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:
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.”
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.