The eternal question: what is a job board, really?

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What exactly is a job board? Nowadays there are many sites that run from that description – after all, it’s quite unfashionable. Yet many HR and recruiting industry professional continue to use the term, so it seems worth exploring (notwithstanding my own moniker!).

In the beginning – say, in the mid-90s – a job board was simply an online version of newspaper classifieds, albeit with unlimited ad length and some method for online job application. Even today you will run across sites that literally scream ‘1999’ in both their visual appeal and functionality (I’m not going to give any examples, but you know who you are). These sites were all about volume – more page views, more clicks, more eyeballs, more more more! The site that trained employers on this concept – more than any other, in my opinion – was Monster. As its name implied, it was bigger, better, and, um, bigger than anything else out there. If you were going to compete as a job board of this era, you focused on volume.

Just ahead of the first Internet bust in 2000, job boards began to pop up that focused on specific niches. These were called – not surprisingly – niche job boards. Dice, LatPro, and others paved the way, and as the 2000s progressed a niche site popped up for every industry – and every segment of every industry. With niche sites came a few new features, such as forums for candidates, specialized newsfeeds, and (occasionally) affiliations with relevant industry organizations. But at the end of the day, these sites were making money just like the Monsters of the world – from job postings and resume database access.

Then in the mid-2000s, a couple of truly different models emerged. There was LinkedIn, which at its core was basically an ‘open’ resume database, where people – if they were ‘in the network’ – could view others’ profiles (i.e. resumes). It grew rapidly and when it went to monetize, it focused primarily on charging recruiters and employers to access all of the resumes (it also got a much smaller revenue stream from candidates who were willing to pay for additional services). So the money wasn’t coming from job postings (yet), but from resumes. A twist and a pivot – but LinkedIn still looked like it was in the exact same business as traditional job boards (and in fact, most employers considered LinkedIn a job board of a different color).

The other model came from Indeed. It ‘aggregated’ its content (job postings) from job boards, promoted the aggregated content via Google and other search engines, and then sold the traffic back to job boards. Nice work if you can get it. By the time job boards woke up to the fact they were getting taken, Indeed had moved on, ‘aggregating’ its content directly from employer sites – and then (surprise!) selling the traffic back to employers. Indeed spawned literally hundreds of other aggregators (and it’s now moving into the staffing world).

All of the above were called and continue to be called job boards – but as you can see, they approach the basic recruiting challenge – putting candidates and employers together – in somewhat different ways. Now think about some of the new sites that have popped up over the past few years: Hired (a recruitment firm that looks like a job board with some assessment thrown in); GlassDoor (an employer ratings site with job postings and ’employer branding’); StackOverflow (a Q&A site that monetizes via job postings); Workey (employers hire via anonymous profiles); and so on. If you read my periodic ‘new sites’ roundups, you know what’s out there.

What do they have in common? A) They are trying to do a better job of connecting candidates and employers; B) they are calling themselves anything and everything but ‘job board’; and C) they are making a great apparent or actual use of technology (i.e., technology forward) in their offerings.

What happens to the ‘job board’ moniker? It still gets used as shorthand – but for ‘old fashioned’, ‘backward’, or simply ‘unfashionable’ offerings – when it gets used at all. And this brings me to another point: I find the greatest (negative) passion about the term from those who are invested in bringing new products and services to market. That makes sense. They need to differentiate. They need to make a case to employers as to why they should switch to something new, as opposed to their current (job board) solution. That’s the way of the world. And that’s why I advise my clients to quit referring to themselves – either internally or externally – as ‘job boards’. Call themselves ‘recruiting sites’, ‘recruitment marketing services’ – whatever. (And yes, I know this is rich coming from the (ahem) JobBoardDoctor).

But there’s a deeper reason to push past the easy, pat terminology of the 1990s. What you are is what you do. And what you do should be reflected in what you call yourself and how you talk about yourself. I can promise you – if you’re thriving in 2017 in our industry, you are very likely not a 1990s-style ‘job board’ – even if you started out as one.

That’s about as deep as this (again, ahem) JobBoardDoctor goes. What do you think?

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Martin Lenz

    I see a big potential in “talent platforms” that offer more than just recruitment ads with a little content around it. They offer services for both the active and the passive job seeker, like people in career self-management or transition. These platforms also improve to grow and integrate their ecosystem of partners from recruitment technology providers to content creators. This powerful concept will differentiate from 1990-like job boards and bring a big monetization opportunity.

  2. Lou Mayer

    Job boards have to evolve to survive. Maybe you should evolve into the “Recruitment Doctor”?

  3. Pingback: Balancing Act: Speaking to Both Candidates and Recruiters | Careerleaf

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