Job Board Shuffle

On November 7, 2016, in HRExaminer, by John Sumser

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“Currently, both CareerBuilder and Dice Holdings are being shopped. With the recent acquisitions of LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster and SimplyHired, all of the big recognizable brands in the job board industry are all changing ownership. Generally, they are trading at a steep discount to prior valuations. Their new owners are not in the advertising or job board business.” – John Sumser

Currently, both CareerBuilder and Dice Holdings are being shopped. With the recent acquisitions of LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, and SimplyHired, all of the big recognizable brands in the job board industry are all changing ownership. Generally, they are trading at a steep discount to prior valuations. Their new owners are not in the advertising or job board business.

It’s worth noting that CareerBuilder is better understood as a Talent Acquisition software company. That said, the firm’s namesake job board is an enduring piece of the business. Meanwhile, CraigsList has eliminated the free posting.

And still, turbulence and consolidation are visiting the top of the job board industry. You could easily imagine that after all of the years of ‘job boards are dead’, there’s dancing in the streets in some quarters.

So, what’s going on? It’s pretty unusual for a segment to flip ownership simultaneously. After more than 20 years at the heart of sourcing, a dramatic change of ownership for the entire top of the industry is either a surprising cause for concern or something akin to a change of seasons.

Each year, the sourcing industry grows increasingly complicated. Employment branding, Boolean search, programmatic services, retargeting, SEO, SEM, pipeline development, CRM, talent communities, job distribution tools, career sites, social media, content marketing, and a host of other specialty tools create a complex set of professional skills. It makes some sense that the role of the job board is being reconsidered.

So far, none of the buyers operate businesses that have core values that align easily with the job board business. In the job board world, the owner buys and sells traffic in order to satisfy the sourcing needs of paying customers. It’s not really like any other business. It is reasonable to assume that acquisition means that the operations will be refocused to serve the new ownership. The whole sourcing function may well be a secondary concern.

For sure, the businesses will get smaller. No one who competes with Microsoft wants their people records and hiring plans in the hands of a competitor. The inherent conflict between staffing companies and job board ownership is as uncomfortable. Job boards function best when they are autonomous. Their revenues decline when they compete with their clients

Over the history of the job board industry, player after player learned that owning a job board meant that their objectivity about other hiring services was always in question. Job boards either began as independent operations or ended up that way because selling ads conflicts with placing people, selling branding or making an objective judgment about the best place to run an ad.

According to the CareerXRoads 2015 Source of Hire Survey, nearly 30% of corporate hiring is done using Job Boards (including aggregators like Indeed and SimplyHired). That number seems stable over the years. The question raised by these changes is ‘how important is that 30%?’ We simply don’t have crisp optics on the question of which hires are handled by the job board segment. (Also see the SilkRoad Source of Hire Report)

Like the Applicant Tracking System (ATS), recruiters love to hate their job boards. In the world where people have recognizable brands, strong work environments, and the ability to train sourcing specialists, it’s common to hear job boards derided as ‘post and pray’. Independence from Job Boards is the holy grail in certain segments of the Recruiting industry.

It’s tempting to wonder if the numbers are understated. While aggressive, proactive sourcing is likely to produce higher quality results, it’s hard and expensive work. As Gerry Crispin notes in the forward to the CareerXRoads report, there’s no real accountability in the source of hire calculations. The Silk Road reports suggests that significantly higher proportions of hiring come from online sources

As delightful as you might find this disappointing end of an era, there are some pretty important questions to ask. If the majority of the online employment site segment is being aligned with non-objective interests, what are the implications for hiring authorities and candidates:

  • What happens if the effectiveness (or core objectives) of job boards dramatically change under new ownership? Will a broad decline in candidate quality ultimately drive recruiting costs up?
  • Does a wholesale job board ownership change negatively impact small companies and specific geographic regions? If job boards are no longer seen as being comprehensive, how will job hunters remain effective?
  • How dependent on job boards are average job hunters? (This points out the need for a study that measures the ways that candidates look for work. We really only know about the employer side of that equation). Do people really use Google as the first cut? Does the change in ownership effectively make Google the primary source of candidates?
  • Up until now, Job Boards provided single point access to much of the work available. Will ownership changes increase the friction candidates experience while looking for work? Will smaller companies, with less sophisticated recruiting teams, understand why their sources are drying up?
  • Can corporate sourcing operations continue to function when their primary access (30% to 50%) to the labor market is owned by competitors?

I’m sure there are more.

 

 

 

 

 



 
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