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: 315

Comment by Henning Seip on February 28, 2011 at 10:56am

The first problem to overcome is the data filtering problem. Which of the millions of job postings you find on the Internet are right for you? Only you can answer that. To find those you would have to provide much more about yourself than the 3-6 words the keyword field allows before the search stalls. Any adult person with work experience has 200 - 400 marketable skills and an education. Each marketable skill is typically a phrase consisting of multiple words. These have to be matched into the job postings. The average online job posting has 20 - 50 requirements. 


Without narrowing down the job postings that are meaningful to you, you face the uphill battle of reading stuff that is not relevant for you. If you don't meet the requirements in the job posting why would you investigate further through social connections which takes more time? 


The first step in online job search is about filtering data, a lot of it.

Comment by Gareth Jones on February 28, 2011 at 11:11am

Hi Henning, thanks for the comment.  I would say that it doesn't need to take more time.  We have to let go of traditional thinking.  You cant keep the old classifications in a folksonomy model -  the user defines them.  And candidates dont search on a list of 20 key words.  They often browse by single key word, industry or location.  The use of tagging allows users to tag jobs in intuitive not linear ways.


The other issue here is not just about classification or searching, its about making the solution more social and interactive rather than boring and frustrating!


Thanks for stopping by.

Comment by Henning Seip on February 28, 2011 at 11:26am
Gareth, for me the job market is demand and supply and the matching of those. Matching is done through communication, primarily language regardless of whether you do it through keywords on job boards or social sites or any site for that matter. The more you can communicate efficiently the better. All I am saying is that keywords are a terribly inefficient way of communicating what you are looking for as a job seeker or a recruiter.
Comment by Suresh on February 28, 2011 at 11:51am

Gareth, you make some great points.

 I think there is no one solution that fits all niche audiences or jobseeker groups. The job boards will have to figure out what works for them considering there is competition from other job boards small and large and other social networks. We are all in the big ecosystem and will have to evolve or be left for dead.

I heard Job Board Software providers are working on including social aspects. Haven't seen them yet. Or it may be Social Network providers (such as NING) that include a Job Board in them


Evolve but Differentiate is the key..for job board owners to retain their brands.


Comment by Suresh on February 28, 2011 at 1:03pm

Also just to add, Social Engagement will have to be a 2 way street. I am wondering how many Employers are willing to spend Recruiter/Recruiting resources for Social Engagement.


I can see the Fortune 100-500 companies doing that, but the predominantly smaller businesses maynot find it efficient. Just a thought.

Comment by Aaron Lintz on February 28, 2011 at 1:06pm

I am baffled by this post.  You seem to be quoting without listing the source so I have no reference to what they are speaking about. Then you don't actually come to a clear conclusion or point.  Do you really feel job boards will die.  If so make your case.


If you have an affiliation with BlueOcean, please just come out and say I live on a content farm and am trying to draw traffic to my website with garbage. 

Comment by Tim Dineen on February 28, 2011 at 1:13pm

It's a nice idea, but the problem is why would any job seeker spend the time to help other job seekers find a job that they themselves are interested in? They'd be welcoming and in fact encouraging competition to a job they want to apply to.  

Or if it's a job they aren't interested in, no one is going to spend the time tagging and sharing it, they would just move on to find a job that is right for them.

Comment by Henning Seip on February 28, 2011 at 1:36pm
I agree with Tim. The job seekers I have talked to in the past want a job ASAP. They want the shortest path and don't care whether it's through a job board, SM, networking or any other means. They have a family to feed. Anything that would jeopardize their chances (i.e. inviting competition by sharing information about their opportunity) they will try to avoid. The name of the game is speed, not social.
Comment by Louise Goodman on February 28, 2011 at 1:43pm

in the future i think we need to let go of the idea of the job site being the destination that all candidates must go to in order to search for and apply to jobs. i see it as being more pushing relevant jobs to candidates through their various social profiles.


particularly as reaching passive candidates is becoming more and more important. i agree with Henning, i think the future lies in sophisticated filtering of the data that allows people to find out about jobs that are truly relevant to them as and when they get posted. the jobs find the candidates 


maybe the job sites could create a cloud from the most popular roles for people with similar profiles to the candidate etc for active candidates who are searching for roles. but i think to ask the candidates to do the tagging for the sites is too much work for them - what's in it for them? besides one person tagging a job doesn't make it relevant for someone else, but if they know that 5 people with similary skills / experience / degree etcb have viewed a job, that is useful

Comment by Jeff Dickey-Chasins on February 28, 2011 at 1:53pm
To a certain degree, job boards have already morphed from being  'destination' sites to being traffic 'narrowers' and 'funnelers' - in other words, job sites attract the kinds of niche talent you want and funnel it to your ATS, career site, tec.


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