Do we help or hinder jobseekers?


This may seem a no-brainer to anyone in the online recruitment industry, and perhaps even a preposterous question for me to ask, given my role in the sector over the past decade.  In the picture here “La strada per l’inferno e lastricata di buone intenzioni” translates as “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

Commerce aside, it is perfectly possible to provide a service, where every single available vacancy is locatable via one solitary website.  How simple and convenient would that be for candidates?  If such a site existed, there would be no real need to trawl a multitude of job boards, searching, registering, applying again and again.  Surely then jobseekers would only have to register once in a great big CV Database.  Here too, employers could easily identify them, sure in the knowledge that these are the best available candidates to consider for each role?  “Crazy talk” you say? “It’ll never happen”.  That may be so, but it’s precisely what the major players in our industry are aiming for, and each has every intention of eventually becoming that universal job board.  In a market that’s so fragmented, every website has ambitions.  Firstly to succeed as a business, and then to grow by gaining market share and popularity, and of course revenue.  Totaljobs announced today that it has 12.7% of the UK online recruitment sector.  Does it want more?  Do Monster and Jobsite have other plans?  You can bet they do. Even down to the smallest of niche employment sectors, there are sites battling for market share; be it revenue, number of vacancies, clients, visitor numbers, or a host of other KPI’s.  These are businesses after all, and their commercial success is not always in the best interest of candidates.

Employment agencies succeeded hugely in the 80’s and 90’s because they could identify and recruit more efficiently and cost effectively than employers could themselves.  This, in addition to the traditional advert, then created another layer between the candidate and the job.  In the early days of online recruitment there were great fears that job boards would spell the end for agencies, and it was expected that employers would be the biggest advertisers by far.  Several job boards even refused to run any ads from agencies at all.  But that wasn’t to be.  This was a young and extremely competitive market, and agencies represented the greatest repositories of the very jobs that jobsites needed to satisfy candidates.  Moreover they represented the very best opportunity for consistent revenue, even if they paid much less per job ad than employers.  Thus, the great opportunity for disintermediation was lost.  Not on purpose, of course, but there are now thousands of job boards, niche job boards, publications with job boards, agencies’ own job boards, and employers’ job boards.  Is this easier for candidates?  Has the solution become the problem?

Now in a fully mature market, talk frequently focuses rightly upon the “candidate experience”.  It’s fair to expect fierce competition to continue between the big players, and for a new accountancy job board to launch every month, but let’s not kid ourselves that a mirror broken into a thousand pieces can possibly produce a complete picture.  No one player will become universal, but it is still possible that somehow the pieces can be seamlessly integrated, so that, at least from the jobseeker’s perspective, they can view a complete and comprehensive picture of what jobs are available to them.  Job Search Engine’s, or aggregators, like and Workcircle are the closest to this we have so far.  That is also technology’s next challenge in this market.

In fact I understand that at this very moment, the Department for Work and Pensions have plans to do precisely this, via the revamped Job Centre Plus website.  However, whilst worth paying close attention to, you’ll forgive me for not holding my breath.

Stephen O’Donnell

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

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