Job Board Journalist: Google and the Rest of Us

Peter Weddle

There’s been no end of speculation about what Google intends with its recent launch of Google Hire and its kissing cousin Google for Jobs. But let’s be clear, that’s exactly what it is – speculation. The only people who really know what strategic goals Google has for talent acquisition are those at Google. And to this point, at least, they aren’t talking.

That said, I think it’s important to frame the range of possibilities, to think through exactly what Google could do for, with or against the rest of us. Now, from my perspective, Google’s entry into the online recruitment space is a good thing for our industry in general and for job boards in particular.

Why? There are at least two reasons.

First, it adds significant credibility and importance to our business. If a company as big and respected as Google thinks talent acquisition is worth its time and attention, then maybe … just maybe, the boys and girls in the c-suite will stop paying lip service to it and actually put their money where their mouths are. Maybe this development will finally break through the “indifference ceiling” in recruitment and give corporate recruiters the budget, tools and priority they need – and deserve – to do their job.

Second, the worst case scenario isn’t that Google will take the online recruitment market by storm and establish itself as the Godzilla of our industry. Regardless of its brand’s cachet, Google will have to deal with the same challenges that confront job boards today, and despite its considerable resources and intellectual horsepower, there’s no guarantee it will be successful. That said, its engagement may well accelerate the development of genuine solutions, and that outcome would certainly benefit us all.

There are, to be sure, plenty of such challenges, but two have an outsized impact on job board success: the source of hire quandary and the candidate quality issue.

Source of Hire

Consider the value proposition of Google’s services. They leverage the online searches of active job seekers to give employers a way to place just the right ad in front of just the right person at just the right time. That’s a powerful value proposition for recruiters, to be sure, but not one that’s likely to change job seeker behavior.

As we all know, job seekers have a bias. It’s not reflected by all of them, of course, but many, maybe even most believe that the surest way to a job offer is to apply directly with the employer. They think they gain an advantage when they submit their application through the corporate career site rather than through an intermediary, even an intermediary as prevalent and respected as Google.

Moreover, a report by the Talent Board reveals that job seekers, on average, spend two or more hours researching an employer before they even act on one of its job postings. They don’t immediately click on the Apply button, but instead go to a social media site to see if they know someone who works there. Then, they’ll visit an employer review site and gather insights from current and former employees and after that, they’ll do a browser search to see what else they can find out about the organization. As a result, there’s unlikely to be a discernable link between Google and many of the candidates who apply for the jobs they first saw in its search results.

What does all of that mean for Google? It will be just as challenged as job boards in establishing itself as the definitive source of hire for its customers’ new employees.

Candidate Quality

The people using Google for job searches are by definition “active job seekers.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with building a business that targets them with job postings, of course, but they are unlikely to grow that business into an enterprise large enough to hold the interest of a company Google’s size.

In a recent Forbes article, Josh Bersin cites the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to note that, at any given time, just 20-24 percent of the workforce are active job seekers. Add in those who are inactive but yearning for (or at least willing to consider) something new or better and maybe that figure rises to 33 percent. And, there’s the rub – a recruitment source that depends on active job seekers alone misses two-thirds of the workforce, and that myopia limits its ability to deliver quality candidates and thus its growth.

Moreover, “quality” is not an established standard among employers. What passes for quality at one organization may fall considerably short at another. Even more problematic, the standard can change within the same organization as no two hiring managers define it the same way. This lack of a universal measure of success makes it difficult if not impossible to scale a recruiting business to a size appropriate for a global enterprise like Google.

Customers will often try something new for the first time, but getting them to use it time-after-time is an entirely different matter. Over the years, our job board surveys at TAtech have consistently found that the #1 factor in determining repeat business with employers is candidate quality, and Google will be no less challenged than job boards in establishing a reputation for its consistent delivery.

So, until we know for sure what course Google will take, our best course is to focus on what we do know … and that’s the unavoidable dynamics of our industry. As it’s been with job boards, Google will face the twin challenges of:
• defining itself as the source of hire for employers’ new workers and
• establishing itself as a legitimate provider of high quality candidates.
The company that solves those challenges – be it a job board, Google or some other player – will be well on its way to becoming the Godzilla of the online recruitment industry.

Food for thought,
Peter

The Job Board Journalist by Peter Weddle is brought to you by TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions.

Mark Your Calendars! TAtech’s 2017 events include:
• April 22-23, 2017 Chicago: The TAtech Spring Congress & Deal Center, with The Business Accelerator has now occurred. See you at next year’s Spring Congress in … Miami!
• May 17-19, 2017 Barcelona: RecTech, The TAtech Industry Congress in the EU in partnership with the AIM Group. See you at next year’s RecTech in … Dublin!
• May 31-June 1, 2017 Minneapolis: The TAtech Leadership Summit on Programmatic Ad Buying, featuring two tracks: Programmatic Ad Buying Applications & Programmatic Ad Buying Technology. See you at next year’s Programmatic Summit!
• September 27-29, 2017 Denver: The TAtech Fall Congress & Deal Center, with The World Job Board Forum and the 2017 ReSI Awards Gala.

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