What kind of a threat does LinkedIn pose to job boards? And what should they do about it?

A few weeks back I posed the question“What is a job board?”. In the process of trying to answer that question, I mentioned LinkedIn as a prime example of something thatlooks like a job boardacts like a job board, butclaims not to be a job board. The folks at LinkedIn aren’t stupid – they know that job boards are out of fashion with the recruiting and HR pundits. They also know that by creating their own category(i.e., LinkedIn), they don’t have to compete with other potential rivals for precious recruiting dollars. So a tip of the hat to their marketing team – they’ve done a fine job of selling the site.

But…I promise that if you put more than two job board operators in a room and give them a few seconds (and perhaps a few beers) to chat, the subject of LinkedIn as a competitive threat will come up. Along with LinkedIn’s marketing team, job board operators are not stupid – they recognize a competitor when they see one. Based on my own surveys of HR and recruiting professionals, we know that almost all (99%) companies are using LinkedIn in some fashion.  The ‘use’ may range from an occasional glance through profiles to see if any likely job candidates are around, to daily or even hourly use of the recruiting search tools and job posting products. If companies are using LinkedIn to find job candidates, then LinkedIn is competing with job boards. Period.

Ok. So LinkedIn is a competitor. Are they actually a threat? Do they havefeatures or advantages that make them more fearsome that the run-of-the-mill (or even out of the ordinary) job board? Well…yes. To wit:

  • Money: Thanks to their IPO, LinkedIn has lots of money to throw around. That means they can invest in new technology, acquisitions, and marketing – the 3 things that their competitors (for example, Monster) may not be able to do at this particular point. Money may not buy you happiness, but it can certainly buy you market share.
  • Perception: I know LinkedIn is a job board and you know LinkedIn is a job board – but the vast majority of HR and recruiting buyers out there don’t necessarily think of it in the same terms. They instead consider it a social network (which it is in some ways) with candidate acquisition tools. In other words, not a job board. This can be a distinct advantage, particularly if your CEO is reading the latest ‘job boards are dying’ column from his or her favorite recruiting pundit.  In this world, the HR manager isn’t ‘wasting’ dollars on a job board – she’s investing it in social recruiting!
  • Reach: When you have 100+ million profiles in your database, you represent a lot of potential for the recruiter who is trying to find that proverbial purple squirrel.

So if you’re a job board, the above-mentioned threats are certainly real enough. LinkedIn is a well-heeled ‘we’re-not-a-job-board’, with high name recognition and reach. What are you gonna do?

  • Get innovative: Don’t sit on your behind waiting for change to come to your site! Find out what your employers want – what they don’t get from any source, including LinkedIn – and figure out a way to build it.
  • Quantify the threat: How many of your clients are using LinkedIn? How are they using it? How effective is it for them? What’s the cost in time and dollars? If you don’t know – find out.
  • Think and act strategically: You have the ability to ‘frame’ your site and its services. You simply have to think through how you will frame it and what the message is. If you do this, you’re way ahead – most sites never even try.

Yep, LinkedIn is a competitor – one with deep pockets, lots of reach, and some market forces on its side. Sounds a bit like Monster a few years back, doesn’t it?

Views: 952

Comment by Bob McIntosh on June 20, 2012 at 8:27am

Hi Jeff.

I enjoyed this article. I have one question; what are the " the recruiting search tools and job posting products" you mention in this post? Would you care to explain, or could you direct me to another source. Thanks!!!

Comment by Jeff Dickey-Chasins on June 20, 2012 at 8:53am

LinkedIn Premium offers TalentFinder. There are also job postings and various enterprise level recruiting packages. You can find all of this at http://talent.linkedin.com/?pin=tr02

Comment by Suresh on June 20, 2012 at 11:09am

Jeff, good summary.

From my perspective, Linkedin has reinforced the Niche concept in job boards. People migrate to linkedin groups that they can identify because time is money and they want information pertinent to their specialty.

The question is, will people go directly to Linkedin for job search or will Google still be the first place. As a job baord owners, depending only on Google for organic traffic is a dangerous game (with their multiple updates etc).

We are still early in the internet revolution (its like early 1900 for the auto industry). Need to think really long term...


Comment by Paul Alfred on June 20, 2012 at 5:29pm

Jeff Linkedin has allowed users to comfortably upload their profiles in order to share with their network - they have a 100 million users because users see the benefit of connecting with other Professionals online -hence the quality of "Potential Candidates"  Recruiters recognized the quality of profiles and the growth of the LinkedIn user base.  LinkedIn had to change it's game plan and build a revenue stream to capture the "New, Best Use of the Service"  it did that 4 -5 years ago ...  The quality of resumes added to  Job Boards like Monster will continue to decline if they don't adopt and change.  Also, Recruiters who treat LinkedIn like a Job board will benefit much less than if it's treated as a Social Professional Network.

Comment by Suresh on June 20, 2012 at 6:04pm

Another comment I wanted to add is about demographics online. Watching linkedin groups is interesting to identify which region of the world is active in certain niches. I see very little participation on Linkedin from China (which is single largest online population today and growing). India is far behind but possibly has the biggest room for online traffic growth. Not to mention, African continent..

These demographic trends online are going to have a huge impact in online recruiting. About 10 years ago, people were focussed on US only traffic, but job board owners like other websites will have to adapt to online growth from the developing nations.

Comment by Jeff Dickey-Chasins on June 21, 2012 at 8:38am

Paul, I don't disagree with anything you've said. But based on my observations, the vast majority of recruiters will ALWAYS treat LinkedIn as a job board - a big, open resume candidate source.

Comment by Bob McIntosh on June 21, 2012 at 10:51am


Thanks for sending me the link to LinkedIn's Recruiters' Search Tool. I couldn't help but notice that it targets passive jobseekers, which puts it in the company of companies that don't hire the unemployed. I'm willing to take some shit for my disappointment from others in the group, and I'd like to know why employers (and I guess recruiters) assume people who are still working are actually good employees. We all know there are bums who manage to hold on to their job. 

Comment by Jeremy Haskell on June 22, 2012 at 8:55am

Until every organization takes advantage of the expertise of recruiters- and is willing to pay the for the value of the services they provide- there will always be a need for job boards.

Comment by Feargall kenny on June 22, 2012 at 2:06pm

Jeff - i just launched hiresignals this week. check it out. I am going to write a post on here next week about it but couple linkedin with the knowledge from this platform (which allows candidates to secretly declare search status and interests to recruiters on Linkedin) and the outlook for job boards looks bleak. If you really break it down the only difference between resumes on job boards and profiles on linkedin is that you know the folks on job boards are looking....when you can show / see that on linkedin, why go elsewhere?


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