Jeff Dickey-Chasins aka

Jeff Dickey-Chasins aka “The Job Board Doctor”, Editorial Advisory Board

by Jeff Dickey-Chasins

The mere mention of ‘job boards’ is enough to send many HR and recruiting professionals into a frenzy of arguments, prophecies, and condemnation.

Why is that? And why, more than 15 years after their first appearance, do job boards seem to be as firmly entrenched in the online recruiting world as ever?

A brief look at the history of job boards will shed some light on how they have – and haven’t – evolved over the years, and perhaps, even answer the question of why their death has been proclaimed so many times.

In the beginning

The first ‘official’ job board was launched in 1992 by Bill Warren; it was called the Online Career Center (Dice actually launched in 1990, but as a bulletin board (BBS), rather than a website). Warren’s creation was sold to TMP in 1995 and merged with Monster.

Initially, the most prominent sites were ‘generalists’ – they ran ads for all types of positions, in all types of industries, for every geographical region imaginable. These sites essentially translated the newspaper classified model to the web – employers paid for ads, and job boards used part of that money to promote their sites to candidates. The big difference? Job boards had an (theoretically) unlimited candidate reach, whereas newspapers were limited by their circulation. Oh yes – job boards were also a lot cheaper.


In the late 90s and early 00s, two new types of job boards appears: niche boards and networks. Niche sites focused on particular industries, job titles, or geographic areas. Networks incorporated multiple sites, providing employers with the ability to target by location or industry, while still purchasing from one vendor.

Then in the mid-2000s, two key changes occurred. First, job aggregators such as Indeed began assembling job content from multiple job boards and providing a single search mechanism. Also, at the same time LinkedIn launched, providing an ‘open’ resume database and simple forms of social networking.

Despite these changes, most job boards remained essentially unchanged from the mid- and late 90s, offering job posting and resume access – and not much else.


Then came the recession – years of lowered hiring and shrinking budgets that put many job boards out of business, and drove others to reevaluate their business models. At the same time, social recruiting gained widespread notice in the HR world, and some companies began shifting recruiting dollars from job boards to social media. Aggregators continues to gain market share (Indeed outstripped Monster for site traffic in 2011), and many candidates began relying on their mobile devices – not their desktops – for web access.


So, given the disruptive forces of recession, social recruiting, job aggregators, and mobile devices, how have job boards responded? Certainly many sites continue as they have for many years, with little or no change. I would argue that these are most vulnerable and risk being pushed out of the recruiting market altogether.

Other sites, however, have exhibited what I term ‘evolutionary’ behavior: they are modifying themselves to compete in the changed recruiting marketplace. Some examples:

  • Pay for performance: Instead of charging for a job posting, some sites charge for the applications to a job (or in some cases, for the ‘qualified’ applications)
  • Matching: Rather than waiting for candidates to apply to an employer’s job, some sites take applicant data and match it to the job – then ‘push’ the applicant information to the employer
  • Hyperniche: Moving past the idea of a site devoted to an industry, such as IT, some job boards focus on niches inside the industry
  • Socializing the job board: Sites have added the ability to ‘share’ job and employer info via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn; some sites let candidates use LinkedIn profiles
  • Communities and hubs: Although some sites (Mediabistro) have done this for years, many more job boards are moving to a community model – and many communities are adding a job board component
  • Mobile: Most job boards now offer a mobile site, app, or both. What’s the next step? Perhaps voice-based job search?
  • Options: Many sites are adding more services that connect employers and candidates, such as hyper-targeted emails and Tweets, employer branding, targeted job distribution, and management of the employer’s social recruiting campaigns.

What’s in a name?

Are job boards dying – or is it instead the idea of a traditional job board, where you ‘post and pray’? I believe it’s the latter. In fact, it’s time for job boards – and the HR world – to move past the term ‘job board’ and to something more description and accurate. I think of these as ‘candidate acquisition services’ – a collection of tools and services that employers can use to efficiently and effectively find the right candidates, no matter where they are or what their skill set.

But as we know, names die hard. We’ll see. In the meantime, I expect to see (insert your favorite name here) to continue their role in employers’ recruiting mix – and to continue evolving.

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