RIP job boards: 1995 - 2021

20 Apr

Job boards are dead or as good as dead. The job board we’ve come to love (tongue somewhat in cheek) is no more. It is a late job board, it’s passed on. It’s shuffled off this mortal coil. It has ceased to be.

Well kind of.

Some firms have had a great pandemic. Linkedin is an obvious example along with parent company Microsoft. Others….not so much, and job boards are definitely in that category. By job board I mean, you cough up $150 and your advert appears on their site. A model that happily operated for over a decade until Indeed came along. Indeed fixed the 2 glaring problems with job boards: it has only a fraction of the total jobs on it and you have to pay upfront and pray. If you look at a job board with the Jeff Bezos mantra of start with the customer and work backwards you realise quickly where they were going wrong and how Indeed created a product.

Problem number 1 for a job board. A job seeker (before Indeed) was forced to trawl through multiple job sites and lots of company career sites in an effort to cover all the possible opportunities out there. What do job applicants really want? 1 place where all the relevant jobs would be. What did Indeed do? Yup, exactly that. The world’s jobs, in 1 place. The more jobs they get, the more entrenched their position will become. Look at how many leading job board players have moved to the same organic vs paid model. We’ve been contacted by several well known job boards recently seemingly happy to accept a feed of jobs free of charge. Linkedin smartly made this about face recently too. But for most it will be too late. Google jobs, Indeed and almost certainly Linkedin (deep, deep pockets) are too far ahead, and that says nothing of the upcoming players like The job board model of the future is simple: list every job you can possibly get free of charge and then make money charging more if they client wants a premium position. Sound familiar? Yeah, Google realised this 20+ years ago with their search engine. Indeed just applied that idea to jobs. Quite simply they built a product that solved this problem for job seekers and job boards, desperately clinging to their post and pray revenue model were and still are, too slow to adapt. Some may survive if they can carve out a niche but generalist post and pray job boards who make no attempt to list all jobs are dead in the water. In truth they've been dying for some time. The pandemic has only hastened their demise.

Problem number 2 for a job board. Customers don’t want to hand over $150 without any idea of what they are going to get. This may not be a big problem for a major corporate buying 1000 credits and money to burn, but it is a problem for SMEs who make up the core of the recruiting market. Indeed solved this. Taking a leaf out of the Google playbook by offering pay per click sponsored jobs, a company can post a job free, if that doesn’t work they can then spend a little budget to try to get more coverage. Crucially, they weren’t being asked to put down piles of cash without any guarantee of success. Linkedin has sensibly moved away from the ‘buy 10 job credits for $xxxxx’ and now works on a pay per click offering (I am ignoring those with recruiter licenses/slots). The ability for the recruiter to post a job and cap their expenditure to just a few $$$ if they wish is a crucial change. It gives the recruiter the flexibility which they want, which the old post and pray model didn’t.

You only have to look at the revenue stream of DHI Group (parent company to Dice, eFinancial Careers and Clearance jobs) to see the year on year continual decline in revenue:

Can the traditional job board pull out of this nosedive? Given Indeed, Google and now Linkedin are so far advanced, I doubt it and so do their investors if the Dice share price over the last 5 years is anything to go by. 

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