In 1995, I sold my recruitment company – Job Bank USA – and embarked on a new career as a journalist. Over the next twelve years, I wrote a biweekly column for the interactive edition of The Wall Street Journal, covering the new and fast-growing community of recruitment advertising sites called job boards. By 1999, that the community had grown so large it needed a guidebook to help people – but especially recruiters – find their way around, and the WEDDLE’s Guide was launched. I thought it would be fun to revisit the book’s first edition – yes, it was done in print – to see what that original group of boards was like.
The Guide opened with an intentionally provocative statement: I set my estimate for the worldwide population of job boards at what was then an eye-popping 100,000. Newspapers remained the dominant vehicles for recruitment advertising, of course, and there were still newspaper executives who were calling these sites “a fad.” They were starting to look over their shoulder, however, as more and more job boards were coming online every day.
Given that growth, we envisioned the book as a “consumer’s guide” – the American Staffing Association even called it the “Zagat of job boards” – and designed it to help recruiters shop smart for the sites that would best serve their recruiting needs. Despite that grand ambition, however, the first edition was a modest effort, profiling just 150 sites.
Each site was featured on its own page with data it submitted. We knew the data would seem like a foreign language to many users, so we included a glossary of sorts and a non-technical vocabulary to define such terms as Unique Visitors per month, Page views per month and Channels. We also provided and explained the importance of a number of metrics and attributes that could be used to compare one site to another. These included:
• The date the site was activated online, where we noted that “Although not always the case, the longer a site has been operating, the more established its methods of operation and reliable its performance;”
• Does the site offer broadcast posting, where we explained that “This procedure enables recruiters to buy a job posting on one site and have it posted again at multiple locations on the Internet and World Wide Web, usually at no additional fee;” and
• Status report for ads, which we defined further by asking, “Does the site provide a status report on the performance of its job postings and banner ads (e.g., how many people saw an ad, how many people indicated an interest in the ad by clicking on its image or embedded links)?
Of course, the most significant data were on each site’s job posting services. Almost every site offered ads for permanent, full time positions, and interestingly, more than a third reported that they also accepted ads for part time or contract openings – what we would probably call gig economy jobs today. In terms of job posting fees:
• Most of the sites reported one of three fee structures for a single job posting: None, Less than $100 and $101-250;
• Two sites said they charged between $250-500 per posting and two sites said they charged $395 per posting;
• JobNet.com.au reported that it charged AUS $150 per week “for as many jobs as you would like;” and
• MBAFreeAgents.com said it posted jobs for $251-500 per ad, but also charged a “success fee” of $1,500-$2,500.
Searching a resume database was also an important revenue channel for the sites. Better than seven-in-ten (71 percent) reported that they had a resume database, with the sizes ranging from 11 resumes at Bakery-Net.com (a site for – you guessed it – professional bakers) to 1,165,000 at Monster and 263,000 at CareerPath.com, the site formerly operated by a consortium of eight newspaper companies.
• Resumes were acquired directly from candidates, by scraping from other sites and from resume distribution services.
• Most sites wrapped the fee for database access into their job posting fee, but others offered resume search as a separate product with fees ranging from $30 for 30 resumes to $750 for “a guarantee of 5 qualified and interested candidates” – Wow!
The sites were organized into 39 categories, ranging from Administrative, Biology/Biotechnology and Business to Real Estate, Sales & Marketing and Science/Scientists. In addition, the pioneering general sites of our industry were still going strong, so there were also profiles for CareerMosaic.com, HeadHunter.net, HotJobs.com, The Monster Board, and the Online Career Center.
The niche sites predominated, however, and while their cumulative sales were still far below those of the big brand general sites, they were an engaging and interesting group, including:
• Finishing.com, which wasn’t a site for Baby Boomers heading off into the sunset, but one dedicated to those working in the metal finishing industry;
• Real-Jobs.com, which wasn’t trying to differentiate itself from the trending rap of publishing “fake” content, but rather a job board for those in the real estate field; and
• WeedJobs or Positions in Weed Science, which was a job board operated by a college professor for agronomy students, not a site for jobs in the recreational smokes and brownies industry.
As you might suspect, more than a few of those early sites are no longer with us. To them, we owe a debt of gratitude for their role in laying the foundation for the robust industry we have today. And to those that are still in operation and about to enter their third decade in business – Kudos! They’ve done us all proud.
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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