Ever since Jeff Taylor launched Monster, and Robbie Cowling founded Jobserve, it has been generally accepted that job boards are merely replicating the print media model of advertising vacancies.  Enabling employers and recruitment agencies to broadcast their available jobs to candidates, who were actively looking for a career move was very civilised, but meant that the response would be limited.  Firstly to those jobseekers who happened to visit the place where the job was advertised, and secondly to only those candidates who were actively looking for work at all.

*Aside – he’s not going to go on about “passive candidates is he?*

No I’m not, but I do want to talk about how job boards can do much more to bring new candidates in, rather than wait for them to register.  Linkedin does this spectacularly.  It’s now accepted that every professional in work should register on Linkedin, and complete their account with all their employment and educational details.  Most people do so without even considering that they are building a CV, an application form, or even declaring that they are open to offers.  Hence Linkedin has the biggest database of passive candidates in the world.

But it’s not simply that.  Linkedin has built an unprecedented relational database of where and when everyone worked at every company they add.  This 3 dimensional patchwork quilt of information is a goldmine.  As a recruiter selling my services to employers, I would explain that merely advertising a job would have very limited results, and was unlikely to unearth the very best candidates for them to choose from.  I, on the other hand, had intimate knowledge of the marketplace, and had a network of contacts in my sector that would help me to actively track down the best people, and engage with them, whether they had been looking for a job or not.  I would also have a series of questions that I would ask the employer, to help me in my search.  Here are some.

  1. Why has the job become available?
  2. Which employer did the previous employee go to?
  3. Why did they leave?
  4. Where do your best employees in this department most often come from?
  5. Would you rehire someone who had previously worked here?
  6. In previous recruitment exercises, where did candidates often come from?
  7. What universities do your staff usually come from?
  8. Are there any particular individuals (possibly with competitors) that you would like me to approach on your behalf?

I would often also ask to speak with existing staff members, and ask them similar questions.  The answers to these gave me vital clues as to where I should prioritise my initial search.

Linkedin now provides the answers to many of these same questions, and anyone can view the information, given voluntary by all Linkedin members.  Company profiles in Linkedin are invaluable for this, and many other purposes.

Take for example Search Consultancy.  In their Linkedin company profile I can see the statistics on their staff, who have accounts (probably everyone in the company).  Amongst this wealth of information it shows where current employees have come from, and where former staff members have gone to.  If I was recruiting for Search, these are the companies I would immediately focus my attention on – checking out their company profiles and staff members (past & present).

Let me stop the blatant advert for Linkedin right there.  Other job boards can do this too.  It is perfectly feasible for any job board to ask these same questions of employers (when adding a job advert), in order to identify likely candidates more accurately.  So much focus is placed upon profiling candidates who register with job boards, that very little employer profiling is done.  I firmly believe that this side of the recruitment equation is where faster development and more accurate candidate matching can be delivered.

When job boards replicate more of the instinctive actions of professional recruiters, they become smarter.

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

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