For my sins, I seem to spend every waking hour visiting, testing, and analysing recruitment websites of all kinds.  Through, I monitor developments in the websites of recruitment agencies, job boards, publications and employers.  My purpose is to consult with these companies, and to deliver targeted candidate traffic direct to where vacancies are being advertised. and our sister website are two sides of the same coin, in that we direct candidates directly to the jobs they are searching for.  Since 2000, the AlljobsUK Online Recruitment Index has collected live weekly data on the volume of vacancies advertised on the UK’s most popular job boards.  Now established as a key industry index, this shows not only the seasonal ebb and flow of vacancies advertised, but also the year on year comparison which shows how the online job sector is faring.

Unfortunately, we have witnessed the steep decline which matches the current credit crisis, beginning the very week it all began in September 2007.  There are now 40% fewer vacancy adverts on these sites than there were when the Index started on 2000.

Aside from giving me a sore head, all this information tells me this:

Candidates are becoming much more discerning about how they use online recruitment services.  Their expectations are far higher, and they will not tolerate illogical, unfriendly, poorly designed jobsites.  Bad websites are either abandoned altogether, or candidates are bypassing the online process, and resorting to making contact with employers by phone, thereby negating the purpose of the website.  Case in point, Job Centre Plus is an atrocious mix of everything that is wrong with online recruitment, and Boots the Chemist have clearly spent a lot of money in all the wrong ways.

Employers are devoting more time and effort (at last) into their online efforts.  There is a huge disparity between the best and worst, but HR departments are finally recognising that this is key to their function.  Employers who use the opportunity to personalise their company to job seekers through a considered online strategy, are now more able to choose from the best available candidates.  This in turn is empowering employers to deal with recruitment agencies on their own terms.

The cat is out of the bag, and it’s no longer a secret how agencies do what they do.  Now being squeezed by more demanding candidates, empowered employers, and panicky job boards, agencies are turning more to their own websites, and free social media options. What used to be called headhunting, is now active networking via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, and every recruiter must use all three instead of the old “advertise and wait”.

A 75% drop in advertised vacancy volumes, over the past 24 months, means that the game has changed dramatically for job boards.  They may look the same on the surface, but even the largest jobsites are having to get by on less than half the revenue they had 2 years ago.  As well as dropping their rates, job boards will stop insisting on long term contracts for advertisers, thereby taking the risk that clients will cherry pick the sites on a month by month basis.

It’s accepted that in contrast to last year, 2010 will see modest growth in all but the public sector; particularly local authorities, where there huge cuts and even enforced redundancies will suck the last penny of revenue from the print recruitment sector.

With far fewer chips on the table, it’s all to play for in 2010.  Innovation, personalisation, and market share will be the most valuable commodities, and I expect those to be the determining factors in the 10th National Online Recruitment Awards in November.

Here\’s my story

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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