Job boards: Searching for a better solution

Sue Weekes looks at how jobseekers are demanding a lot more from the new technology now available to job boards

Fri, 18 November 2016 | By Sue Weekes


Recruiter’s annual ‘Game Changers’ feature is a testimony to the spirit of disruption that exists among tech entrepreneurs in the recruitment technology sector. Looking inward, however, it is perhaps surprising the job board model that emerged in the 1990s remains relatively undisrupted. Plenty of boards have come and gone, and variations of the business model have appeared. But the overarching proposition of being an online meeting place for candidates and job ads remains the same.

Technology continues to develop apace, however, and shows no sign of slowing up. Accenture’s global technology survey of more than 3,100 IT and business executives found that 86% believe the pace of technology change will increase rapidly, or at an unprecedented rate, in their industry over the next three years. Big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things, smart devices and augmented and virtual reality are all likely to play an increasingly important part in future technology applications and platforms. 

As well as threats, such change brings plenty of opportunities though with more tools and technologies to add value for the client and candidate. According to the annual Job Board Doctor global survey of the market, around 60% of boards plan to add new products for employers over the next 12 months.

Andy Sumner, managing director of, which was recently acquired by recruitment giant Randstad, believes the job boards that will survive and thrive in the coming years will be the ones that follow its lead and prioritise innovation. It is launching expanded functionality for both candidates and employers, and has announced a new employer branding solution that enables firms to boost their recruitment marketing abilities. 

Meanwhile, the firm is launching a new mobile offering after acquiring mobile app Jobr.

Jobr has been likened to online dating app Tinder, and is designed for the increasingly on-demand online environment. “Candidates can run a job search and swipe right when looking for jobs and swipe left to apply. 

“They can apply instantly and engage with a messaging service more like WhatsApp,” he explains. “We’ve looked at how millennials consume their media and made it more in tune with them.”

CV-Library is also investing heavily in its mobile offering. But MD Lee Biggins reckons ‘Tinder-style’ apps are limited in terms of their scalability. “As they are better suited to the lower-tier, temporary roles, not necessarily permanent jobs that require in-depth interviews to check candidates are the right fit.”

Biggins maintains that recruitment “isn’t a desk job any more” and argues that the tools that recruiters use should reflect this: “With increasing competition when it comes to finding and placing candidates online, speed is of the essence and it’s vital that recruiters aren’t delayed when they’re on the move.”

Clearly, the mobile territory is one where battles will be won and lost in the coming months. A recent Glassdoor survey revealed that nine out of 10 people would use a mobile device during their job search. Sumner believes that those able to take their offering beyond the “confines” of the job board environment will also prosper. 

Monster’s Employer Branding Solution allows employers to create a shop window with rich content but also use targeted programmatic marketing to take employer messages to the wider web and out to social media. “The threat for job boards is that they are a little insular and their strategy relies on people coming to them,” he says. “A job board is only as good as the audience it manages to attract. We also want to use technology to help recruiters become marketers.”

For Totaljobs, it isn’t about merely adding new products to the range, but listening to what customers want, says sales and marketing director John Salt. “Ask any employer what they want from a job board and they’ll say ‘make it quick and easy for me to hire great candidates’ – that’s our focus,” he says. “It’s about refinement and delivery, not simply to say, ‘look at the size of our database’.”

While Salt believes that technology will continue to evolve, it will only be disruptive for those who aren’t prepared for it or able to embrace it: “The pace of change may well be rapid over the next five years. But new business models will only be seen as ‘radical’ by those who have not remained connected to their audience and market, and continued to evolve with them. Innovation and agility need to be part of a job board’s DNA.”

Of course, the job board market has already faced disruption with the arrival of the aggregator sites many years ago. The Job Board Doctor survey found that these were seen as the most significant threats over the next 12 to 24 months by more than two-fifths of respondents. Martin Rhodes, marketing director of, believes sites that scrape content from other aggregators in a seemingly endless spin cycle of clicks “is of really questionable value” in the market. “We’d be hard pushed to see that model thrive, so consolidation among aggregators is inevitable,” he says.

Like others, is continuing to develop its mobile app and will be adding new features to increase recruiter productivity and to help consultants and hiring managers connect and match candidates more effectively. Rhodes says that since was launched from an established recruitment business 21 years ago, there have been “profound changes”, in particular, the global move to mobile the predominance of social media. 

“At the same time, we’ve continued to flourish and develop our services by obsessing over how we can be more effective at connecting people and jobs,” he says. “We don’t really care too much for a label like ‘traditional job board’. 

Whatever digital disruption is around the corner, we’ll be there to embrace it no matter what it’s called.”

Generalist boards also continue to add and improve the advisory services they offer candidates – and Totaljobs made this the focus for its #MillionPoundJamie campaign, where it took real-life jobseeker Jamie Mudle and gave him support and guidance to help him find his dream job. “It’s about playing an advisory role [to candidates] and making it as simple as possible to find a job they love,” says Salt.

While job boards say that candidates value their support services, many simply want their skills and experience matched with a relevant job. And in the vast majority of cases, this will initially come down to a set of computer algorithms.

Not all candidates are convinced that relying on algorithms will benefit their job searches. Current jobseeker Casper Gorniok is among the critics. “I’m a marketing manager and my background is in food and drink, so why do I get alerts for lawyers, undertakers, nurses, pharmaceutical professionals or even a programmatic trading manager, whatever that is?” he says.

Gorniok claims two aggregator sites he uses deliver between 85-100% irrelevant positions in their emails, while a niche site performs better but still only delivers 50% accuracy. “My fundamental question is, who is a job board supposed to help?

“It can’t be much good for the recruiter either since surely they want someone who is at least 85% suitable to do the job? For the candidate, it just becomes time-consuming going through a list of jobs that aren’t any good.”

Job boards acknowledge that search technology doesn’t always deliver the targeted response that candidates are expecting. As Sumner explains, “it isn’t a binary process”, and some boards rely on candidates having some expertise in search. Monster’s 6Sense contextual search attempts to deliver as precise results as possible but Sumner comments: “We can’t profess to be perfect because it isn’t a perfect world.” He also adds that it doesn’t help that some boards believe quantity is better than quality.

Biggins agrees and suggests that this stems from recruiters still buying job board services on numbers. “Everyone wants quality over quantity, but sadly we’re judged by the number of applications or CVs delivered,” he says. “We could send one perfect applicant and make a placement but we still look better if we send 10 and one placement is made. So we are battling against that.”

CV-Library, in common with other boards, has invested heavily in search and employs data scientists to help give the best matches. Biggins says if people fill in fields properly they will get a good match.

At the same time, job boards also have to contend with the ‘front page’ Google-type mindset of candidates just putting in one or two search terms. “That all said, the technology perhaps hasn’t come as far as it should have in the time job boards have been around and the honest answer is, we could all do better,” Biggins says. “And candidates could also feed back more than they do.”


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