Indeed: the elephant in the room – or just the same old friendly puppy?

Go to any animal shelter and you will usually see pets that simply got too big for their owners – hulking St. Bernards, twelve-foot pythons, walking catfish, and so on. It’s easy in hindsight to blame the owners. But the owners weren’t thinking about how big the animal would one day become; they were focused on how much they wanted it.

Since roughly 2005, job boards have lived with aggregators such as Indeed andSimplyHired. As discussed in a previous post, the coexistence has had its positives for job boards (lots of traffic) and negatives (competition for direct employers). But for most sites, the relationship has been positive – the aggregators have created more traffic and response than these sites could have obtained on their own. In fact, I’d argue that many boards became addicted to the aggregator traffic.

Over the past few months, however, Indeed has made a couple of moves that have folks in the industry talking:

  • No more ‘free posting’ sites: Sometime around January 2011, Indeed began ridding itself of job postings from ‘free to post’ sites. In conversations with those at the company, I was told that this was in direct response to ‘hundreds’ of complaints from job seekers about ‘fake’ postings – all of which were traced back to the ‘free posting’ sites. Thus, Indeed no longer accepts job feeds from such sites.
  • Job seekers can post resumes: In the past few weeks Indeed has quietly rolled out a new feature that allows job seekers to post their resumes – something which had never been offered before. When asked about the change by, CEO Paul Forster said, “I’m not aware of any feedback from job boards on this. We have always seen job boards as partners and don’t see that changing for any reason.”

What is a job boarder to think about the above? Well…

  1. The optimist: This is just the same old friendly puppy – no changes. Good riddance to the free sites, and who cares about the resumes.
  2. The nervous realist: Geez, when did that puppy get so gosh-darned big? And eating all the time, too! First the free sites went, then….  And resumes – they comprise 30% of my revenue stream. It’s kinda warm in here.
  3. The cynical survivor: I told you we should have killed the puppy in 2005! That’s not a puppy, it’s a #$%* elephant! They’ve got enough direct employers to start dumping those job boards that aren’t profitable for them. And of course they’re adding resumes – that’s what the direct employers want.

The real answer? Only Indeed (and its competitors) knows. They are a for-profit company, so they will do what they deem best to stay profitable and grow. The online recruitment industry is changing rapidly, and they are no doubt reacting to that change.

Lest we forget: it’s always prudent to know the difference between an elephant and a puppy.

Views: 346

Comment by Suresh on March 2, 2011 at 10:53am

Good one Jeff..

This is the case of "There is no Free Lunch".

When they are competing for Google search rankings and offer to fill your job board with backfill job listings, we know where its headed eventually. I would imagine most job boards that depend on indeed for traffic are newcomers in the job board business (don't have high google rankings).


The job board biz has gotten more interesting with the arrival of Linkedin and .jobs (recent fiasco). There may be room for everyone to succeed, but niche job board owners will have to fight it with strong brands of their own.

Comment by Jeff Dickey-Chasins on March 2, 2011 at 10:59am
I agree. Branding is (and always has been) critical for success.
Comment by bob on March 2, 2011 at 11:48am
puppy, dogs, elephants,  indeed jobs and many of the rest...its all circle the drain thinking  ..if you need job boards you just aren't a recruiter ....i spoke to the people at M who bought HJ their reasoning was that they can 'Gather' more info more resume and bigger slice of the market  ... thats the same idiotic thinking that brought Time and AOl together   2 halfs dont always make a hole  or in this case maybe they did  the older i get the less i filter what i want to say...... its a blessing
Comment by Paul Basile on March 2, 2011 at 12:06pm and plenty of others - no, HUGE numbers of others - make the central problem worse not better. There are too many unqualified applicants per job. Why do we want more? The elephant is adding a lot of... clutter to the room. I much prefer proven science as the way to really know and assess candidates, rather than constantly adding more unqualified ones. And resume reading won't solve that either.
Comment by Steven Rook on March 2, 2011 at 4:42pm

Great post. I've never liked the aggregators. They are a wolf in sheeps clothing. Now that they have started gathering candidate information they will eventually start allowing employers to post jobs directly to indeed and send out job alerts to the thousands of candidates that have submitted their information. It is only logical. This way they can now compete directly with monster and careerbuilder.


I've never liked the idea of sending my job postings to a site where they charge me to send traffic back to my site with my own content. If they want my job postings they can pay me for them.

Comment by Dave Haygarth on March 2, 2011 at 5:03pm
Very important post, Jeff.  That Indeed exist to make profit still comes as a great shock to an astounding number of my contacts.  I have no idea why.  Free is never (or very rarely) free.
Comment by Slouch on March 2, 2011 at 5:56pm
Jeff this post and thread reminded me of a series of posts back from 2006 written by John Sumser called Job Jacking. You probably remember it. Part 2,3,4,5, and 6 are located at the bottom of that post. Take a look.
Comment by Henning Seip on March 3, 2011 at 9:13am
How about PPC for resumes? There are so many desperate people out there who want/need expose of their resume. All Indeed needs to do is send an email to job seekers and tell them that they'll advertise their resume for free and if someone looks at it it costs the job seeker 10(?) cents. Job seekers can set monthly spending limits and get marketing statistics.
Comment by Jeff Dickey-Chasins on March 3, 2011 at 9:16am
JobTarget offers an employer-based version of resume PPC. Employers can view 'blinded' resumes, then pay for the ones they want to see with full contact info.
Comment by Anthony M. Morrison on March 3, 2011 at 4:27pm

Good post Jeff. The debate regarding the long-term viability of job boards continues to grow. Your article describes another example of the competitive forces that will continue to challenge all employment websites. It seems that the path of least resistance for job boards and job aggregators to grow and expand is to compete directly with, displace, and/or acquire their own kind. This is very short sighted.

Long-term survival and success belongs to the company in this space who can innovate product features that will truly benefit both the job seeker and employer. There will be a Darwinian transmutation of employment websites and HR/recruitment practices. How and when this will happen is still unclear, but it will happen.


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