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Candidates: the only thing that matters

CandidatesAs part of my ongoing research, I look at a lot (LOT) of job boards and recruiting sites (and of course those sites that will not call themselves job boards but actually are). I look at sites in Japan, Germany, Spain, Greece, the U.S., Brazil, Australia, the United Kingdom, and many other places. Believe me, the global market is not homogeneous.

But there is one aspect that ties all of these sites together – something that, if missing, will cause any one of them to fail.

Candidates. Tall, short, over- or under-educated, mobile or rooted, candidates are the fundamental building block of all successful online recruiting sites. Whether you’re a matching site like Elevated Careers, an assessment and gamification site like Gild, a hub like Archinect, or an aggregator like Jobs2Careers, your ultimate success rests not with flashy advertising or ‘gee whiz’ site design; it rests on the number and quality of candidates you attract. This was true in 1990 when Dice launched as a BBS for IT contractors, and it remains true today.

What has changed since 1990? Market reach. It’s both theoretically possible and economically practical to reach a huge percentage of potential candidates. So that can be a plus. But you still have to figure out who they are, where they are, how to grab their attention, and how to motivate them to act. Challenges remain.

Despite the increasing sophistication of search technology, predictive analytics, site design, and marketing, the candidate business is fuzzy. Why? Because the entire cycle of hiring, from initial sourcing and attraction of candidates, through the matching of an open position to said candidates, through the (often complex and unpredictable) interview and hiring process, is still primarily a human-managed process. That means that humans have plenty of opportunity to mess it up – introducing non-relevant questions, writing awful job ads, selecting candidates on the basis of hunches or biases, and so on.

Depending on the type of job board / recruiting site / (insert name of your choice), you may have more – or less – involvement at each stage of the hiring process. You’ll get a few chances to make the hiring process less fuzzy. But your fundamental responsibility is to deliver the best candidates for specific jobs at specific employers. If you don’t do that, you’ll go out of business. Because in fact, you are not in the employer business or the assessment business or the site traffic business. Not really.

You’re in the candidate business. And, I would remind you, it’s a critical business. It underlies the success of every employer that works with you. No matter where you are, or how big or small you are. You’re in the candidate business.

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