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Job Board Blues

September 1, 2005
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A few months ago, Craig Newmark’s name and photo were flashed on a large screen to a group of daily newspaper editors. The question to them was simple--did anyone know who this guy was?

    Only one editor did. No one else in this highly educated, well-informed group was able to answer correctly that Newmark was the founder of Craigslist, a San Francisco-based Web site that is making life tougher for newspapers and others in the job listings business.

    The rise of Craigslist is a genuine phenomenon, and Workforce Management staff writer Jonathan Pont writes this month about what it is doing to the job search business in our Insider section. It certainly is an interesting story, but I was struck by the thought that although Newmark is a "little guy makes good" saga, the success of Craigslist highlights a larger issue--that big changes are ahead for the online job listings business.

    I’ve been on both sides of the hiring equation, both as a hiring manager as well as a guy just looking for a job, and it is equally frustrating from either point of view.

    Part of the problem is the sheer volume of job listings and job seekers that goes along with an ad posted on any of the big online sites such as Monster, CareerBuilder or Yahoo HotJobs. For example, an executive I know who runs a medium-sized company in Southern California was looking for an experienced department head. He ran an ad on one of the big job boards and also on a local newspaper Web site--and ended up getting swamped with more than 800 replies.

    As you might imagine, he was overwhelmed and had to resort to an arbitrary cutoff (he only looked at the first few hundred he received) in order to manage the process. But that’s not a good way to find the best candidate, something my friend found out when he culled through the résumés he had pulled out and found that only a handful were from candidates worth interviewing.

    And as for the job seekers who responded to his job posting, well, you could be the best candidate in the world yet never get a second look if you ended up in the pile of 600-odd résumés the hiring manager just didn’t have time to look at.

    That’s the problem with the big online job boards right now: It’s just too easy for the looky-loo job seeker to troll for positions ad infinitum, clogging up the works for both qualified job seekers and the hiring managers looking for them. That’s also why many of the job boards are changing. They’re moving toward a technological solution that changes the nature of the online job search process, focusing more on a candidate’s skills and experience, matching qualified candidates with specific jobs and, one hopes, yielding better results for hiring managers and job seekers alike.

    When you get right down to it, that’s why Craigslist has been so successful. It does a better job matching up qualified candidates with the people looking to hire them, although it does it by pulling in people who aren’t necessarily looking for a job.

    I’m convinced that this is the future for the online job boards: finding highly qualified candidates who aren’t necessarily looking for a job and hooking them up with a great opportunity that may be right under their nose.

Workforce Management, September 2005, p. 8 --Subscribe Now!

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