social media, that’s common sense business strategy in recognizing a shifting audience. Innovation is something that is a game changer in your own domain.

    Across multiple levels, Job Boards continue to be successful without having to do very much. How many employers follow a single hiring strategy? Not many, which means employers will use all the options available to them, social media, job boards and recruitment agencies. One, two or potentially all three at the same time.

    If an employer offers a job to multiple agencies, it’s a safe bet those agencies will be posting to various job boards. So without doing anything, Job Boards have reaped the rewards from an employer’s recruitment strategy. Employer’s only change which Job Boards they use, not the fact that they use job boards.

    Today’s world is about having options and Job Boards seem to still serve that purpose but will they be ready for their next inevitable recruiting challenge when it comes.

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