An Inconvenient Truth: Job Boards Exposed.

As the recruitment industry ‘supposedly’ moves towards a new era of social recruiting, the role of job boards has come into question once again.  Andy Headworth penned a blog on this topic this morning, asking whether job boards are trying to kill off social media in order to protect themselves.  You can see my comments on this matter, and indeed, Andy’s post, right here; but this is a huge issue, which I thought worth addressing in a post of my own.

Let’s make one thing absolutely crystal clear.  Despite the huge advances in social networking, online visibility, personal branding, digital targeting, community building, the recruitment industry remains very firmly entrenched in old practices.  Yes, of course there are thought leaders, early adopters and social advocates using these new tools effectively, but an equally large percentage of the industry remains sceptical, unconvinced and ‘afraid of change’.

The simple truth is that while this continued scepticism and hesitance to embrace exists, job boards are in a perfectly safe position.  Far too many recruiters are perfectly content to throw large sums of money at various job boards, all of whom claim that they can deliver x number of applications per month – and too many of us are happy to accept this.  Social media could threaten job boards one day if everyone gets behind the platform – but job boards have a much more pressing issue to worry about.


At the Stopgap Group, I have worked with colleagues to create, implement and refine a robust matrix for job boards.  As someone who is responsible for spending considerable sums of money on marketing and digital advertising, it’s only right that I know what that investment is delivering.  And for many job boards, the results are not good.

Since we implemented this matrix last year, we have halved the number of job boards we do business with and saved a substantial amount of money.  After referencing applications from job boards with our database, it transpired that certain job boards had delivered NO placements.  And I’m not talking about niche start-up boards or little known ones – one of these was a huge national player who had consistently poured honey in my ear, telling me that they delivered x number of applications per month.

What they didn’t tell me was that none of them were relevant candidates.

So you see, social media and social recruiting could well be a threat to job boards – one day.  But until every recruiter measures those job boards and holds them accountable for actually delivering the product they promise to – relevant candidates
– they can literally get away with daylight robbery.  And that’s wrong.

To back up these claims, here are some figures from the previous quarter.  For obvious reasons, I have excluded to name the boards in question and have also combined 6 job boards, but hopefully the figures will speak for themselves:

1,222 4,717 3.86 541 (11%) 4 (0.7% of those considered relevant)

What would you do if you had access to this type of information?  Would you continue to throw money at job boards, or would you start questioning their return on investment?  Knowledge really is power, and for us at least, it’s helped us to save money, invest in the right boards and work closer with job boards to deliver us the products we want – the right people.

The digital landscape is ever-changing; an organic phenomenon that is constantly adapting to new environments.  There’s no doubt whatsoever that job boards will eventually face competition from social media and social recruiting.  But for now, I honestly believe that job boards have more pressing concerns – namely, those who pay their fees are starting to wake up and hold them accountable.


7 responses to “An Inconvenient Truth: Job Boards Exposed.

  1. Great post Callum.
    I worked in recruitment advertising when the question for most recruitment agencies was whether to advertise offline, online, or both. At that time there were a few pureplays and most of the trade specific job boards were run by print titles. So perhaps a recruiter looking to recruit a marketing manager may have had 7-8 media sources that they could mix and match for a campaign.
    However right now there are so many different jobsites that get run on a shoestring that it can be a very confusing market for the recruiter who is flooded with choice.
    And if it’s confusing for the recruiter then it’s even worse for the candidate – and quality candidates will be selective about the jobsites they use, however the industry generally only sells its benefits on traffic rather than quality as the latter is harder to measure. As a result the marketers of these sites are likely to be under pressure to entice large numbers of jobseekers to their sites rather than spend more money trying to target the quality jobseekers.
    It’s inevitable that there will be a large number of sites which generate a big response that it is irrelevant. Congratulations to you on finding a way to measure this – if all agencies could do this then recruiting (and indeed finding a new job) online would be better.
    And I agree that job boards are here to stay – social media can really enhance a recruiters online presence and can help build brand. However, as a jobseeker, your first port of call will always be where all the jobs are advertised which right now is on job sites.
    It would be really interesting to know if you are using the same matrix for your social media activity and whether this is more cost effective.

  2. An interesting debate for sure. In answer to your question John, we are not yet measuring our social channels in the same way. This is largely for two reasons:

    1. We use the social channel primarily as a marketing/engagement vehicle at the moment as opposed to a direct candidate or applicant driving mechanism.

    2. The investment is significantly less. We measure our social marketing activity and we are pleased with the results compared to, say, email marketing. If and when we drive social mechanisms deeper into our operational business we will probably create similar tracking and measuring processes as we did with Job boards.

    To date we have not integrated social tools into the operational recruitment activity of the business and also we are not yet convinced that social media/the social channel is an appropriate candidate or applicant driving environment. Don’t get me wrong, we absolutely see social as a future way of connecting with great potential candidates but it certainly wont work the same way as a job board i.e. responses to a posted (in this case tweeted, mentioned or bookmarked) Job. It will be a much more two way, proactive dialogue. Not a one way response process.

    From what I can see we are the first company in the UK to publish these figures and as you can expect they got a cool response. There may be other recruitment companies that do track applicant to placement, but if they do I have not found any, despite combing places like LinkedIn, blogging about it and spreading the figures out though platforms like twitter.

    Are job boards here to stay? Well, whilst the recruiting marketplace is happy to accept applicants as a valid recruiting measure then yes. but I think that will change. Recruitment agencies/organisations are less sophisticated so are less likely to be able to be able to drive out the data like we do and ultimately they don’t yet have an incentive to. In house recruiting teams will, I suspect, be much more savvy and once they start to measure the effectiveness of the channel then things might change.

    Today candidates go where the jobs are, which is currently the job boards. Once recruiters and organisations work out that job boards are not necessarily a prime source of the right candidate for the job at hand (like we did) I think that will change significantly. By then, social channels will be embedded in our day to day lives providing perhaps a more targeted and relevant candidate source.

  3. Callum, Excellent post. I make my living working with job boards (thus my moniker ‘Job Board Doctor’), and I don’t think any reputable job board would dispute that accurate measurement is one of the biggest challenges for ANY type of recruitment channel – social media, in person, job board, or whatever. One challenge that I’ve consistently faced in accurate measurement is problems with company applicant tracking systems (ATS) – they are often inflexible, inaccurate, or simply cumbersome. But having said that, I also think that the job boards have to shoulder some of the tracking burden – which many do. Social media is in its infancy – I suspect that rather than subsuming job boards, the smart job sites will simply expand their offerings to include social media channels and structures. But we’ll just have to wait and see!

  4. Great post Callum,

    Shocking to see the yield ratio’s in black n white – it’s absolutely the case the recruiters make decisions based on anecdotal evidence on source of placements – I remember my time in agency when it basically came down to a straw poll amongst the sourcers as to which job board we would stick with.

    My view is that Job Boards need to offer video – either a bio for candidates or a recorded interview. There are companies already racing to plug this gap, but I am surprised to see little happening with job boards themselves. Are they content to just be a CV repository? Or do they see that they need to add greater value to their recruitment and direct customers? Be good to hear from a Job Board who is doing something about their offering.

  5. Interesting post. Having read Hung’s comment above I thought I’d mention that do offer a Video CV facility for applicants. As a specialist language jobboard we thought it would be useful for our clients not only to check the fluency of our candidates’ language skills first hand, but also to try and ascertain if the candidate would be a suitable fit for the role.

  6. Great post!
    As a company in its infancy I dare not comment too much on what has happened in the past.
    I have developed two jobsites since February this year and can honestly say that I have learnt an awful lot.
    The sites generate a large number of applications per job post. Are the applicants ideal? I for one, need more time to generate the figures to look at trends. It’s a bit of a waiting game…
    A few years ago I trademarked one of my ideas Weberview, Web- Interview, with the idea of having short upoaded interviews from jobseekers. I think I was in the right ball park but a little ahead of the venture capitalists!
    My next project will have a large element of social media engagement.
    Will it work?
    Watch this space.
    I do enjoy reading up about the various jobboards and Jobboarders, thanks

  7. Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.

    Anyhow, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back frequently!

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