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Job Boards Are Down but Not Out

The job-search tools are not just for job posts anymore.

July 16, 2013
Related Topics: HR Technology, Plan, Recruiting, Featured Article, The Latest, Recruitment, Talent Management

Ten years ago, Monster and CareerBuilder were the starting point for any respectable job search candidate or recruiting professional. Companies posted ads, job seekers responded, and within a day recruiters had a cache of potential hires to choose from. But over the years, the boards seemed to sabotage their own value proposition by becoming too easy to use. Job seekers flooded companies with applications even if they weren't remotely qualified for the positions, and recruiters, overwhelmed by the deluge, stopped reviewing them all together. This caused serious seekers to abandon the big boards, turning instead to social media, referrals, and niche recruiting sites for job leads, leaving recruiters with a less and less compelling candidate pool for their job posting dollar.

Still, job boards are far from dead. Their influence is definitely declining, but most experts believe these sites will never disappear.

"Job boards aren't irrelevant," says Steve Lowisz, CEO of Qualigence, a recruiting firm in Michigan. "But how recruiters use the technology is changing."

Lowisz, for example, is more likely to search a job board's database of resumes for possible candidates than to post an ad. And the more detailed search capabilities a site offers, the better. "We're not only looking for applicants who posted their own resumes, we want to see who their connected to, and who they reference on their applications," he says. "Sometimes that data is the most valuable."

Despite the deflated value proposition, job boards still rank as the number three source of external hires—behind referrals and corporate career sites, according to CareerXRoads 2013 Source of Hire Report. In 2012, roughly one in every six external hire was attributed to a Job Board. That's down from nearly one in four external hires in 2010. But in 2012, social media accounted for a mere 2.9 percent—or one in every 35 external hires.

Recruiters and job seekers today rely more heavily on job board aggregators, which gather job postings from across the internet in a single place, says Jay Floersch, solutions architect in the recruitment process outsourcing division of Aon Hewitt. And the rise of aggregators like have actually made the need for job boards more pronounced, he says. "Posting ads to job boards and your own career website are the best way to get picked up by those aggregators." `

Niche boards also are playing an important role in the recruiting space as well, says Chris Gould, head of global talent acquisition for Black and Veatch, a global engineering and construction company. Whether it's for IT, for hospitality, or for engineers, skilled job seekers turn to these sites first because they know the posts will be more relevant to their skills. "You can still find great talent through well-defined niche boards," he says.

Job board owners have seen this shift in the recruiting space, and some are responding by building or buying new tools to help employers hone their recruiting efforts and access more qualified candidate pools. is still among the biggest job boards, with more than 70 million stored resumes and over 1 million job postings at any given time. The company acquired Yahoo Hotjobs in 2010 to maintain its leadership position and to further benefit from traffic through the Yahoo brand.

But it's got a lot of competition. Most notably, CareerBuilder has steadily gained market share over the years, and is has begun broadening its offerings for both employers and job seekers. Last year, for example, the site acquired Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., an economic software and labor market analysis firm, to bolster its workforce analytics capabilities. "Clients today are interested being predictive about how they acquire talent," says Hope Gurion, CareerBuilder's chief product officer. "With the EMSI acquisition, we can give employers better perspective on employment trends, skills development, and recruitment strategies."

They are also helping companies be more proactive about hiring with their Supply and Demand portal, which lets recruiters identify a pipeline of high potential candidates before they need them.

Taking a different tactic, Dice Holdings, owner of the IT job board, acquired Geeknet's online media business in 2012, to increase traffic from hard to source IT professionals. The acquisition includes Slashdot, a user-generated IT news, analysis, and professional insight community, and SourceForge, a destination for developers to create and share open source software. "The SourceForge and Slashdot communities will enable our customers to reach millions of engaged tech professionals on a regular basis," says Scot Melland, chairman, president and CEO of Dice Holdings.

Dice has also launched Open Web, a social media aggregation tool that mines public information from 50 social sites, including Facebook, GitHub and Stack Overflow, to create rich digital portraits of potential candidates.

"The Open Web tool pulls together valuable pieces of publicly-available information scattered across the Web into a single, searchable profile containing the types of information that recruiters need to source talent," Melland says. The tool combines professional information including titles, employers, and education, as well as details about their interests, hobbies, and even contact information. "We are making recruiters and hiring managers more efficient so they can spend their time selling their opportunities to top talent, instead of searching many sites just to put together a slate of candidates."

All of these boards will see a new kind of competition in 2014, when online dating company eHarmony launches its own job search services. The company plans to use methods similar to how it pairs compatible customers for serious romantic relationships, to match job seekers with employers.

This makes perfect sense to Lowisz. "Job boards should be more like dating sites," he says. "Recruiting is not about numbers, it's about qualities, and matching the right person to the job."

Sarah Fister Gale is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area. To comment, email Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

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