Job Boards Get Smarter

Pay-for performance options gaining traction

By Dave Zielinski Mar 15, 2016
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Job boards remain a major source of quality candidates for employers, and as such it pays for recruiters to be smart consumers of the burgeoning number of boards at their disposal.

Job boards have long been a popular punching bag for the recruiting vanguard. The boards represent old technology, the recruiters’ mantra goes. They use outdated pricing models. They’re on their last legs, to be usurped by more-modern job search strategies.

But the reality is that some 150,000 general and niche boards exist in the United States alone, said Peter Weddle, CEO of TAtech, a trade association for the talent acquisition industry, and author of Weddle’s Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet (Weddle’s, 2013).

“Year after year, surveys show job boards are either the No. 1 or No. 2 source of external candidates for employers,” Weddle said.

The overall number of candidates using boards to find work has fallen, however, due largely to the rise of other job search methods like careers websites, referrals and social media.

Weddle recommends targeting at least two general job boards and three niche boards for every high-priority job search, factoring in sources like association and professional society websites as well.

“Recruiters have to guard against habit and using the same board over and over again, regardless of results,” he said. “It’s important to go through a shopping methodology each time you go out to look for talent to make sure you’re targeting the right sites.”

Job boards should be evaluated by the quantity and quality of applicant traffic as well as their pricing models, said Joe Shaker Jr., president of Shaker Recruitment Advertising & Communications in Oak Park, Ill. While many boards charge a flat fee to post jobs for a fixed period, Shaker said recruiters increasingly want greater flexibility in how they spend their dollars, which means pay-for-performance options have become more popular.

Examples include pay-per-click (PPC) for job ads and pay-per-application (PPA). With PPC, recruiters advertise on job boards and pay only when a sponsored ad is clicked. How much is paid per click is usually determined by how prominently a listing is displayed in search results and how long that listing is kept open. With PPA, recruiters pay only when candidates file an application.

At job search aggregator Indeed, such price flexibility proves attractive to recruiters, said Paul D’Arcy, a senior vice president at the company. Indeed was among the first to introduce pay-per-click advertising.

“We don’t have any contracts, and you can select free ads or pay $100,000 depending on what you’re looking for,” D’Arcy said. “Users can set their budgets for a job listing, and when the number of clicks they want is reached, the ad is no longer displayed. Recruiters only pay us when candidates come to their careers sites.”

Weddle warns that options like pay-per-click aren’t perfect. “According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, upwards of 40 percent of all clicks to online advertising today are generated by bots, crawlers and spiders,” he said. “So it’s important when choosing a job board to ask the question ‘How are you making sure I am not paying for clicks that are worthless to me?’ ”

Beyond Job Postings

Job boards also should be evaluated for services they provide beyond job listings, experts say. That can include things like social sourcing tools, labor market research, media content creation and more.

Such ancillary services are one reason Christy Childers, global employer brand manager for Dropbox, chose job board The Muse to source for technology talent. Not only do the board’s listings reach a desired demographic, The Muse also allows Childers to post “day in the life” photos and videos to give candidates a better sense of what it’s like to work at the company.

“We were looking for a niche board that allows us to share our story visually with content that matches our design standards,” Childers said. “It goes beyond job descriptions to give candidates a better feel for our culture.”

Job board pioneer CareerBuilder also has added a host of HR software services to complement its core business. The company built a pre-hire platform that provides application management, job ad distribution, workforce analytics and semantic search, said Jennifer Grasz, vice president of creative services. In addition, a new supply and demand portal aggregates job demand and compares it to active supplies of candidates in specific geographies.

At Dice, a niche board specializing in technology jobs, a social sourcing tool called Open Web helps recruiters unearth promising passive candidates, said Bob Melk, Dice’s president.

“Recruiters in the tech sector can no longer just rely on posting jobs,” Melk said. “The gap between jobs they need to fill and the number of qualified candidates is often significant. There is a lot of pressure to find new methods of engaging potential candidates, and that falls to talent sourcing.”

Rise of Programmatic Buying

Rather than manually choosing job boards, some recruiters are turning to programmatic buying. Popularized by marketers, the strategy uses automated software programs, not people, to purchase and manage job listings through networks of job-related websites, said Chris Forman, founder and CEO of Appcast, a recruitment advertising technology company in Lebanon, N.H.

Forman said the goal is to spend less money finding quality applications while removing labor-intensive burdens from recruiters like choosing the best boards, determining pricing or manually loading copy into ad servers.

Sean Quigley, vice president of digital media at Hodes, an employer brand agency in New York City, said the company has moved into programmatic buying for its clients.

“It’s no longer about making job ad buys that are set in stone,” Quigley said. “Real-time data is more effective at helping you pay just for the right amount of clicks or applications you need for your job openings.”

Integration with Applicant Tracking Systems

How well job boards integrate with applicant tracking systems (ATS) also should be a criterion in selecting boards. A disconnect between the two means candidates are transferred from job boards into an employer’s ATS without the profiles, career data or contact information they have already created. Forcing applicants to fill out required forms a second time in an ATS contributes to high drop-off rates and source-tracking problems.

Grasz said CareerBuilder has made strides in improving the candidate experience through tighter integrations with ATS providers. “Together, we continue to work to enable job seekers to send their resume into a client’s ATS without ever leaving the CareerBuilder website,” she said. “Many of our clients now benefit from three to five times more applicants per job as a result of that work.”

Dave Zielinski is a freelance business journalist based in Minneapolis.

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