Do Job Boards Work?

Job boards are fun, frustrating and mysterious. We all know that some postings aren’t real (or so they say). And who likes applying to a job posting and not getting a reply – ever?? It is way different than meeting someone is person or having some other connection. Its funny how the experts will coach a job seeker on etiquette during the entire job search but some managers, HR staff and recruiters won’t reply to e-mails, or phone calls, or have a real conversation with a job seeker. Isn’t there some kind of etiquette/respect training for HR about how to communicate to people that don’t work for them yet?


I’ve gone to some workshops and other educational forums talking about effective job search techniques. Typically the outcome is something like this:

1. The most effective use of your time is networking and directly contacting potential employers, and
2. The least effective use of your time is job boards and classified ads.

So the numbers come down to 4% effectiveness of job boards and about 13% effectiveness of classified ads – or somewhere around there. One point in presenting this number is “if it is only 4% effective, then spend only 4% of your time with job boards.”

Here are some thoughts on these statistics. You have to know, one of my favorite books is “how to lie with statistics.”

1. how current is the info?

I had a chat with the owner of a job board who also has other products and services for job seekers. He is in-touch with the job search process and has come up with some cool technology to help the job seeker. When I said that job boards were only 4% effective he noted that this statistic is outdated – I think from around 2000 or 2002. We talked about this a little and he mentioned that in the earlier days of job boards where not used properly, but a lot has changed in the last few years. He has a great article that he wrote on how to use a job board effectively – check out It really is worth your time to read as it comes from an “insider” and subject matter expert.

2. what is your job search “marketing strategy”?

Let’s assume it really is 4% effective. If you were running a 100 million dollar business would you neglect 4% of your income? No, you wouldn’t. As a matter of fact 4% of your income might represent 50%-100% of your profit! I totally agree with the experts that you should not spend a whole lot of time on job boards (I spent at least 4 – 7 hours a day on job boards during my first few weeks of unemployment) – but you must understand what your job search strategy is, how much time you will (or need to) spend on job boards, and then make a plan to execute that strategy.

I found that a terrific way to cut down on the time spent on a job board, yet still capture the value of the current postings, was to set up an “agent”. this is what eBay and other sites call it – it is the thing that allows you to put in your preferences (or what you are looking for) and it will e-mail you all of the matches each day or week. This is a great way to participate in the job board world without getting sucked in and browsing and browsing and browsing through the jobs.

3. are these numbers applicable for all types of job seekers?

I don’t think that the percentage of effectiveness is true across the board – perhaps it is an average of a very broad sample. I’m sure some industries rely more on job boards where others are more tight-knit. If you open the classified you find a lot more low-paying jobs, probably with higher turn-over. I’m guessing that the percentage of truck driver jobs found online and through classified ads is higher than these stats state. Maybe there are certain regions that the numbers vary, or conditions of the economy, etc. My point is, I think the numbers are a good starting point, and cause for thought, but there’s more to it than accepting them at face value.

4. are all job boards equal?

Absolutely not! Last count I heard was about 40,000. There are the big boards (you know who they are), the regional boards (like those from your newspaper), the affiliate boards (based on religion, industry, interests, etc.), the company boards (Intel, eBay, American Express, etc.)… the list goes on. So where do you start? Where do you stop? I have no idea. Perhaps there will be a library article on that later, from someone that knows more than I do. I imagine that recruiters, coaches and other experts will have varying input on this question.

My conclusion is that job boards should be used – the right way – and within an overall strategy. Don’t make the mistake I made and spend hours upon hours in the early part of your job search on the boards. Yes you should use them, but you want to use them to your advantage and effectively.

More on that later…

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