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Google's announcement that it's launching a jobs search engine in the coming weeks has given rise to rampant speculation, mostly doom-and-gloom projections for obvious competitors like Indeed—but Google's ultimate aim encompasses more than job boards, industry experts say.
Google for Jobs will aggregate job listings from across the Internet, from entry-level positions to executive and professional jobs and match them to job search queries typed into Google Search.
The technology will leverage machine learning to better understand how jobs are classified and related to queries, according to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who unveiled the product May 17 at a Google developer conference. Google will roll out Google for Jobs in the United States first, then enter other countries later on.
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"Just like that, Indeed can no longer call itself the 'Google for jobs,' " said Chris Russell, a recruiting technology and job site consultant with RecTech Media in Trumbull, Conn.
Indeed took on the moniker because it benefitted greatly from Google search traffic, both organic and paid.
But experts say Google's latest, refined innovation is bigger than job search. "The news in recent months about Google's jobs API and more recently the Google Hire ATS [applicant tracking system] are clues to their ambitions," Russell said.
Google's first foray into job search—Google Base—was "a big stinker, but I think they are much more serious this time," said Joel Cheesman, a recruiting technology industry veteran and the founder of Ratedly, which monitors anonymous employee complaint websites. "The fact remains that a large percentage of people start their job search with Google and if they get this right, then just like with images, or maps or news, Google for Jobs could be where people go to find jobs."
Mike Webster, senior vice president of technology and operations consulting for the Americas at Talent Collective, a talent acquisition consultancy under the Alexander Mann Solutions brand, says the announcement is a win for job seekers who will benefit from a streamlined job search experience. "Anything that makes it easier for applicants to apply to jobs is a move in the right direction," he said. "Google will do a great job at consolidating job search from the many job boards out there. And I imagine employers would opt in, although it's not like you can stop [jobs being aggregated] from an SEO perspective, or would want to stop it."
Job Board Woes
Pichai said Google for Jobs will initially partner with some of the biggest players in job search, including CareerBuilder, Monster, LinkedIn, Glassdoor and even Facebook. Notably excluded was Indeed, the world's largest job aggregator and job search engine.
"It's tough to sugarcoat what just happened to Indeed," Cheesman said. "It may take another 10 years for Indeed to become an afterthought, but it's fooling itself if it thinks this isn't a DEFCON 1 moment."
Indeed's SEO traffic will certainly drop as Google takes over the top spots in search results--prized online real estate Indeed currently holds. "With 200 million users worldwide, even a 10-20 percent drop in traffic won't really affect Indeed's sales," Russell said. "They already have the lion's share of candidates. However, I am curious how the rankings for employers and other well-established job sites will be affected. Some employers complain that Indeed's results rank higher than their own. Perhaps [Google for Jobs] will right that wrong."
The old-school job search business model is in trouble, Cheesman said. "Search is moving away from typing words in a box and clicking 'search.' Search is evolving to giving you what you want, when you want it, based on your behavior. Google's data set is probably the biggest in the world and they will be able to serve up targeted job listings based on online behavior, while people just live their lives."
CareerBuilder, Monster and the other announced partners in the new Google initiative "must be giddy at the anticipation of a new source of traffic," Russell said.
But we don't yet know how Google is going to rank job search results. CareerBuilder, Monster and thousands of other job boards share the same job listings and experts believe that Google will not list duplicate jobs in order to deliver the best user experience. "So who will get the golden ticket?" Cheesman asked.
Indeed actually has more native postings than people realize, somewhere between 5 and 20 percent, he added. "It would behoove Indeed to get those native jobs onto this platform."
The long-term forecast doesn't bode well for traditional job sites either. "I think Google will initially follow Indeed's playbook, in that they will start with job listings on CareerBuilder and Monster and the trusted sites, but in five to seven years, it wouldn't surprise me if most of the job content you see will come directly from corporate careers sites," Cheesman said.
Russell is more sanguine about the future of job sites, arguing that a business like Indeed is strictly focused on jobs, which is its only source of revenue and has the global salesforce to solicit employers to post, whereas for Google, jobs are just another piece of content to be indexed.
"Google will most likely push job postings through its ATS product, and the fact they are partnering with the likes of CareerBuilder and Monster is a good signal to their intentions," he said. "Job boards spend money on ads, and Google won't want to upset that."
Connecting the Dots from Job Search to Apply
Pichai briefly mentioned a one-click "Apply" feature to submit a job application, but didn't go into the details as to how this would work.
Webster believes that aligning with CareerBuilder, Monster and the other announced partners indicates that Google's long-term goal is a SaaS-based ATS with those companies' integrations tied into it.
"Can you see the dominos lining up?" he asked. "Jobs. Hire. Apply. Suddenly it's an ATS. Applicants would have a Google account, and no matter where they went, they'd have one-click apply. The idea isn't new, but it certainly would decrease the time spent filling out applications up front and improve the candidate experience."
Preferential placement in search results could be awarded to companies that use Google Hire to distribute and post their jobs and manage their candidates, Cheesman said. "Probably a lot of the job postings that show up at the top of organic searches will be the ones with the Google 'Apply' button. People that want to use the 'Apply' button will need to be logged in under a professional profile, which will be plugged in to Google Hire. That will be a big catalyst for employers to look at Google as an option for ATS, which scares the ATS providers to death."
Smaller ATSs would be threatened initially, Webster said. "But given the right resources, and we know Google has the resources, there's nothing saying they couldn't build a scalable enterprise system in a few years."
The Grand Plan Goes Beyond Jobs
For all the initial talk about disruption in the job search space, experts say Google's ultimate goal is much bigger. "I don't think any of this is being driven by job postings," Cheesman said. "The market has concluded that what's valuable is the people, not the postings. Job postings have become just a commodity."
Evidence for this is that Monster sold for around $600 million, CareerBuilder is in negotiations to be acquired for around $1 billion and Indeed reportedly sold for about $1.5 billion. "One billion dollars is nice but it won't get Larry and Sergey [Google co-founders] out of bed in the morning," Cheesman said. "I think what clearly got their attention was LinkedIn being gobbled up for $26 billion by Microsoft, which has basically become a workforce juggernaut. Google wants to get into that business. It's shaping up to be a battle over who is going to own the workforce."
Webster agreed that the bigger threat is to Microsoft and LinkedIn. "Google's goal is to compete with LinkedIn, building professional profiles and offering a workforce suite of services."
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