When a Name is an Anchor

Topics: HRExaminer, by Jeff Dickey-Chasins

Jeff Dickey-Chasins aka "The Job Board Doctor", HRExaminer.com Editorial Advisory Board

Jeff Dickey-Chasins aka “The Job Board Doctor”, Member HRExaminer.com Editorial Advisory Board

The term ‘job board’ popped up not long after the first round of job postings appeared on electronic bulletin boards (BBSs, remember?). The moniker made sense – these were virtual ‘boards’ that mimicked the real-world cork boards found everywhere in the early 1990s, where eager job seekers would jot down job details so they could go home, type (!) their cover letter, make a carbon of their resume, and send it in.

How quaint it all seems.

The recruitment marketing world has changed substantially since then – but job boards are still stuck with their not-so-accurate tag. It’s not unlike many of us who persist in calling our electronic signaling devices ‘car keys’ – although nothing is inserted, and rarely is there a sign of a physical interlock. Habits are hard to break.

Why does any of this matter? Because the term ‘job board’ is an anchor around the neck of many recruitment marketing sites – and I mean that in a bad way. The term connotates (at least in much of the HR press) a site from the past, complete with cheesy 90s graphics, clunky UI, and a vaguely ‘Let’s Make A Deal’ atmosphere.

It’s why so many of my clients refuse to call themselves job boards. The reality of what they provide doesn’t line up with the stereotypes conveyed by the term ‘job board’. For example:

  • StackOverflow is a Q&A site for developers and techies. But it’s also a huge job board with thousands of jobs and very sophisticated marketing tools for recruiters to reach this elite audience. I promise you that they will never call themselves a job board.
  • Indeed is (as you know) the largest job board in the world. Yet their preferred term is ‘job search engine.’
  • Planetizen is a hub for planning professionals. But much of the revenue comes from job postings – and much of the content is focused on careers.
  • Toptal is a ‘network’ of tech freelancers, with a community element thrown in. But the revenue comes from recruiting.

None of these sites would call themselves job boards – yet the term is used when describing them because, well, habit. People get used to a certain phrase, and anything that vaguely resembles it gets that label.

So what’s the solution? Well, if you’re a recruiter or HR pro, you probably don’t care. As long as you can figure out what the vendor is selling, you’re happy. If ‘job board’ helps that process, you’re good.

Except…some in the industry associate the term with bad vendors experiences from years past – so any vendor that carries the same label has a black mark against them.

So I counsel my clients – who are by and large ‘job boards’ – to call themselves anything but ‘job boards’. They are ‘recruitment marketing tools’. They are ‘recruiting solutions’. They are ‘candidate acquisition systems’. And so on.

And maybe someday we’ll come up with a better term for these recruiting services.

Although if we do – I’ll have to change my name!

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