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: 333

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

Aaron – both of my quotes have a source – are you reading the right post.  The first was a quote from Henry Ford.  The second is a quote from the authors of the blue ocean strategy book.   At no point in my post do I say job boards will die.  I am saying that they are facing challenges to stay relevant and deliver a return on investment. 


I have spent the last 2 years measuring the performance of the job boards we use in order to measure accurately where the placements were coming from, how relevant the candidates were and ultimately what return we were getting for our $300k annual investment.  The results were shocking, even from niche sites.  We halved our spend immediately.  I know for a fact they need to change.  And no, I don’t have any affiliation with Blue Ocean and do not quote anyone in order to drive traffic to my website.  I happen to think it’s the best piece of work on strategic thinking and re invention I have read in nearly 20 years.  

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

Tim – At the professional level I think this is a lot less likely to happen.  Cultural fit and skills combinations mean that if you and I go for the same job, we would both be unlikely to get an offer – either you or I would not be quite right.  And irrespective of that, candidates are competing now, they just don’t think about it.  By categorising jobs, im not just doing them a favour, im doing me a favour too.  The more people do it, the better the overall result.  It’s a phenomenon that doesn’t happen anywhere else – the dynamics of social are different.  It’s why Flickr works.  Agreed the prize is very different, but I think you underestimate the positive. 


Regarding the job no one will tag because they are not interested in, well there’s your advantage right there!  A job that attracts zero or few tags tells you something.  And here is something to consider – what about a job with the tag ‘boring’ on it? Or ‘underpaid’??  The point is, tagging opens up a completely new dimension and along with that comes huge insight.  My guess is that all jobs will be tagged, but just not with the same sentiment!

Comment by Richard Stephen on February 28, 2011 at 9:28pm
From my perspecive the last thing quality candidates want to do is hang around with other jobseekers. They want their details to remain private and they don't want their current employer (if they have one) knowing they are on the market. This approach would lead to a holding pen for the desperate or unemployable.
Comment by Gareth Jones on March 1, 2011 at 4:56am
Hi Richard - which is why in the future we wont be going to job boards to do that.  We will be in our communities of interest, where we are totally open.  Linkedin already allows me to say on my profile that i am open to job opprotunties, even if im happily employed.  Over time, employers will have to become more comfortable with people openly considering other opportunities.  If the company is nervous, its because they are probably a crap employer!
Comment by Alasdair Murray on March 1, 2011 at 5:54am

Henning is spot on when he says "The name of the game is speed, not social". There are a lot of desperate job seekers out there. Not unqualified no hopers but professional people who have suffered because of the global economic slump when they were, through no fault of their own, consigned, hopefully as temporarily as possible, to the employment scrap heap.


You hear so much eulogising from social media experts telling us how employers need to engage, build communities open up a dialogue blah blah blah but when you're out of work and have mouths to feed and a mortgage to p[ay, ideology doesn't come into play. People want job opportunities and they want them NOW. They don't want to build as relationship with a potential employer over months or years any more than they want to hang out at the local building a rapport with the store owners in case they are in need of a bargain in the future. Finding a job is a needs must scenario for most,not a luxury, not something most people have time to schmooze with companies via the web in order to possibly put themselves in a favourable position somewhere further down the line.


I can only guess that many of these social media theorists who are forever pumping out their doctrine left, right and centre have never actually been in a redundancy situation or known the despair of losing their job in the midst of a recession. The reality is jobseekers want hope, they want another chance, they want to be treated properly by recruiters, not judged and ignored. Maybe when they are back in the workplace and can afford the luxury of surveying their career future that will be the time to consider schmoozing, but right now, the only engagement they want is response to their online applications, interviews and above all, respect and a glimmer of genuine hope.

Comment by Alasdair Murray on March 1, 2011 at 5:57am
Sorry, that sentence above should have read "They don't want to build a relationship with a potential employer over months or years any more than they want to hang out at the local shopping mall..."
Comment by Gareth Jones on March 1, 2011 at 8:09am

Alasdair - i hear you but you paint a very bleak, and immovable picture of the employment market and innovation.  My ideas are to stimulate debate around making the interface more appropriate/appealing.  I have been made redundant and am actively working out what im going to do next.  Just because im unemployed doesn't mean i will just take anything just to get the cash in, far from it.  My post was part inspired by my own, real time experience of being unemployed and attempting to use jobsites to help.  The experience is demoralising.  


Social elements would help.  but probably not in the context of a job site.  If im in a thriving online community that ive been part of for a while, i might turn to that for help, and i can have jobs etc in that mix too.  And yes, i would categorise the jobs.


You underestimate the inclusive nature of social and only seem to see the cynical side of a candidate - i.e. only interested in the offer, not wanting to get to know, over time an organisation better.  There are huge advantages to the candidate to do that - its future proofing yourself.  Personally i feel that if someone has to keep a potential employer at arms length simply to give themselves the upper hand in a negotiation then they lack self confidence as an individual.  


I can only speak for myself obviously but thank god for the network ive built up over the last 18 months over social media.  No only has every single opportunity that im considering come from that network, i have also got all the things you mention from it too - hope and another chance.  Ironically, the recruiters who frequent social media also seem to be better calibre and treat me just how i like to be treated so i have even got that too.  


Comment by Gareth Jones on March 1, 2011 at 8:10am

Alasdair Cont.. -  When the gold rush is over we will all be thankful for the reduction in current noise created by the 'social media experts/theorists' or SMEG's as i like to call them - it annoys me too.  But they are only half the problem.  The critics make as much noise as their counterparts and theirs is equally as irrelevant, boring and misguided!


Comment by Alasdair Murray on March 1, 2011 at 8:29am

Sorry to hear about the situation you find yourself in Gareth and hope you find a suitable opportunity very soon. I think what I am saying is that we sometimes have to look beyond the mindset of people like ourselves who have an insight into recruitment/social media and have worked in it in some way and put ourselves instead into the shoes of someone who  doesn't move in those circles.


You say that you won't do anything just to get the cash in, but that isn't perhaps the view of everyone out there who is out of work. I am sure that many people who are looking for work are having to diversify and consider opportunities that perhaps they might not have previously. I myself, back in 1991 was out of work for 4 months either side of Christmas and the outlook was horrendously bleak. In the end I took a job paying 25% less than I was previously on, doing something I had done 5 years previously, just to get my foot back in the door. There was, after all, only so long I could luxuriate on £41 per week dole money.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that everyone should consider every job that moves, regardless of sector, level or rate of pay. Indeed, I still remember when I started that role I mentioned above, some bright spark chirping up one day 'well I know if I was out of work I'd take any job, even working in a petrol station or stacking shelves if i had to". I felt like chinning the twat as he had no idea a) of how it feels to be made redundant out of the blue and to suffer the anguish and despair of a fruitless month after month job search and b) he couldn't grasp the fact that no employer would take on someone clearly over qualified for a role who would be out of there just as soon as something relevant, better paid and eminently more suitable came up.

In short, I suppose what I am saying is that we understand recruitment. e have moved in those circles. But, for the thousands that haven't and don't they maybe don;t understand the need

Comment by Alasdair Murray on March 1, 2011 at 8:35am
...damn, it cut off the end of my reply! It should have ended "they don't understand the need to engage. They don't have the time to become a fan of several employersonFacebook in the hope that somewhere down the line they might get a job with one of them. Let's face it, in reality how many who actually 'engage' via Facebook,become fans and 'like' a company's every move and debate in forums etc. are going to get a job at that company any time soon? A few percent? By and large jobseekers want access to real opportunities and they want them now. The only dialogue they want (speaking purely in recruitment consultancy terms as this is a recruiters forum) is with genuine recruiters who provide them with a good, honest and open service.


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