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Chicken or egg?: The non-evolution of job board products

job board productsThe job board industry has been around for about 25 years. In that time, it has essentially relied on two job board products: duration-based job ads, and access to resumes. Don’t believe me? Take a look at a random assortment of 50 job boards. I promise you that most of them will be relying on these two products (although resume offerings have dwindled since the onset of LinkedIn).

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are of course other job board products. Indeed introduced pay-per-click advertising in the mid-2000s. A number of sites also offered both offline and online job fairs. Some sites offered some version of recruiting, either via vetted candidate short-lists, or actual contingent recruiting for individual positions. And now some are implementing either pay for application or pay for hire. And let’s not forget programmatic recruitment ads!


In the latest Global Recruiting Site Trends survey, roughly 60% of respondents said that duration-based job ads or slots provided their largest source of revenue. The next option? CPC offerings, with just about 10%. Nothing else listed even came close.

Are we looking at the chicken or the egg? Why haven’t job board products evolved? Is the lack of employer demand driving the lack of interest in non-job-ad offerings? Or is the failure of job boards overall to offer non-job-ad options driving the reinforcement of existing buying behavior?

I suspect it’s a mix of both. As you know, I cover startup activity in our industry, and there has been no shortage of new companies popping up since at least 2010. Some of these companies even offer products that aren’t job ads! Most of these startups have disappeared. But some haven’t, and others have been acquired and incorporated into larger product offerings. So in that sense, employers have lots of options.

Yet when you survey employers about how they find candidates, the majority of them rely on duration-based job ads. Habit? Lack of imagination? Or do they simply get their best results from these ads? It can be tough to sell services to a customer that doesn’t want them – so if you are pushing an exotic sourcing tool but the employer wants job ads, well…

Fact: employer (and candidate) behaviors change slowly. It’s taken Indeed the better part of a decade to convince corporate recruiting to use PPC. It took LinkedIn many years before they became a ‘must have’ resource for recruiters. How long do you think it will take the majority of employers to migrate over to AI-infused recruiting? A while.

But that’s no reason for job boards to stagnate. As I’ve said before, your role is not to sell job ads – your role is to connect candidates and employers. So keep trying out new job board products on your unsuspecting clients. Habits can change – but they may need a little nudging from you.

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