Look Back to Go Forward

Peter Weddle

Long, long ago, back in the dark and distant past, newspapers made a fortune on classified job ads.  They were the principal way most people found out about employment opportunities.  They were also the principal way that employers identified talent.  What made the arrangement work, however, was a content strategy that broadened the definition of “talent” to include “most people.”

Newspapers offered something for everyone.  News.  Sports. Recipes. Arts. Automotive.  You name it, they provided (usually high caliber) content on topics designed to attract people from every segment of the population.  That content strategy, in turn, supported their business model.

Human curiosity being what it is, a sizable proportion of the readers who bought a newspaper for its content – people who were not in transition or actively looking for a job – also took a peek at the classifieds after they had read their favorite section of the paper.  As a consequence, newspapers could legitimately claim that they delivered passive as well as active candidates to their advertisers.  In effect, their definition of talent included most people.

Job boards began with a very different premise.  They were, to put it starkly, simply virtual bulletin boards that posted employment opportunities.  While anyone and everyone was welcome, that content and the accompanying blogs about job search and articles about resume writing offered nothing of interest to passive candidates.  Their business model, therefore, defined talent not as most but as “some people,” the ones called active job seekers.

This business model has worked pretty well over the past twenty years or so, but recently, a set of circumstances has evolved that dramatically reduces its potency.

  • First, employers now routinely attract all the active job seekers they need (and then some) to their own corporate sites.
  • And second, while active job seekers still find jobs on job boards, they increasingly apply for those jobs on employers’ career sites.

What should job boards do?  Evolve their content strategy so they can implement a new business model that can support them in this new environment.

A New Model from the Past

There are three new dynamics in today’s talent marketplace:

  • Most people are not looking for a job. The U.S. Government pegs the figure at more than four-fifths of the workforce.
  • These individuals are NOT “passive job seekers” – they aren’t seeking a change in their employment status. At best, therefore, they are passive prospects.
  • Passive prospects are not attracted to a site by job postings or content about job search. They don’t see themselves as job seekers and don’t act like them.

How can a job board attract these passive prospects?  Adopt a content strategy modeled after that of … yep, you guessed it – newspapers.

Surround job postings with content that will appeal to people who aren’t looking for a job (as well as those who are).  This content should be idiosyncratic to each site, but might include:

  • A daily feed of news for the industry segments a site targets or primarily serves
  • A daily feed of news for the career fields the site targets or primarily serves
  • Information on the principles and practices of successful career self-management
  • User generated content on business and/or professional topics moderated by the site

While this new content shouldn’t replace a site’s job search features and functionality, it must redefine its brand in order to attract passive prospects.  In short, a job board must go from being seen as a classified ads platform to a career success launch pad.  Once that’s accomplished, it can recast its business model from one that delivers talent defined as “some people” – namely, active job seekers – to one that defines talent as “most people” – active job seekers and passive prospects.  In today’s talent market, that’s the foundation for greater revenue at higher margins from more customers.


Food for Thought,



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


Mark Your Calendars!  TAtech’s 2017 events include:

September 27-29, 2017, Denver: The TAtech Fall Congress & Deal Center, with The World Job Board Forum and the 2017 ReSI Awards Gala.

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