Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Employers over-reliance on job boards

Just got out of a really interesting analysis of the future of Australian job boards with the Sales Director of MyCareer, Matt Newcomb.

What really caught my attention was Matt's point that the main reason employers rely on job boards is because they haven't invested in their own careers sites. In short, if every Australian employer built a decent careers site, the internet tools already exist to attract and bring in the individuals the employers want.

Fits in with a lot of other research I've read, including an expert in this particular area, Michael Specht who has in the past analysed how lacking many Australian careers sites are in functionality, content, navigation, url, and so on.

But Matt's point was put into stark terms by the growth of vertical aggregators who can bring together all the information an individual might want to receive. Tradittionally, job sites (and, indeed, employers) have a view that they simply stick something online, shout about it, and expect candidates to find it.

That stands in stark contrast to the trends in the way the Australian population actually uses online media - which is all about receiving the information you want, in the format you prefer, at a the precise time you want it.

And if we know that approximately 2/3 of the global population use social networks, job sites and employers are addressing engagement of top talent in completely the wrong way.

In Australia, the demographics that caused a candidate-short market less than a year ago still persist. In the months to come, we'll return to a market where employers need to again be more innovative in attracting and engaging more of the best candidates. Employers can only do this by investing in long term strategies, importantly including the one place you know candidates will go to to apply - your corporate careers site.

If employers actively invest in their own careers websites (and think long-term about engagement, rather than bums-on-seats), they will be able steal a competitive advantage in the future.


  1. Both you and Matt - if he's been quoted correctly - seem to have overlooked the fundamental dynamics of the employment advertising market.

    While there are lots of good reasons for employers to have their own career site, eliminating media spend is not one of them.

    Its a false economy that the entire media / advertising / recruitment market can be wiped out of existence simply by everyone else having their own media channel. Employers would still have to spend the money they current spend on advertising on generating traffic and brands to their career websites instead of their job ads - on Google, aggregators or job boards.

    There will be no reduction in the amount of money they spend - by the time you've spent your money building and maintaining your career site in a competitive way against 10,000 other career sites, you'll be spending a lot more more given that traffic generation for these sites works on a competitive auction model, and by adding 10,000 traffic competitors, the only thing that's going to go up is the price of advertising for traffic.

    More to the point, Jobseekers do not want to have to go to 10,000 websites to access information about all the employment opportunities in the market.

    In other words, a worse outcome for spend, a worse outcome for application volume and quality, and a worse outcome for jobseekers.

    While 'everyone should be their own media channel' sounds nice and cheap in theory, in practice it does not at all reflect the market dyynamics for jobseeker preference or for advertiser preference.

    We've seen exactly the same argument occur in the recruitment space for several decades along the lines of 'you don't need recruitment agencies if you have your own HR department'.

    Before the internet, no-one would have suggested that each employer start their own newspaper with a private classifieds section for exactly the same reason. The economics and the practicalities simply don't add up.

    While the cost of becoming your own
    media channel might on the surface appear small and easy, I'd dig a little deeper.

  2. JobSearch sites create a marketplace. Jobseekers' traffic brings in advertisers. They bring jobs which bring more jobseekers. Jobsearch website becomes a place where advertisers and jobseekers meet each other. This model is very convenient but as Carey said it won't work with 10,000 different small web sites. People will still want this info to be centralised/aggregated to make it easily searchable.

  3. Carey and Anonymous, thanks for your responses.

    Carey - if I've understood what you've said, I agree with much of what you write and suggest we're possibly speaking from two sides of the same coin. However, to clarify a few points.

    I did not suggest that the entire recruitment/advertising/media industry would be driven out of business by new (internet-based) business models. But we've seen they are changing in line with user habits.

    My point is that employer expenditure would change focus from being less about the old-fashioned 'put up a notice and shout' (e.g. classifieds/job boards) and more about engaging and conversing (e.g. careers site content/social networks/user-centric).

    An observation which was triggered by Matt's presentation (but I am not attributing to him - he would put it differently I'm sure), is that job boards are currently operating in a very different way from trends in the way users are interacting online.

    What this means is that, as other methods develop and prove their worth, I can't see job boards like yours (hugely successful as you are) existing in their current form over the next ten years, without some sort of shift in either dominance or business model.

    A number of tools exist (Feedly for one) that allow you to aggregate relevant content - blogs, twitter, news feeds - all in one place. If employers develop good relationships, good branding and work on their SEO/content, people will choose to engage. Marketing will still exist, but this will be another permeation.

    Attracting good applicants doesn't start when they're looking for a job - it is a continuous back-and-forth.

    The point is, people are behaving differently online, and in the future it will affect the job boards.

    As a side note, you may be interested to hear that where I work, we developed a smart solution for a big-brand client, virtually eliminating their use of media. This client successfully fills over 10,000 vacancies a year without advertising - so there has been a dramatic reduction in the amount they spend.

  4. I hear this theory a lot - that employers will stop broadscasting a vacancy in one click to several million jobseekers, and will start having lots of 'conversations' with people in social-web environments or by 'engaging' with people in communities.

    The problem with this theory is that it presupposes two things:

    Firstly, it presupposes the people employers want to 'engage' with are in the room. By encouraging fragmentation of destination for these 'conversations' its very unlikely that one of the parties will actually be there.

    Secondly it presupposes that the jobseeker wants to look for work by having 'conversations' that may or may not go anywhere with 10,000 employers.

    Not sure about either of those.

  5. On a slightly seperate train, I might just comment on your position that "job boards are currently operating in a very different way from trends in the way that users are interacting online"

    This is totally unsupported in the actual data. All three job boards in Australia are at all time record high traffic. There is absolutely no data whatsoever that shows a migration of job seeker activity away from job boards. there is an abundance of data showing precisely the opposite.

    People point to adoption rates of MySpace (ahem), Facebook, and LinkedIn as some sort of data. We'll see how that pans out over time as those sites try to come up with a business model. Most of those adoption rates are nothing whatsoever to do with job hunting of course, and we might as well compare adoption rates of supermarkets or online gaming - nothing to do with it.

    The other obvious flaw in the argument is the notion that job boards cannot adapt or are not adapting to emerging trends on online media. The point is not for job boards to adapt or change their business model based on shadows - there has to be real value for their customers. I think jobseekers and employment advertisers will see exactly that over the next few years as the real value of some of the new ways of online interaction separates from those that are just hype.

  6. Hi Carey, what you say makes sense if my post had all been about job seeker traffic.

    However, most employers' goal is to attract, engage and retain top talent - and achieve competitive advantage through doing this effectively. Allow me to make a generalisation here: currently, most top talent is suitably engaged and rewarded in their current role, and isn't looking for a job on a job board (beyond the odd day they argue with their boss).

    To attract top talent, employers need to know them, engage them, and even - at times - adapt to them. This process takes a variety of forms (some of which I personally work on) and quite often is only considered when an employer is looking at an end result (a hire).

    I promote job boards, I use them, I think they work. And I'm not predicting the end of job boards. However, if employers get 1 quality candidate in 100 through job boards, and if there is a more effective method of narrowing that funnel, then I am predicting change.

    I'm also not here to beat the drum for the social media crowd over any other. However, if we consider that 2/3 of the world uses social media, you'd have to admit there's a greater chance of top talent being in the room in some shape or form than a job board that may be used only periodically.

    I 100% agree with the sentiment of your final paragraph. It is what it is.

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  9. Experts have talked about this before. How many times have you read about the importance of ‘adding value’ for your audience? How many times have you read about ‘building trust’ with your readers/prospects?
    Many, many times. You know it well. Every marketing guru has spoken about this topic. I’m sick of hearing it. But it STILL bears repeating.



Say what you like - honest - but don't be abusive hey, I'm not pretending to know it all.