Know this. Each of the major job boards in this country firmly believes they will ultimately be the last one standing. Or at least they would, if job boards were sentient beings.  Their management teams not only believe it too, but also have the declared intent of making it so.  This is not such a mature market that Monster, Jobsite, Totaljobs etc have settled for a market share they are happy with.  Each of them wants to beat the other (in professional terms of course), and would be very happy for their competitors to fail.

It is accepted that there are too many job boards in the UK.  A very high stakes game is being played amongst the industry’s big boys, who are, aside from Monster, owned by the same publishing concerns that used to dominate the job advertising business via newspapers. These publishers were not present at the inception of this industry, but are now an integral part of it. Back in the 1990’s a very mature job advertising market meant that employers or recruitment agencies knew exactly where to advertise for different types of jobs, whether it was for Board Directors, engineers, sales staff, educational jobs or any other role.  The candidates knew too, and would buy the newspaper or trade magazine that would be sure to have the best jobs in their sector.  There would still be ripples of competition when a newspaper like say The Express tried to establish a job section, but these failed quickly, as no-one wanted the market further fragmented.

Back to the present day. Imagine the job market to be one huge window, through which you could view every single advertised vacancy. This would of course be great for candidates, and fantastic for advertisers, as everything they wanted was in the one place. What we have today, however, is a very fragmented marketplace, where the glass has been smashed into many pieces, large and small, where any one of which can only show you some of the jobs advertised in the UK. There are of course many overlaps, but it is still necessary for a candidate to register with a number of job boards, to get a clearer view of the market.  Additionally, in order to catch all good candidates, employers and agencies need to advertise on several job sites.  Given this amount of duplication of effort and resultant costs, surely market forces would work, such that a dominant player would emerge and take the prize?

Here’s a little known fact: Coca Cola is the number 1 soft drink in every single country in the world – except one.  Any guesses? Yip, in Scotland, Irn Bru has always outsold Coke, much to the chagrin of the American colossus.  Again in Scotland, S1Jobs has been the number one player since 2002, and has been a thorn in the side of the big UK sites, who cannot crack this territory.  Monster and Totaljobs even have major sales operations in Glasgow.  Get this; in a country with a population of c.5 million, S1Jobs had a record 609,000 unique visitors in January 2011, and 11.7 million page views.  There are of course competitor sites, but no one comes very close. Advertisers and jobseekers coalesce around this unique site for this very reason, and it shows no sign of abating.

The fast emergence of worldwide goliaths in the online sector, such as Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and eBay shows that great ideas, which are well executed, gain traction very quickly, and that 2nd place is not an option. In my view, by 2020 there will be 2-3 major players in the UK online recruitment industry, and I’ve no idea who they will be.  I know of at least 6 job boards with their eyes on the prize.  Who do you think it will be?

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

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