What Selling CareerBuilder Means to the Job Board Industry

Article main image
Sep 8, 2016

When Monster announced a few weeks ago that it was being bought by Randstad, the only surprises were the buyer and the price, $429 million.

But this morning’s announcement that CareerBuilder is in play was a surprise.

“It’s stunning,” said Peter Zollman, founding principal of AIM Group, a global consulting group to the print and digital classified advertising industry. CareerBuilder, and a second property, which will be spun off, “seemed to represent the future of the company more than the legacy business, the TV stations.”

Now, though, the decision by CareerBuilder’s majority shareholder, broadcaster TEGNA, that it and the other two owners — Tribune Media and The McClatchy Company — “will evaluate strategic alternatives for CareerBuilder, including a possible sale” raises the prospect that we are witnessing the beginning of the end for the traditional job board industry.

If that seems a little too dramatic a conclusion, consider the evidence:

  • In less than a decade, Indeed upended the job board business model, became profitable, and now tops all career sites in traffic. It is the #1 site for seekers searching job postings. In June, it closed on the purchase of its failed competitor, SimplyHired.
  • LinkedIn may not have invented online networking, but it took it to a professional level. Today it has 450 million members and is the go-to site for recruiters. At last report, it had more than 30,000 customers for its Recruiter tools.
  • More and more, companies are using their own websites as recruiting tools, attracting potential candidates by distributing their jobs, often for free on job aggregators, but increasingly on social media sites like Facebook.
  • The last time CareerXroads released a source of hire study (2014), job boards accounted for 15% of external hires. The 2016 SilkRoad source of hire study gave job boards only a 12% share.

Not headed to extinction yet

None of this is to say that job boards are about to go extinct. Niche sites like Dice, Aunt Minnie, and BigTruckDrivingJobs have a future because they are highly specialized, attracting just the professionals that employers seek. Yet they can’t stand still, but must continually innovate because, as Peter Weddle, head of TA Tech, a trade association that includes the job board industry, says, “The market is supersaturated with options for both job seekers and recruiters.”

The dominance of the traditional job board has been eroding for years. Indeed and the imitators it spawned scoured the web collecting job postings everywhere they could find them. Once critical mass was achieved, they introduced a pay per click model for employers, upsetting the pay to post model that still lingers, but is rapidly falling away.

Besides Indeed, which still looks very much like a job board, LinkedIn gives recruiters a way to seek out candidates easily, facilitating their ability to reach the much-valued “passive” candidate. Employer branding programs give job seekers a glimpse into the company, letting them know what it might be like to work there.

A potentially potent, and rising talent acquisition force is social media — especially Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Twitter — where recruiters can have actual conversations with job seekers and the merely interested, before anyone has to declare an intention. Having friends pass along opportunities is a powerful attractant, especially to the millennial generation which is now entering the workforce in numbers.

Why TEGNA decided to divest

Just why TEGNA, which owns 53% of CareerBuilder, and all of, decided to divest itself of these digital properties to focus on TV isn’t entirely clear. In a statement, the company said it “will benefit from dedicated focus on opportunities specific to broadcasting, including further innovation around programming and content, investments in adjacent businesses and acquisitions.”

As much as the recruitment advertising and services industry is in transition, betting on the future of broadcast TV is not a sure thing at all. One look at the sheer number of cable offerings makes clear how many choices consumers have, and then there’s the growing share of audience captured by premium services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.

However, it may be that even the aggressive CareerBuilder move away from job postings and to becoming a talent management service isn’t enough.

Just yesterday, when CareerBuilder announced it was acquiring benefits administration and talent management software company Workterra, CEO Matt Ferguson said the company had “reinvented who we are as a company over the last few years… This acquisition is a defining moment because it enables us to step beyond recruitment and become an end-to-end human capital management firm.”

But the world has more than a few such companies and more that aspire to such a role. It’s why Randstad made an offer for Monster. It’s part of a long term strategic plan by LinkedIn to build an economic graph linking all the world’s workers to all the world’s jobs.

In “The Future of CareerBuilder,” writer Ninh Tran said, “Will another Randstad acquire CareerBuilder? Yes, there will be more M&A between recruiting agencies and job boards, because job boards are still the No. 6 source of talent for recruiting agencies.”

He predicted last month that CareerBuilder would be sold. It looks very much like he is right.

Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!