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Why differentiation is critical for success


Job boards – like almost all other businesses – have a tendency to look and function a certain way; in other words, they lack differentiation. Call it the default ‘operating mode’. This is partly because of customer expectations (usually set by their experiences with ‘big boards’ such as Indeed or ZipRecruiter). It is sometimes the result of laziness on part of the job board – it’s easier, after all, to look and act like (insert the name of your relevant ‘big board’ here) than it is to figure out a different or even better way. Let’s face it – whether you’re in the recruiting biz or the gas station biz, any significant success is almost inevitably met by lots of copying. If a gas station chain has success with breakfast pizza (really!), then you can bet that its competitors will be offering their own versions, too.

But…just because it’s easier to copy doesn’t always mean it’s the smartest move. This lesson is coming through loud and clear in the companies covered in the JobBoardGeek podcast. When Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter and I have talked with different job boards, it’s become evident that most have discovered ways to differentiate themselves from both the ‘big boards’ and niche competitors. A few examples:

  • Mac’s List: Mac Pritchard has managed to combine a geographical focus on the Pacific Northwest with a content focus on non-profits and creatives, using such tactics as podcasts, business structure (B corp), blog posts, and a very personal approach to both candidate and employer audiences. (Mac’s List site).
  • Ntroduced: Jonathan Samuels of the sales and tech recruiting site Ntroduced has a deep understanding the challenges in hiring sales and tech professionals – and he realized that a key issue was how they were hired. So he literally dumped the ‘resume approach’ and focused on skill- and fit-based hiring. It has been a winning combination for the site, and a key differentiator. (Ntroduced site).
  • Escape The City: Dom Jackman and his co-founders literally ‘escaped the city’ when they gave up careers in London’s financial sector in search of something more adventuresome. Their job board has delved into live events, holiday trips (!), in-person and online training – all in support of their candidate community. The result is a job board that is truly not quite like any other. (EscapeTheCity site).

The connective thread between these sites (and many of the others we’ve talked with on JobBoardGeek)? Differentiation. They’ve learned (or been forced) to set their services, branding, and approach off from the ‘typical approach’. Of course they use SEO and SEM tactics just like any other web business – but they’ve added additional approaches that make it clear to candidates and employers that they are different.

I would argue (and often do!) that having clearly delineated differentiators is critical to the success of a job board or recruiting service. Your job board needs differentiation. So…what are yours?

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[Check out the JobBoardGeek podcast archive!]

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