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Which Job Boards Are Best? Cut Through the Hype To Plan Your Job Board Budget

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By Jessica Nettleton, Media Strategist
With Tom Brennan, Master Writer


Bring up the future of job boards, and you’ll find that opinions can be diametric and adamant. Some argue that recruiting on social media has become so effective that the job boards are clearly on their way out. Others share compelling numbers indicating that the job boards are still the dominant source of candidates hired. If you have any responsibility for recruitment advertising spend, it’s hard to know which side has the key to solid ROI.

As Media Strategist at Decision Toolbox (DT) for many years, I’ll stay in the middle ground on this debate. Like most recruiters, the team at DT continues to use both — in today’s market it, we would stand in costumes at the curb and spin signs if we thought it would work. However, my position allows me to identify trends and insights that may be more useful than polarized opinions.

Job Boards Emerging Patterns

Whether or not the job boards are dying, the landscape is definitely changing. Over the past couple of years my KPIs show a drop in candidate flow from the major boards like CareerBuilder, LinkedIn and Monster — a drop of about 16% compared to this time last year. To put this in context, I monitor the total number of qualified candidates we draw from each source, and it’s a solid sampling, with tens of thousands of candidates. DT recruits for all position types across all industries, from Bobtail Driver to CEO.

So while I don’t claim that the 16% figure represents industry trends, it’s a sample worth considering. For DT it is considerable . . . enough to make us rethink our job board spend moving forward. Even more interesting to me is that, in the same period, I’ve also recorded an increase in flow from sites like Indeed and craigslist. The difference goes way beyond size. Indeed passed Monster in 2010, becoming the largest job site in the U.S., according to Tech Crunch. I think we’re seeing a change in candidate preferences.

Easier May Be Better

The data suggest that candidates are moving toward job boards with an easier, simpler experience or interface. Some candidates feel search results on Monster are full of lots of extra junk: “featured jobs” that are totally unrelated, calls for becoming a cosmetic sales rep, and even multi-level marketing (MLM) pitches.

In contrast, Indeed and craigslist deliver a “cleaner” search engine experience, with simpler web pages, more like Google. There are no sidebar ads for finishing that degree or the latest fare to Honolulu. Indeed takes steps to eliminate duplicates. I think candidates prefer the uncluttered experience.

In addition, simpler web pages are also much more mobile-friendly than cluttered pages, and that’s significant. It’s common knowledge that huge numbers of candidates use mobile devices in searching and applying for jobs. As early as 2014 GlassDoor reported that 9 out of 10 people surveyed said they would use a mobile device as part of job searching in the coming year. You might argue that candidates are using mobile devices for social media networking, and you’d be right. But plenty are also using them to hit the job boards. The Pew Research Center found that 94% of those who use a smartphone for job searching use it to browse or research jobs online.

Follow the Candidates

As you make your budget decisions around recruitment advertising, social media is a no-brainer. Making decisions about job boards is a little trickier, but there’s no reason to abandon them. The big sites have the reputation and the branding, but pay close attention to performance for price. For example, ZipRecruiter is a relative newcomer, launched in 2010. Yet I’ve found ZipRecruiter’s performance to be comparable to that of Monster, but it is much less expensive. Bottom line: go where the candidates are going.

You may hear some pushback from hiring managers (HMs) and clients when you say you’re favoring craigslist and ZipRecruiter over Monster and CareerBuilder, and now you have some good points for your response. Of course, you’ll want to run your numbers yourself — maybe Monster is working well for you. Of course, the best response for HMs and clients is an A-list of top candidates for a reasonable advertising spend.

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