When job boards first emerged in the ‘90s, they were game-changing innovations. Instead of finding a newspaper and sorting through the classified ads, you could hop online and find hundreds of jobs all in one place, easily searchable, with the application forms only a click away. Not only did this completely transform the way job-seekers found and applied to jobs—it also positioned job boards as a marketplace between the employer and job-seeker.
Fast forward to today, and I think we’ve reached the end of this paradigm. Job boards have reigned for a few decades, but they’re now facing an existential threat—unless they can find a way to adapt to the needs of the marketplace today. I’m not the only one who feels this way. In an Undercover Recruiter article, John Feldmann writes, “In order to hire cutting-edge talent, one must employ cutting-edge technology—and how can technology that was created in the ‘90s be considered cutting edge?”
In our current system, most job boards operate on a cost-per-click model (CPC), which incentivizes them to generate as many clicks as possible in order to boost their revenue. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t account at all for quality. This means that whenever employers post a job online, they’re flooded with hundreds of applicants, but very few are actually qualified for the job. The situation is pretty dire: A Work It Daily article estimates that job boards only have about a 2–4% effectiveness rate.
Employers don’t need more candidates; they need the right candidates. In fact, getting hundreds of unqualified applicants costs them more in terms of time, energy, and money, and brings very little in return.
As an industry, we’re nearly at a breaking point. The old-school job boards are addicted to the revenue that’s coming in from the CPC model, so they’re not motivated to change. Employers, on the other hand, are fed up. They’re tired of seeing larger and larger volumes of candidates who don’t even meet their basic requirements. They’re ready for a new approach that brings them greater value and costs less.
The future of our industry
There are a few companies who understand these challenges, and who are poised to disrupt the status quo. These newcomers understand that the future lies in matching job-seekers to jobs they are qualified for. It’s no secret that the internet giants—Google, Facebook, and Microsoft—are each investing heavily in recruiting, and each of them in their own way is focused on matching. As are the most aggressive job boards, Indeed and ZipRecruiter. All the time job-seekers spend applying to jobs where the employer doesn’t want to see their résumé is a waste of time for job seekers and employers. So the opportunity lies in connecting job-seekers and employers whose skills and needs are aligned. The industry leaders in this space are investing in data science and internal data teams. They’re working hard to send jobs that people are qualified for and interested in.
If job boards want to continue to be relevant a few years from now, they need to start investing in systems now that will help them figure out who’s actually qualified for each job and focus on delivering only those candidates to employers. They need to adapt their vision to long-term gains rather than short-term revenue.
Whether you’re a recruiter or a job board, if you see that it applies to you and your company, know that while the situation is dire, there is still hope. I see two paths forward: One is to try to make changes incrementally. Start measuring what’s happening with the candidates you send to employers. Which percentage are rejected outright? Which percentage actually move on to the next stage? Begin to gather feedback from employers and try to take small steps to change what you can.
The other approach is to dedicate some resources to launching and testing new product offerings that are focused on delivering quality applicants. Over time, test and refine this new offering so that you’re prepared for the day in the not-so-distant future when employers come to you to say that they no longer want to play the CPC game.
Here at Uncommon, we have been investing in a technology that helps to identify the candidates that are qualified based on objective and transparent measures. We look at the job description and the candidate and match them up in a way that everybody can see and trust. And we’re in the process of making all of that technology and data available to our partners through APIs, so they can use it to power their own innovative products. We’d be happy to share more about our technology and our approach to identifying qualified candidates—simply get in touch.
Now is the time for job boards to really think about the way they’re serving their customers. If they want to remain relevant, it’s time to start to learning, measuring quality, partnering with data-focused companies, and testing out new technologies. But it needs to happen sooner rather than later.