The job board industry has been through a whirlwind these last years. Some businesses have evolved and thrived, others have withered and are now a shadow of their former selves. When you step back and think of the huge transformation we’ve seen in our industry, it’s little wonder some businesses have struggled to adapt. A short potted history may help us to appreciate what’s happened – and to determine the strategic next steps that’ll position a job board for continued success…
Job Board Evolution Phase 1 – Recruitment Agency Focused
The early years of job boards were all about serving the recruitment agency market. Before ~2002 corporate employers simply weren’t on board. As an industry we focused on winning big annual contracts from recruitment businesses – and many sites were secretly thrilled to see the same job advertised a dozen or more times by agencies all working on the same brief. Basic job listings, jobs by email and a CV / Resume database were the staples of our industry – and it was the newspapers’ lunch we were eating.
Job Board Evolution Phase 2 – The Rise of Corporate Employers
As economies recovered from the dot-com crash and hiring demand gained momentum, in-house recruitment teams came to recognise that a portion of all their roles could be filled without the need to pay an agency fee. From 2002 to 2008 we saw employers increasingly saturate job boards with the majority of their open vacancies. Exploiting this without alienating the recruitment agency market was a delicate balancing act for job board owners.
To address this, job boards greatly expanded their range of “add-ons” so as to accommodate both the cost-conscious agency market and the exposure-hungry corporate market. They also ratcheted up mainstream advertising campaigns in order to attract ever more candidates for a recruitment market that had an increasingly voracious appetite. The newspaper industry’s recruitment revenues had another huge bite taken from them in the process.
Job Board Evolution Phase 3 – The Tremors of Competition and a Focus on ROI
From around the time of the Lehman crash, we can see the impact of two distinct forces. The first – hastened by an era of austerity – was a new focus on ROI. Within the job board industry, we’d marvelled for years at the seeming inability or disinterest of the corporate market to accurately track the ROI from each element of its online recruitment spend. We’d similarly been horrified to see how job board results were allowed to be decimated by an insistence on using cumbersome online application processes to boost the efficiency of candidate screening, at the complete expense of candidate experience.
With austerity things changed. Corporate recruiters were increasingly pressured to do more for less. A focus on ROI became de rigeur. For the job board industry this meant greater efforts being expended on technologies that would allow the job board itself to track the candidate interest being generated for each client. Demonstrating the value of that spend versus competitors was key to ongoing success.
This period also saw the emergence of job boards’ two most ferocious competitors. On the one hand Indeed started to make serious inroads in the market, tapping into austerity with its promise of indexing and marketing jobs at little or no cost. This was particularly noticeable within the mass market recruitment sector. Whilst on the other hand LinkedIn was gaining traction in the professional hiring space. With the lure of helping corporate employers to reduce their recruitment agency spend, LinkedIn licences similarly tapped into the prevailing sentiment of austerity. Together these new players meant that job boards were no longer the default low cost option for filling corporate vacancies.
Job Board Evolution – What’s Next?
Many in the industry think that where job boards can win is i) in providing best-in-class matching technologies between candidates and vacancies; and ii) in providing a better candidate experience than competitors. In various markets job boards are also iii) extending their range of services to move up the value chain and encroaching on the types of activities that a marketing agency or recruitment agency would typically have provided. For some boards this third approach will also see them able to thrive in a changing market.
Through intelligent sourcing and indexing of jobs, niche job boards should be able to present candidates with a better candidate experience than they can find anywhere else. LinkedIn has compromised its ability to do this by differentiating between the service levels that a free and a paying jobseeker will receive. Whilst Indeed is a mass market play that can never know and serve individual niches as well as a specialist team devoted to that particular market. Niche job boards can win by providing a more comprehensive range of opportunities – and then matching them to candidates’ search queries more accurately than anyone else. Plus complementing this experience with more comprehensive advice on careers in that particular industry.
This can then be further enhanced on the back end by proposing to advertisers a set of ideal candidate matches for every new vacancy posted. With a set of up to date CVs in their databases, job boards arguably have a more complete picture of the active candidate market than LinkedIn has with its more stale database of profiles. Providing recruiters with an ever more refined set of ideal candidates for each vacancy posted is one way that job boards can look to sustain a competitive advantage.
Alongside these two opportunities to win are a plethora of value-add services that job boards have been bolting on to their offerings. From undertaking the shortlisting of candidates to bundling in social media advertising campaigns, those who sell job boards are increasingly adding on ancillary services that would historically have been the preserve of an advertising agency or a recruitment agency. Expect to see more of this as the industry looks for ways to remain relevant in the face of heightened competition.
If the above has made you pause to think about how your job board will adapt to prosper, do let’s have a call and see how we might help. By providing job board owners with cutting edge technologies, we’re helping businesses like yours to secure a brighter future. Let’s talk soon on +44 (0)330 055 5850.