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The four horsemen of the apocalypse? Sorry, no…

four horsemen of the apocalypseSo why am I going religious on you and talking about the four horsemen of the apocalypse? Well, see, it’s Joel Cheesman’s fault. Really.

I am a longtime fan of the Chad and Cheese podcast (now a media empire), but life being what it is, I am a somewhat irregular listener. However, I had a few spare minutes the other day and listened to their latest episode. Things were going along as usual, when Joel launched into what he called “the four horsemen of the apocalypse to the job board or the jobs industry”. My attention grew sharper. Both Chad and Cheese know the job board industry quite well, having worked in it, so I’m always intrigued to hear what they say about it (even when they’re wrong!).

Joel goes on to list the four horsemen of the apocalypse: Google for Jobs, LinkedIn, automation, and the gig economy.

Really? These are the things that will finally kill job boards?

But I kept listening. So Joel claims that Google for Jobs is a ‘juggernaut’ and is ‘putting a hurt on the job board industry’. Really? Google for Jobs has generated plenty of traffic for job boards – and continues to do so. Not sure how that hurts. But he’s talking about what he thinks will happen when Google for Jobs finally rolls out their planned ad program, where job boards and employers can sponsor paid ads. Why exactly will this hurt job boards? They’re already sending plenty of money to Google in the form of AdWords campaigns. Now they’ll do so via the Google for Jobs ads, right? And if companies spend on those paid ads – well, more power to them. They’ll be competing with job boards of all sizes, just like they are now in AdWords. This is just a new shiny toy that looks and acts a lot like the old not-so-shiny toys. And remember – first Google has to actually roll it out. They’ve been taking their sweet time about thus far.

Horseman number two: LinkedIn. Joel says that LinkedIn put “a walled garden around their data” and “now they have OpenAI thanks to Microsoft’s deep pockets to now take that to another level”. All true. So? They continue to do a great job as a job board, just like they have for the past 20 years. Nothing’s really changed, except that they landed a very rich parent company (just like Indeed) to help them grow. Yet for some reason they have yet to kill the job board industry. They continue to be one of the biggest job boards  – just like they have been for the past 20 years. I don’t see destruction coming out of this horseman’s mouth.

Third horseyman: Automation. Joel says “Why would you buy stocks that are job postings to hire people when you see images about Amazon replacing everybody with robots that carry boxes, not to mention driverless cars that are eventually going to come?” In other words, robots and AI are going to eat your job – and thus, who will need job boards? This argument has been around since the industrial revolution – and inevitably, jobs that disappear (like telephone operators) reappear elsewhere (like baristas and programmers). Why? Automation and technology tend to create jobs, too! And when companies are trying to hire for those new jobs, guess what? They’ll need job boards. Giddy up!

The final horseman: the gig economy. Joel says “People can gig it as a career”. They can – and many do. But many don’t. Would you run the Postal Service as a gig enterprise? Or the Defense Department? There are large segments of the economy that depend on permanent hires, specifically because of the need for specific skills, continuity, and reliability. I don’t think that horseman will ride. And besides, gig sites and so-called ‘traditional’ job board have been coexisting for quite a while. Neither are getting obliterated.

So this is perhaps one of the (rare) instances when Joel is wrong. But he has trotted out a number of the ‘this is what will kill job boards!’ tropes that you hear from folks in the HR sector. At least when Joel uses them, he’s entertaining!

Now, it’s time for me to watch  Mr. Ed

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Well said (written?), Jeff.

    I also listened to that episode and other recent ones where Joel has been talking about the Four Horsemen and felt the same as you. It is entertaining but, for those of us who have a lot of experience in this industry, also misleading.

    To the extent that Joel was just trying to be provocative to boost listener numbers, fine. To the extent that he actually believes it and is trying to convince others, nope.

  2. I can’t remember a year in this industry (since 2002) when a doom-monger hasn’t predicted the job board world is nigh. I can only talk about UK healthcare.

    I think people get very carried away when trying to solve hiring problems. They can disappear up their own arses coming up with the latest idea that will solve everyone’s hiring problems.

    Often, they’ve not actually spoken to those people doing the hiring.

    The challenge for those trying to hire nurses in the UK isn’t the agony of choice between job boards. It’s trying to find any talent at all, anywhere.

    So far, nursing jobs haven’t been automated. The reality is a shortage of actual humans who are trained nurses.

    Nursing is not a gig economy. (Those doing the hiring expressly want to move away from temp and locum costs – ask them, they’ll tell you.)

    And, sure, they will be happy if Google for Jobs supplied all their needs. But it doesn’t currently and I can’t work out why that will suddenly change once they start billing for the service.

    As for Linkedin. Yep, it’s good. But in healthcare it’s not a great place to find new hires.

  3. Ch&Ch is good listening when you are in the car. You don’t have to hide your kids. Demise of the job boards is all linked to traffic concerns and not paying customers or any of these Horseyman 😂. LinkedIn has helped me solve the rolodex problem and keep connected to friends. Google’s impact on traffic can be serious because of how it handles job ads and its algorithms cost job boards a lot. If it really wanted to get into the job board space, it could. Why do that when it’s getting millions without parsing, scraping, views, applies, conversion, drop off talk, application redirects along with a myriad of other issues all for $150 to $395 for 30 days. Indeed, had a good model that only required it to raise money once and when they went direct to employers as a full on job board, they were like poop what did we do. Selling to Recruit was brilliant because they could see their mistake. They killed the $8 Billion dollar golden goose. Monster was eventually sold for what it paid for HotJobs. Now Indeed is laying off people and keeping their earnings obfuscated within the parents’ numbers. Job board business it not easy because behaviors of job seekers and employers are hard to change. The experience for seekers is terrible no matter how hard one tries but the fact of the matter is job boards will be around for a long time. Even gig workers need to find their next gig just like those highly paid consultants. There may be some value in AI on how to vet board members. Joking aside, seekers are getting the short end of the stick whether they are passively or actively looking. The industry as a whole is a far cry from that ad in 1999 that asked, “what do you want to do when you grow up”. The sad answer is the industry doesn’t seem to care.

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