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The term ‘job board’ is meaningless

meaningless 1A couple of times a year I do a guest lecture in a college class at my alma mater that focuses on creative and non-traditional careers. It’s always interesting because it puts me in direct contact with some very smart soon-to-be college grads – who usually don’t have a clue about finding their first job. However, my talk is not a ‘how do I find a job’ lecture – instead, it’s about how people like me used their liberal arts degree to create some kind of career (the class includes lectures from about 24 alumni in total, ranging from big company types to odd-balls like myself).

It’s fun because almost every time, I see some light bulbs go off in various students as they realize that career paths are not straight and predictable, but instead winding and surprising. These kids are smart – but in general, they’ve never been taught about connecting what they learn to making a living they might enjoy. So it’s a great class!

But one question I always ask the students during my presentation is, ‘Do you know what a job board is?’. At best, I usually get one or two raised hands. Then I ask, ‘Do you know about Indeed or Monster or ZipRecruiter or LinkedIn?‘. This usually gets a positive response from about half of the class. And when I ask them where they would begin a job search, the almost universal response is ‘Google’.

This is, of course, not a ‘randomly selected valid response’. It’s just a bunch of college kids answering some questions from a doddering alum. But the consistency of the answers that I get from semester to semester – and the correlation with some more extensive surveys I’ve seen (or participated in) – make me think the answers are pretty typical. In short, job seekers – particularly younger ones – don’t know and don’t care about the term ‘job board’. It’s right up there with ‘galoshes’ and ‘mainframe’.

What do they know? Brand names like Indeed or Google. Functions like ‘find a job near me’. Referrals as in ‘my classmate in PoliSci showed me this cool site for jobs’. They know they need a LinkedIn profile. And they know they need at least one good internship to get some experience.

I doubt you’re particularly wedded to the term ‘job board’ (says the man whose business contains the term!). You and I use it for convenience. But to the ‘outside world’ it is becoming meaningless. That’s why startups rarely use the term when describing themselves (unless they say ‘job boards are broken’). It seems to have become a curse word in some HR circles.

My advice? Remember that ‘job board’ is a meaningless term for much of your candidate base – and a growing segment of your employer audience. Instead, use a meaningful term for your service – whatever it is. Use it, repeat it, and pound it into your audience’s consciousness. You’ll be glad you did.

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