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Focus drives function: is it candidates, or those that seek them?

focus drives functionIt’s true – focus drives function. An example: many years ago, Lloyd Linn, the then-owner of Dice, told me something that I have never forgotten: “If you don’t have candidates, you won’t have employers.” In other words, without candidates, job boards are worthless.

It is absolutely true that if a job board, recruiting site, or whatever else you want to call your service cannot produce candidates for your clients, you will fail. Perhaps not immediately (VC funding can cover many sins, as can AdWords dollars) – but ultimately your demise is assured.

The way a job board/recruiting site is designed – both from a business perspective as well as a functional and visual perspective – can tell you a lot about whether or not it is truly candidate-focused. Again – focus drives function. I’ve been thinking about this a lot; over the past 5 years the jump in funding for recruiting sites and services has produced a profusion of new sites. My recent musings about the term ‘recruiting site’ vs. ‘job board’ is part of this.

So what are the characteristics of a candidate-focused site?

  • Ease of use: a interface that has actually been tested on humans, and a recognition that the simplest approach is almost always the best approach.
  • Clarity: easy for the candidate to figure out what the site/service does, what the benefit is, what they can expect to get out of it.
  • Transparency: jobs that are actually real and available. No surprises (i.e., if you sign up to be anonymous, you really are – no surprise email blasts from recruiters).
  • Focus: if you claim to be a site/service for accountants, then deliver. No janitor jobs.

None of the above is meant that you should ignore the needs and wants of your employers. They are part of the equation, too. But if you treat your candidates as disposable, interchangeable, high-volume widgets that can somehow be scraped up from the web, used, and dumped, well…you’re part of the problem, not the solution for employers.

How to go forward? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Look at your site/service through the eyes of a candidate at least once a year. How does it function? Does it make sense? How could it be simpler? How could it be more effective?
  • Ask your candidates for their opinions. What’s good? What sucks? It’s not that hard – one of my clients does this annually and routinely gets thousands of responses (and yes, they use those responses to improve their services!).
  • Get rid of employers and recruiters that abuse candidates. Period.
  • Understand that hiring is two-sided. Candidates want information and communication. So do employers. Offer services that facilitate that.

Finally – focus on a high quality experience for both candidates and employers. Let others chase low prices (and quality) to the bottom. Excel. If you do this, you won’t need to worry about a lack of candidates or employers. Remember – focus drives function.

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