VERTICALS
The Potential of Online Job Boards
July 02, 2003

With 52 million Americans seeking job information online, job search and online recruiting resources offer marketers lucrative space.

Monster.com… Careerbuilder.com… HeadHunter.net… CareerRewards.com… Hotjobs.com… There used to be a zillion online resources for finding jobs or filling them. Through mergers, acquisitions, and atrophy, some of the familiar names are gone; others are part of even larger, MORE familiar names.

But despite the fact that there are only a couple handfuls of career sites today, those that are operating are having some great success. Just what is the appeal of online job and recruitment sites? How well do they do as businesses? In what ways does the Internet serve as both a marketing vehicle and a distribution channel of services? What are the prospects of these services being revenue generators for online publishers in the near-term future?

To get an idea of how significant this business is, here are some facts:

According to Pew Research, last summer, some fifty-two million Americans looked online for information about jobs. On average, there are more than four-million searches online for jobs on any given day.

That represents a more than 60% jump in the number of online job seekers from two years prior when Pew Research first looked in on the subject.

Matching jobs with candidates online is particularly popular with a younger population. Some 61% of adults 18- to 29-years-of-age have looked for jobs online. This should come as no surprise, however, given that the Internet is a de rigor medium for the younger set.

What’s the Draw?

“The ability for job seekers to have immediate access to real-time information and the corresponding opportunity to apply online,” is what appeals to the general population about conducting a job search online, says Dave Marzo, vice president of the Newman Group, a consulting firm that offers a complete range of services designed specifically for the implementation and utilization of recruiting technology.

There is efficiency and an ease of use that makes a somewhat uncomfortable process as simple as reading and clicking. “Although the online application process varies by company, job seekers can submit their resumes more efficiently by applying online,” continues Marzo.

“The appeal to the employee is the ability to search for jobs at their convenience -- 24 hour a day availability -- rather than waiting until that Sunday paper comes out,” agrees Kay Fearon, director of Media Planning & Analysis for TMP Worldwide, the online and offline career and marketing powerhouse that not only runs its own B-to-B recruitment advertising agency, but also owns the very popular Monster.com. “Next is the ease of applying to jobs by simply clicking ‘send’ and attaching your resume,” she adds.

But the Web isn’t only an efficient and ready resource for job seekers. It is also a powerful tool for those on the hunt for the right candidates.

“For employers, Internet recruiting is cheaper and faster than more traditional methods such as classifieds in newspapers or accepting resumes through the mail," says Jennifer Melzer, VP of sales for Yahoo!’s HotJobs.com. “As hiring budgets are cut, HR managers are looking to more cost-effective solutions and turning to the Web for answers.”

There is a clear benefit for both those seeking jobs and those with jobs to fill. If they are all going to the same place to meet their needs, they may as well meet in the same place. The benefits of using the medium are exactly the same for those on either side of the desk. It is the yield that differs.

“A job seeker can review opportunities anytime day or night at his or her convenience, and companies can review candidate credentials without a time-consuming investment in initial screening,” succinctly summarizes Paul Villella, CEO of HireStrategy, an executive recruiting firm that supports sales, technology, and finance & accounting businesses and professionals.

Is There a Business Here?

At the outset of the digital revolution, job search sites and online recruitment resources were among the most popular. And although online job searching and candidate recruitment continue to be among the most popular uses of the Web, the question remains, is there a business here?

According to Forrester Research, in times of economic downturns -- which are not permanent states, by the way -- the development of the skilled and hourly market, as well as a growing consumer reliance on the Internet for job information, will drive revenues to $1.9 billion by 2008 for entities promoting online job services.

This means there is a serious market for the marketing of jobs online. Basically, companies that put job seekers together with those who have jobs open will likely have some jobs available of their own!

“HotJobs’ business has been and continues to be strong,” says Melzner. “We experienced double-digit percentage growth in job postings over the last year, while newspapers decreased by 13%. We have also seen a 24% increase in traffic over the last year and a 69% increase in registered job seekers over the last year.”

For the majors, like HotJobs.com and Monster.com, there is no doubt that they see, and will continue to see, a great deal of growth. But so do smaller, more specialized players in the market. Part of what makes services like these so valuable is that they do more than just act as bulletin boards.

“As businesses, job boards alone are somewhat commoditized and therefore there is limited and in fact, deflationary pricing pressure,” says Villella of HireStrategy. “However when combined with offline businesses, they can be a great channel for business success.”

For example, HireStrategy’s business model combines the advantages of the Web through listings and candidates -- allowing online registration, and providing access to information about companies and their openings -- with the offering of a personal career agent who can work with a candidate to sift through the jobs listed to find the most appropriate match. On the employer side, a client agent works to identify only the best candidates that have the right qualification, are genuinely interested in the available opportunity, and who are priced right for the positions that are available. Job boards alone cannot do this.

Marketing AND Distribution

One of the unique attributes of the Internet is the way that it facilitates both the marketing and the distribution of product and service. This is no different for the job seeker and placement market.

Most major companies have incorporated some form of employment information or a micro site into their larger corporate Websites, and have a ‘careers’ link off the home page. By using the same space companies seek to communicate their brands, there is a kind of ‘halo effect’ on the jobs that seekers come to find.

“On average, several pages of content attempt to convey the ‘employer brand’ to job seekers – the company philosophy or mission statement, views on diversity, management training programs, unique employment opportunities, etc.,” says Fearon from TMP Worldwide. “There is an enormous potential for employers to use the Internet as a marketing and branding vehicle and not just stick online applications up on their sites and call it a day. Those who ignore content are missing a huge opportunity. The same goes for Employer Profiles on the job boards – those employers who place a few postings and skip any profile are being a bit short-sighted.”

As any one with a product or service to sell knows, however, just being there isn’t enough. You’ve got to get the word out on what product or service you have to offer and why YOUR product or service should be chosen over the OTHER guy’s product or service. That means some form of marketing to attract prospects to you.

“To attract active job seekers, the most traditional and straight-forward method is posting opportunities on online job boards such as HotJobs.com,” says Melzner. “Company ads on these sites can also attract job seekers to learn more about a company. In addition, companies can advertise on the newsletters online job board sites send out to users in different categories, such as to job seekers interested in diversity issues or working in various fields.”

Basically, a coordinated communications program like one constructed for selling widgets needs to be executed to attract users to these services. Newsletter postings, and online targeted search engines help companies locate candidates that fit specific job criteria, and standard online advertising can be used to make the needle move on a business just like with any other marketed product.

Show Me the Money

So, the services are valuable. They are terribly popular. And the prognosticators see the segment as being a money-making proposition. As mentioned earlier, according to Forrester Research, job search and online recruiting resources will see $1.9 billion dollars in revenue being driven from such services.

Where is this money going to come from? Job seekers? Job posters? Advertisers who want to reach a job-hunting audience?

Is seems as though the opinion is that most of the revenues to be generated are going to be from advertising, including endemic advertisers.

“Now that HotJobs is a property on the Yahoo! network, the consumer advertisers who have already partnered with Yahoo! can tap into our audience on the same platform as Mail, MyYahoo, Finance, Sports, Launch, etc.,” says Melzner. “In addition to consumer advertising, HotJobs can easily offer its current customers who are posting jobs a media program to further brand themselves as an ‘employer of choice’ in key markets.”

Some job sites won’t accept advertising from endemic advertisers, but that doesn’t mean they can’t accept advertising from anyone else who wants to reach that kind of audience.

“Certainly job seekers are often in the market for other services,” says Fearon of TMP Worldwide. However, “to date, there does not seem to have been much concentration on promotion of these other ad opportunities by these sites, although they are available.”

Says Newman Group’s Marzo: “There are a number of ancillary services that can be offered to active and passive job seekers. Job seekers themselves, represent a unique target audience that can be leveraged.”

HireStrategy’s Villella agrees. “There are certain product and services that passive and active job seekers can be targeted through these sites.

As Fearon points out, however, there hasn’t been much emphasis on attracting these other advertisers to the space, nor has the value been well demonstrated.

This may be the true untapped potential of a resource that continues to grow in popularity and importance to the increasingly sophisticated Netizen.

Whether you are told “Take this job and re-staff it!,” or you have uttered those words yourself, the Web is going to be an important place for you. And if you are a company with a product or service that Web-savvy adults involved with a job search or are in the market for filling jobs might be interested in, you might want to consider online job and recruitment sites the next time you are putting together a marketing plan.

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