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The Ladders

(May 10, 2004) - Claiming a current subscriber roster of 75,000, The Ladders is trying hard to establish a radically different value proposition in the job board business. The brainchild of one of the latter heads of marketing at Hot Jobs, The Ladders proposes to serve as the data filtration function for job seekers in the over $100K group. At the least, it's the beginning of a good idea.

For a monthly fee, the firm will sift through its flow of available opportunities and send you the ones that pass its internal vetting. All jobs distributed through the service are evaluated by one or two members of the Ladders' editorial crew. Job hunters receive a distilled weekly email with viable offerings.

Currently, there are "ladders" for Finance, Sales and Marketing

The service is free to recruiters.

From their FAQ:

  • What is a SalesLadder weekly newsletter?

    Each week, we gather hundreds of $100K+ sales job from across the country and globe. Companies send their jobs to us because we don't charge for job postings, and we search the net for all the best sales jobs we can find.
    Then we put them in an e-mail to you. Thousands of great, high-paying, open sales jobs.
  • How much does it cost?

    Basic SalesLadder is $0 (zero) per month, and you get about 200 great sales jobs in your inbox each week. Later, you can upgrade to President's Club, our premier product with more jobs, more info, and more features, which is $25 per month. Your $25 cover charge gets you to the front of the line and helps keep out the inappropriate candidates.
  • How do you get your jobs?

    Because we don't charge for job listings (unlike the job boards)) we get access to all highly compensated jobs in the country. And frankly, the best jobs aren't always put there on those job boards it shouldn't surprise you that a lot of unqualified people send in their resumes for these jobs, so those jobs aren't posted.
  • What do employers get from you?

    Because our system is designed to make sure that only the most relevant candidates reach the most relevant jobs, employers are very happy to post their jobs with us. We also provide additional tools, for free, for employers to get the most usage out of the SalesLadder system.

First of all, we like the premise. Recruiters are not the only people bombarded by the "fire hose" of opportunity. The executive universe can certainly support a service that monitors the job market on behalf of its members. With its business plan to target ever smaller niches as it grows, the Ladders could provide a very compelling service as the reader of record for executive job changing. It seems like a potentially interesting form of personal competitive intelligence.

On the surface, the pitch to recruiters makes some sense. At a $0 price point, job listings are a bargain, right? We're certain that they'll get some takers who haven't seen the $0 price point opportunities in newsgroups or bundled in the subscription prices of the Job Ad Distribution companies. If the scraped job listings on FlipDog or the CareerCast national network weren't essentially $0 price points, there would be a real differentiator here.

Unfortunately, the advertising industry is plagued by new entrants who drive the cost lower with freebies. Sophisticated buyers will stay away, the usual suspects will use the opportunity until the price changes. The real sophisticated players will figure out how to get their jobs into the auto-scrapers, that's a pay nothing, do nothing proposition.

We don't want to be overly harsh here, it's an interesting scheme. By collecting content (job ads) for $0 and selling a subscription at $10/month, the Ladders is actively demonstrating something we've always believed. Job listings are valuable as content. The extraordinary volume of opportunity produced for the novice user is partially responsible for the dreadful quality of the output of most job boards. The two dynamics create an enticing arena of opportunity.

The additional shot across the bow offered by the industry veteran team at the Ladders is their loud accusation about the quality of the jobs offered in the $100K plus market. A large part of their pitch is a guarantee that the jobs are "real". Whether or not there is a quality problem at the job boards, it's a powerful bit of positioning.

So, watch this space. Our sense is that the business model needs some tweaks, that the idea is close but a year or so of encountering paying customers and building a reputation is in the cards. The Ladders just might change the way things get done.

John Sumser

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