Big Job Boards Hurting, Niche Sites Here to Stay

By Features PCmag

It's a bad time to run a national job board. One by one, major job websites are getting spun off, bought up, or going out of business, including a few that dominated the industry since the early days of the dot-com boom. At the same time, thousands of niche job websites are still chugging along. But, just like the big boys, niche websites need to adapt to modern recruiting practices—and that's good news for the small businesses that use them.

Continue Reading Below

By some estimates, the United States has 3,000 to 5,000 job boards serving specific industries, professions, or geographic areas. By staying laser-focused on their respective niches, they've been able to weather the storms that have been shaking up the major players. "Small job boards will always be around because small businesses rely on them heavily," said Chris Russell, self-professed 'Mad Scientist of Online Recruiting' and job board consultant and owner of Rec Tech Media and CareerCloud. "Without them, they'd have no way to advertise."

You could pin the upheaval that's upending major job boards on the economy, evolving tastes, and mobile phones (like the one you might be using to read this column). As job growth swelled after the recession and competition for people with in-demand skills grew, it wasn't enough just to post an opening on a job board and pray that job seekers would find it. Companies turned to other tactics, including employee referrals, more sophisticated applicant tracking systems (ATS), upgraded career pages, and recruiting campaigns for mobile devices and social media. The percentage of new hires coming from job boards and job board aggregator sites has dropped to between 27 percent and 37 percent, with some industry estimates putting it even lower.

As companies diversified their recruiting spending, the job board field got more sophisticated and competitive. Indeed built a category-busting job listings aggregator that was fashioned after Google. LinkedIn showed up with a business-oriented social network that had a job board built in. Sites such as Glassdoor combined job listings with crowdsourced reviews. Just being a job board wasn't good enough anymore.

Let's Make a Deal
Flash forward to 2016. SimplyHired sold its assets to Indeed's Japanese parent company and went out of business. Microsoft won a bidding war for LinkedIn after the latter forecast future revenue from recruiting software and other services would be lower than expected. After years of dwindling sales, Monster accepted a $429 million buy-out offer from Dutch-based staffing giant Randstad Holding, though the beleaguered company's largest shareholder is arguing that the price is too low and is threatening to hold up the deal.

Continue Reading Below

In the latest development, broadcast and digital media company Tegna, Inc. recently announced that it was evaluating options for selling its 53 percent stake in CareerBuilder, which just bought benefits administration company Workterra. CareerBuilder did so to become a more diversified HR tech company that's less dependent on its mainstay job board business. The announcement might have been a direct response to several newspaper chains, including content curation and monetization company tronc, Inc.—formerly known as Tribune Publishing Co. and a CareerBuilder co-owner—pulling their online jobs listings business from CareerBuilder and giving it to rival RealMatch.

All of this activity will affect larger employers more than the small businesses that couldn't afford to advertise on big job boards in the first place. While small companies have spruced up the career pages on their websites and set up Twitter and Facebook accounts to attract job hunters, job boards still represent 60 to 80 percent of what they spend on recruiting, according to Russell.

Changing With the Times
Like their big brothers, small job boards are beefing up their offerings to appeal to customers who want more than just a service for advertising job openings. One example of this is Gary's Job Board, a two-year-old trucking industry site that lists approximately 2,000 truck driver job openings per month, in and around Denver and surrounding states. Gary's owner Eric Haney said the job board's main competition is Craigslist. To distinguish what he offers, Haney allows drivers who are looking for work to post profiles anonymously and only reveal their identity to carriers with openings in which they're interested. In addition to the job board, Haney offers an ATS called "Safety as a Service" that trucking companies can use to recruit and manage drivers and store employee files.

As job boards such as Haney's add features, vendors of other kinds of HR tech are building job board functions into their platforms so customers don't have to shop for them elsewhere. Employee scheduling software maker Shiftboard sells a Premium tier of its service, with a job board feature that customers can use to advertise openings internally. By changing a few settings, customers can make the job postings public, enabling employees at other Shiftboard clients to see them, if those companies allow it, and vice versa. Eric Seeder, Technical Product Specialist at Shiftboard, said the feature is popular with hospitality companies that operate multiple hotels in a given area and don't mind losing employees to sister organizations. It's also popular with organizations that use large numbers of volunteers for seasonal or annual events because, according to Seeder, those people like to know about other opportunities for volunteer work in their areas.

With small job boards changing with the times, small business owners and one-person human resources (HR) departments have to keep up. Companies that are re-evaluating what they've been using—or hiring for the first time in a while—should weigh all of the options. Uncover new job sites for a specific industry or niche by looking at trade associations and professional organizations, which often link to job boards serving their members. Russell maintains a list of about 1,000 niche job boards on his CareerCloud website. When evaluating job sites, find out what online traffic a job board gets—unique visitors a month is a typical measure—to gauge how many eyeballs a subscription fee might earn. When considering fees, find out about discounts for long-term subscriptions and what else might be offered, including banner ads, email campaigns, and other extras.

Though niche job boards remain integral to their recruiting efforts, small employers have to be more proactive in their efforts because job seekers expect it, said Russell, who has built close to 100 job boards and worked as a recruiter. He recommends companies flesh out their websites, attend job fairs, recruit on local college campuses, and use Instagram and Twitter to get the word out. "Job seekers have been trained to research and find out more information about what it's really like to work somewhere," he said, "so you need to give them information that tells a story about yourself."

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.