Job Boards and the Name Game

Apr 10, 2012
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

Almost every week I see a blog post or tweet claiming that job boards are dead or dying.

We’re talking about the top source for hiring outside of employee referrals here. A tool that almost every employer uses to locate some or all of their job candidates. A fixture on the recruiting scene for more than 15 years.

So what’s with the bad rep? Well, given my business name, you would expect me to give you a biased answer — and after reading the rest of this blog, you may think I did. But based on conversations with recruiters and HR professionals (and several years of survey data), I actually believe there are some factors that have nothing to do with the actual performance of job boards that drive the “ooh! job boards!” movement. Let’s take a look:

  1. Job boards aren’t new and shiny: Let’s face it – new things are usually more interesting than old things. Job boards’ decade-and-a-half history is an eternity in the internet/technology/recruiting world. There’s a reason why the car companies rework their designs every year.
  2. Those who decry job boards have their reasons: Social recruiting “evangelists” are exactly that – people who believe social recruiting solves almost every problem that currently faces the recruiting world. That’s ok — it’s their opinion, of course — but that’s also why they employ the common (and as many politicians will tell you, effective) technique of “going negative.” It can be much easier to run down “job boards” for their alleged failures than it is to demonstrate whether social recruiting can actually produce better results.
  3. What is a job board, exactly?: The term “job board” is a catch-all that gathers such disparate players (in size, techniques, and effectiveness) as the big general sites (Monster, etc.), aggregators (Indeed, etc.), niche sites (Dice, etc.), social networking sites (LinkedIn) and classifieds sites (Craigslist, etc.). The phrase is so vague as to be meaningless. I’ve heard more than one recruiter say “Job boards are awful,” then follow up with a glowing recommendation of a niche site. They were obviously disenchanted with the large general sites, but not so much the smaller ones. I don’t expect “job board” to fall out of common usage — it can be useful shorthand — but a bit more qualifying and precision of exactly what kind of job board is being discussed would be appreciated.

Those are three factors that don’t have a basis in actual job board performance. But there is a fourth factor that does:

  1. Sometimes job boards don’t work very well: It’s true. You put up a posting and get poor results. You search the resume database and don’t find what you need. Sometimes you use a job board whose technology remains firmly rooted in the mid 1990s. In those situations, quit using the board that sucks, and find the one that doesn’t. The failure of one job board should not make you immediately decide to drop all job boards, everywhere. That would be akin to going barefoot because you had a bad experience with a single shoe store. Instead, look at the data: for example, 20% of hires (plus an additional employment branding effect) comes out of your job board usage, so you adjust your buy and use the ones that work.

A final comment: I think job boards — specifically, niche, and general sites — have not done as good a job as they might have in talking about their strengths. They haven’t always been aggressive enough in adopting and/or developing new technology. And they — like other players in the online recruiting world — sometime lose track of the real goal: to bring the right candidates and employers together, as quickly, cheaply, and effectively as possible. In a nutshell, they must evolve.

So … what’s in a name? A lot

This article is part of a series called Opinion.