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Niche Job Boards Muscle Into Recruiting Marketplace

Targeted online recruitment platforms are offering alternatives to legacy job boards.

A lighthouse in the middle of the ocean.
​Illustration by Steve Dininno for HR Magazine.

​Are job boards becoming a boutique industry? The acquisition of Monster last year by Randstad, as well as volatility in the HR technology market, has reignited discussions in the recruiting blogosphere about the possible demise of the mega jobs site model.

While no one knows the ultimate fate of the big boards, it’s clear that they’re facing stiff competition from niche websites segmented by industry, function and region. Employers want solutions that deliver the best return on their investment, says Chris Russell, a recruiting technology and job board consultant with RecTech Media in Trumbull, Conn. Russell curates a free database of more than 1,100 job boards.

“Recruiters are balking at [mega boards’] high prices and the many unqualified candidates that they generate,” he says.

Many niche boards cater to geographic regions, membership associations, specialized industries and types of contracts. Examples include AllRetailJobs, CollegeRecruiter, JobsInLogistics, Medzilla, GitHub, Minnesotajobs and the Society for Human Resource Management’s HR Jobs.

“Niche job boards are particularly useful for cutting through the clutter and finding talent for hard-to-fill roles, specialized positions, specific industries—or to tap into unique candidate audiences, such as military veterans,” says Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer at Matawan, N.J.-based recruitment software provider iCIMS.

“By posting jobs or searching resumes on these sites, the employer has access to a targeted pool of candidates on demand,” Russell says.

Small but Mighty

Niche boards may not boast the traffic of mammoths like CareerBuilder and Indeed, but their use often leads to lower cost-to-hire and higher quality-of-hire metrics because they are more likely to attract highly coveted candidates with specialized skills and relevant experience, experts say.

They can be particularly effective for snagging candidates in high-demand technical industries, for example, or in helping to ensure that companies meet their compliance goals regarding diverse candidates and veterans, says Amber Hyatt, SHRM-SCP, director of product marketing for SilkRoad, a talent management solutions provider in Jacksonville, Fla.

A recent survey conducted by iCIMS revealed that job boards for veterans are one of the top resources used by individuals who served in the military when searching for a new position. “Employers should make it a priority to showcase their brand on these types of niche job boards to find and attract best-fit talent,” Vitale says. Her company partners with job-distributing engines such as JobTarget and eQuest to enable employers to post their jobs on multiple boards, including niche sites.

“The targeted aspect is the main benefit, whether we are talking about an industry-specific candidate or one where location is a big factor,” Russell says. In his experience, staff at niche sites are also more approachable to employers than staff at large boards and do more to engage their clients. “One of the big ways they contrast with bigger sites is customer service,” he says.

A Targeted Approach                           

Before investing in niche recruitment solutions, know that your job descriptions must be carefully tailored. “If you are going to a niche board and throwing up a generic job ad and expecting big results, you’re probably going to be disappointed,” says Jessica Nettleton, recruitment media strategist at end-to-end recruitment services firm Decision Toolbox.

“If recruiters actively source from niche boards and proactively engage with potential candidates, then [the boards] can be a huge value,” she adds. “It’s not a ‘post-and-pray’ situation. You won’t reach the numbers that you would by using a bigger job board, but you will probably reach the right candidates.”

As employers of every size can attest, a good match is hard to find.

​Checklist for Quality Hires

Here are suggested actions organizations can take to source and attract quality hires. Use your company’s quality-of-hire metric to further develop your recruiting strategy.

For Specific Positions
  • Profile current and former employees who have been successful in the role and analyze their skills and attributes. Match candidates against those characteristics.
  • Articulate in job postings why a top performer would want the job. Consider expanding the job role and/or responsibilities to better attract such a candidate. 
  • Create postings that focus on what needs to be done on the job and the demonstrated abilities that match what you need the person in the position to accomplish. Avoid listings that demand arbitrary years of education, experience or skills. 
  • Include three to five objectives you want the person hired to accomplish in the first year.

Overall Strategy
  • Make your application process easy to access and complete in less than five minutes on multiple devices, including mobile. 
  • Build relationships with passive candidates via social media, networking and personal contacts. Keep in touch without hounding people. 
  • Shift your staffing strategy from a reactive one that fills vacancies to a proactive one that draws on a pipeline of talent with skills and traits you will need in the future, either for replacement positions or new growth.
  • Develop and maintain robust employee referral programs, and don’t be afraid to increase payments to motivate more employees to participate. 
  • Use campus recruiting and university networks, along with vigorous intern-to-hire programs, to identify Millennial candidates.
  • Understand and promote your employer’s brand. Throughout the recruitment process, convey why employees like working for your company. 
  • Expand your online careers page to provide applicants researching your company with the information they need. Include an overview on company values, culture, products and services, as well as general benefits information. 

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager at SHRM.

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