Don't Give Up On Job Boards Just Yet...

By Tony Restell

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Tony Restell, Founder of

In Summary:

  • Social media has not replaced job boards as the best place to advertise jobs (from a results perspective) - and so the best place to search for advertised jobs remains the job boards.
  • Social media has created a new form of recruiting, which I affectionately call #splearch (tweet this). Recruiters are putting a lot of resource into splearching and so it is important that candidates develop a strong social media presence to benefit from this.

Don't Give Up On Job Boards Just Yet...

If you aspire to changing jobs, there's hype and fantasy surrounding social media that you really need to be wary of.

The reason is simple - take it at face value and it could just derail your job search! But fully understand it and it can certainly fuel your aspirations for further career progression.


There are far too many people out there peddling "new realities" that are based more on their own self interests than actual facts. Listen to these snake oil merchants and your chances of making a successful career move could just tank. "Why is that?" I hear you ask.

Very simply because social media is being over-egged - and trends misrepresented - by those who have a financial interest in doing so.

I'm in the unusual position of having financial interests both in the job board and the social media sectors. I have no interest in talking one up at the expense of the other. So here's my inside scoop on what's really happening...

Search, Selection and #Splearch

There have always been two distinct approaches recruiters have used to fill their vacancies. One is the very proactive method of researching the pool of potentially suitable candidates and approaching target candidates directly, irrespective of any indication that those candidates are open to the idea of a career move. There are variants on this approach, but broadly speaking this is what has historically been referred to as search.

The second approach has historically been called selection. Recruiters have in some shape or form advertised that they are looking to hire (be this through newspapers, job boards, careers pages or recruiting events). They've then selected from the resulting applicants those most closely matching the hiring requirements specified for the role.

It should be self evident that the selection approach broadly restricts the recruiter to considering candidates who are already actively pursuing a career move. Search, by contrast, opens up the entire candidate market for consideration.

The flip side is that search activities require the investment of a lot more recruiting resource for each opening being worked on. By contrast, recruitment advertising remains far and away the lower cost recruiting option.

Now this is the point that you as a candidate need to grasp if you don't want to be sold down the river by those seeking to propel the social media bandwagon:

Social media has done little to change this. What it has done is changed who can credibly claim to do each type of recruiting. And perhaps create a hybrid recruiting category that sits somewhere between the two.

Let's examine what has and has not changed...


How Search Has Changed

  • The data accessible through social media profiles means any recruitment firm or employer can now engage in search activities that were once the preserve of elite headhunting firms with their proprietary databases. This applies to LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ profiles to name just a few.
  • Many employers have set up in-house recruiting teams tasked with doing just that - so from a candidate perspective having well crafted social media profiles is key.
  • However True Search involves mapping out the entire population of qualified candidates - and then cold-calling or being referred into the most appropriate candidates so as to start a dialogue. Very few employers are genuinely doing this - and so headhunting firms do still have a market they can serve.
  • The creation of a new type of recruiting - one notch down from true search - is the revolution that social media has truly brought about. Social media platforms - and LinkedIn in particular - have made possible this new hybrid recruiting approach, blending the power of a candidate database with the practices of the direct mail industry. I call this #Splearch.

What Is #Splearch?

The vast majority of employers moving into search are - in reality - creating a subset of LinkedIn / Twitter / Google+ candidates they are interested in and then splurging out messages to solicit interest in being interviewed. Splearching is more powerful than traditional recruitment advertising since it i) allows both active and passive candidates to be targeted, ii) avoids recruiters having to deal with unwanted applications and iii) affords the recruiter more discretion in terms of the public disclosure of positions being recruited for. Hence it sits somewhere between the search and selection practices of old.

Splearching is costly and invasive though. The time investment is considerable, as are the license fees / technology platforms making it possible to splearch. It's therefore eating into the market of pure search (and paid for CV database access) far more than it is the traditional low cost job board advertising market. Plus #splearch is invasive and so has to be undertaken with care. Too much of this activity can start to make employers look desperate and spammy - to say nothing of the potential it has to alienate the userbases of platforms like LinkedIn if it starts to be used too aggressively by recruiters. Hence my expectation is that this will remain a hybrid service that eats into more traditional search activities rather than becoming a replacement for mass market recruitment advertising.

How Selection Has Changed

Those who know me know I'm a big advocate of social media and its use in the jobs market. I genuinely believe a significant new category of recruiting has been made possible through the adoption of these platforms - and so the impact of social media has been immense in the recruiting field.

What social media has not done is decimate the job board industry. I'm reminded of the early years of the dot-com boom when the mainstream media portrayed jobs boards as being the death of the recruitment agency. That proved to be far-fetched - and so is the idea that social media will make job boards extinct. To date social media sites - be that LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook - have had only limited success in making themselves effective recruitment advertising platforms. Speak to corporate recruiters and you'll learn that quality of response has generally been poor - and that the huge benefit they're seeing is instead coming from the new form of recruiting that I've dubbed #splearch.

To those in the job board industry, this comes as no surprise. Online newspapers have for years failed to convert online readers into a wave of quality applicants. If people have gone to these sites for a quick news fix, only a small proportion are going to be enticed to do something that wasn't what they went there to do in the first place. It's not at all obvious that a social media site, whose readers are mostly not there looking for jobs, can be any more easily converted. This of course has been the experience to date.

So it is that we find ourselves in the situation that job boards are still far and away the most effective recruitment advertising channel. Some inroads into their businesses have been made by the fact that splearching is taking business away from recruitment agencies, with the result that less recruitment advertising is needed. Some business is being lost as companies spend less on jobboards' CV database subscriptions. But when recruiters want to advertise, the instinctive place they are turning is still the job board industry - and I honestly don't see that changing anytime soon.

#Splearch - The Implications For Candidates

For the candidates amongst you, I believe the implications are twofold (tweet this):

1) It is absolutely the case that you need to maintain a professional and well groomed social media presence, so that you have the best possible chance of appearing on the radars of companies actively splearching. Failing to do so is cutting yourself off from a significant proportion of all the recruiting activity that is taking place today. Social media has had a massive impact on the recruitment market - and this is where your social media efforts need to be focused as a candidate.

2) The major branded jobs boards - and the niche job boards that serve your sector - are still the main route to market for recruiters wanting to fill their vacancies at a modest cost (note: a key consideration given the economic backdrop). If you are not searching out opportunities on these boards - and spotting the trends of who is and is not recruiting - then you are missing out on a lot of the hiring activity underway in your industry. Take the social media hype with a pinch of salt and don't give up on job boards just  yet... 


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