The 90s Called. They Want Their Job Postings Back

Oh, the 90s! I am eternally grateful to have experienced the decade that brought us Jennifer Aniston’s “Rachel” hair, Zima, and platform shoes with really fat heels. And the music! Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, oh my! It was a wonderful time to be alive!

Some of you may have been in preschool or sophomores in high school in the 90s. If so, you are my intended audience. For those of us who were already working or launching our careers in recruiting, this may be a pleasant walk down memory lane. The 90s were a tumultuous time in talent acquisition. In fact, our chosen profession was called a lot of things, but it was not called “talent acquisition” at the beginning of the decade. Evolving from “staffing” or “personnel” to “talent acquisition” was a pretty big change, actually (and while I never have the term, it did lend a certain air of credibility to our chosen profession). Most of us did not have regular access to a computer, and even fewer people had a cell phone. If you were lucky enough to have a cell phone, it was either installed in your car, or you had to lug it around in a bag that was bigger than your average Chihuahua. And there were no job boards yet. No LinkedIn. Imagine that for a minute.

So, when we wanted to advertise that we had job openings, we placed ads in the newspaper. The Holy Grail of newspaper advertising at the time was the Sunday Careers Section of your metro area’s paper. It cost hundreds of dollars for a basic ad in most papers. If you got splashy and wanted to add your logo or have a border, you could easily spend $1000 or more. For ONE ad. And yet, plenty of companies did just that week after week. And then the Job Board Era began.

I remember when the first job boards burst onto the scene. It was not only really exciting but also a bit scary. The buzz back then was that job boards could render recruiters obsolete. After all, with job boards, companies could simply post all their openings and voila: instant success. It was an eerily similar reaction to today’s buzz around Artificial Intelligence. That’s when you know you’ve got a real honest to goodness Disruptor on your hands, I think. But that is a topic for another day.

Back to the early days of job boards. In a relatively short period, job boards completely transformed the way we find talent. And not only did our jobs as recruiters not go away, new jobs were born. Job boards made advertising job openings more accessible, easier, and much less expensive than ever before. But the Job Board Era was not all sunshine and unicorns. For all the wonderful outcomes of the Job Board Era, there are some downsides as well. Consider the following:

  1. Job boards make it too easy to post lousy job descriptions
  2. Job boards make it too easy for candidates to simply apply to ALL THE JOBS
  3. Job boards enable bad recruiting behaviors

Let’s take a deep dive into each of the above Job Board Era downsides that still exist in 2017 and examine how we, as leaders in our industry, can do better in the future.

  1. Job boards make it too easy to post lousy job descriptions

Before Job boards, we had to consider the value of each word and every line of text because we paid dearly for that space in the newspaper. Flash forward to today: in just a few seconds, you can post a job on one or dozens of boards, often with the touch of a single button. As a result, many recruiters tend just to cut and paste the entire JD and see what happens. Conventional wisdom, countless articles and every training session I’ve ever facilitated or attended tells us not to do that. And yet it is still a frustratingly standard practice.

There is no one way to create a perfect job posting, but there are some basic best practices to be aware of. For example, does your company have some cool benefit that your competition doesn’t? What about those awards and accolades you’re always winning? You need to call attention to what makes your company and this opportunity so great.

And don’t forget, your target audience is likely looking at your posting on a mobile device while on the train or in-between meetings. Job boards do a very nice job of optimizing the mobile experience; but they cannot make up for bad formatting, too much information, spelling and grammar errors, etc. Remember that the job posting is often the first impression a candidate has about your company: don’t squander that opportunity.

  1. Job boards make it too easy for candidates to apply to ALL THE JOBS

If you’ve been in recruiting for more than 10 minutes, chances are you’ve run into THAT CANDIDATE. The one who applies to all of the openings you have without any regard to whether he/she is qualified. Well, just as job boards enabled us, recruiters, to quickly and easily post job postings we haven’t even edited, they also would allow candidates to merely hit send or apply without regard to whether he/she is indeed qualified. This happened far less frequently “back in the day” when people had to print their resume on a nice heavy paper, type up a cover letter, address the envelope, put on a stamp, and take it to the post office.

And what happens is that these candidates are clogging up your ATS or CRM and their candidate experience is less than stellar as a result, because let’s face it: they go into a black hole most of the time. And you as a recruiter have to wade through all these resumes at some point to get to the qualified candidates. It is a lose/lose scenario for all involved. We don’t want to make it hard to apply, but wouldn’t it be great if we could encourage more of the right people to apply?

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One way to do this is to provide the prospective candidate with insight into the reality of the job. When possible, leverage current employees who are doing the job today: employee testimonials and “Day in the Life” videos are authentic, powerful tools that can be used to tell the story about the opportunity better than any job description. I’ve also seen some great job postings that detail about the expectations for the first 90 days of employment and this can be far more effective than a bulleted (and often painfully generic) list of requirements.

 

  1. Job boards enable bad recruiting behaviors

I am sure that there were recruiters who succumbed to something like post and pray syndrome before job boards existed. I just didn’t know any of them. But due to the proliferation of job boards, aggregators and distributors, most recruiters can post a job with a simple click of a button. And because it’s that easy, and we’re all so busy, many of us have inadvertently adopted a post and pray approach. So, what happens when that posting does not generate the results you seek? It’s then that many recruiters decide to branch out to more creative candidate sourcing avenues. Frankly, that scares me. I have a lot of faith in job boards as a tool – I do – but imagine all the talent you do not see when you take this approach. That talent you’re missing is talent that could be perfect for your role. Not only that but as I’ve discussed in previous missives like this one, post and pray is not a viable or sustainable strategy. It’s not a strategy at all. So, don’t do that, okay?

Another bad behavior that job boards created that I will never fully understand is using the job board to find candidates that you already have in your database. If it is at all possible, leverage your own CRM or ATS or whatever it is you are using to track candidate activity first.  This step should ideally happen before you post the position, or at the very least, before you search the job board database. Chances are there’s talent in your database that you may be overlooking. And if you’re not tapping into that talent, you are not only costing yourself a bit of time, but you may be contributing to a poor experience for the candidate.

Job boards and the automation they’ve made possible have truly transformed our industry, in many ways for the better. Finding the right talent quickly and efficiently is still a challenge for most businesses. It’s a paradox: the reason our jobs are more difficult is that we can simply push a button to do many things. As a result, we no longer genuinely value the activity and give it less thought than we should. Job boards continue to evolve, and as a result, we challenge ourselves to develop as well. By questioning our habits and behaviors, always asking if there is a better way, and holding ourselves to high standards, we continuously improve.

 

Elizabeth McCrea Theodore, SPHR, is a leader in the RPO industry, with 20 years of progressive experience and a focus on the creation and execution of innovative talent identification and engagement and employee development strategies In her current role, she is responsible for the creation and delivery of talent management programs for ManpowerGroup Solutions RPO, and leads several employee development initiatives. She also leads the effort to identify and launch innovative technology strategies to enable RPO delivery operations.

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