Job Boards and the Name Game

Almost every week I see a blog post or tweet claiming that job boards are dead or dying.

We’re talking about the top source for hiring outside of employee referrals here. A tool that almost every employer uses to locate some or all of their job candidates. A fixture on the recruiting scene for more than 15 years.

So what’s with the bad rep? Well, given my business name, you would expect me to give you a biased answer — and after reading the rest of this blog, you may think I did. But based on conversations with recruiters and HR professionals (and several years of survey data), I actually believe there are some factors that have nothing to do with the actual performance of job boards that drive the “ooh! job boards!” movement. Let’s take a look:

  1. Job boards aren’t new and shiny: Let’s face it – new things are usually more interesting than old things. Job boards’ decade-and-a-half history is an eternity in the internet/technology/recruiting world. There’s a reason why the car companies rework their designs every year.
  2. Those who decry job boards have their reasons: Social recruiting “evangelists” are exactly that – people who believe social recruiting solves almost every problem that currently faces the recruiting world. That’s ok — it’s their opinion, of course — but that’s also why they employ the common (and as many politicians will tell you, effective) technique of “going negative.” It can be much easier to run down “job boards” for their alleged failures than it is to demonstrate whether social recruiting can actually produce better results.
  3. What is a job board, exactly?: The term “job board” is a catch-all that gathers such disparate players (in size, techniques, and effectiveness) as the big general sites (Monster, etc.), aggregators (Indeed, etc.), niche sites (Dice, etc.), social networking sites (LinkedIn) and classifieds sites (Craigslist, etc.). The phrase is so vague as to be meaningless. I’ve heard more than one recruiter say “Job boards are awful,” then follow up with a glowing recommendation of a niche site. They were obviously disenchanted with the large general sites, but not so much the smaller ones. I don’t expect “job board” to fall out of common usage — it can be useful shorthand — but a bit more qualifying and precision of exactly what kind of job board is being discussed would be appreciated.

Those are three factors that don’t have a basis in actual job board performance. But there is a fourth factor that does:

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  1. Sometimes job boards don’t work very well: It’s true. You put up a posting and get poor results. You search the resume database and don’t find what you need. Sometimes you use a job board whose technology remains firmly rooted in the mid 1990s. In those situations, quit using the board that sucks, and find the one that doesn’t. The failure of one job board should not make you immediately decide to drop all job boards, everywhere. That would be akin to going barefoot because you had a bad experience with a single shoe store. Instead, look at the data: for example, 20% of hires (plus an additional employment branding effect) comes out of your job board usage, so you adjust your buy and use the ones that work.

A final comment: I think job boards — specifically, niche, and general sites — have not done as good a job as they might have in talking about their strengths. They haven’t always been aggressive enough in adopting and/or developing new technology. And they — like other players in the online recruiting world — sometime lose track of the real goal: to bring the right candidates and employers together, as quickly, cheaply, and effectively as possible. In a nutshell, they must evolve.

So … what’s in a name? A lot

Jeff Dickey-Chasins is a veteran of the job board, publishing, and e-learning industries. Jeff was the original marketing director for, growing it from $7 million to $65+ million in three years. He has worked with numerous job boards and HR-related sites over the past 20 years. His site can be found at JobBoardDoctor.


8 Comments on “Job Boards and the Name Game

  1. Great insight, Jeff. I loved your comment about hearing job boards suck in one breath followed by praise for a niche job board in the next. I’ve also heard that more times than I can count.

    Can we expand further on one of your suggestions? You wrote that recruiters who get bad results from one job board should stop using that board and find another which does work well. That’s good advice. Kind of like when a person has a disappointing dinner at an Italian restaurant. The answer isn’t to stop eating at all Italian restaurants but instead find a different one that you enjoy. Other than trial and error and therefore spending a lot of money and time, how do you recommend that recruiters find boards which are well served to their needs?

  2. Steven, I think that recruiters should first and foremost be critical consumers. Get referrals from existing clients. Talk to candidates (or even better, survey them en masse) about what sites they use. Look at the types of positions that are posted – are they of the caliber, level, etc. that you’re also recruiting for? Finally, be clear with the job board about how you’re evaluating them – what are the key performance metrics? Are they number of applications received? Quality of applications? Number of hires? Expect the job board to work with you – and don’t use a site that won’t.

  3. We work with some third party job distribution services which provide recommendations to their clients based upon similar jobs those services have previously posted to our site and other job boards. What are your thoughts on those types of services?

  4. Jeff you know more about job boards than anyone here at ERE. You provide a lot of wisdom in this community. You are right about them needing to evolve, and they have been. But, the main problem is for Technology Recruiters. Companies have laid off and outsourced so much that they are down to bare bones skeleton staff. When someone leaves, they take a lot of skills with them that is hard to replace because….why…because there is a shortage of skilled IT professionals out there. The number one problem for Monster is that have a few gems, and the rest are not “exactly” what most companies want to hire on full time (every recruiter knows this now). Therefore, the problem is that most recruiters have decided to use Monster as a last resort and prefer to keep tapping into the passive channels (like referrals and Linkedin).

  5. Michael, you raise a good point. There is little that any board (even a deeply tech-specific site such as StackOverflow) can do when there is a true shortage of talent in the market. You end up stealing from one place to staff another. (And health care recruiters might tell you they suffer from similar challenges).

  6. Great words Jeff
    I am going to admit I am in the camp that often says job boards dont work
    But some work better than others and those that get the matching equation right by introducing quality based match elements will be looking good for a long time to come.

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