According to a 2003 study published by DBM only about 6% of Americans found their jobs online last year (about 12% in Canada). The fact is that personal networks and referrals still account for more than half of all job placements in the U.S., a trend that has accelerated in a weak economy in which everyone seems to know someone who is unemployed. Nevertheless, job board activity has risen dramatically since firms like TMP started it all in about 1994.
This trend is perhaps best evidenced by the fact that job boards are fast gaining in the market share of jobs advertised, while newspaper classifieds are losing market share. According to Forrester Research, Monster.com (the industry’s largest player) more than doubled its income from job postings in 2001 while newspapers reported a 17% decline. In 2000, employment newspaper classified advertising in the U.S. was worth $8.7 billion, the Newspaper Association of America’s preliminary statistic for 2002 is a stunning $4.3 billion. This loss of more than 50% in two years cannot be attributed exclusively to a slowing economy – the NAA’s preliminary results for Real Estate and Automotive classified advertising (the only two other distinct categories it tracks), for example show growth of 4.5% and 5.5% in 2002 respectively.
The most reasonable assumption is that the slow economy has cut into newspaper employment advertising, but that job boards and other online job advertisement vehicles have taken up much of the slack. Industry watchers Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler of CareerXRoads predict that by this year, Monster alone will own 10-20% of the entire employment advertising spent in the U.S. If that is true, the other 2-3 top job boards (i.e. Hot jobs and Career Builder) must account for another 10-20% between them.
Add to this the thousand or more viable niche sites. From well-known boards like diversity.com to obscure ones like operatingroomnurses.com, niche players account for millions of postings and candidate profiles/resumes. Most of them are fee based and therefore eat up another chunk of the total recruitment advertising spend in the U.S.
Even larger than the mainstream and niche job boards are corporate career sites. Corporate Career Sites have become by far the largest aggregate sources of job postings (many more than all the job boards and newspapers combined by many estimates). Recruitsoft, for example, is a Talent Management System vendor with just 125 large customers worldwide. It already claims that its servers contain more job postings; more applicant resumes and conduct more employment transactions (i.e. requisitions posted, resumes reviewed, etc.) than all of Monster.com.
A good deal of recent research has shown that more than half of all Americans have access to the Internet either from work, school or home. Other research has demonstrated that job searching is consistently in the top three online activities overall and is the number one activity during work hours. iLogos Research claims that almost every Global 2000 corporation operates a corporate career site. My own research for HR.com found that more than 85% of companies with more than 500 employees in North America have rudimentary knowledge or better of career sites. Granted there are many duplicate job postings, but given the fast and massive growth in public job boards and organization-specific career sites; and the indisputable fact that together they carry the vast majority of job advertisements, why aren’t more people finding work using the Internet?
The question is important because organizations need recruitment technologies to reduce costs, manage their workforces, and get them through the next talent shortage. Job seekers, however, must be getting frustrated. Employers complain that they get buried in resumes when they post on sites like Monster. Are they reacting by ignoring the online responses and finding their hires through informal referral networks? If so, it is unfortunate because this will lead to some job seekers abandoning the Internet in their search altogether. Moreover, the informal approach is rarely transparent and probably fails to find the best candidates consistently.
In any case, volume of resumes is no longer a satisfactory excuse not to recruit online. Recruitment technologies are increasingly effective in screening, sorting and communicating with candidates automatically. Monster, for instance offers a backend applicant management solution that is included in the price of job postings. Referral networks are important but they should be planned and operated formally and they should connect to the overall corporate recruitment effort through the career site and backend talent management systems.
So where are the jobs now? More job seekers find their new positions through friends, family and colleagues than any other source by a wide margin. The problem is, job seekers have always been told to tap their networks when looking for work and so most who are still looking have probably already done so. The promise of the Internet is that it can greatly reduce traditional friction in the labor market caused by the limitations of personal networks, newspaper classifieds and physical job boards. By giving more job seekers access to more (and better described) job openings online, more efficient and accurate matching should, in theory, occur. Obviously this promise hasn’t been fulfilled despite the wide availability of the Internet and the proliferation of job boards and corporate career sites.
In 2003, with demographically-driven talent shortages looming in parts of Asia, Western Europe and North America, mid-size and large organizations must become proficient at using HR technologies for recruitment and retention. In an era in which talent has surpassed all other factors of competitiveness, it is hard to imagine a complex organization surviving the next decade without efficient processes for workforce planning, employee development, deployment, recruitment and retention. Organizations appear to have adopted the use of job boards and corporate career sites. An excellent next step would be to follow up by actually hiring from among those who apply online.