Job Boards: Dead, Alive, or Obsolete?

One-click career application: It’s every job-seeker’s dream, every employer’s nightmare. It allows candidates to say, “I applied to 100 jobs today” without a hint of sarcasm, thinking that even a measly 1% return rate will get them an in with someone, somewhere.

The flipside of those mathematics is that such candidates probably don’t spend more than a minute looking at each job’s qualifications, let alone at the individual company and its culture. The efficiency of job boards from the employer’s point of view has plummeted. Sal Iannuzzi, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Monster Worldwide, sums up the problem in numbers, writing in a CNN article that companies today “are receiving on the order of 100 – 200 applicants per job or about 3 million applicants for a 100,000 employee company.” The inundation is several times multiplied for each job in the banking world—and the company’s burden is augmented by the reality that most of these candidates just want a job anywhere, not necessarily with them

Let’s take a look back. When online job boards started springing up in the Y2K era, employers needed the extra apps. They were expanding, and HR groups were more than ready to toss out their letter openers in favor of opening online attachments. Monster was the first job-hunt mecca to gain widespread public notice thanks to its 1999 Super Bowl commercial “When I Grow Up” (a Super Bowl top 10 ad). An amalgam of cherubin faces proclaimed the likes of, “When I grow up, I want to file all day” and “I want to be replaced on a whim.” Their sarcasm would hit a cord with the 99% today. At the time, it moved millions of viewers to click on down to and re-pursue the job of their dreams.

Fast-forward a decade, and over 40,000 job boards are in operation. Nearly every banking company has its own online job portal. Applicants can log on and apply to multiple positions without worrying about the distinctions among them. Postings on external sites are de rigueur for both employee and employer.

As part of its Wall Street Admissions Test (WSAT) demo process, Street of Walls posted as “Bank XYZ” on several of these public job boards. “Bank XYZ” does not exist, never has existed, and probably never will exist—yet that didn’t stop dozens of candidates from applying. This example shows just how hungry today’s financial job-seekers are—and the inability of the current economy and hiring systems to satiate them.

On the business side of things, HR groups are pared down to the bone and have no time to keep up with online application traffic—not even close—as Iannuzzi’s numbers suggest. Additionally, some posts aren’t even made with an eye to actual hiring but might be used for boosting numbers or comparing against a new international hire (United States visa applications require data collected on local competitors for the same job). Companies’ frustration with the job board system is illustrated in the fact that companies are beginning to post less.

The Wall Street Journal reported that, according to business consulting firm Corporate Executive Board Co., in 2011 24% of companies planned to “decrease their usage of third-party employment websites and job boards.” Instead, 80% of the companies surveyed were going to “increase their use of job-board alternative methods … such as employee referrals and other websites like Facebook Inc. or LinkedIn.”

So while no, the job board is not dead, many companies are looking to alternatives. Iannuzzi himself admits, “Without further technological innovation in the human capital management space, this growing global issue will only get more complicated and acute.” He goes on to outline a new dating site approach: “Matching theory is our new anthem and semantic search is the new technology that will finally find the needle in the haystack.” Monster’s plan to get personal fits in with social media tactics already employed by many companies in their hiring process.

Ironically, in the midst of all this, recruiters are reasserting their pre-job-board importance in the hiring process as they look to internal referrals and candidates reached via other, more private networks. It would be false to call this a full circle: The Internet is not going anywhere and job boards are not yet wheezing their last breaths. But they will have to prove themselves capable of reworking the model to keep companies’ demand.