Job Postings Are Not Dead - Part 2

By Ben Gotkin

Somewhere along the line, recruiting technology became ‘self-aware’, allowing organizations to mindlessly post all of their jobs to job boards globally, big and small.  It was in the late 90’s and it was pegged as the solution to our sourcing challenges.  For the first time ever, candidates could ‘easily’ and quickly apply online for just about any job.  In fact, they could apply to multiple jobs with a click of a button.  It was supposed to make life easier for all of us, instead it caused massive congestion in the system and a poor experience for all.

Skynet, this is not, it’s something much worse however, deliberate actions by recruiting organizations to post jobs indiscriminately, because you can, with a touch of a button.  As a result, recruiting organizations have a love/hate relationship with job postings and job boards, viewing them as a necessary evil that they drive nothing but large quantities of ‘active’ candidates, most of whom are not even remotely qualified for the jobs they are applying for.  And for the most part, when a job is posted without a plan or strategy, and the content of the posting itself sucks (see Part 1 of this series), it’s no wonder that organizations get those types of results.   But when well-crafted job postings are used strategically, taking into account the dynamics of timing, candidate behavior, and demographics, they potentially can drive an entirely different set of results.  What we see all too often though is a high level of frustration among all stakeholders with this important recruiting tool, resulting in one specific case, Zappos, abandoning job postings all together.

Historically (and by historically, we’re barely going back 2 decades), job posting has been executed with a ‘post-and-pray’ methodology.  Our ATSs have enabled us to post all of our jobs to multiple job boards with a click of a button.  Once this happens, we ‘pray’ that the right candidate will come along at the right time and be compelled enough not only to click on the job title, but to then be compelled enough to complete a potentially arduous and convoluted online job application.  The common result?  Job seekers who need a job will do just about whatever it takes to apply for every job that interests them (whether they are qualified or not).  The probability of highly relevant ‘semi-passive’ talent following through and applying however is not nearly as high.

Is it possible to make successful hires using a ‘post-and-pray’ methodology?  Sure, companies do it all the time.  According to the CareerXroads Source-of-Hire Survey, job boards remain as one of the top sources of hires YOY.  For high-volume roles, or for professions that traditionally have high-volumes of active job seekers, post-and-pray, for better or worse, works.  This ‘cast-a-wide-net’ approach has caused massive problems within the system however, for employers and candidates alike.  For employers, it’s clogged the system, forcing recruiters to spend way too much time and effort reviewing too many unqualified candidates.  For candidates, the result is the dreaded ‘black-hole’, the virtual purgatory where online applications go to die.

The other major concern here is this perception that only ‘active’ job seekers use job boards and that they are somehow inferior.  But can anyone say that whether candidates that apply via job boards are ‘active’ or ‘passive’? No, the fact is that any passive candidate today can for any reason at any time become an active candidate tomorrow.  If that’s the case, should we really care whether job board candidates are ‘active’ or ‘passive’?  I would argue no, that they key to success with job postings requires a strategy for each job that is built upon data and optimizes the right tools for the right job at the right time.  It’s a strategy that values quality over quantity, minimizing the probability of attracting the wrong candidates, and maximizing the probability of attracting top talent, regardless of whether they are ‘active’ or ‘passive’.

How can we optimize our job posting strategy specifically?  The key is to get smarter about what sources we use and why, and to do that, we need historical source data, survey data and competitive intelligence.

Is most source data perfect?  No, but it at the very least can be directionally correct.  Job postings can be auto-tagged and 3rd party tools can be plugged in to more accurately track an application from the original job posting source through to a completed application.  Once we have this data, then we need to slice and dice it, by function, level, location, diversity, etc. to ultimately give us an understanding as to which sources deliver the greatest ROI for our specific jobs (using funnel metrics, i.e. how many applications result in interviews, offers and hires).

Candidate and new-hires surveys can also be helpful in understanding not only which job board did the candidate apply through, but which ones they used overall in their job search, potentially opening our eyes to sources we may not currently be utilizing.

Competitive intelligence is another data source that could alter my traditional job posting strategy.  If we’re in a highly competitive market for certain skill sets/experience levels, job boards may not be a great source of candidates.  However, if we become aware of a certain situation at a target company, such as a layoff, acquisition/merger activity, a poisonous culture, financial troubles, etc., then a timely job posting on site(s) that we know that target candidates from target companies will likely visit might be a great strategy.

Ultimately, if our goal is to optimize the ROI of our job board investments, and we don’t have this data at this level of detail, then we might as well be flying blind.  This unfortunately is the reality for most organizations, who end up relying on what the job board vendors claim they can provide us, rather than on actual evidence of where we can attract the highest quality talent by profession, industry, geography, etc.

But if we do have the data, then we should have a better understanding of the job seeking/applying behavior of our candidates.  The data may confirm our assumptions that job boards are useful for high-volume jobs and not for high-skilled jobs.  Or it might debunk our assumptions, demonstrating that highly skilled candidates may be looking at job postings after all, but on a less frequent basis, when the time or situation drives them to explore new job opportunities (such as when their boss pissed them off, they didn’t get the raise/promotion they hoped for, etc. Let’s face it, timing in recruiting is everything).

From time-to-time, I get asked, what are the best job boards to post to these days?  My response?  A few questions in return: “That’s not a simple question, what’s your approach today? What are your goals?  What problems are you trying to solve?  Could a more targeted posting strategy improve your ROI for your job board spend?  Would less mean more?”

Job postings and job boards by nature are not bad.  Automating all of our jobs to post indiscriminately because it’s easy, as we have for the past 15 years has proven to be ineffective.  Clearly after the carnage that has occurred over that time, it’s a practice whose time needs to end.

Ben Gotkin is the Founder & President of recruitDC, and is a Principal Consultant with Recruiting Toolbox.  You can connect with Ben on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter at @bengotkin