Are you searching for your next C-level job? Are you casting your net wide with the top Internet jobs aggregators, which bring you postings from all the other job boards?
When trying to hire the very best talent, are you using the latest job-board recruiting technology? Intelligent search algorithms, job branding, laser-targeted advertising, job optimization, semantic search technology—they’re all features of the major job boards.
But you’re probably wasting your time because a decade’s worth of data suggests that job boards may be the worst and least efficient way to find or fill a job—especially if the job is in the six-figure range. The question is, why do employers and job hunters dump billions of dollars into these databases every year?
Job Boards Don’t Really Work
While American workers suffer through a jobs crisis, employers cry they can’t find the people they need. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said there are about 4 million jobs vacant, while almost 12 million Americans remain unemployed. PBS NewsHour calculates that more than 26 million Americans are actually looking for work, including the unemployed and the underemployed.
Cathy Pringle, director of marketing for Bluff Manufacturing in Fort Worth, Texas, said she always has job openings at her company. This provider of dock, warehouse, and safety equipment used to post its positions on Internet job boards like Monster and CareerBuilder—but stopped in mid-2012.
“Posting a job was like asking for a stampede,” she told CMO.com. “We couldn’t deal with all the applicants. So many of the resumes were bad, we had to go through 2,000 to get a couple of interviews. It’s ridiculous. We’re no longer on the job boards.”
According to a report from the Aberdeen Group (“Challenges In Sourcing Six-Figure Talent,” registration required), job boards deliver too many candidates, and less than 10 percent of them even match the qualifications in the job description. Perhaps more telling, 59 percent of employers surveyed said they simply don’t have the manpower or time to sort through all the applications that job boards serve up.
“We had had accounts with all the job boards,” said John W. Rindlaub, Jr., former chief marketing officer at St. Louis-based ExpressScripts, in an interview with CMO.com. “But the best candidates came from referrals of existing hires.”
Because he knew the CEO of TheLadders, Rindlaub said the company bought a license to try it, “but I don’t think we got a single hit. It didn’t really work.”
“There’s nothing more disheartening for an applicant than to continually apply while nothing ever happens because the job listings are old,” said Pringle, who looks at recruiting with a marketer’s critical eye and worries about the customer experience they deliver.“It damages the brand of the job boards because they become known as ineffectual. They lose their traffic, and then they lose their advertising revenue. They don’t do themselves any favors by getting the jobs count high. It’s not how many—it’s how good.”
Rindlaub seems to be the applicant Pringle is talking about. He has experienced the job boards as both a CMO building his marketing organization and as a job hunter. He spent the past year searching for a new C-level position, and recounts his experience with job board aggregator Simply Hired.
“I’ve got a search in there for chief marketing officer, St. Louis. Every day I get an e-mail from them and it says, ‘We found 40 new chief marketing officer positions,’ and I’m sitting here with my cup of coffee and I’m getting all excited,” he said. “And I click on it, and it says, ‘Administrative Assistant to the Chief Marketing Officer,’ or ‘Chief Medical Officer,’ or ‘Junior Analyst.’ It has nothing to do with the keyword search. From a candidate’s perspective, the thing is completely broken, though it’s supposed to make our jobs easier. And even as employers, we have to spend hours searching through all this rubbish that comes back into our inboxes.”
Rindlaub compared the software behind the jobs databases to programmatic online buying services. “They’ve got these fancy algorithms that allow you to put in the target audience and so on, and it takes the human element out,” he said. “So what you end up with is the lowest CPM, but you end up with garbage. Everybody’s happy because you’re getting the right click-throughs, but what’s it doing for your brand?”
Job Board Nosedive
Just how bad is the performance of the job boards? New Jersey-based recruitment industry watchdog CareerXRoads (CXR) has surveyed employers annually for more than a decade about their sources of hires. CXR reports that at their peak in 2003, Internet job boards collectively accounted for about 20 percent of all hires. By 2006 the figure had nosedived to about 6 percent. In 2012 it was 10 percent.
Let’s look at the two major players: Customers of the first, Monster.com, report the company delivers the goods less than 2 percent of the time, while its parent company, Monster Worldwide, generated almost $1 billion in revenues last year. Monster Worldwide claims that its job board offers employers access to 23 million candidates. Monster, by itself, accounted for just 1.3 percent of all hires among employers polled in the 2012 CXR survey.
The performance of its arch rival, CareerBuilder, is in the same ballpark, with an estimated three quarters of a billion in revenues. Jointly owned by Gannett Company, Tribune Company, and The McClatchy Company, CareerBuilder claims more than 24 million unique monthly visitors and said it “helps match the right talent with the right opportunity more often than any other site.” But CXR’s data reveal that employers find only 1.2 percent of their hires via CareerBuilder.
There’s also Indeed.com: CXR reports that Indeed yields 3.1 percent of all hires. The trouble is, there’s no way to tell what the actual source of an Indeed hire really is because Indeed aggregates jobs from other job boards and sources.
(The CXR figures cited above are based on “all hires” made by employers surveyed.)
Interestingly, neither Monster nor CareerBuilder publish their own metrics about the success rates of their job boards. Monster senior public relations Manager Kristen Gugliotta denied reports that Monster has data but won’t release it. “We have neither that sort of breakdown of where job seekers find jobs, nor about the percent of jobs filled via the site,” she told CMO.com.
CareerBuilder’s vice president of corporate communications, Jennifer Sullivan Grasz, blamed employers’ human resources software for the lack of success metrics. “The challenge all job boards face is cooperation from the Applicant Tracking System,” she said. “There are still ATSes out there that don't have the capability to track.”
Grasz said that a six-month-long CareerBuilder study shows that the Web site delivered up to half of the hires made by its clients—but the study is not published or available for review. “We would obviously disagree with the CareerXroads study,” Grasz added.
Meanwhile, CXR’s data is public, and it shows job boards as a group have plummeted. They deliver about half the hires they did 10 years ago. “Everybody knows what’s going on, and the job seeker is going to lose,” CXR’s Mark Mehler said. “The boards need to do metrics, metrics, metrics. They have to show the numbers, they have to show better numbers to survive.”
Where Recruiting And Advertising Clash
Aberdeen Group reports that almost half of the companies it surveyed are reducing their recruitment spending on job boards. Schwab projects that Monster Worldwide’s revenues in 2013 will be down 16 percent from 2011—to $836 million. Analyst Mediavane.net estimates CareerBuilder’s job board revenues at more than $700 million. So why do employers continue their big spend on job board recruiting?
“Because it’s a marketing play,” Mehler said. “Job boards may not be the end source of the hire, but it markets the positions.”
This is where recruiting and advertising clash. Real recruiting means turning to a company’s own employees for referrals to external candidates, or going into the professional community—like headhunters do—to source the best hires through trusted referrals. But as tighter corporate budgets force reductions in the human resources department, in-house recruiters simply don’t have the time to actually recruit. Simple brute-force advertising replaces recruiting in many companies.
It seems human resources departments haven’t done the cost analysis to compare automated recruiting to “high touch” recruiting. Job boards yield enormous numbers of seemingly inexpensive resumes, but as Aberdeen noted, the cost to process them can be staggering. The more personal approach is time-intensive, too, because it requires networking. It yields far fewer candidates, but Jobvite reports that while only 6.9 percent of job applicants come from employee referral, they account for 39.9 percent of hires.
Many employers nonetheless seem to opt for the job board solution because it fills the candidate pipeline. More seems better, but reports show that the trust factor that underlies personal referrals yields far better results at a lower cost.
Rindlaub agreed that less is better. “You have a drinking-from-a-fire-hose problem,” he said. “As you get more and more jobs, sites, and channels, the poor internal recruiter whose job it is to sift through resumes—it’s just gotten exponentially harder—they can’t possibly do it.”
Some executives won’t even consider the fire-hose approach.
The last time CMO Melissa Dyrdahl used the system to find a job was in 1988 when she left her job as marketing manager at Hewlett-Packard to become director of marketing at Apple Computer spin-off Claris. There were no job boards then. The “system” was want ads, and she sent in her resume, she told CMO.com.
Has she ever used a job board to find a job? “No, never. When I decide to do something else, I’ll do the same thing—I’ll network,” said Dyrdahl, who served as senior vice president of marketing at Adobe Systems for seven years until 2006. She later founded and sold a start-up and today is vice president of marketing at Pivotal Labs, a San Francisco software company.
“You wouldn’t look at my resume and know what I want. A lot of it is chemistry,” she said. “A lot of it is me having a conversation with a CEO saying, ‘Here’s where you are, here’s where you need to go, here’s what I can do for you, here’s why it’ll be great for you and for me.’ But that’s a conversation. That’s an introduction. I can’t imagine putting myself on a job board.”
When Is A Job Board Not A Job Board?
Today there are thousands of job boards online, filling every niche. But the database model is not the same everywhere.
Toby Dayton is CEO of LinkUp.com, a job search engine based in Minneapolis. Unlike job boards, LinkUp does not store job listings in its own database. LinkUp does not provide application forms or store users’ resume information. (“We have never collected a resume, and never will,” Dayton told CMO.com.) Instead, like Google, LinkUp searches job postings on employers’ Websites and delivers job hunters to those job pages and application forms. The company’s revenue model is based on paid search results, just like Google’s. These appear in a yellow box at the top of the results page.
LinkUp avoids the “fire-hose” problem that Rindlaub and other employers complain about. “Applicants can’t blast applications to lots of companies all at once from LinkUp.com because we don’t gather their information,” Dayton said. “They apply for each job at each employer’s site. They have to choose more carefully, and employers report to their ad agencies that this raises the quality of applicants.”
LinkUp doesn’t publish success statistics, but Dayton said it’s because the stats are gathered by the middlemen that produce them. “The ad agencies are collecting the data, and they share it with the job boards. We get the data from agencies we work with, so, of course, the big boards have the data, too. I guarantee that.”
The trouble is, the agencies don’t publish statistics, either, because the job boards are among their clients. But Dayton thinks transparency is coming. “There are just too many job boards that are not job boards. They’re lead generators that use job listings as bait. They’re taking your personal information and selling it to marketers,” Dayton said, adding that he believes the agencies will have to release their blacklists to protect their business.
Does Dayton think CXR is correct—that job boards deliver very few hires? “It’s under 5 percent or 10 percent, absolutely,” he said. “But they’re still capturing from the agencies about 50 to 60 percent of recruiting ad budgets.”
Employers continue to dump the bulk of their recruiting advertising spend into services that deliver a tiny percentage of hires. Why don’t the job boards provide success metrics? CXR’s Mehler explained: “The customers have to ask.”
How Do CMOs Get Hired And Build Teams?
Bluff Manufacturing’s Pringle is having no problem replacing candidate flow from the job boards she used to use. “We have switched from digital deluge to digital search,” she said. Bluff goes out and finds the people it wants, rather than settle for who comes over the transom.
“Our president and I go to a lot of networking groups. We’ll post to our LinkedIn networking group and explain what we’re looking for, and they pass it along to other people they respect,” she said. “I got my job here through networking. Our CFO networked his way in. Our networking is very strong, through both personal and professional organizations.”
Rindlaub said he got two interviews by filling out online applications, but he tried so many job boards that he’s not sure where they came from. “I think it was Simply Hired,” he said. “If a human were screening my application, I think my odds of getting an interview would increase.”
Nonetheless, he worries that automated recruiting methods are hurting businesses. He thinks the keyword matching that job boards rely on lowers the quality of matches.
“In a talent shortage, we’re getting this square peg-square-hole effect. The bigger problem is these companies are hiring same-o, same-o, and they’re getting very industry claustrophobic. What it breeds is a very incestuous search,” he added. “Nobody’s saying, ‘Oh, my god, if we’re going to innovate and change and grow in this crazy world where jobs are going overseas and we’ve lost our competitiveness—why are we hiring another guy who looks just like the previous guy who screwed the job up?’”
Pivotal Labs’ Dyrdahl isn’t interested in applicants from job boards. “When building a marketing team, I get farther faster by leveraging the relationships that I’ve made over the years,” she said. “They lead me to people with great reputations. That’s my approach. It’s pretty high-touch. I look for recommendations. I find it to be so much more efficient than when going through a stack of resumes.”
Job-board industry watchdog Mehler offers this advice: “If I were managing a recruiting budget, I’d be spending 40 to 50 percent of it on employee referrals.”