Understanding Job Boards

Job boards are so simple they are confusing.  What exactly are we supposed to do with them?  Some say we should ignore them completely, although I don’t think that’s a good idea.

After reading Cheezhead’s blog post titled ax falling hard at careerbuilder, and the 175+ mostly irate comments, I thought I’d take a stab at the topic.  Perhaps I’m wrong… you can tell me in the comments.

I think job boards are great resources to do “competitive intelligence research.”

Job boards, from what I’ve been able to assess, don’t care about the job seeker.  You are a number, a commodity, and once you get your job you go away.

The only reason they want you to come is so they can sell your eyeballs to their advertisers, typically companies who are interested in posting job postings (aka, job ads).  I’d imagine they tell companies they have x,000,000,000 visitors who spend y:yy time on their site, and go to z# of pages.

And HR says “oh, that is a very big market for us, so we will pay you all kinds of money for job postings!

Yeah, I’m generalizing. I think one of the very best job boards out there, which doesn’t even look like a job board, is idealist.org, which is where you should be if you are into humanitarian or “save the world” stuff… you know, if you are an Idealist (not to be confused with “idea list”).  Another impressive job board is CollegeRecruiter.com, for the amount of value-add information and the way they engage their various audiences.

But other job boards just don’t get (or care about) YOU, the job seeker.  It’s all about making money from a hiring company.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course… all businesses are in business to make money (even non-profits).

But the job seeker doesn’t pay… it’s the company that pays (for the job posting).

So CareerBuilder is supposedly trying to have good-looking financials to end the year, and Monster is supposedly going to roll out new stuff in an industry-changing upgrade in January (I’m not holding my breath – if it’s a social networking component for job seekers I’ll shake my head for everyone watching).

Where does that leave you, the job seeker or career manager?  Use job boards for the tool they are, and don’t spend much time on them (best to set up the email alerts and then move on to other activities).

Just like with a recruiter… you are not the recruiter’s client, the company is.  Any recruiter who helps you out may be going above-and-beyond, but it’s not their duty to help you.


10 thoughts on “Understanding Job Boards”

  1. Your analysis is spot on.

    Many firms are selling against metrics such as page views and average visitor time. In the process, websites work hard to increase what is being measured. Unfortunately they are measuring the wrong thing. The objective should be to create customers. The customer is the job seeker, not the advertiser. There is a role for both but without the job seeker there is no sustainable business model. Delighted customers are powerful drivers in creating a successful business enterprise.

    You have a really great blog. Glad it was listed as being a top resource a few weeks back. Added a few to Google Reader and was compelled to visit your site upon reading your post. this evening

    Keep up the great work.

  2. Absolutely correct! Every job seeker should scan the information on the employer side of the job board before posting a resume or applying for a job.

    The other major source of revenue for job boards, in addition to job postings, is access to the resume databases – currently priced on CareerBuilder for $1,000/month (“Small Business” = 50 resumes/day) to $2,568/month (“Enterprise” = 300 resumes/day). I could not find Monster’s resume access prices posted on their site today, but the last time I checked, Monster’s prices were considerably higher than CareerBuilder’s charges.

    Just over a year ago, the Massachusetts Secretary of State brought charges against CareerBuilder for allowing Morgan Stanley sales people to inappropriately troll through the resume database looking for sales opportunities in recently retirees with big “nest eggs” to invest.

    As this whole online recruiting industry/process has matured, it has gotten more difficult for the job boards because there are so many bogus “employer” and bogus “job postings” to make life even more complicated for them. If they are watching out for the job seeker, they must refuse those postings, and some don’t seem to try very hard. More job boards make the competition even more intense and drive down revenue (I suspect).

    Great point about using the job boards for intelligence gathering! My favorite place to research is aggregator Indeed.com. See how many places an employer has posted the same job.

  3. I agree. Job boards are where job seekers post resumes. I seldom pay attention to the job postings. Company-HR agents or 3rd party recruiters are the middlemen who identify suitable candidates to job openings that are mostly likely not yet made it to these job boards!

    What I have learned is that since 3rd party recruiters work for client-companies, as part of the job search process, I as ‘commodity-like candidate’ do not feel I am being treated with much respect.

  4. I think job boards are going to have to take a more personalized approach to survive. Custom-tailored job searches, personal assistants, professional resume analysis and editing – all along with the standard job leads delivery by e-mail. Members of these sites should definitely be enabled to spend more time networking and interviewing in the “real world” and less time trolling the Internet for job leads.

  5. This is pretty spot-on advice from Jason and those responding. It isn’t about you it is about eyeballs hitting the page. Advertising in the form of job search assistance. The big boards are too general and I believe the niche boards will eventually dominate. Peter Weddel claims there are “more than 50,000 job boards on the Internet” and this doesn’t count corporate employment web pages.

    Designing profiles for these boards is the best approach a job acquisition specialist could take. Creating a key word rich profile is time well spent. The job postings are matched against you profile(s) and any keyword matches at a pre-determined threshold will be directed to your (the candidate’s) mailbox for you to make a decision. We strongly urge all of our customers not to post their résumés on job boards for the sake of privacy. Job boards are great feeding grounds for those who are weakend states, as it is easy to get free or paid access to the resumes of those posted on job boards through free or inexpensive access as part of marketing a trial offer.

    My operation subscribes to EmployOn.com and our customers have a lot of success with it. Also Craigslist.com is working well for many of our candidates, however it takes a lot of data mining to fish out the pearls from among the numerous postings. We urge our customers to design profiles that are automated so they can “spend less time searching and more time applying.”

    I have test profiles on both Monster and USAJOBS and why is it that USAJOBS has significantly better matches than Monster – considering that Monster operates USAJOBS – go figure!

    We help our customers understand that key words are the most important items on any Internet job board or computerized data collection system. In speaking with recruiters they inform me that they don’t have time or the inclination to search for programmers who “communicates well with others” they look for the hard skills not the soft skills every candidate should possess. This makes great sense!

    Jason – keep doing what you are doing. Keep asking the “Why! How! and Who Benefits” questions. You keep me as a true believer


  6. Paying upfront to post a job is like paying before you go inside the grocery store when in fact the store might not have what you are looking for. Why pay upfront without any gaurentee of results? Many of us at Realmatch find it hard to believe that this pricing model which places all the risk on the employer has survived so long as it has when everything else has gone to a pay for preformance model like CPC, CPA, CPM etc.

    I dont think pay post and pray will last much longer. We have written about this a few times:

  7. Jason — Thank you for including CollegeRecruiter.com in your blog entry about job boards — and for the positive feedback about our site. There’s no doubt that we indirectly compete against the other sites that you mentioned but our approach to the business is somewhat different from theirs. Whether ours is better or worse remains to be seen, but it is somewhat different. We rely much more on organic search engine traffic than do they and that has led us down the path of building out tens of thousands of blog articles, career-related videos, Q&A’s, sample resumes, etc. We do buy clicks from many of the major sites and have extensive traffic building partnerships but buy no where near the amount of advertising that sites like Careerbuilder and Monster do. Our approach allows us to greatly cut back on spending for short periods of time without doing much damage to our traffic but when you’re totally reliant on traffic built by advertising then the day you turn off that advertising is the day that you turn off your traffic.

    Another significant change between what we’ve done and every other major job board is that we’re (still) the only major job board to have killed its resume searching product. Candidates can still post their resumes to our site so they can be notified by email and eventually cell phone text messages (SMS) when a new job is posted which matches their interests but to protect their privacy and security we no longer allow employers to search the resume bank. By blocking legitimate employers, we block the many illegitimate employers and those who use resume banks to try to sell penny stock etc. That change hurts some candidates who are more passive but has been very, very well received by virtually all users of our site. I only wish that other boards would follow our lead in this area as I am convinced that it would be positive for the industry and therefore beneficial to us to have more candidates understand that they need not give up all of their information to just about anyone with a credit card in order to use a job board. That’s just wrong.

    I am hopeful that the changes that Monster has in store will be positive for them, their clients, and their users. A strong leader or two or three in any industry is positive for the industry. But right now we are in a situation where our industry is floundering. You’ve got Yahoo under continual takeover threat and a tumbling stock price and that’s got to have hurt their HotJobs business. You’ve got Careerbuilder owned by newspapers, which are a rapidly dying industry, and laying off 20% of their staff. And you’ve got Monster embroiled in legal battle after legal battle and also going through severe layoffs. These troubles can be beneficial to the niche boards in the short-term but they’re not helpful to the industry in the long-term and I therefore am saddened for our business when I hear about them.

  8. Steven (College Recruiter), I was wondering how you would respond to this post… your last paragraph is really interesting. I’m not an insider, but you are right, the industry is floundering. As long as we don’t get a gov’t bailout there (in those big three companies you mention), perhaps we’ll see new leaders emerging?

    Fun times!

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