I’ve recently been thinking about the long-term effectiveness of job boards like Monster and TheLadders.

I am impressed with the way these two job boards have grown to dominate their marketplace. It took a lot of ingenuity, hard work, and marketing savvy. And ultimately, they both do what they claim to do: match up companies and workers. Staffing professionals – especially those in big companies – aren’t doing their jobs if they don’t use such job boards as a baseline research tool.

But here’s my concern: job boards are set up to provide a recruiter with a lot of matches, notgreat candidates. In the end, they are a sophisticated version of classified ads. They have broader reach than the hometown newspaper, and they can be used by employers and potential employees alike, but they still follow the “job description/apply here if you’re interested” model.

As any recruiter or job seeker can tell you, this is not the way most people find jobs. Most job placements come about informally, through referrals. And why shouldn’t they? Start with 1000 applicants on the one hand and a referral from a friend or employee you really trust – which is more likely to produce a good employee in a short amount of time? It’s no wonder that many companies provide small bonuses for employees who refer friends that end up getting hired.

For really important positions, then (and maybe some not-so-important ones), the recruiting path should primarily be one of expanding referral networks. That’s why I’ve said that LinkedIn can be so helpful for today’s social-savvy recruiter: it expands a referral network the way Monster expanded the classified jobs section of the newspaper.

The difference, of course, is that referrals are a better way of landing a top candidate. Before they show up for an interview, you’ve been able to hear about them from all kinds of people you trust (and people they trust, and so on).

Does this mean that you can never recruit a top candidate from a Monster? No, of course not. I know plenty of recruiters who have, and I encourage employers and job seekers to use it. But I also advise spending more time expanding referral networks through LinkedIn and other networking opportunities.

Do you think I’m right? Wrong? Am I missing something? Join the conversation below.

Views: 209

Comment by Brian Christopher on March 23, 2011 at 7:10pm
I have said this 1000 times. Job boards are one tool. They are not the end all be all.
Comment by Sabrina Compagno on March 23, 2011 at 7:37pm
I agree with Brian - job  boards are one tool. If you don't want to wade through the 1,000's and 1,000's of responses that don't come close you should narrow your postings to niche boards. Not all boards are equal. Try to connect with boards that are niche, stress networking and career management - and that don't cost to post (yes they exist). The responses are more on target. This gives  you more time to make calls and make connections!
Comment by Sandra McCartt on March 23, 2011 at 8:57pm
I agree but as a one off there are companies who have discoverd that their employees are making good money going on linkedin or other sites, finding people, connecting with them, getting a resume and referring them to their own company.  New policies being developed as to how and how long employees have know the people they refer.  The entrepreneural spirit is alive and well.  After all can't anybody be a recruiter.
Comment by Henning Seip on March 23, 2011 at 9:58pm
I all boiles down to filtering information. For an employer the recruiter is the ultimate information filter. The recruiter filters from a potentially vast pool of candidates the best fit by conducting searches in online databases or obtaining information about great candidates through his/her network (referrals). In addition subject matter expertise and the knowing the customer enables the recruiter to filter candidates. Job boards add only as much value as they implement useful functions to accurately filter information for the recruiter. Referrals are great assets because no computer filter can replace a human filter.
Comment by Recruiting Animal on March 24, 2011 at 7:42am

For generalist recruiters most placements do not come from referrals because you're not dealing with the same people again and again. You have to source names from scratch and cold call them.

On the #HFChat corporate recruiters said 27% of hires come via referrals.

Comment by Charlotte Byndas on March 24, 2011 at 9:32am
I totally agree with @Sabrina job boards are just a networking tool.  The recruiters job is to use the tools we have to produce results for our clients.  If you are well networked in a niche you may not need to network with fresh contacts, but if you are starting from scratch access to resumes posted to a job board can get you into the circle of professionals you seek faster.  We look at job boards as lead databases.  My first laugh of the day came from @Sandra, "After all can't anybody be a recruiter", thanks that is a good one!
Comment by Sandra McCartt on March 24, 2011 at 9:45am
Charlotte, If i can't start my day with a laugh, life would be just too dismal.  Glad i gave you a giggle.  Wish i had a nickle for every time i have heard that followed by, "I had no idea what you people do and put up with".
Comment by Charlotte Byndas on March 24, 2011 at 9:54am

Sandra, my then five year old son used to tell our friends when asked what does your mommy do?, that he was not sure but that "I talked on the phone and made a lot of money".   That made me laugh out loud, but how true, but if the public really understood what it takes to be successful they would have a whole new respect for what a recruiter does.  Happy Thursday!

Comment by Tim Keene on March 24, 2011 at 10:04am
I agree that job boards are one tool you should have in your belt.  It also really depends what you're trying to do.  If you need to fill your pipeline with a high volume of candidates, job boards are a must have.  You're still going to have to figure out which ones you want, but sometimes you need a lot of candidates to get the right hires.  Also, and I might be bias here because one of my company's services is a job board for entry level grads, many younger candidates won't have a network of people who can refer them.  Most recent grads have only had an internship or 2, if that.  For candidates like this, there is not much to go on other than whats on the resume and how they've done in school.
Comment by Christopher Poreda on March 24, 2011 at 10:18am

Great post and comments...this one is close to my heart as a former recruiter and founder of ultimatejobboard.com. 

Although it seems the demise of the job board has become a sport, fact is referrals are #1 with 27% of new hires, job boards #2 with 25% with all others left far behind.  (Third party recruiting is 3%).

Job boards should be one of several tools employers and recruiters use to source candidates.  In it's purest form, it's a means to advertise and brand. 

I think many job boards have gone into too many verticals that often confuses and complicates the medium.  Just make it easy, use the best technology, provide meaningful tools, and provide significant filtering capabilities...that was our vision and so far so good.  Job board is not a bad word...and I'm sure most of you have made significant returns on investment using this tool...


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