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It is better
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John Sumser

is more
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John Gall


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Job Board Futures III
(April 02, 2003) -
-  Last week, we ran a couple of articles about the future of the job board business. At the same time, we ran a panel at a trade show on the same subject. It was a great time to start to rethink things.

We had a chance to meet Dave Lefkow, a regular reader and correspondent, who works for TMP in the Northwest. Dave says:

But there will always be a need for universal job boards. Why? Because there are economies of scale in terms of traffic driving that a single employer, a niche board, or even a group of employers (a la Direct Employers) will never be able to achieve. The real issue is not traffic though - it's convenience. Active and passive job seekers can use one engine to search multiple employers and find out who's hiring. Once awareness and interest have been generated, the decision and action phases of their transaction are much easier when they have one profile that can be reused across multiple employers. I've talked to and tested many job seekers and they almost universally communicate this to me. In the background, job seekers know the jobs are more likely to be real on a job board (and they are, because employers have paid for them) vs. a career site. Career sites and job boards are, however, not mutually exclusive or at odds with each other - there is a distinct role for each in the hiring continuum.

He's right, of course. While larger firms will learn to perform job board style functions for  quality, cost and supply management reasons, there are solid economies of scale that will always reward centralized hubs.

There is a very interesting piece of subtext in Dave's commentary. "Job seekers know the jobs are more likely to be real on a job board." The idea that you cannot trust the postings on a company website is an extension of the general distrust of large companies that is the logical extension of years of Enrons and Layoffs. It's this generation's variation on the "you can't trust anyone over 30" theme.

What's emerging is an ecology of the labor market. Last week, we pointed out the cost advantage enjoyed by the job boards that are part of a larger institution. While we were politely chided for overstating Monster's visitor acquisition cost, it's clear that operations with a brand large enough to attract traffic with little cash outlay have a balance sheet advantage. They are also at risk of becoming prisoners of their niche. 

The labor market is a huge thing and we are barely scratching the surface. 

Smart employers will recognize the corrosive theme underlying Dave's comments and start the work required to restore trust in their employment brand. The effort will be larger than simply making sure that all posted jobs are real. It's a problem that is bigger than getting the details right (although that's an important piece). Organizations that wish to control aspects of their own labor markets will need to rethink their relationships with potential employees.

As the coming waves of economic and demographic change reshape the playing field, there will indeed be a range of institutional offerings for job seekers. Convenience, as Dave points out, is a critical feature. The rest of the case looks like a branding challenge worthy of great investment and likely to produce great return.

 -John Sumser

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Materials written by John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
Mill Valley, CA 94941

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