Ding Dong, the Job Boards Are Dead (Again)

If you think you’ve experienced deja vu about the death of job boards, welcome to the club.

In a piece in The Wall Street Journal this week, it says that recruiters are changing strategies and avoiding job boards:

As recruiters wade cautiously back into hiring mode, they’re throwing out their old playbooks. Rather than sift through mounds of online applications, they are going out to hunt for candidates themselves.

Many plan to scale back their use of online job boards, which they say generate mostly unqualified leads, and hunt for candidates with a particular expertise on places like LinkedIn Corp.’s professional networking site before they post an opening. As the market gets more competitive again, they are hiring recruiters with expertise in headhunting and networking, rather than those with experience processing paperwork.

We’ve heard this before but count me a skeptic, at least right now.

Complicated relationship with job boards

Let’s throw caution to the wind: not many employers will admit they like job boards. The reality is that many employers don’t like spending money on advertising on job boards. Of course, those same employers hated spending money on advertising in newspapers, too. Their complaints about job boards came down to lack of control, costs, and traffic envy.

Of course, that’s not a great reason to discontinue using job boards by itself. Their targeted traffic alone makes it worth considering for some positions. Their supporting networks, tools, and technologies have also improved considerably over the years. And most certainly, using a job board doesn’t stop you from using other resources as well.

When I was first sold on using a job board, they stoked my hate for newspapers. While I didn’t like simply shifting my marketing budget, I was happy to not have to deal with constrictive word limits and the slew of paper resumes I still received. It was an easy sell. Now many (including, rather ironically, newspapers and other media) are attempting to use the same logic to predict the end of job boards: new technologies are emerging that will cut dependence on job boards once and for all.

The fake issue: dependency

Of course, many employers are no longer tied to newspapers anymore and are using technology that is much improved. You’d think they’d be ecstatic but in many cases though, they aren’t. Shifting dependencies wasn’t on the agenda and now many are just as (if not more) reliant on job boards than they were on newspapers.

And if a new technology comes around that changes the face of recruiting (for real, not just hype), they are still dependent on that technology. After a while, they would be tired of paying the bill for that and they would be searching for something new.

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It’s a vicious cycle and one that isn’t fixed by simply jumping on the next technological bandwagon. Being dependent on a job board for a major portion of your hires isn’t the end of the world.

What employers have to be convinced of is that they are not only using resources wisely, but that they are getting the targeted hires they need. Switching from one technology to another technology isn’t going to solve that issue.

It’s a people solution

The reason the job board crisis is so tired for many of us is because it has been repeated over and over again. I wrote about this issue over four years ago and not much has changed. It was called Web 2.0 back then, but simply replace that term with “social recruiting” and I could republish it. What I said then is still relevant today:

[Great companies] market their jobs like they do their products, recruit as much as they need, they on-board and train for ongoing success, they retain the people they need and they network constantly (and have been for years before social networking). That means missing one web 2.0 trend doesn’t kill them and if something big came up technology wise, they would have both the wisdom and experience to make the changes that align them. GE and Exxon didn’t die off when mailing or faxing resumes became a thing of the past.

Especially in this day and age, I believe discerning and intelligent recruitment is the answer. I still believe that. And I believe that job boards still can play a critical role in recruiting candidates and should be a part of your comprehensive recruiting plan. While I don’t believe you should put all of your eggs into one basket, I also believe that you need to leave your recruiting doors open to use whatever combination of resources you need to get the job done.

Honestly, what worries me most is this final sentence of that quote from The Wall Street Journal, “As the market gets more competitive again, [companies] are hiring recruiters with expertise in headhunting and networking, rather than those with experience processing paperwork.”

If that is truly the case, I wonder why we didn’t start by cutting paper-pushing recruiters in the first place instead of looking at a technological solution to compensate for the lack of critical skills?

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