When giants struggle: does it matter to you?

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FEATsumoThe vast majority of job boards and recruiting sites are medium- or small-sized. That’s just the nature of almost any industry – and certainly ours. Most sites do less than $25 million in sales annually. A minority do more – and an even smaller minority do a lot more.

For a very long time, the industry was dominated by a few Goliaths – Monster, CareerBuilder, and (back in the day) HotJobs. Starting in the mid-2000s, things began to change. Some sites grew via acquisition (Dice, OnTarget, etc.), some grew organically (Snagajob, etc.), and some grew via other job boards’ traffic (Indeed). Of course, smaller sites proliferated – but the Goliaths at the top were experiencing shifts as well. An upstart launched in 2003 called LinkedIn was beginning to gather more steam (culminating in their 2011 IPO). Monster and CareerBuilder were hitting a rough patch. HotJobs disappeared. And Indeed began its pivot from aggregator to full-bore job board.

So where are we at now? In my opinion (and I realize that there is plenty of room for disagreement here), we now have a slightly altered set of big boards – and they each have their own challenges and strengths. To wit:

  • LinkedIn: The enormous recruiting and networking site seems to be in a struggle with its personal identity: is it a networking site? a recruiting site? Facebook for business folks? a home page for the corporate world? I think it wants to be all of these – but even as it expands, it also threatens to dislodge its base: recruiters and their checkbooks. Their most recent round of financials looked pretty good – and the Lynda acquisition promises much. But, as we know, things do change.
  • Indeed: The acquisition by Recruit seems to have produced nothing but good for Indeed. They are at a $600 million annual run rate, they’re moving into more and more non-US markets, and their traffic remains very strong. So where are the rumble-strips? They are running one model (direct to employer) in North America, and another (aggregator of job board content) outside of North America. Can they successfully transition to employer models in other countries? And how will they handle new competition in the PPC market? We’ll find out.
  • GlassDoor: This site has changed dramatically over the past several years, making a pivot toward being the ‘go-to’ place for employer branding. It doesn’t hurt that they have multiple revenue streams to exploit – and a ratings section that their competitors can’t (or won’t) match. Their challenge? Building on this new success outside of North America – where attitudes toward employers (and rating) can differ. Based on the past few years, I suspect they’ll figure it out.
  • CareerBuilder: This Frankenstein-like site, which has suffered from multiple owners and business approaches over the past decade, seems to have turned the corner. It is essentially marketing itself as a recruiting platform, ‘cradle to grave’. The model seems to be gaining traction – but competitors abound, from below (lots of startups), sideways (you bet Monster is trying this), and above (LinkedIn). CareerBuilder has EMSI and seems full-in on predictive analytics, so I wouldn’t bet against them.

Those are my current ‘big boards’. They’re all duking it out for the Fortune 500’s checkbook. Does it matter to you, whether your site is generating $25M or $1M?

Sort of. There have always been – and always will be – big vendors at the top. Unless you’re planning to unseat them – and have a game plan to grow to at least a half billion – their activities matter to you only insofar as the attention they generate for employers about key trends and issues. For example, although the industry has been helping employers ‘brand’ themselves to candidates for years, GlassDoor was really the first site to explicitly focus all of their marketing on this service. So you owe GlassDoor some thanks – they’ve just made it easier for you to sell your own ’employer branding solutions’. Same goes for Indeed (PPC), CareerBuilder (platform recruiting), and LinkedIn (open resume database).

But do you need to stay up late sweating LinkedIn’s latest product lineup? No. Look at it. Understand it. Determine its underlying value.

And then see if there’s something there worth stealing.

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