4 Ways to Improve Job Boards

Now Hiring classified ad showing through reading glasses.Job boards are dying. Job boards are outdated, old hat. The future is social (whatever that means). The doomsayers have been at this for years.

It’s interesting that the “job boards are dying” crowds have gotten louder and louder over the last few years, mainly prompted by announcements of profit warnings and layoffs at the big boards. But, and this is an elephant-in-the-room-sized but, virtually all countries where these big boards have a large presence have been in a whopping great recession, which has dragged on and on. All the job boards that were growing quickly pre-2008, have stagnated during the downturn (no real surprise there!) but they are now starting to pick up again as economies slowly rebound.

Monster’s 2012 Q2 results were mixed. North America came up and International went down. Monster is the poster boy of job boards and too often people see one company’s relative weakness and extrapolate incorrectly that this is reflected across the whole industry. If Monster was in its death throes would they—as of September 2012—have 171 internal vacancies listed on their site? Doesn’t sound like a company that’s dying to me. Changing, perhaps but dying? No.

Dice is up 22 percent year-on-year for Q2 2012 earnings. LinkedIn, revenue from their hiring solutions product, up 107 percent (I count LinkedIn as a job board; you pay to advertise jobs so that’s a job board to me). Indeed is now the largest ‘job board’ with seemingly exponential growth in terms of number of jobs listed and resumes stored. All of this is surely evidence that job boards are not going the way of the Dodo.

Job boards are not dying. Possibly yes they are evolving, possibly a few are stagnating but surely even those die hard social media pluggers (usually with a vested interest) would be stretching credibility to say that job boards are dead or even dying. Job boards are a fantastically simple way for an employer and employee to connect. While they may not be terribly effective (our own conservative estimate is of getting around a 10 – 15 percent success rate when using one job board in isolation) they most definitely retain an important role in sourcing candidates. But they can and should be more successful and that’s what this article would like to focus on: What job boards need to do to adapt in the 21st century and, more important, to be more successful for the average recruiter.

First, I hate the way job boards price. Why should all the risk be on the person submitting the advert? Google has shown the way when it comes to success based advertising and cleaned up. Be warned job boards, the Indeed model is not a one off. Some are tinkering with pay per click model but this is not really what recruiters want. Why would I want to pay $1 a click for 200 applicants to come in and none are suitable?

So here’s my first suggestion to job boards:  Charge per interview

You should let your clients post all their jobs free of charge. The client can then login to a simple back office system to review the candidate’s full resume but minus any contact details. A ‘release contact details’ button triggers a charge of x amount of dollars per candidate the recruiter wants to talk to.

Sometimes the client might just zero in on the best candidate and not bother to interview any others but for every one that does that, there will probably be others who interview several, happily paying extra for a good quality shortlist. It would be up to the job board to price accordingly but I know for a fact (having asked them) that companies we work with would be far more inclined to use job boards as their default recruitment setting if the pricing model was more results based.

This leads me nicely to change number two: Resume database – pay per download

Indeed is looking at this strategy and it is clearly the way forward. Perhaps not for big staffing agencies or employers who require constant access, but for the majority of small and medium sized employers. These type of businesses would like to be able to access the resume database behind many job boards but are put off by the crazy pricing, which means they have to buy weekly or monthly access.

Like the application to a job methodology stated above, simply restrict the contact details so anyone can review as many resumes as they like and if they want to contact that candidate they simply click a ‘release contact details’ button using up one credit, or however the job board wishes to price it. Thus an occasional recruiter isn’t put off by the astronomic fees.

Change number 3: Focus on the candidate experience

Doing a quick search for web developers in New York on a well known board, page one yielded 21 results of which just six were from direct employers. So 75 percent are agency jobs. Once, a job board MD gave me an anecdotal evidence that 90 percent is a more realistic figure. Now with all due respect to agency jobs, they do little for the candidate, particularly the ones who are not actively looking but just curious.

If I’m looking for a job I want to be able to search quickly and apply direct to an employer, not to an agency who may or may not be working for the end client (assuming one exists). I don’t want to have to wade through all these agencies jobs to find the proverbial needle in the haystack.

So job boards must prioritise direct employer jobs in the listings over those from the staffing agencies. You might have to offer the staffing firms a lower price as a result but to offset this you could charge more (see per interview pricing) to direct employers.Giving priority to their jobs will increase the likelihood of a successful hire because more job seekers (both active and ‘glancers’) will notice the job provided it’s not drowning amongst agency listings. There’s nothing wrong with agency jobs. They perform an important fall back option for candidates but direct employer jobs should always get premium positioning.

Change four: Build a search algorithm that works

Who on earth builds those search algorithms? I conducted a search for sales manager positions on a well-known job board and store manager and project manager jobs ranked higher than sales manager roles. This is not good enough. On your search algorithm, make sure the job title of the candidate or the role gets a higher rating than the same word or phrase listed somewhere else.

To be fair, it’s not easy to build an algorithm that works with even 80 percent accuracy but to help, make sure every candidate logs the industry sectors they have worked in. If I’m searching your resume database for someone with marketing experience in retail please don’t make me use the keywords retail and marketing. That’s hopeless. A structured search by industry (retail) supplemented by a keyword search by marketing is much, much better.

Undeniably the job board industry is facing tougher times than when they first appeared more than 15 years ago, but there is no sustained evidence to suggest they are dying out. Far from it. But job boards need to improve how they price their products and the quality of the experience that they deliver for both recruiters and candidates to ensure their long term prosperity.

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Nick Leigh-Morgan
Nick Leigh-Morgan is the MD and founder of Zodo, the company behind iKrut, a free applicant tracking system. Nick has over 16 years experience in the recruiting industry, covering staffing firms, direct employers and now web based recruitment software. A graduate of Economics and Politics, Nick specializes in publishing articles on the future of recruitment.