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A recurrent theme in blog posts and Tweets is that job boards are dying. Usually this is coupled with a prediction that they’ll be replaced by social media or Google. The popularity of this subject, in turn, spawns two questions:

  1. Why is this such a popular topic?
  2. Are job boards really dying?


Why is this such a popular topic?

The assertion that job boards are dying is not a new one. For example, Simon Meth considered the subject in late 2006 (but decided the reports of their death were premature). More recently, Tom Davenport talked about the nature of large, successful companies like Monster to lose touch with their market.

Why is this such an evergreen subject? Here are several potential reasons:

  1. Job boards cost money: Recruiters and HR staff are always short of funding – and job boards have grown more expensive over the years.
  2. Job boards haven’t changed: Look at a job site from 1995, and compare it to current sites. In most cases, you won’t see significant differences in functionality or services. Most job boards make their living selling job postings and resume access – just like they did 15 years ago.
  3. Where’s the ROI?: Job boards haven’t consistently shown HR what their return on investment is – and because of that lack of data, HR assumes the numbers are poor.
  4. The big boards dominate the discussion: When a writer complains about job board, he or she almost always means Monster, CareerBuilder, or HotJobs. Never mind about the other 100,000 sites out there – the venom is reserved for the
    big sites.

Depending on the writer’s experience and bias, any of these four can provide fodder for an article – and the topic always generates interest, because almost everyone (employer and job seeker alike) has had some type of experience with a job board. Strong feelings, legitimate gripes, and a big audience means that this topic will pop up, over and over.

Are job boards really dying?

But are job boards really dying? And if so, when will they be gone? What will replace them?

If job boards are dying, their share of the recruitment market should be shrinking. However, according to the latest Sources of Hire report from CareerXroads, job boards have increased their percentage over the past five years, to 13.2% in 2009. (The leading source, by the way, continues to be referrals, at 26.7%).

Another way to look at the industry’s health is in the numbers of job boards. Are there more, or fewer, than five years ago? Again, numbers have grown, to an estimated 100,000 job sites at present. As with any business sector, some of these will fail – but enough remain, and enough new
ones are launched each year, to make the job board industry an expanding one.

It is true that the era of rapid financial growth appears over, simply because the recruitment world has completed the switch from print-based methods to online methods. Future growth has to come at the expense of other recruitment sources, such as referrals or company career sites.

In fact, what seems most likely is that job boards will continue to evolve, incorporating aspects of social media to improve recruitment results, improving reporting, and integrating their offerings more deeply into company career sites. Job sites that fail to evolve will eventually fail to survive – so you
could accurately argue that those sites will ‘die’. But the remaining 100,000 or so will continue to fill their vital role in the overall recruitment cycle.

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