Monday, February 07, 2005

Search engines and recruiting

The Online Recruitment Blog (via has a good set of articles on online marketing. Worth a look includes HR, meet Marketing

The article covers recruiters using AdWords or similar to ensure that they are well placed on searches. I have both designed these programmes and worked with a very capable web team at a large ad agency to manage other programmes. A few lessons learnt include:

1) Buy your company's name. Sounds obvious but you would be surprised how many firms when you search "jobs companyname" are delivered the result "companyname to outsource to India" or similar.

2) Keep your AdWords tightly defined (for specialist skills)

3) Monitor results and change words regularly.

Why use AdWords? Well there is quite a lot of evidence showing the jobseekers go to their favourite search engine when looking for a new job. This points them to the job-boards, companies etc that they will often use later on. Get them at the search engine stage and you will capture them at the beginning of their campaign.

Often, job seekers will then start to go directly to their favourite job boards (a big one or two and some niche ones) thereby missing the Googles of this world out of the equation. AdWords (or any other Pay per click advertising) is less good at this stage, therefore you cannot rely just on PCP, but it is a very cost effective tool to add to your job search.

There has been a lot of talk about niche job boards. Whilst I agree that their time has come I am not convinced it indicates a long-term trend.

Job boards make their money from providing a useful function, namely bringing together lots of jobs at one place, thus enabling the user to use one site rather than searching many. Niche boards work because the search functions on the big boards isn't terribly smart and the user is delivered a lot of noise. Going niche cuts this.

The cost of advertising on a board brings benefits. First it reduces the noise and secondly of course the board benefits with revenue. Some of the larger ones tremendously.

Why do I not think therefore that niche boards will be the big story in the future? Because I think it will be a search engine, and given its stance on independence of search results (or at least transparency) I wouldn't put any money on Google not entering the space.

If you are a large organisation the chances are you use one of a pretty small number of applicant tracking systems to post jobs onto your site. Most of these sites use an HR-XML structure to communicate their data with other services. Having the data in this format gives you far more accuracy when you are searching - it would be pretty easy to do geographical searches for example because the XML makes it clear which part of the data is about geography.

Let's consider a scenario, one that I don't think is out of the question.

1) someone with a relatively large power decides to compete with the job boards with great search technology, based on HR-XML and not charge for inclusion, at least not for the basic functionality (of course they could add PCP advertising alongside search results)

2) To get the major firms to include all they need to do is contact about 10 companies (the major ATS providers) to ask for a feed. Given that the ATS providers want their clients to have the maximum success from using their systems I can not see a reason why they wouldn't want to link.

3) Build this together and, if you believe in such things, you probably have 80% of the available jobs by going for the top 20% of firms (most using 10 or so ATS providers). This will create the demand by others to also link thereby putting pressure on the smaller ATS providers. As inclusion will be free the service will capture a large proportion of users quickly.

4) The biggest disadvantage would be noise, but this could be managed, not least because the large firms could have better ratings and rank higher than the others. It's how search engines already deliver quality results.

Because search technology is accurate it is better to use one big search engine rather than small ones. By using decent searches you cut down the noise. The same could happen with job boards. Free listings with accurate search would be a very hard model for niche boards to compete with.