I have been thinking a lot about job boards recently, as both a customer and a jobseeker.   In these socially enabled times, it strikes me that the job board user experience should be something like this:

Jobs are displayed in easy on the eye tag clouds, instead of ordered lists we know are manipulated by the recruitment organisations who post them.  Jobs are highlighted to me by other job seekers and I can rank them by most viewed, highest rated or user defined tags.  It’s a visual experience, not a data driven one.

I can tag each job myself, just like I can currently tag the rest of my social life – my pictures, my bookmarks and so on – knowing that all my fellow jobseekers are doing the same.  This rich user tagging is doing a way better job of delivering me relevant jobs than the job board search facility can.

What's more, I can connect with my social friends on the site, directly, along with other job seekers whom I don't know. Yet.  The feature that flags the profiles of people who are also looking for a job in my specialism or area takes care of that.

It introduces me to others in the community who also happen to be looking for a job in the same area as me. We can swap notes, compare opportunities, give advice and extend our job-seeking network.  And of course, make some life long friends along the way.

I feel in control here. I can help others by tagging and categorising jobs; I can point them in the direction of an interesting opportunity.  Duplicates are flagged, as are those that are really not jobs at all.  Most importantly I trust the quality of what I'm seeing - top jobs and companies, collated, curated and rated by my peers.

And of course, when I'm not in job mode, I’m still here.  I'm just plain old me, logging on, tuning in and generally hanging out in this great place.  Which happens not to be a jobboard at all.  It’s my community.  My online destination of choice, my professional or personal online network that just happens to have great career and job seeking support built in.

But it isn’t like that at all is it?  Despite all of the above features being common across many social platforms, they are notable by their absence from the traditional job seeking arena.

Most job boards seem to be struggling with the concept of social and how to fit it into their business model. Some are trying squeeze a bit of social into their existing offering – through social sharing for example - but that’s about as sophisticated as it gets.  Others are adding content, primarily job board generated, in an attempt to create dialogue and add value.  Unfortunately this socialising of the existing touch-points often looks clumsy.

In looking to the future, job boards should perhaps consider embracing their audience more widely, at the same time relinquish control over what they currently see as most important asset - their inventory.  The jobs.

Until they do this, they will never transfer the asset value from inventory (jobs which are being sold ever cheaper and which have been commoditised.) to what they are all talking about trying to become (or desperately want to be)... the community.

Job boards should, as a minimum, allow 2 things:

  • User tagging and categorising of jobs
  • User rating of jobs

This approach has several advantages:

You move from taxonomy to folksonomy.  Users search and categorise jobs on their own terms, using their own instinctive natural language and criteria

You get great insight. User rating and tagging provides great insight into habits, preferences and market perceptions.

You give the user increased flexibility. Jobs can ranked by 'most shared' or 'highest rated' a behavioural/experience trend that is growing elsewhere in users online lives.

So are we likely to see a ‘socialisation’ of job boards any time soon?  Not if their own research is anything to go by.  According to one job board I spoke to recently, their research had shown that "candidates do not want to be social in the job seeking environments like job boards because they see each other as competition for the jobs.”

Sorry but I’m not convinced.  One look at twitter and chats such as #hirefriday and #jobhuntchat demonstrates the desire of jobseekers to come together and support each other socially.

But this is the problem with customer research.   As Henry Ford once said:

"If I'd have asked my customers what they wanted they would have told me a faster horse."

Indeed, the authors of the book Blue Ocean Strategy also singled out customer research as a hindrance to innovation:

“Conducting extensive customer research is not the path to blue oceans.  Customers can scarcely imagine how to create uncontested market space.  Their insight tends towards the familiar - "offer me more for less".  And what customers typically want 'more' of are those product and service features that the industry currently offers."

Perhaps in the future, there won't or shouldn’t be jobsites per se.  At best they bring together active jobseekers, not the passive professional everyone wants their ‘talent community’ stocked with.  And jobseekers don’t stick around long enough to drive any sustainable long-term ‘community’ value.   Job found, job done.  Community disengagement!  Until the next time I need a job.

Surely the future lies in a place where I'm going to be an on-going, constantly interacting member, not a toe dipping passer by?  And that’s the point - jobs and careers should simply be elements - plug in’s if you like - of a wider community of interest or special interest group.  And it's that wider interest set and its social interaction that drives the value, not the inventory.

Views: 339

Comment by Louise Goodman on February 28, 2011 at 2:10pm

Jeff, in my experience job sites attract only the most active of candidates and are really not very niche. of all the advertising we use they have the highest application rate but the lowest conversion to hire


candidates still have to go to the site, and in some cases register, to be able apply, in my view that model is unsustainable and there is a great deal of work to be done on getting relevant jobs to candidates

Comment by Henning Seip on February 28, 2011 at 2:21pm
The word "relevant" keeps showing up in the comments of this post. "Relevant" is what generates speed for job seekers and employers. Relevant for a job seeker are job postings that match his/her marketable skills. Relevant for employers are job seekers who match at least half of the requirements in the job posting. The problem is that a handful keywords does not contain enough information to find "relevant" job postings for the job seeker or "relevant" resumes for the employer. Or can you describe your skills and education in 3-6 keywords?
Comment by Louise Goodman on February 28, 2011 at 2:28pm
yes, I know what relevant means and am aware that the current matching system employed by most job boards is ineadequate
Comment by Louise Goodman on February 28, 2011 at 2:32pm
oops pressed send too soon. meant to say

yes, I know what relevant means and am aware that the current matching system employed by most job boards is inadequate... Surely the point is that a change in approach is needed, of which how they match candidates to jobs is just one area that has room for improvement?
Comment by Henning Seip on February 28, 2011 at 2:40pm
The matching problem not tied to job boards. It is tied to the keyword search field. Any website (job board, social site, etc) where you find a keyword search field to search for jobs or resumes will limit your ability to find relevant content. Every keyword search stalls after a few words.
Comment by Louise Goodman on February 28, 2011 at 2:51pm

boolean search maybe, but there are new search functionalities that are more intuitive and will not only look for other job titles that could be used for the same role but can also, for example, look at when that job title appears on the resume


but as we're talking about how things should be, what would be best for the candidate etc we shouldn't limit our thinking to what is the norm now. technology is developing at a cracking pace and there are without doubt already better ways to match people to jobs out there than boolean search

Comment by Leah Davis on February 28, 2011 at 3:05pm

I agree that candidates want to follow the shortest path to successfully landing a job. As Henning says, they have a family to feed or other needs to meet. Job boards and social media have a lot of "noise" around them that make many inefficient, especially the popular ones that have millions of members and thousands of "so called" jobs. If I am a job seeker I want someone to come to me and say "here is the couple of jobs that you will successfully land so send your CV. Dont bother applying for 100 jobs, getting anxious due to no replies, going to 10 interviews and then accepting 1. Here is that 1 job". Then on the other side of the coin you have the recruitment consultant who is also faced with all this "noise" to find the one candidate that will successfully fill their vacancy. How can we make it easier for both the job seeker and recruitment consultant? Profile the needs of the job seeker and the recruiter then use a calculation predicting the probability of successful placement to efficiently match them together. I have a biased opinion because this is what we do. But we do it for exactly this reason. Everyones goal is the shortest path to successfully landing a job which is also our goal.

Comment by Gareth Jones on February 28, 2011 at 6:11pm

Wow, some great comments, thank you.  To respond:


Henning - if that was the case Flickr would fail.  It doesn't matter how many keywords are created with social tagging, unlike taxonomy and centrally controlled lists of skills.  You cant blend the two, you have to move to tagging completely.  Hear what you are saying about matching but job boards don’t match now, so im not expecting a more social experience to do any more either.

Re your second comment I don’t agree – see my comments to Tim below, especially about the difference in the social dimension.

Your point about the volume and filtering of information is spot on.  Job boards have created a fire hose of incoming – and its impossible to drink successfully from one of those!

And yes I probably could sum up my skills and education in 6 words as long as I didn’t swear ;)


Suresh - you make some good points.  Job board software solutions are working on social aspects.  But these look clumsy bolted onto a web 1.0 model.  You speculation about community suppliers is very appropriate as the point i was trying to make in the post was that to really get the best experience - for the community member and those with an interest in it, it cant be a job board.  It has to be an independent (and or open and authentic) destination with a compelling context - a special interest or subject - not jobs or careers.  Photography, marketing, rock climbing etc etc.  


The job/career part (if any) should be a module, feature, plug in.  This then addresses your point about companies investing in the completely necessary 2 way dialogue you rightly identify as essential.  they wont need to.  Their recruiters will only have to dialogue as they do now - the community or destination keeps itself alive.  Any 'community' that needs to be pumped by recruiters to keep active is not a community!


Aaron – both of

Comment by Gareth Jones on February 28, 2011 at 6:13pm

Louise – you are right in your suggestion that we need to let go of the jobsite being the destination although I would say for ‘people’ not candidates.  It is indeed more about going to where the people reside and taking/pushing the jobs to them – that was the ultimate point I was trying to make - that job sites are not the right destination, more that it should be a job/career module inside a thriving community.


I think you make the point better than hemming and I agree, it will be about jobs finding candidates much more.  And I wouldn’t disagree with any of the things you suggest in terms of features but I would also include user tagging and rating. I wasn’t suggesting only those two.


Your experience and conclusion regarding job board efficiency is exactly the same as mine.  And it really is important to keep an open mind as you say.  Im not recommending some kind of panacea, just advocating the change and trying to think laterally about the problem.  Technology in indeed evolving rapidly.


Comment by Gareth Jones on February 28, 2011 at 6:14pm

Jeff – yes they do but they don’t do it very efficiently at all!


Leah – Shortening the lead time to hire is indeed the key.  It is often missed by organisations who focus on cost – driving down recruiter margins, putting together elaborate supplier lists and so on, without having any impact on the lead time to hire.  However, not all candidates are ‘desperate’ to land any job.  Granted some are, but many are trying to improve their lot, make the RIGHT move etc. 


I don’t disagree with the notion of the job finding the candidate, far from it – see my comments to Louise above.  Nor do I disagree with you scenario of much reduced workloads for the candidate and recruiter.  But with this reduced workload (If we can make it happen!) will come something valueable – time.  With this reduced ‘noise’ the candidate will, I believe become more focussed, deliberate and possibly choosy, likewise the consultant – as they should be.  After all, whatever you say about the time to hire, the only candidate that will work is the RIGHT candidate – regardless of how long it takes to find them.  The quickest available candidate will not do.


Thanks once again everyone for stopping by and commenting – great debate.


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