In schools we all learn that all of the future empires were hungry in the beginning and it was keeping them driven to expand beyond their borders (some were more hungry then the others). After expansions there were usually golden eras and those golden eras were making empires happy and... lazy... and arrogant. When arrogant empires were oppressing their people, angry crowds were growing bigger and bigger to do not bring down the empire but to bring the change. Changes in the empire might make the empire grow bigger, wealthier and better for it's people (rarely) or they will bring empires down (most of the cases). Since history is my hobby I can come up with tonnes of examples from Mongolian Horde to Rome, Ottoman to Austro-Hungarian, Soviet Union to Microsoft .... but it's not a blog on history so I will stick to job boards.
Rise of the empire(s)
The ‘new economy’ of the late 90s created job boards. The place where you go to if you want o find a job –> you type keywords, narrow the search and there you go –> you browse the great job postings, you send your resume, you register your profile etc so simple ... :-) Job boards back then were so eager to build up the content and the critical mass that majority of them were under the water for few years giving out postings for free and advertising practically everywhere (outdoor, press, TV). Of course some of them didn’t manage to secure the financing to keep up with the competition and they went bankrupt. Others had financing to secure non-profit life for many years and some of them were keeping on growing organically.
In late 90s there were loads of people who believed that 10 general job boards is not enough for medium or large European country …… of course they were wrong. Today the biggest markets in EMEA have 3-5 generalist job boards but many successful niche services. Never the less internet dream (actually the nightmare) made e-recruitment market more realistic in 2000-2002, making some of the players being takeover by others (like hot jobs taken over by yahoo), some changing hands almost every year (monster) and other having stable financing and no reasons to worry (jobpilot). This crisis left some of the countries with 1-2 players taking over the staff from bankrupts and building their presence sometimes trough acquisitions sometimes growing organically. This left loads of recruiters from particular markets having no choice but using job board x or y and job boards started to pump up the prices (I know a portal in EMEA asking eur 500/posting!). Job portals being present in the markets couldn’t ask for more …. (almost) no competition, European economy speeding up leaving almost no unemployed and billions of EURs in recruitment budgets.
Fall Of The Empire (in progress)
Greed caused the arrogance of the job boards. Some of the job boards’ investors cashed out at their businesses peak, others started to crate cartels to keep their oligopoly across the continent and others became warm and comfy enough to terrorize their customers. Some job boards are telling their customers to move their applicant tracking to their systems because they don’t want to write simple xml scrip to interface with their current system (in fact they want to be market’s biggest recruitment application), others started to increase their fees so they would be just slightly cheaper then agencies and others decided to do nothing but charging for the same product ignoring job seekers’ and employers’ needs. Job boards business is product driven which means you have to be more useful and friendly to job hunters and meeting employers’ needs. Majority of the players are focused on squeezing as much money as they can from the current operations (getting bigger piece of the cake) but they are not trying to grow the market with new products and services (growing a cake).
Most of job boards in European market those days do not meet the needs of neither job seekers or employers what make more and more recruiters turning to other channels of communication. In mid and long term perspective I can see job board becoming advertising space for SMEs with large corporates seeking other ways to bring in more candidates. Besides that future seems to be shaping in niche colours meaning that narrowly focused portals (for software engineers, catering staff, doctors, cleaners etc). On top of the job boards there are more and more recruitment budgets targeting social/professional networking sites like linkedin, xing and facebook.
That said if you’re an investor I strongly recommend getting rid of job board companies from your portfolio. In coming posts I will start presenting other tools then job board to generate traffic of candidates.