It’s been a worrisome trend in the job board space for five years or more. Job postings are increasingly viewed as a commodity, and the downward pressure on their price has been all but inexorable as a result. What’s worse, the forces behind this trend are beyond a job board’s control … except for one, that is, and it’s the most important.
Job posting prices are being undermined by an array of factors, including:
• A growing number of alternative sourcing products that siphon money away from online recruitment advertising;
• A growing number of job boards, all competing for the same advertising dollars and euros;
• A growing number of free job posting sites that rely on a different business model to generate revenue;
• A growing number of employers that see their own career site as the best platform for their recruitment advertising; and
• A perception that job boards and online recruitment advertising, in general, are out-of-date and less effective than other solutions.
There are certainly others factors at play, but you get the picture. Job boards used to be new technology and the only online game in town. Now they aren’t.
Now, they’re as familiar as a worn-out pair of sneakers and facing competition from every direction. And worse of all, there’s nothing that can be done about it. At least, that seems to be the conventional wisdom. Like gravity, the sinking price of a job posting is beyond a job board’s control.
Or, is it?
To answer that question, we have to understand exactly what makes up the problem. What is commoditization? And what are its essential elements?
Wikipedia defines commoditization as “the process by which goods that have economic value and are distinguishable in terms of attributes (uniqueness or brand) end up becoming simple commodities in the eyes of the market or consumers.”
Now, if you dissect that definition, it’s clear that commoditization is composed of three key elements:
• A process
• A valuable good (or service)
• A consumer perception that the good is just like every other good in the market
No less important, it’s also clear that those three elements are within a job board’s control.
First, job boards offer a valuable service – they place an employer’s recruitment advertising in front of candidates. Despite all of the advanced technology that has been introduced over the past decade and all of the new solutions now on the market, it is still the single best way to generate applications.
Second, job boards have a process for attracting the candidates they offer to employers. In the past, that process was organic. Today, it’s not, and that non-organic process is what’s influencing the consumer’s perception of each job board’s service.
Over the past five years or so, many job boards have stopped relying on their own traffic generation skills and instead turned to the process of arbitrage. In essence, they buy traffic from other sites in order to put candidates in front of their employers’ ads. And there’s the rub: since those sites are buying traffic from the same small number of sources, the candidates that apply for the jobs on those sites look exactly the same – i.e., they are indistinguishable to the consumer.
What’s the alternative? Job boards should reset their organic traffic generation skills.
How do they do that?
Content is the king, queen and regent of traffic generation. So, what kind of content will generate traffic for a job board? Here are three suggestions:
Quality job postings. Though obvious, it’s important to note that not all job postings are equal. The higher the percentage of postings:
• from highly regarded and/or well-known employers,
• for permanent, full job jobs,
• that pay well and offer good benefits,
the greater the perceived value of a job board’s job posting content.
Unvarnished content. Blogs and other forms of online commentary are almost always helpful, but seldom direct and candid. What can differentiate a site, therefore, is content that speaks truth to job seekers. Be frank, direct and unstinting in describing the challenges and frustrations they will face. Many of today’s prospective candidates – but especially most employed A-level performers – are naïve (I’m so valuable, employers will compete to hire me), delusional (I’ve got such a great track record, I don’t need an up-to-date skill set) or both. Disabuse them of such nonsense, and then tell them how to deal with reality.
Educational content. All three generations in today’s workforce are career idiot savants. They’ve gone to college or finished a training program and learned a whole lot about a specific major or occupation and absolutely nothing about how to make a career in that field. Yes, of course, they still need to know how to write a decent resume/CV, but they also need information and insights on how to deal with a prejudiced boss, audit their own skill set, determine when they’ve hit a dead end in their current organization and much more. Give them that education so they become the master of their career, rather than its victim.
So, are job postings destined, preordained or absolutely certain to become price-depleting commodities? Absolutely not. It takes a process to turn a job posting into a commodity, so it’s also possible to use a different process to turn that commodity back into a good with perceived value.
Food for thought,
TAprose and Job Board Journalist by Peter Weddle are brought to you by TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions.
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