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Looking Back: Job Boards 25 Years Ago

By Peter Weddle, Founder & CEO TAtech

Twenty-five years ago – back in the dark ages of 1999 – I started writing a column for The Wall Street Journal. My beat was the emerging community of employment sites on the internet, a group more commonly referred to as “job boards.”

As I watched these sites proliferate and learned more about their powerful new capabilities, it seemed to me that both employers and job seekers deserved a reference book that would help them determine which of these online resources would serve them best. That lead to the publication of Weddle’s Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet – not a very exciting title, I admit, but certainly an accurate one.

For the next dozen years or so, we published this ever-expanding listing of sites as it found its way into hundreds of public libraries and onto the desks of even more recruiters and people in transition. And, it’s still around. Despite our requests to remove it, Amazon continues to sell editions dating as far back as 2001, leading one purchaser to complain that it was out-of-date. No kidding.

But, that’s not why I’m bringing it up. Now that we’re passing the quarter century mark, I thought it would be instructive to go back and look over that first edition in 1999. Job boards have always evolved in the face of market and technology challenges, but effectively directing evolution is possible only if you know where you’re coming from. Only if you understand what it was like in the beginning.

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The First Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet

I made what was considered an audacious claim in that first Guide; I said in print (a medium called paper which some of you may remember) that “The Web is teeming with employment sites--10,000 and quickly growing!” In our final edition in 2013, I was certain that number had ballooned to more than 150,000 sites globally – an estimate I now realize was far too low – and we included more than 9,000 of them in that Guide.

Why call these online destinations employment sites? Because I believed then and continue to believe now that these sites can offer significantly more services (and be considerably more lucrative) than pure classified advertising platforms. That’s a topic, by the way that will be covered at TAtech Europe & The EMEA Job Board Forum, coming up in Paris on September 17-19.

The 1999 Guide, however, was a modest accounting of just 350 sites. It listed those published by commercial companies, nonprofit associations, magazines and newspapers, educational institutions, sororities and fraternities and even clubs. They ranged from Absolutely Healthcare to The Write Jobs. And, I’m pleased to report, both are still operating; the former at HealthJobsNationwide.com, the latter at WritersWrite.com/writejobs.

So, here’s a quick stroll down memory lane (Note bene: The descriptions are those compiled in 1999 and may not reflect the services a site offers today):

AVjobs.com. Posted full, part-time and contract jobs for pilots, A&P mechanics and flight attendants for free. It also offered a resume database that employers could search at no charge. The resumes were acquired directly from candidates after they became “members” on the site. The site also offered an online discussion forum for job seekers, career advice and a job alert.

TheBlueLine.com. Posted full, part-time and contract jobs for police/public safety officers and firefighters in the U.S. at $225/posting. It did not offer a resume database but did provide career information for job seekers. The site was launched as the online adjunct to a print publication.

Financial Job Network. Posted full, part-time and contract jobs for finance professionals and accountants at $201-300/job posting. It also offered a resume database without contact information that employers could search at no charge. The resumes were acquired directly from candidates after they registered with the site. It did not report whether it provided an online discussion forum or assessment instruments, but did indicate that it offered career information for those in transition.

iHispano.com. Posted full and part-time jobs, primarily for those in engineering, finance and accounting and sales and marketing at $250/posting. It too offered a resume database sourced directly from candidates, which employers could search for $1000. It also offered assessment instruments, career advice and a job agent.

Math-Jobs.com. Posted full, part-time and contract jobs for quant analysts, actuaries, and data miners for free. It did not offer a resume database product. Although the site posted private sector jobs in finance, insurance, (bio) statistics, and technology, most of its openings were from academia. The site also offered career advice and a job agent.

WITI4Hire.com (Women in Technology International). Posted full, part-time and contract jobs primarily for those in information systems, management and sales and marketing at $295/posting. It offered a resume database sourced directly from candidates, which employers could search for $300/month. It did not report if it offered a discussion forum or assessment instruments, but did indicate it offered career information and a job agent.

The Guide, of course, also listed Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com, but not Indeed.com, which did not launch until 2004.

What do I take away from these pioneers of the online employment services industry? Many, maybe even most, have been extraordinarily resilient, resourceful and even innovative. They put dinosaurs to shame.

Food for Thought,
Peter

P.S. There was absolutely no cost for a site to be included in the Guide and those listed above paid no fee to be included in this article.

Peter Weddle has authored or edited over two dozen books and been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions.