photo of apple in sea of bricks to signify job board niche

The next generation of job boards is emerging. They deliver more data to narrower audiences.

So, they’re not dead. Not even hardly a little, they’re in transition.

In a world of perfect employment branding, each company would have sustained relationships with all of the people it will hire one day. The network of people the employees know delivers 85% of the raw talent required for growth. The recruiting department readily identifies the other 15% through direct interaction. Recruiters are extroverted people who love both making cold calls and massaging the network.

In that world, employment branding becomes simple enough that it can be practiced by companies with 50 employees. In addition, all companies are cool enough to attract workers for the sake of hipness. And, the right people know about the company.

Also, the water fountains produce Pellegrino. The streets are paved with solid silver. And, little leprechauns have pots of gold coins.

Over here in the real world, labor markets are vague and uncertain. Neither employees or employers have a perfect knowledge of the market. No one knows about small companies. Active candidates are who gets hired.

Somehow, you have to reach people you haven’t met, you have to impress them and then attract them. You have to execute serious precision in your audience targeting.

Or not.

Communicating with potential employees is complex and challenging. There is no one right answer for all employees. The way you communicate depends on strategic importance and deal value. Inevitably, there are various levels of service.

In the beginning, job boards emerged because it was possible to list large numbers of related jobs in one place. No distinctions were made between classes of employees. The simple idea, descended from classified advertising, was that you could show many jobs to one large audience.

That broadcasting model of content distribution was the first step.

The next generation of job boards is emerging. They deliver more data to narrower audiences. They serve as a communications channel in a very specific setting. They build and aggregate an audience in a niche market.

The future of job boards is in competition with its customers some of the time. This isn’t really new, but we’ve forgotten that the core business model is a market of competing self-interests. While it is delightful to imagine a world where all candidates know about all jobs and vice versa, the reality is more mundane.

If you are a big brand (and there are 3,000 or 4,000 of those), the existing value of the company’s market awareness covers the cost of candidate acquisition. If, on the other hand, you are one of the several million brands no one has ever heard of, you have a different problem.

That’s where job boards come in. Companies that are expert in acquiring and aggregating audiences (not data) can help employers find workers. It turns out that this is an extremely valuable communications channel.

Where big brands are becoming their own distribution channels, little brands need help reaching the people they need. Job boards are less useful in the big enterprise game and way more useful everywhere else.

  • StevenRothberg

    I agree that general and niche job boards can provide tremendous value to employers whose brands and career opportunities are not yet well known to candidates who are ready, willing, and able to to work for those employers. But don’t discount the value that some boards deliver to employers with strong brands.

    We’ve discovered an interesting truth: even the employers with the strongest brands have very weak brands in many areas. For example, one of our clients is a large professional services firm with an incredibly strong and well respected brand amongst career services professionals as well as candidates who are interested in working in that field. Yet when you scratch the surface a little you find that the strength of their brand is far weaker amongst women, Native Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics, etc. To excessively summarize, those groups don’t perceive the firm as being a good place to work.

    Our role in that picture is to help this quality employer better engage with these quality, diverse candidate group. We deliver emails etc. which are specifically tailored to appeal to the different niches and we drive those candidates to relevant landing pages on the employer’s web site and to the career services offices of their universities where they can sign-up to participate in the firm’s on-campus efforts.

    What we do may be somewhat unusual in the job board space, but as I think you’ll see at the Jobg8 North American Job Board Summit in a couple of weeks, we are far from alone in helping employers whose brands are strong in many demographics reach candidates who aren’t in those demographics.

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  • That’s really powerful Steven. “even the employers with the strongest brands have very weak brands in many areas.”.

    You’re exactly right.

  • I’m not sure anyone who knows their game would have stopped using job boards in the first place. The cost associated is minimal and if you get your ads right you have a very easy way of generating job applications & brand messaging. The whole passive candidate argument assumed that only poor quality applicants were actively looking for jobs…the secret with job boards is to understand the boards; what do they deliver and where, (ditch the ones that don’t deliver) and constantly monitor the ones you are using for performance and the ones you are not using for or new boards to make sure you are not missing out, once you have this info you can be strategic in targeting the job seeker traffic you need…if your application route form these boards is super simple then you will have applicants…

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