The truth about Job Boards

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009 - Blog, Employment, Job Advert, Job Application, Job Boards

The truth about Job Boards


As both a Recruiter and as a CV Writer, Job Boards leave me frustrated. So, today I just thought I would write about it, and what frustrates me about Jobs Boards, in the Job Search process for Employment.

But, and here’s the real personal kicker: I could have figured this out really quickly, if all I did was think about it.

So, rather than making you think about it or learn from a frustrating process, I thought that it was better if I just put this out there so everyone else makes the great leap forward.

Jobs Board

In the first place, and let me state this very clearly, I think job boards are a good thing. If you think about it, before the job board there were only two ways to find employment:

  • The local or national press
  • Networking, or word or mouth

The problem with both of these methods was that, they were geographically limited. There was only so far a local or national newspaper reached, or that your word of mouth network reached. Hence, notionally, your job search was probably limited to the coverage footprint of the local newspaper: about a 5mile radius, unless you live in the highlands of Scotland.

But, who was this particular problem a “problem” for?

  • The job seekers – possibly, because you knew that if a type job you sought wasn’t advertised in your local newspaper, then it probably didn’t exist locally, and you had to move
  • The employers? Probably, because they knew that if the applications didn’t come flooding in, they had to extend coverage – and that took time.

In business, time is money. The problem the job boards fixed was for the buyer – the employers, who paid for the advert distribution – by extending the reach of their job adverts beyond that of the local newspaper. Now, it didn’t matter where the job seeker was located, their job advert thanks to Google had global reach – and for a lot cheaper cost. Further, if they posted it on the Job Board, and a job seeker applied, then rather than having the debate about a moving incentive package, they just let the job board advert run. If the job seeker choose to apply, then it was clearly their choice to move and hence their cost.

So, the problem the Job Boards solved was making finding job applicants cheaper for employers. I mean, think about it: job seekers never actually paid to read job adverts in newspapers (apart from the cost of purchase). Now, the advertiser who had always paid, got a lower price for a better service.

Win win for all, surely? Possibly not…..

Job Board Problem…

Here’s the nub of the problem with job boards for the job seeker. Does a job board actually create one more job than the previous system?

Right, no – only employers create jobs. So the only thing the job board achieved for the job seeker was making them aware of more jobs in a wider geography. Which is pretty much the gain the employer achieved, at a lower cost.

So, in summary, there is more “supply” to the market (ie: job seekers, through enlarged geographic coverage), but there is no more “demand” (ie: jobs created). Hence, even if you don’t understand the economic theory of Supply and Demand the answer is: that the price of the product supplied to the market – ie, the job seeker – must fall.

Am I bold – or daft enough – to suggest that job boards have lowered the pay packages of job seekers? No, definitely not. Further, I doubt that many well educated and respected global economists could even attempt an analysis of that. Plus, add in many other factors in the economic mix, and what ever effect there could be measured would be minuscule against the liberalisation of employment legislation and the expansion of the EU. Don’t blame job boards for any effect on lowering wages!

What I do get frustrated about job boards is what I can measure, and that’s the actual results for job seekers.

Job Board Marketing

Job Board core marketing is based on giving job seekers MORE opportunity over less. Yet, measuring the results of 20 years ago against now:

  • A good job application ratio 20 years ago would have been 1 job interview in 5 to 10 job applications
  • A good job application ratio now in the Job Board powered employment world is now down to 1 in 25 or less
  • The ratio has reduced even further in this recession, with it not uncommon to find everyone from professional job seekers to trades people stating rates of 1 job interview in 50 to 100 jobs.

The result of the Job Board for the job seeker is not more opportunity, but less – due to increased competition. Promised more opportunity, in a quicker response time scale, the reality is – less opportunity, with less human communication.

As a recruiter, I side with this experience. If we place an advert for a particular skill set on a job board or two, quite often the variation in applicants between the different boards is less than 10%. In other words, very few candidates are not registered on numerous job boards, thinking that registering on more job boards makes more opportunity. Some take this to the extreme, and register on 100’s of job boards – we call these people JOB BOARDwe are a professional CV Writing service, so I will just say that the next word starts with a W…..

So, what could I have figured out without actually experiencing and thinking through the Job Board experience? That all that Job Boards do is increase the number of job applications to a particular job, and not in reality increase opportunity for job seekers. There are no more actual jobs, just more people aware of them and hence applying.

Now, and you were probably expected me to say this, but we at have got our ratio of job applications to interviews for our clients up to an average of 1 interview in every 2.93 job applications. And yes, we even use Job Boards in that to deliver our Professional CV Service. But, its the application of techniques learnt both as Recruiters and CV Writers that has enabled us to do that, and that our Professional CV customers buy.

Interestingly, before the current economic climate came about, job board usage was declining. This was in part driven by both job seekers getting frustrated with the reality of the actual results of job board driven job applications, and employers facing the long term reality of lower birth rates, and hence fewer job seekers. In reality, I think as the economy recovers, that long term decline in job board usage will return after a post economic recovery peak. The problem long term in part will be the post-recovery customer experience of those who used job boards during the recession, finding the greater amount of rejection and less human interaction an experience they would not want to repeat.

Job Boards won’t go away, and neither should they. But they have to have something more than just job adverts in their business and market offering to have a long term business model. Much as the village notice board was replaced by William Randolph Hurst and Rupert Murdoch, so the job board will be replaced by – something else.

Good Luck!


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