More companies also are adding job postings and career centers to their Web sites, or are using social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for recruiting, which raises the possibility that they won’t go back to previous levels of job board spending once the recession ends.
The result: falling revenue and earnings, as evidenced by publicly traded job boards such as industry leader Monster Worldwide, which in the first half of 2009 lost $11.7 million on revenue of $477.4 million, a 34 percent drop from the same period last year.
Peter Zollman, executive editor of Classified Intelligence, a consulting group that tracks the classified advertising and job board industries, says that while the job board industry has struggled in 2009, some privately held firms may be better positioned to weather the recession.
One such firm, he noted, is Phoenix-based Jobing.com.
“They’re smart, they’re nimble, they can do things some of the other boards can’t,” he says. “The flip side is when nobody’s spending, it doesn’t matter how smart and nimble you are. It’s a fact of life for every recruitment site. There are only a few in the world that are still growing.”
The recession’s effects on privately held job boards such as Jobing.com are harder to pinpoint because the firms don’t have to disclose earnings and other financial data like publicly traded stocks. Jobing.com CEO Aaron Matos, a former HR manager who started the company in 2000 and successfully shepherded it through the dot-com industry bust, is tight-lipped about his operations.
“I like being private,” he says. “We enjoy the fact that it’s difficult to figure out what we’re doing—as long as my customers don’t have the same problem.”
But from outward appearances, all is not well with the business, a one-time highflier that in 2006 raised more than $50 million from venture financing firms Great Hills Partners and JMI Equity to fund its expansion.
To boost its national visibility, Jobing.com in 2006 paid a reported $30 million for a 10-year naming rights contract on a Phoenix-area sports arena that is home to the National Hockey League’s Phoenix Coyotes. The team, which is the arena’s largest tenant, remains in bankruptcy and faces the possibility of moving.
Jobing.com also spent lavishly on industry trade shows. Its national debut came at the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in 2007 in Las Vegas, where Jobing.com’s massive booth staffed by dozens of employees cost an estimated $60,000. The company also hosted a multi-suite party at the Palms Casino Hotel for some 2,700 people.
Jobing.com again shelled out large sums of cash at SHRM’s 2008 conference in Chicago with a huge booth, dozens of staffers and a hosted party with thousands of invitees on Navy Pier.
Buoyed by its performance until then, Jobing.com made the Inc. 500 list of fast-growing private companies from 2005 to 2007; in 2008, it ranked No. 558 on the Inc. 5,000 list, reporting revenue of $36.2 million and 386 employees.
Yet during the past 12 months, the tough economic climate and companies’ growing use of social networks for recruiting in place of job boards have taken their toll.
Jobing.com was absent from Inc.’s 2009 list, published in August; the company didn’t apply this year, according to an Inc.com official. Jobing.com also was missing from the SHRM exhibition hall this year at its annual conference in New Orleans. A SHRM spokeswoman confirmed Jobing.com had no booth at the 2009 convention following its prolific presence in 2007 and 2008.
Matos agrees the past 12 months have been bad for all job boards, and that Jobing.com laid off an undisclosed number of employees in 2008. “Everyone else has had layoffs,” he says. Former employees and commenters on popular HR recruiting blogs report another, larger layoff took place in March. In two interviews, Matos declined to go into greater detail; the company’s current profile on the LinkedIn business network Web site lists 400 employees.
Matos also claims never to have shut down any of the local job boards the company operates in 38 cities throughout the country. Yet former employees maintain Jobing.com has shuttered offices in Riverside, California; Ft. Worth, Texas; St. Louis; and Baltimore, in some cases running job boards for those areas from an inside sales department at Jobing’s Phoenix headquarters.
A call to Jobing.com’s Riverside office was picked up in its Los Angeles office, where a representative said it “moved out a month ago” and “relocated to the hub office in L.A.”
It was against this backdrop Matos announced in early September he had bought Joel Cheesman’s influential HR blog, Cheezhead, along with two other businesses run by the Cleveland HR entrepreneur: HRSEO, a search engine optimization marketing firm, and HirePPC, an online advertising optimization firm.
The deal calls for Cheesman to move to Phoenix to run Jobing.com’s interactive marketing and community-building operations. The popular and often acerbic Cheezhead blog will be no more, replaced with a revamped site that covers broader employment issues of interest to companies and recruiters, Matos says.
“We won’t be commenting on any of our competitors, positive or negative,” he says. “Employment stuff will be game.”
Some industry watchers see the deal as a step recruitment sites such as Jobing.com must take to transform themselves into career portals with expanded services, content and community interaction, a move they need to take to do battle with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
“Job boards making this transformation into career portals will co-opt social media sites by adopting professional networking on their own sites and providing a better value proposition,” says Peter Weddle, a recruiting industry consultant based in Stamford, Connecticut.
But not all job board executives think it’s the way to go.
“The experimenting we’ve done on MySpace and Facebook hasn’t shown that people who are there performing social activities like uploading videos or talking to their friends are receptive to being recruited for their career,” says Rich Milgram, CEO of Beyond.com, a job board in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
Others maintain it’s a step in the wrong direction for Jobing.com, adding yet another service to an array of job fairs, magazines and video services it already offers and which, they argue, diluted the company’s brand.
There also were concerns that the deal was an extension of a working relationship Matos and Cheesman had for some time, albeit one that was never publicly disclosed.
Posts to news stories and blogs covering the deal accused Cheesman of giving preferential treatment to Jobing.com on his Cheezhead blog while frequently chastising its competitors. Cheesman confirms he didn’t write about Jobing.com for the two to three months it took to negotiate selling his company; a search of the blog shows only six mentions of Jobing.com in 2009 compared with 111 for Monster and 103 for CareerBuilder.
As for letting Jobing.com off more lightly than its competitors: “Joel doesn’t write about a lot of things,” Matos said in an interview the day the deal was announced.
Acquisitions like the purchase of Cheesman’s company are nothing new to Matos. Though Jobing.com started out building city-centric job boards from scratch, the company grew to its current size through acquisitions—nine in all from 2004 to 2008, including smaller job boards with strong community ties in Colorado, California and Canada.
Through the economic turmoil of the past year, some Jobing.com customers say they’re happy with the results they get for the money they spend. Cruz Melendez, HR director at Family Resources, a Pinellas Park, Florida, counseling and social services nonprofit, pays $600 a month, or about $7,000 a year to post up to five listings at a time on Jobing.com’s central Florida job board. That compares with $45,000 to $50,000 a year he once spent on newspaper classified ads.
“I put my job on the line” when he made the switch, Melendez says, “but it paid off, much to all of our surprise.”
Yvonne Aragon, an Albuquerque, New Mexico, group HR recruiting manager for Enterprise Holdings, which operates Enterprise, National and Alamo rental car businesses, has used Jobing.com since 2007 to fill customer service and entry-level management positions. She attends the company’s local job fairs and relies on her local Jobing.com account manager for advice on employment trends and recruiting strategies. Even so, she uses Monster and CareerBuilder too.
“It’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket,” she says. She has also become a fan of Facebook for recruiting “not in lieu of, but to supplement the job boards we’re using.”