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What Happened II

(March 01, 2007)
Job Boards emerged slowly. The tech people were the largest audience by far as late as 1997. By the dot com bust, usage was universal. All of the friction had been removed from the process of applying for a job. Employers, however, got the hard end of the deal. Friction had kept application volume low. Now, though there wasn't a paper storage problem, employers began drowning in data.

Dice began its existence as a computer and modems in a bedroom in Silicon Valley. There had been other job-board-like activities (including the AOL/Gonyea experiments). Before the advent of the world wide web, the "BBS" systems crowded the marketplace with small communities that often included jobs. Usenet, a part of the original DARPA backbone, always carried job ads.

In 1994/1995/1996, there were a few emerging job board systems. CareerMosaic was a development from the Hodes crowd in Silicon Valley. Monster emerged a little later in the game. OCC (the Online Career Center) was founded by Bill Warren (who now operates Direct Employers). There was an operation called HEART, the first owner of the career.com domain. Jeff Hunter's initial venture, Intellimatch, was building business and showing a different path. Net Temps was in the fray. (These links are interesting historical views courtesy of the Wayback machine)

The folks who had interesting businesses in the BBS space all pooh-poohed the idea that the web would matter and, within moments, disappeared. It was, by the way, a triumph of entrepreneurs and not a demonstration of the power of venture funding. Each of the formative businesses we've listed were built by entrepreneurs in their earliest stages. The BBS folks (who had what would be called "first mover advantage") missed the shift in technology and platform and simply died.

More often than not, these entities (Dice was the best at it.) served the fast changing, project oriented technical communities in Boston, Silicon Valley and Austin. The next audiences were in advertising, marketing and sales. By the end of the first five years, in 2000, there were thousands of job boards serving all levels of the game.

There's an interesting project to be done writing the history if the job board business, For our purposes, the most important thing is understanding that in five short years, the conventional way of looking for work had been abandoned. Building on the erosion of structural friction that began with word processing, job boards virtually eliminated all of the supply side (candidates) constraints from the job market. Where employers once relied on the slowness of the job market to solve retention and talent acquisition problems, they were now forced to shoulder the costs of a market in which anyone could apply for anything at anytime.

Although it was no longer paper, HR departments were swamped with data from job applicants. It became common practice to advertise a job, ignore the responses and search the databases. Many job boards make their revenue from Resume databases, not advertising.

Here's the secret part of this whole story. Job boards uniformly seemed to cause massive increases in workload for HR Departments. It wasn't really the fault of the job boards. Rather, it was the consequence of a shifting cost burden associated with the emergence of information workers who are free and very mobile.

Sadly, no one told the HR Departments that they weren't alone. Given the massive changes associated with downsizing and webifying, radically increased recruiting workloads got buried in the noise. What happened is that service quality rapidly deteriorated.

Tomorrow more What Happened

The series so far:

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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