In Wide-ranging Q&A, Monster CEO Calls Social Media Debate “Waste of Energy”

Friday was a tough day for the world’s stock markets. Rattled by the events in Egypt, investors worried that the upheaval there could worsen, even spread, and the uncertainty lead to a sell off that drove the Dow down 167 points.

As big a number as that it is, it represents only a 1.39 percent decline.

Monster Worldwide, however, took a 25 percent beating from its closing stock price on Thursday. Today, Monster is improving more than the market as a whole. The stock was up 3.76 percent at midday to $16.55.

Part of the reason was Monster’s financial results for the last quarter of 2010. The company reported that it earned a profit in line with analysts’ estimates. But its revenue came in lower than estimates and both revenue and the dollar value of contracts signed during the quarter were at the low end of what the company had predicted a few months ago.

Meanwhile, LinkedIn filed for an IPO Thursday, its registration statement confirming that it was building its business on recruitment advertising.

It was almost a perfect storm, with the financial results and the IPO announcement coming amidst the growing social media buzz. From the Wall Street Journal to CNBC, and even among bloggers outside the U.S., the talk is that job boards are on the same slope that newspapers were in the 1990s. Newspaper recruitment advertising peaked in 2000, dropping from $8.7 billion then to $786 million in 2009.

Social media, say many analysts, and, frankly, many recruiting leaders, too, is already causing some companies to reallocate dollars from job boards to social sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

The CNBC video has an on-screen headline that bluntly asks: “Will social networking sites be Monster Worldwide’s downfall?”

The site did a follow-up to the initial report in which Monster CEO Sal Iannuzzi says, “Networking has always been a useful means of connecting people. And it should continue to be.” In the blog post, Iannuzzi told CNBC many of the same things he said during the Thursday analyst call.

And in an email Q&A, sent before Monster’s Thursday financial reports were out, Iannuzzi told me that the issue is really how to help employers source and hire the best candidates:

“The media loves to pit ‘social’ against ‘job boards’ as if it’s a Roman gladiator event. ‘Are job boards dead?’ This discussion is actually a waste of energy; it’s not focused on the right questions. The question is not, what’s our social strategy? What matters most is: ‘How can employers most efficiently source, reach, and attract the most relevant talent from across multiple sources?’ And doing it repeatedly, with increasing scale as the economy improves and the war for talent heats up again.”

Iannuzzi even more strongly defended the commercial career site industry during the quarterly conference call with analysts Thursday. “False statements are made,” he said, referring to unnamed media reports.

Sal Iannuzzi

In his Q&A with me, Iannuzzi was equally direct in answering a question about whether LinkedIn represented a new model for the traditional job board industry.

“Some media sources are citing increased use of LinkedIn by major employers and then claiming that this tactic is at our expense. ‘Social,’ or LinkedIn specifically, and Monster is not a zero sum game,” he said in his written response.

The world’s other biggest job board, CareerBuilder, hasn’t said much itself about the potential of impact of social media. But it is clearly keeping an eye on the trends.

At a 2009 presentation to a conference of analysts and others, CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson called social media the “biggest threat and the biggest opportunity.” LinkedIn, then aggressively pursuing recruiting business, may present the most direct challenge, he said, but “social media in aggregate” was a worry.

If he has said anything since, I haven’t seen it. However, CareerBuilder’s recruitment communications consulting arm, Personified, has an active practice that includes social media.

Monster hasn’t gone in that direction. And in his responses, Iannuzzi seems to be saying the company will hold the course. “We’ll continue to find the best ways to match the right candidate to the right job, on Monster, off Monster and with tools and technology not available anywhere else,” Iannuzzi wrote in response to question about the LinkedIn business model.

The opportunity to pose a few questions to the CEO was extended on Tuesday. They were sent the same day. The responses came back Friday morning, the day after the financial reports. My six questions covered several areas, including the company’s 6Sense search technology, its plans for the huge newspaper network it got from the HotJobs acquisition, and the impact of social media. Monster, at my invitation, added a question of its own about the highlights of its business plan.

Here are the questions and answers as I got them:

Q1: (company question.) Monster reported strong Q4 earnings. Anyone that has followed Monster over the past year is aware that you are moving fast on all fronts. Can you share some of the highlights from your business plan?

A: Our innovation strategy and global expansion plans are paying off. We made a commitment to innovation three years ago and didn’t waver during the recession. Now, as the recovery is starting to occur, we are in an excellent position to help employers win the war for talent. What was needed that no one was addressing was a better way to reach and identify the right talent, faster and more easily. Now we are reaping the benefits of that promise to innovate. Our 6Sense products have proven that better search will transform recruiting, and in the course of a few months that technology alone accounts for over 50 percent of our search product sales. We’ve extended our reach through the acquisition of Yahoo! HotJobs. Our global footprint has been a significant driver of our growth and a competitive differentiator for large enterprise customers looking for a global talent management plan. Whether it is leadership in markets like Germany (where the economy is very healthy) or China, or even our recent entry into Brazil (one of the world’s fastest growing economies), we are poised to take advantage of a vibrant global economy. Our success in 2010 will fuel our momentum in 2011 and we’ll continue to innovate and invest in this winning strategy.

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Q2. We hear a lot about how social media recruiting has been the buzz among recruiters for the last few years. It gains new participants every day. What role do you see Monster playing in social media? How do you see Monster leveraging social media principles to help recruiters find better candidates?

A: The media loves to pit “social” against “job boards” as if it’s a Roman gladiator event. “Are job boards dead?” This discussion is actually a waste of energy; it’s not focused on the right questions. The question is not, what’s our social strategy? What matters most is: “How can employers most efficiently source, reach and attract the most relevant talent from across multiple sources?” And doing it repeatedly, with increasing scale as the economy improves and the war for talent heats up again.

We’ve invested in innovation that addresses these questions and has taken us far beyond our roots as a “job board.” Two notable examples are our 6Sense-powered semantic search products that can precisely filter and present the best matches from any source, and our Career Ad Network that reaches passive seekers with your opportunities all across the Internet. There’s a place for “social” in recruiting, and for networking, just as there always has been. Seekers will ask their friends for advice and recruiters will mine their contact lists and ask their colleagues for leads. But we’re focused on the part of the recruiting equation that customers have been clamoring for — finding the right candidate for the right job, with efficiency and precision.

Q3. Do you see LinkedIn becoming the model for what future career sites will look like? It began as purely a business networking site, but as it adds more job seeker features and more recruiter services, LinkedIn clearly is beginning to look like a sort of job board/social media hybrid. Where do you see this leading and how will Monster respond?

A: LinkedIn is an online platform that’s part virtual Rolodex, part office water cooler, and part personal branding tool. Networking, including via a new model such as LinkedIn, has always been a component of a job search and candidate lead generation approach. And it should continue to be. We operate completely different businesses. Some media sources are citing increased use of LinkedIn by major employers and then claiming that this tactic is at our expense. “Social,” or LinkedIn specifically, and Monster is not a zero sum game. In fact, while client confidentiality prevents me from being more specific, what I can say is that our business with all three of the companies mentioned in a story as recently as yesterday is up over 2009; in two cases, up 85% and 167%, on multimillion-dollar contracts. As for the fascination with the so-called “passive” candidates on LinkedIn: it is well understood that recruiters are actively contacting people on LinkedIn, so guess what? People actively looking for jobs are posting profiles, increasing their visibility. They are, by definition, active. If you really want to reach passive candidates, the best way to do so is when they aren’t on career sites at all  That’s why we’ve built our Career Ad Network to reach people all over the Internet based on their habits and interests. This network reaches a third of all Internet users when they’re not even thinking about jobs. So will we model our business after LinkedIn?  No. We’ll continue to find the best ways to match the right candidate to the right job, on Monster, off Monster and with tools and technology not available anywhere else.

Q4. 6Sense Search for talent matching has gotten excellent reviews. Using the technology, Monster has been improving search results for both job seekers and recruiters. In many ways, Monster and Google (and other search engines) are in hot pursuit of the same end: quality search results that intuit what the user wants even when the queries are imperfectly formed. What’s next for 6Sense? What products or refinements do you have in the pipeline?

A: We developed 6Sense search technology initially to help employers find the most precise talent matches among the most possibilities from the millions of resumes on Monster or within folders of applicants to a company’s job posting. Now, we’re working with a group of enterprise customers to develop a cloud-based application of the technology so they can search their own talent databases, including their own employee talent. This will provide unprecedented ability to see patterns, anticipate needs, and inform talent strategy. Semantic search will continue to be the cornerstone in our broader strategy to bring increased efficiency, transform the recruiting process and grow our business. We will be rolling this new product out this year and are confident that this can radically alter the talent acquisition and management business.

Q5. With the acquisition of HotJobs Monster now has the largest newspaper network of any online careers site. What are you going to do with it? What role do you see the newspapers playing in Monster’s future?

A: The newspaper consortium we gained through our HotJobs acquisition is a huge asset for our customers. No need to write an obituary for newspapers, which have innovated into digital sources in their local markets. Monster now has a network of over 1,000 daily and weekly newspaper co-branded relationships which enables us to offer localized access and relevance to employers and job seekers alike. Each relationship brings together a trusted local media source with the online recruitment advertising market leader. Our newspaper relationships are a key component of our larger recruitment offering.

Q6. The new Dot Jobs Universe launched a few weeks ago with a promise of hitting 100,000 sites by the end of the year. Where do you see this leading? Do you expect jobseekers will find their way to sites on the .jobs domain? How will this impact Monster?

A: We have no objection to companies building their own career sites and engaging with job seekers off Monster. In fact, we build online sites for our customers to help them attract talent, and our Career Ad Network recruitment media solution can drive people right to company career sites. At the very time job seekers need the most help finding jobs, the last thing they need is tens of thousands of additional job boards. Proliferation of untargeted job listings is just going to confuse the job seekers you are trying to reach. Having a new Internet suffix of .jobs versus .com is not a magic bullet in attracting an audience of qualified job seekers. There are already at least 10,000 job boards out there and thousands more sites on which to list jobs is the answer to the wrong question. The better question is how to precisely target, attract, and evaluate talent, quickly. Also, a singular entity’s control and operation of essentially all of the .jobs domains is a blatant violation of the rules established by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which is the non-profit organization that oversees how Internet names are authorized. We think it’s likely that ICANN will shut down the Dot Jobs Universe as completely outside the scope of what the original intent of the .jobs domain was.

Q7. Take a look at your crystal ball for a moment. What do you think the Monster of 2015 will be like?

A: We never stand still. On the other hand, our values and focus never change. So we’ll be expanding on the pillars we’ve been building over the past couple of years. The world will continue to flatten and borders will blur as companies think and operate globally in their search for talent and how they organize their workforce to be ever more agile and competitive. We’re already the most global player in the online recruitment industry, and we’ll continue to build our global footprint and capabilities. We’ll be a strategic human capital partner with many of our customers, as they are able to apply our 6Sense search technology to their workforce planning and talent management priorities. And in 2015 our mission will be the same as it is now: we’ll continue to help employers gain a competitive advantage by finding the right talent for the right jobs, and we’ll be inspiring job seekers to improve their lives through the world of work.

John Zappe is the editor of TLNT.com and a contributing editor of ERE.net. John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.

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12 Comments on “In Wide-ranging Q&A, Monster CEO Calls Social Media Debate “Waste of Energy”

  1. Good article. However, if Monster.com doesn’t think that social media’s evolution is a threat, they’re in trouble. The CEO side stepped the question nicely. Most big companies are so slow to move, that they maintain contracts. I think job boards like Monster.com will continue to have a place, but their impact will continue to diminish is my bet. They’re now only a minor cog in the much larger social media job-o-lution.

  2. I believe that newspaper websites are overlooked as social media. If you’ve ever read the enthusiastic commenting that occurs, you know these are some of the most passionate, energetic exchanges of opinion you’ll find anywhere online. The comments sometimes number into the hundreds.

    Newspaper websites also provide the ability to upload your photos and video for public view, participate in polls, and follow/interact with bloggers. Sound like social media to you?

    Newspaper websites attract both local and distant people who care about a community. They attract both active and employed passive candidates. They attract people with general (news, weather) and specific interests (sports, business, entertainment, etc.). In the case of the Twin Cities, startribune.com attracts more readers (talent) than any other local content site.

    Monster (and recruiters) indeed already have access to the largest social media sites on the web, and the largest, most diverse talent pools using newspaper sites for a wide array of information and entertainment needs.

  3. It was interesting to note that there was no mention of job aggregation sites: Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com.

    I would think that a more significant threat to Monster and CareerBuilder (in the U.S. market) is employers who use a combination of sponsored ads on Indeed/SimplyHired and targeted, pay-per-click ads with LinkedIn, Google AdWords and Facebook.

  4. I used to be a pro-Monster bigot. And then I fought to get an account on Monster for the client I was assigned to at that time. And was hugely disappointed by the candidate results. What Mr. Iannuzzi seems to forget is that recruiters go to where they can find candidates. And, if Monster doesn’t have them, they could give me a free account and I still wouldn’t go there. Right now the social network is where the candidates seem to be. So, that’s where I go. Regardless of how excruciatingly clumbsy the interface is. I pray for two things from job boards: increased traffic to drive candidate submittals and lower, more competitive rates. Then maybe clients wouldn’t scream in horror when I hit them with a proposal to pick up a Monster (or CareerBuilder) account or 2. That used to be driven by advertising. I haven’t seen much of that lately.

  5. With all due respect, I believe Mr. Iannuzzi has failed to read our white paper and view our videos at http://www.universe.jobs. This site has detailed information about our plans for the .jobs Universe and links to the ICANN decisions mentioned below.

    Mr. Iannuzzi says, “We think it’s likely that ICANN will shut down the Dot Jobs Universe as completely outside the scope of what the original intent of the .jobs domain was.”

    Response: Last August ICANN’s Board of Directors voted 11-1 to approved Employ Media’s request for a Phased Allocation Program of domain names consisting of Industry, Occupation, Geographic, and Dictionary terms.

    Monster (and others) shortly thereafter submitted a “Reconsideration Request” protesting the ICANN Board of Directors action claiming it was inconsistent with the .JOBS Charter.

    In December the ICANN Board Governance Committee (BGC) unanimously rejected Monster’s (and others) appeal declaring its multiple arguments “unsupported.”

    The following day, ICANN’s Board of Directors unanimously approved the ICANN BGC decision to reject the appeal.

    Iannuzzi further states, “Also, a singular entity’s control and operation of essentially all of the .jobs domains is a blatant violation of the rules established by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which is the non-profit organization that oversees how Internet names are authorized.”

    Response: This is an old argument that has been rejected three times by ICANN. In fact, the “single entity” he refers to is a non-profit consortium of over 500 of the world’s largest employers.

    Iannuzzi also says, “At the very time job seekers need the most help finding jobs, the last thing they need is tens of thousands of additional job boards.”

    Response: Building out the .Jobs top-level TLD is revolutionary for the recruitment industry and the Internet. The .Jobs Universe will create an environment of seamlessly integrated employment domains, a first ever interlinking and coordinated use of a TLD specifically for job seekers, human resource practitioners and the public good.

    Iannuzzi continues, “Proliferation of untargeted job listings is just going to confuse the job seekers you are trying to reach.”

    Response: How more targeted can you be than providing job seekers direct access to employers’ jobs directly from their browser by entering terms like nursing.jobs, engineer.jobs, Chicago.jobs, etc.?

    It is very unfortunate that Mr. Iannuzzi and Monster have tried to stop employers from building-out the .jobs TLD instead of participating in the Request for Proposal (RFP) process and offering their expertise as one would expect from the former industry leader.

  6. Monster and other job boards biggest threat is their refusal to react to changes in the market and move from a post and pray model where they get paid no matter what to something more like a pay per click model (like SimplyHired and Indeed).

    It is that reluctance to stand behind their products effectiveness (or at times lack thereof) that has and will continue to drive the market to other solutions.

  7. Lots of solutions characterized here as “Answers to the Wrong Questions”.

    The possibility occurs to me that these efforts to define the ‘question’ reflect more about the writer’s attempt to manage perception than share and analyze data relevant to hiring practices.

    Seems to this observer that US staffing leaders control an aggregate annual budget somewhere north of 10 billion (and perhaps much, much more to invest in finding, selecting and on-boarding all of the P/T, F/T, Contractor, Interns and other classes of employees to perform work ranging from menial to c-levels during 2011.

    The sourcing tool kit staffing leaders have at their disposal is larger and more diverse every day in every way.

    Few, if any, sources of hire can be attributed as ‘soley’ responsible for a firm’s hires

    Since the data about what is worth investing in is so limited, it will be their perception about what works that will likely dictate short-term which vendors/technologies/services will (fairly or unfairly) get a larger proportion of the total.

    The good news is that some [few] employers are accurately measuring the contribution of the pieces of the pie that make up their hiring portfolio AND detailing what really works…job family by job family, pivotal job by pivotal job…country by country. These staffing ‘quants’ know there is no “silver bullet”.

    As their efforts are shared, the folks whose brand cannot align with results will…adjust, at the very least.

  8. Maureen,

    I agree that LinkedIn was a business networking site prior to the additions of Answers, Events, Apps, Facebook and Twitter feeds.

    When I do job seeker sessions 70% say they think of LinkedIn as a business site rather than a social site.

    For me and many of us (Recruiter/HR folks) the line between the two is blurry.

  9. I sincerely believe that it’s a huge market and everyone will have their share easily. Social Media is clearly hyped at this point of time and we still have to see visible matrix & ROI proven for long term.

    Saying that – Monster can’t afford to relax. Rather than going against Social Media they need to work with Social Media. Social Media and JB can complement each other. Naukri in India has already done that – although in small level. SM will also keep job boards under pricing pressure in coming days – so it will help to right-price the job boards.

    I’m more interested in how these both powers can work together rather a raging debate on who’s better. Recruitment was always SOCIAL and will continue be. SM has just brought new tools to do that. Hence, it’s a natural extension to Networking than replacing Job Boards as a whole.

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