It’s not me, it’s you: how job board problems are not what they seem

Job board problemsThe rise of pop psy­chol­o­gy, begin­ning in the 1970s, spawned an end­less series of with titles like “I’m OK, You’re OK” and “Emo­tion­al Intel­li­gence” that con­tin­ues to this day. The hall­mark of such a book: a sim­ple psy­cho­log­i­cal insight or tac­tic – whether or not it is on reli­able research – and expand it (into book length) to cov­er just about every­thing you can imag­ine. Some­times this works – but some­times it does­n’t.

So guess what? I am going to com­mit the same sin and take a sim­ple psy­cho­log­i­cal catch-phrase, and apply it in broad strokes to our entire indus­try. Why? To make a point about some job board prob­lems, of course! Let us pro­ceed.

Job boards have two pri­ma­ry cus­tomers: job seek­ers and employ­ers (if the job board is pub­lic, add a third : share­hold­ers). Depend­ing on the job board, more atten­tion is paid to one cus­tomer or the oth­er – and hon­est­ly, the cus­tomer that gets the most atten­tion is usu­al­ly the . Why? Well, because typ­i­cal­ly pay the bills. Yet, as you prob­a­bly know, this is a bit odd – if there are no job seek­ers, there are def­i­nite­ly no employ­ers. It would seem that job seek­ers should be the most impor­tant cus­tomer – they are the source of a job board­’s suc­cess, right? Well…it would seem to be, but it often isn’t.

Instead, many job boards chase after employ­ers, obsess­ing on what they should do to bring and keep them ‘on board’. Spe­cial deals? Sure! Cool tech­nol­o­gy? You bet! Again, this sense – most job boards have ded­i­cat­ed sales teams whose exis­tence is tied to sell­ing to employ­ers. On the job seek­er side, most sites usu­al­ly have a mar­ket­ing per­son – or team – focused on acquir­ing and retain­ing traf­fic.

So what’s my psy­chob­a­b­ble catch-phrase for this? ‘It’s not me, it’s you’. Let me explain.

What’s the num­ber one of job seek­ers when using a job board? “My appli­ca­tion went into a black hole. I nev­er heard back from the employ­er“. (Check out the 2016 job seek­er sur­vey in the Research sec­tion!). This is con­sis­tent for almost every job board and niche I’ve con­sult­ed on – because employ­ers tra­di­tion­al­ly don’t respond to every job seek­er. Of course, the prob­lem for job boards is that they don’t have any­thing to do with the response to job seek­ers – it’s con­trolled by the employ­er. But from a job seek­er’s per­spec­tive, they are using the job board – so the job board is respon­si­ble.

The most com­mon response to job seek­ers when they com­plain to job boards? Some ver­sion of ‘It’s not me, it’s you!’. As in: ‘I’m sor­ry but we don’t have any­thing to do with your appli­ca­tion – we just send it to the employ­er. You’re on your own!”.  Of course, this is said much more nice­ly than I’ve put it – but the essence of the mes­sage is the same: ‘Not my prob­lem!’. Then the job board piv­ots back to its favorite cus­tomer: the employ­er.

Does this seem too harsh? I don’t think so. Hav­ing been on the receiv­ing end (so to speak) of appli­ca­tions nev­er acknowl­edged, I know how frus­trat­ing it is. What both­ers me is that most job boards (not all) don’t even try to address this prob­lem – even though it’s the biggest issue for one of their two cus­tomers. Then they won­der why traf­fic and appli­ca­tions are fal­ter­ing!

My pop psy­cho­log­i­cal advice: pay atten­tion to both cus­tomers AND address their com­plaints direct­ly. In this case, the hard­er path will offer greater rewards!

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