Posted: 9:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 20, 2013
By Erik Sherman
A recruiting expert digs into sites like Monster.com, CareerBuilder, and LinkedIn to figure out if you're really getting what you pay for.
Hiring always takes more time than you think it will: you have to try to attract the right type of applicants, sort through résumés and cover letters, and manage the whole review and interview process. No wonder so many companies have gone online to broaden their reach and become more efficient in finding employees.
One of the big tools for online recruitment is LinkedIn. Layering ads and hiring tools on top of social networks is a potentially powerful way to search for top talent. But as headhunter Nick Corcodilos pointed out recently on the PBS Newshour site, LinkedIn engages in some double-dipping, in some situations taking money from both job advertisers and seekers. That's got to make you ask if you're really getting the full value of what you're paying for.
The problem for employers comes not when they search for candidates or network with people, but when they run paid ads. LinkedIn users have the option to pay $29.95 a month for "Job Seeker Premium" status. One of the benefits is to "move your job applications to the top of the list as a Featured Applicant."
That should be a red flag. Featured applicants at the top of a list are like paid search listings at the top of the results you get from Google or Bing. It doesn't mean you're getting the best applicants. Maybe you'll get a star from the group, but chances are that you've just added more names to the top of the slush pile--names that you can't really afford to waste time on, just in case one of them is the right person.
I spoke with a LinkedIn representative who said that according to the company's own analysis, premium subscribers get hired twice as fast as other LinkedIn members. But that may be because the premium subscribers are looking harder for a new position. It doesn't necessarily suggest that the premium subscribers are any better suited to the jobs that they seek.
LinkedIn does flag applications as being from premium subscribers, so it isn't as though hiring managers or recruiters are somehow fooled. And yet, from the view of someone hiring, seeing some applications given special treatment does nothing useful and doesn't aid in sorting through the stack of replies an ad may have gotten. It may even encourage more marginal candidates to apply because they go to the front of the line and may feel that they have less competition.
Monster.com and CareerBuilder
According to Corcodilos, LinkedIn isn't the only online job platform to look at with a more critical eye. A recruiting industry watchdog, CareerXroads, examined percentages of hires that come from the job boards. Only 1.3 percent of the time did employers say that hires came from Monster.com, with its 23 million job listings. CareerBuilder and its 24 million listings was mentioned only 1.2 percent of the time.
It could be that there is an internal disconnect between the people in companies who report hiring figures and those who initially gets the leads from the board. But even assuming some reporting errors, the small degree of success of the job boards in uncovering candidates eventually hired has to give you pause.
CareerBuilder replied and said that it had an internal study of more than 900 clients showing that more than a third of hires were ultimately done through CareerBuilder. But when asked, the company replied that study participants were hand-picked by CareerBuilder's sales reps, which means that the study is anything but randomly done and representative of the world at large.
A Monster spokesperson noted that the CareerXroads had a limited sample of 37 respondents of mostly large companies, and so would not be representative of the broader marketplace and also said that it is "hard for employers to track where someone is hired from because of disparate technology and even competitive reasons." That, too, seems likely, although less likely for a relatively small start-up business in which an entrepreneur is more plugged into how all facets of the company operate. Additionally, that point is effectively an admission by Monster that employers can't tell if job boards are a good source of employees, leaving one to wonder what evidence might support the efficacy.
Corcodilos also says that double-dipping appears elsewhere, with CareerBuilder offering a paid option for job seekers to update their relevancy score in an employer's search.
CareerBuilder's answer was that while the paid option does improve the relevancy score in an employer's search, the job seeker's résumé is still subject to the company's matching algorithms. So, as the spokesperson wrote, if you don't have legal experience, "the algorithm will take this into account and the résumé would not rank high because of the low relevancy." But that is an extreme case. If someone is a relative match for a job and has paid to be highlighted, it still sounds as though that résumé could potentially displace one that would objectively be a better fit.
It's worth reading Corcodilos's post, as he goes into some of the issues in depth. The short take is that if you're looking for help, it may be that the job boards, which were supposed to leverage your time and choice in applicants, are no longer as effective as you might think. As always, the best thing is to experiment and see how the tool works for you.