Why Job Boards need to innovate or die

First of all this isn’t another generic all job boards are doomed
blog post. I wanted to put some recent thoughts I’ve had in writing that
I truly believe represent the issues job boards are facing or about to
face. My credentials to do this are 12 years experience of working with
job boards in the UK market as opposed to mere speculative opinion!

This post starts about 10 years ago. Back then I was one of the few
professional buyers of job board space in the UK and my day was always a
whirlwind of presentations from new job board launches. Some of sites
don’t exist anymore; many more of them are now mainstays of the UK
market. The one thing they all had in common though was innovation.
Everyone was going to change recruitment for good, everyone had a new
and interesting model, everyone was a disruptive force in a recruitment
space that was over priced, old fashioned and out of touch with
jobseeker and client needs.

Business models and market share were established and the job boards
did indeed change recruitment, not as quickly or by as much as the
initial optimism suggested but they were a truly disruptive force.
However the dot com bubble bursting, a relatively small UK internet
audience (back then anyway) and limitations in technology did take the
edge off a lot of the promised innovation

Fast forward ten years and Job Boards are indeed a dominant force.
With this though have come severe product commoditisation and a rather
alarming establishment mindset that is personified by the frequently
heard mantra – “but there will always be job boards”.

There in lies my issue because it’s not true; job boards have no more
right to exist than the traditional publishers they have slowly been
displacing. Don’t believe me? Then ask anyone over about 35 and if they
think about it they’ll remember a significant period of their career
when job boards just didn’t exist. The industry is far too young to have
such a “you’ll never cope without us” attitude

Ten years later I’ve moved on as well,  I don’t buy job board space
anymore but nevertheless as a consultant to the industry I’m getting a
strange sense of déjà vu.  Once more a series of wide eyed keen young
start ups are seeking me out for advice and presenting business models
designed to disrupt the recruitment status quo. This time the perceived
status quo aren’t traditional publishers it’s the job boards
themselves.  Then there is LinkedIn probably the biggest potential
disruptive force in our space that I’ve ever seen. Any job board owner
who says it isn’t a threat to their business is either lying or hasn’t
thought about it deeply enough.

Add in the embryonic force of social recruiting that is seeing
progressive clients proactively undertaking activity with the aim of
reducing or even eliminating their job board spend and you’ve got a
heady mix of forces that should give job boards all the motivation they
need to innovate and take their offerings to the next level.

What absolutely amazes me though is that with a few very notable
exceptions (keen market observers will spot them!) this innovation isn’t
happening. It seems to me that most job boards are expending all their
energy either denying that there any threats to their model or doing
whatever they can to maintain the status quo and in so doing are
potentially taking their business models into a commoditised death
spiral

I’m not writing all of this because I want to see job boards
disappear in fact quite the opposite. I truly believe that they have a
small but significant window of opportunity to innovate and thrive. Once
the window closes though I’m afraid there will be no way back. So this
is my challenge to the job board industry, put more of your energy into
planning for the future and make me eat my words by creating some
innovative disruptive business models that will drive the industry
forward. I know you can do it because I still remember the year 2000 and
how we’ve all been in the same position before. This time though the
audience, technology and timing are all perfect…
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