Job Board Journalist: Three Truisms & A New Job Board Mission

Peter Weddle

Companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year promoting their consumer brands. Then, their recruiting teams reject thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of consumers who’ve also expressed an interest in working for the company. It’s often an ill-conceived process, and recent research has revealed just how harmful it can be to a company’s bottom line. What can job boards learn from that finding?

Dr. John Sullivan writes, “Most recruiting leaders simply haven’t taken the time to calculate the damage resulting from a weak process for rejecting applicants. But Virgin Media did. And it found that nearly 2/3 of rejected applicants became ‘detractors’ (they spoke negatively about the firm). Up to 15 percent of applicants who were also simultaneously customers quickly stopped being customers. And thanks to the groundbreaking work of Graeme Johnson, we know the total cost of the damage at Virgin Media was over $5 million, and it was over $14 million at British Telecom.”

Sullivan’s point, of course, is that companies must do a better job of rejecting their applicants. Even if they do, however, it doesn’t change the first truism of the job market: the vast majority of all applicants WILL BE rejected. What we now also know is that many of those will find the experience so unpleasant, they will punish the employer that sent them packing.

In addition, in an economy that is fast approaching full employment, there’s a second job market truism: most of these previously discarded candidates will eventually (and probably quickly) find a job. One employer’s reject is another employer’s new hire, and when that happens, magic occurs. Those unwanted candidates are instantaneously transformed into something all employers covet: a passive person of talent.

What does all of that have to do with job boards?

Well, here’s a third truism about today’s job market: those previously-rejected-and-then-hired workers will shortly be back in the job market. Whether they’re Boomers or Millennials, they no longer believe the promises of commitment typically made by employers. The prospect of long-term employment simply isn’t credible to them anymore.

No matter how good employment is right now, there have been too many layoffs, too many jobs abruptly shipped overseas, too many robots wrestling humans out of their jobs for workers to view an employer as anything other than a transitory stop. Even if they are well liked and feel comfortable in the organization, they’re going to keep an eye out for other opportunities, just in case. They deal with the absence of credible long-term employment by abandoning long-term allegiance to their employer.

That readiness to move on is not, however, an indication of recklessness or irresponsibility. Quite the contrary, it is an act of self-protection. What workers are actually trying to do is insulate themselves from any harm in an uncertain workplace and job market. They are seeking safety by always being prepared.

Abraham Maslow used the term Safety to describe the second tier in his hierarchy of human motivation. For him, safety described every person’s need for:
• Personal security,
• Financial security,
• Health and well-being, and
• Safety needs against accidents/illness and their adverse impacts.
That list was probably sufficient in the 1940s, when Maslow first developed it. Given the conditions facing workers today, I think even he would agree that “employment security” also deserves to be included.

Which brings me to job boards. There’s been plenty of speculation about how job boards must evolve – what new business model they must adopt – in order to survive and prosper in a market that is increasingly turbulent and competitive. Some have suggested they transition to career portals; others have proposed that they reshape themselves as marketplaces; and still others have opined that their future involves acting as recruitment media companies.

There’s probably some merit in all of those ideas, but none will work without a high-quality product – without access to the very best (and usually passive) candidates. The better the talent, the better the odds that a job board will prevail, whatever its business model.

So, I would propose that job boards reset their mission from serving up jobs to transient job seekers to acting as a safe harbor for persons of talent that stick around. I suggest they brand themselves not by their business model or even by the kinds of jobs they publish, but by what they can do to protect those candidates. And in a job market rife with rejection, that means much more than showing them how to write a better resume or interview well. The way each job board defines and delivers employment security will determine its ability to do what employers can’t – hold the long-term allegiance of top talent.

Food for thought,

TAprose and Job Board Journalist by Peter Weddle are brought to you by TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions.

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  • Ulrich Rust

    In 2014 we ran a competition for the best rejecting letter. Dozens of companies joined this competition, several hundreds of applicants participated in a survey and a jury of HR professionals, editors and scientists evaluated the results. The top 10 were published in a small book as best practice (in German, ISBN 9783738601787). The positive echo we received from the HR community showed us, that many Recruiters are well aware of the problem you described. However, often they simply don’t know how to do better and, therefore, soak up any kind of support very gratefully.

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