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Niche Sites Gain Monster-Sized Following

March 22, 2011
Related Topics: Internet, Candidate Sourcing, Workforce Planning, Featured Article
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Need jugglers to entertain passengers on a cruise line? Proship Entertainment and Cruiseline Job are a couple of well-traveled sites for shipboard hiring. A high school football coach? Jobs InSports.com and iCoachUSA.com rank high on recruiters’ lists.

Move over CareerBuilder and Monster. Niche job boards continue to proliferate and grow in popularity, giving the top two job boards stiff competition. “While the large job sites provide a breadth of candidates, they result in employers having to slog through hundreds of résumés to find good talent,” says Peter Weddle, president of Weddle’s, a Stamford, Connecticut-based employment consultancy, and head of the International Association of Employment Web Sites. “Niche sites allow employers to go directly to the A-level performers, who typically focus their job search efforts on specialized search engines.”

Niche job boards are growing at a rapid pace. Today, some 100,000 Internet job boards vie for listings and résumés, double the number in 2000, according to Weddle’s research. And the job specific nature of the websites is becoming even more granular. “Job sites are slicing and dicing into ever finer gradation,” Weddle says. “No longer is it enough to have a job site focused on logistics, for example. It now has to specialize in warehousing logistics or trucking logistics.”

The growth of these niche sites results in large part from a recognition that the way to establish an edge over larger, general job boards is to offer more—much more—to those seeking specialized employment. One of the larger niche boards, AllRetailJobs.com, provides help with retail résumé writing for job hunters and a “Candidate Tracker” to help employers manage their searches. The site, which says it has nearly 55,000 job listings and 1 million-plus résumés posted, boasts 750,000 unique visitors monthly.

Then there’s VetJobs, a niche board aimed at transitioning veterans back into the workforce. It includes a “Spouse Portal” that provides job assistance to veterans’ spouses. The site says it attracts 110,000 unique visitors monthly and posts some 37,000 jobs and 120,000 résumés at any given time. Another niche board is Icrunchdata.com, which specializes in 14 specific categories of data and analytics jobs and allows direct application to employers. With 5,000 jobs and 110,000 résumés posted, it says it has 165,000 unique visitors per month.

“Job boards have evolved very similarly to any other industry in that you find a few big generalist and countless niche specialists,” says Ron Emery, co-founder and managing director of icrunchdata.com.

Of course, the big boards do have advantages. CareerBuilder and Monster Worldwide Inc., the industry leaders with an estimated 23 million and 20 million visitors per month, respectively, are extraordinarily well-branded.

“There’s not a person on the planet who hasn’t heard of Monster and CareerBuilder,” Weddle says. “Their reach is far and wide.” Additionally, the big boards have the resources to provide sophisticated features that niche sites simply can’t match, such as links that allow employers to broaden their searches and tap into previously ignored talent pools, and job seekers to explore possibilities they may previously have disregarded.

Still, the big boards aren’t taking the proliferation of niche boards lightly. CareerBuilder has launched a number of its own specialized boards, such as miracleworkers.com for the health care industry and jobsonthemenu.com for restaurant workers to ensure it captures the employers and potential employees who might shy away from broad-based job sites. Monster, however, is steering clear of niche endeavors in its effort to retain market share, focusing instead on search technology that helps employers sift through the millions of résumés on its site to find the best matches.

“Why limit a search for talent to a small pond when you can search the world’s largest database with precision and extend your reach all across the Internet for talent?” says Monster spokesman Matthew Henson.

While there’s no way of knowing how many niche boards fail, many startups come and go in short order, Weddle says. “There’s no barrier to entry in this industry so there are a lot of sites that are undercapitalized, haven’t done their homework and disappear in a flash.”

Although reports of niche job boards’ demise continue to circulate, with predictions that social media will ultimately replace them, evidence points to the contrary. A recent survey conducted by the Wharton Small Business Development Center at the University of Pennsylvania and Beyond.com, a career development website, indicated that most college students are reluctant to use social networking sites for career-related purposes. According to the results, 98 percent of students visit Facebook on a regular basis for personal use, but less than 35 percent of them use it for job search-related reasons. Also, more than 35 percent of those students indicated that they are uncomfortable using social networking sites for securing post-graduation jobs.

“When it comes to finding a job,” Weddle says, “even social network aficionados know to go to the job site with the most impact.”

Still, many recruiters are hedging their bets when it comes to filling positions. Chicago-based custom publisher Imagination Publishing relies on both general job boards and publishing-specific boards to find new hires. The same holds true for the Abis Group, an Evanston, Illinois-based specialist in online software for companies.

“We use the big boards to cover the broadest range of talent in the workforce and industry-specific boards to penetrate deeper into specific areas of expertise,” says Tyler Blue, Abis’ director of human resources.

Workforce Management, March 2011, pgs. 10-11 -- Subscribe Now!

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