“Job boards are broken”: thus saith TheLadders

My favorite weather site is WeatherUnderground. For some obscure, probably cookie-driven reason, I tend to see a lot of HR-related ads there. A few SHRM and iCIMS ads, for example.

The other day I noticed a corporate blue banner that said “Job Boards Are Broken”. It led to TheLadders.

This had me scratching my head, because: a) TheLadders is a job board. Really.; and b) I didn’t realize job boards were broken.

Well, marketing hyperbole aside, it got me thinking. How might a job board be ‘broken’? 

  • the job board failed to deliver on its promise (i.e., a certain number of candidates or job applies)
  • the job board’s results were out of line with its pricing
  • the job board failed to deliver results as quickly as the customer wished

I’m sure there are some other ways a job board could be broken, but these came to mind first. What do these really boil down to? Results, on time, at a competitive price. Sounds pretty simple, eh? But you know it isn’t. Any recruiter or HR pro who has tried to locate multiple qualified candidates for a sheaf of jobs knows just how hard it can be.

So, ask yourself: is your job board broken? How do you know? 

Well, you have to start somewhere, and I will suggest starting with the customer. What are his or her expectations? How many candidates or applies or whatever do they expect? How quickly? At what price? You have to take the answers with a grain of salt – but if you ask them consistently, across enough customers, patterns will begin to emerge. You may, for instance, discover that 80% of your customers expect at least 30 applies per job, that they’re willing to pay $199 a post to get them, and that they want the applies within 7 days.

I didn’t say you would necessarily like the data.

But think about it: if your job board could routinely deliver the results that 80% of your customers want – consistently – do you think you’d have to worry about them thinking that your site was ‘broken’? Probably not. And if you marketed the fact that you could deliver those results – well, you might have more customers. More referrals. More revenue.

I’m not going to get into whether or not TheLadders is broken…

Views: 183

Comment by Dennis Gorelik on August 2, 2011 at 11:17am

80% of your customers expect at least 30 applies per job, that they’re willing to pay $199 a post to get them, and that they want the applies within 7 days.


$199 for 30 applications means $6.66 per application.
If ten visitors convert into one application, that means $0.66 cost per click.

Typically it's not a problem to get visitors for $0.20 CPC.
The rest would go into job board development, maintenance, and marketing.

But do recruiters really pay $199 per posting?
I think it's significantly less. Craigslist charges between $25 and $75 (or even free).

Comment by Jeff Dickey-Chasins on August 2, 2011 at 11:20am


cost per job post varies dramatically. It can be affected by whether they buy an annual package, how many posts they buy, etc. But the average per post price on niche boards (retail) runs between $150 and $300. More on the 'big boards'.

Comment by Dennis Gorelik on August 2, 2011 at 11:42am
Is Craigslist delivering smaller number of applicants per job than niche boards?
Comment by Jeff Dickey-Chasins on August 2, 2011 at 11:44am
Impossible for me to say. I would guess that's the case, but so much depends on the quality of the ad, the company hiring, the location, etc. Possibly for lower level admin jobs Craigslist might deliver more response.
Comment by Alasdair Murray on August 2, 2011 at 11:54am

I would like to see a job board owner who was brave enough to introduce a quality control element into the content they allow to be advertised on their site, rather than just taking the money and letting any Joe Schmoe advertise.

For me, the reasons many job boards are failing is that anyone can post any old crap on there. Cut and pasted job descriptions, hastily written posts full of grammatical errors (“our client are looking”, “good telephone manor” etc.) – you see them everywhere, every day.

Quite simply, technology is killing creativity and forethought. Instead of selling the job, too many recruiters in particular spend no time actually thinking about the impression their post will make on the reader. And readers aren’t just potential candidates, they’re potential clients too.

My guess is that maybe as much as 60-70% of typical online job board content would never have made it into print, such is the lack of quality. What’s killing job boards is the fact that so much of the content not only fails to sell the job it is advertising but is just devoid of any kind of allure whatsoever, and before long that’s what could well kill the job boards. Quality people will just stop going there knowing that what they will be presented with are second rate shoddy job posts that should never have seen the light of day.

So, job board owners – are you brave enough to up your game and insist on some kind of quality control, or will you just continue to take the money and quietly fade away?

Comment by Dennis Gorelik on August 2, 2011 at 12:26pm

The quality control is needed, but it's not about misspellings/grammar, but about content.

Job posting must clearly describe what the job is about and should have as little noise as possible. Example of noise: "excellent opportunity", ""Ability to follow instructions", "Guaranteed income", "Limited availability", "Online Part Time Jobs", "Your Financial Freedom", "Do you have bigger dreams and ambitions?", "Guranteed Earn", "Join the company that really does want to make a difference." ... you got the idea.

Comment by Alasdair Murray on August 2, 2011 at 12:42pm
I should get the idea Dennis I hope. I'm a professional copywriter and have been involved in recruitment either at advertising agencies or through my own business for the past 20 years. That's why I bang on so much about the quality of content. A lot of it is simply appalling. That's why, as i say, some job boards will die. Good quality people will tire of seeing the same semi-literate, unappealing, bullet pointed to death listings. Can you imagine any other line of business that would approach marketing and advertising in such a shoddy, creatively bereft manner?
Comment by Dennis Gorelik on August 2, 2011 at 12:50pm

Job seekers are mostly tired of seeing irrelevant content.

Even if ad copy is written ideally, but is not about what job seeker is looking for - it's a fail. That means job boards should focus on increasing relevancy when matching job postings and job seekers.

Keywords search very significantly increases such relevancy, but still relevancy algorithms should be improved further.

Comment by Chuck Morgan on August 2, 2011 at 1:10pm
Great article Jeff.  Sell said my friend.
Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 2, 2011 at 1:23pm

Dennis, from your examples of noise i think you may be looking at Craigs list.  And some on the big boards but those sound like the fly by night scam jobs.  One thing about it if they leave that crap in them people know to stay away from them.  I would have to agree here with Alasdair that grammatical errors do jump out at people and do not speak well for the company that someone is posting something that looks like it was written by a high school dropout.

I don't see how a job board can take the responsibility to make a job relevant since relevancy is in the eye of the beholder in most cases.  If a job seeker types in "Denver accounting" they will get every job that has Denver and accounting in it  many not relevant if they are a CPA but most people seem to be doing either a search for location "all jobs" or a specific title and they apply for anything with little regard to reading or believing any of the job requirements.


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