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On recruiters and job boards

Joel, of Joel On Software fame, has created a jobs board with some rather different rules for posting: no hidden company names (no ‘anonymous jobs’) and a money back guarentee. The main goal is to make a niche job board where folks from the JoS community can find jobs at good companies. Requiring company names also screens out many recruiters.

I think intermediaries in the hiring process can provide high value (I love reading the insights of Nick Corcodilos’ “Ask The Headhunter”). I’ve gotten contracts through recruiters before. Such recruiters can add value by screening candidates and pulling from a wider pool than a company might have available. It’s outsourced HR.

However, I have a resume on Monster. Often, I’ll get an email from a recruiter about a job that is obviously a wrong fit. For example, I have some ATG Dynamo experience and some StoryServer experience, both from several years ago. I’ve received emails detailing jobs where extensive experience with the latest version of ATG Dynamo or StoryServer is required. If the emailer had bothered to read my resume after the keyword match, they’d know I was not a good fit. It is job spam. I’ve hidden my resume on Monster, which helps, but before I did so, my email was sucked into the recruiter databases.

Now, you may be saying “Boo-hoo, Dan! You’re being offered jobs that aren’t a good fit. Just delete the emails!” It’s true, I can treat those emails like any other spam. And the costs are the same as any other spam–my attention. (Occasionally it’s useful to see what positions and technologies are being recruited for, which keeps me from sending all the job spam directly to the trash). The business model for these recruiters is also the same–send out enormous quantities of (nearly costless) email and play the numbers. Employees do this kind of thing all the time when they send out massive numbers of resumes, and it’s broken.

Back to Joel’s jobs board. After a few days, someone violated the no ‘anonymous jobs’ rule, and Joel’s request for suggsions on how to deal with it sparked this discussion, which is pretty lively. Pretty much everyone fell into two categories: don’t allow ‘anonymous jobs’ lest you become another, or allow the recruiters, but make anyone submitting an anonymous job check a box, and let users hide such entries. Some folks also suggested charging recruiters more (sometimes much more) than companies, or creating a job board just for recruiters, or creating some kind of rating system which will let ‘good’ employers (whatever that means) float to the top of listings. It does look like Joel has decided to keep the ‘no anonymous jobs’ rule. The JoS job board is now an intermediary, even though it provides nothing more than aggregation and a bit of screening.

I said before that intermediaries in hiring process can have value. I believe this is true of any intermediary in any process, whether it be job board, recruiter, real estate agent, car salesman, travel agent or anything else. But (cue Jaws Theme) disintermediation due to decreased information distribution costs means intermediaries can no longer add value just by having access to information (whether it be MLS listings or phone numbers for hotels in Australia). Now they need to provide something beyond what the internet can provide, whether that be deep experience in a particular city’s real estate or a good relationship with a hiring manager or aggregation of interesting eyeballs.

(“And that’s something that job spammers simply cannot provide.” Well, that was my last sentence until I re-read my post. But job spammers do actually aggregate interesting eyeballs; they just do it inefficiently.)

[tags]joel on software, job boards, recruiters, disintermediation[/tags]