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Room 4 Improvement 1

(March 24, 2006)  The incumbents, Hot Jobs, Monster, CareerBuilder and the other members of the top levels of the job board community are in an enviable position. Having automated a simple process (the posting and response parts of employment classified advertising), they sit in the catbird seat like their predecessors the newspapers did 15 years ago. While much of the hubbub associated with the "fire-hose question" (too many resumes per job) is quieted by the employment situation, some important questions ought to be asked.

We're not going to do much job board bashing. That privilege belongs to the new upstart competitors. If you follow the sales pitches (and blogs like Jason Goldberg's - he's the CEO at Jobster), you'll hear sharp criticism that boils down to 10 or so issues:

  • Response Volume: The fire-hose problem (Recruiters drowning in a torrent of resumes)
  • Response Quality: The passive candidate problem (The theory that people who are looking for work are less desirable than those who are not.)
  • Response Quality: The Fit Issue (Resumes and Job Descriptions are vague and ambiguous)
  • Sourcing Limitations: The Reach Question (The idea that only a certain, defective type of person goes to job boards in the first place.)
  • Confidentiality: The Competitive Question (Most interesting jobs and candidates won't be found in the public arena.)
  • Privacy: The personal identity question (The notion that resume databases are inherently dangerous
  • Fraud: The bad advertiser question (The idea that job boards are suspect because some advertisers (okay, many) are unethical.)
  • Resume Inflation: Candidate Honesty (The notion that most resumes contain some degree of lying.)
  • Candidate Quality: The Labor Shortage (The idea that there are not enough people to go around)
  • Candidate Quality: The Skills Shortage (There is a mismatch between available talent and available jobs.)

Many of these criticisms are not particularly supported by fact or research. If you follow the public arguments, you'll encounter the famous marketing sleight of hand trick which involves identifying the problem and a solution while never actually connecting the two dots. It's not always clear that the product being pushed actually involves a solution to the problem described.

With an opportunity set as large as the global employment market, there is a ton of room for solutions and alternate solutions. The biggest bogeyman in the discussion about alternatives for labor acquisition is the idea that there could be a "one size fits all" solution. The issues vary by geography, industry and demography. Some solutions involve problems well beyond the scope of the job market.

Over the next week or so, we're going to work through these issues. There's a lot of room for improvement in design, usability, execution and results. We'll try to identify key new ideas along the way.

If we ran a job board, we'd be watching closely. With 15 years of incumbency and no substantial improvement to the old fashioned newspaper technology, the vulnerabilities are clear.

That doesn't mean that you should run out and celebrate the death of the job boards. They'll be with us for some time. It does mean that change is imminent and that the companies who were once upstarts are now targets.

 John Sumser
. - ; Permalink

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