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It’s not me, it’s you: how job board problems are not what they seem

job board problemsThe rise of pop psychology, beginning in the 1970s, spawned an endless series of books with titles like “I’m OK, You’re OK” and “Emotional Intelligence” that continues to this day. The hallmark of such a book: take a simple psychological insight or tactic – whether or not it is based on reliable research – and expand it (into book length) to cover just about everything you can imagine. Sometimes this works – but sometimes it doesn’t.

So guess what? I am going to commit the same sin and take a simple psychological catch-phrase, and apply it in broad strokes to our entire industry. Why? To make a point about some job board problems, of course! Let us proceed.

Job boards have two primary customers: job seekers and employers (if the job board is public, add a third customer: shareholders). Depending on the job board, more attention is paid to one customer or the other – and honestly, the customer that gets the most attention is usually the employer. Why? Well, because they typically pay the bills. Yet, as you probably know, this is a bit odd – if there are no job seekers, there are definitely no employers. It would seem that job seekers should be the most important customer – they are the source of a job board’s success, right? Well…it would seem to be, but it often isn’t.

Instead, many job boards chase after employers, obsessing on what they should do to bring and keep them ‘on board’. Special deals? Sure! Cool technology? You bet! Again, this makes sense – most job boards have dedicated sales teams whose existence is tied to selling services to employers. On the job seeker side, most sites usually have a marketing person – or team – focused on acquiring and retaining traffic.

So what’s my psychobabble catch-phrase for this? ‘It’s not me, it’s you’. Let me explain.

What’s the number one complaint of job seekers when using a job board? “My application went into a black hole. I never heard back from the employer“. (Check out the 2016 job seeker survey in the Research section!). This is consistent for almost every job board and niche I’ve consulted on – because employers traditionally don’t respond to every job seeker. Of course, the problem for job boards is that they don’t have anything to do with the response to job seekers – it’s controlled by the employer. But from a job seeker’s perspective, they are using the job board – so the job board is responsible.

The most common response to job seekers when they complain to job boards? Some version of ‘It’s not me, it’s you!’. As in: ‘I’m sorry but we don’t have anything to do with your application – we just send it to the employer. You’re on your own!”.  Of course, this is said much more nicely than I’ve put it – but the essence of the message is the same: ‘Not my problem!’. Then the job board pivots back to its favorite customer: the employer.

Does this seem too harsh? I don’t think so. Having been on the receiving end (so to speak) of applications never acknowledged, I know how frustrating it is. What bothers me is that most job boards (not all) don’t even try to address this problem – even though it’s the biggest issue for one of their two customers. Then they wonder why traffic and applications are faltering!

My pop psychological advice: pay attention to both customers AND address their complaints directly. In this case, the harder path will offer greater rewards!

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Jeff – Great, sound advice. After all these years in this industry, I’m not sure why I am still astounded by the lack of effort (and perhaps – lack of real interest) from the job boards to collaborate with employers to address this problem.

    I speak with several job boards a month about the potential to collaborate as my software solution addresses the blackhole issue you point out. Invariably, there are two consistent responses I get back – i.e.
    1) We don’t have room on our roadmap to address that problem at this time.
    2) Can your solution enable us to learn which of “our” candidates got interviewed and routed?

    They explain to me that they want the routing and hiring data because they believe they can use that information to create a better recommendation engine for their job alerts functionality.

    To your point, their orientation and focus is on the employer customer – wanting to be able send them even more candidates, that invariably a very high percentage of which will never hear back regarding their application.

    Here’s a poor, gross analogy – If after every time I go grocery shopping I am accosted in the parking lot by someone asking for money, I will begin to associate that with my overall customer experience of shopping at that store. Not only does the consistent, negative experience after walking out of the grocery store becomes a part of how I rate my customer experience – but it shortly overshadows the overall experience; eventually leading me to not shop there at all.

    Sadly, the problem with this analogy, though, is that there really aren’t a lot (if any) of other job boards (grocery stores) where jobseekers can shop where their “after shopping experience” will be any better.

    Glad you’re out there extolling these ideas, though! I’ve got to believe that all it will take is one player to get onboard and show how this contributed to gaining market share and profitability for the rest to follow.

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