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Job Board Association to Address Applicant Tracking Issues

October 12, 2006
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The International Association of Employment Web Sites, which represents 850 job boards worldwide, wants to make sure its members get the credit they deserve for locating job applicants.

The trade association considers the issue of not receiving proper recognition for the candidates they funnel to recruiters to be one of the most serious challenges currently facing the job board industry. The organization, which has 100 managing members representing 850 job boards worldwide, has assembled a task force to address this issue.

The problem for many job boards stems from applicant tracking systems that don't adequately trace job applicants to the original point where they discovered a vacancy, says Peter Weddle, executive director for the trade association. Being overlooked as an original point of hire can have serious bottom-line repercussions for job boards because companies use applicant tracking metrics to decide where they will spend their advertising money.

Ultimately, the industry would like for ATS providers to install "tracking tokens" in all of their software platforms, says Douglas Geinzer, president of online job board Recruiting Nevada and chair of the task force. Tracking tokens are software tags similar to Web browser cookies that can trace the activity of an Internet user and could be used to determine the original point of contract for a job applicant. Since this mechanism is automated, the margin of error would drop to zero percent, Geinzer explains.

The task force's first goal is agreeing on a standard protocol for exchanging information between the job board industry and ATS providers.

"There are hundreds of ways of that one could do this," Geinzer says. "We have to set a standard so that there is no confusion and everybody is on the same page."

The 12-member task force has set January 1 as the deadline for which to agree upon a standard.

Under the current system, job seekers are responsible for identifying the original source of hire manually, using drop-down boxes when they apply for a vacancy on the Internet. According to Geinzer, this method can create faulty results because applicants can make mistakes for a variety of reasons, including confusion with the drop-down box or not being able to recall exactly the initial place where they discovered a job lead.

He points to a recent report conducted by job board peer AllRetailJobs.com that concluded using drop-down boxes to identify a source of hire could yield error margins of up to 83 percent. The study measured 60,000 applicants applying to AllRetailJobs.com using drop-down boxes.

"The results are alarming. Nearly five out of six candidates simply got it wrong," says Don Firth, president and CEO of AllRetailJobs.com.

Kevin Wheeler, president of Global Learning Resources, says some of the clients in his consulting practice have received flawed data from ATS providers. This can be hazardous because misleading information could cause them to inadvertently make unwise decisions about where to advertise.

"There is a definite problem that needs to be addressed," he says.

The task force will rally support from members of the trade association by raising awareness, through newsletters, the organization's Web site and other forms of communication. Education will be a big component of these efforts, Geinzer says. Eventually, the task force will prompt its members to reach out to their clients—companies that use job boards to recruit candidates—so that they too can understand the dynamics at work and ultimately require ATS providers to enhance their software platforms.

Getting companies to put the pressure on ATS providers will be a key objective in making tracking tokens ubiquitous. The organization plans to craft prewritten letters that job boards can submit to their recruiting clients and that they in turn can send to the ATS providers.

"It is not just job boards that are negatively affected," Geinzer says. "Companies are also getting information that is not 100 percent accurate."

ATS systems play a critical goal in assessing return on investing. But unless job boards can prove they deliver a big bang for the buck, business growth could be stifled, Geinzer explains.
 
In terms of cost-effectiveness, job boards have a clear edge versus newspapers, saving recruiters 20 percent to 25 percent, according to Geinzer. Newspapers can charge $300 to $1,400 for a job advertisement, depending on the size. By contrast, online boards charge an average of $300 for unlimited space.

The task at hand now is for job boards to demonstrate the volume of hires that they bring to the table, Geinzer says. He estimates that 51 percent of hires come from job boards. Being able to give an accurate breakdown of which sites funnel in candidates will give recruiters a better idea of their return on investment.

Small job boards that don't have a strong brand awareness are the biggest losers in this game. Candidates are more likely to identify a big job board like Monster as an original source of hire because that brand comes to mind more easily than less-well-known sites do.

Nevertheless, job boards are uniting in this cause because lack of proper identification fogs metrics and ultimately affects everybody, Geinzer explains.

"We are in this together," he says.

 —Gina Ruiz

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