Why You Still Need Job Boards in the Era of LinkedIn

Tony Restell

With the media furor over the rise of LinkedIn, you could be forgiven for thinking that job boards are now defunct and consigned to the graveyard. The reality is rather different – and for small business owners in particular, there are some very compelling reasons to turn to job boards whenever you’re making your next hires.

LinkedIn’s strongest suit has been to offer companies a means of finding and approaching their ideal hires. It allows companies to tap into the “passive” candidate market, rather than being limited to the “active” candidate market that job boards have typically reached.

This has transformed the recruitment departments of large corporates, the majority of whom have now set up dedicated in-house “headhunting” teams to fully exploit this method of recruiting. But this approach also has some major drawbacks – particularly for SME businesses whose hiring needs are only a tiny fraction of their corporate counterparts.

Against that backdrop, here are three key reasons why SME businesses should ensure they continue to work with job boards:

1. Job boards reach more active candidates

LinkedIn was initially designed to be a social platform for professional networking – and while recruitment is a form of professional networking, LinkedIn is not solely a recruitment tool. As a result, employees don’t usually turn to LinkedIn first for their job search. It’s used more as a source of informative content and to build their profile and connections, generate leads, and promote their current business. Active jobseekers are far more likely to start a search on Google and find themselves directed to job boards, where they will then register their resume or apply directly to advertised vacancies.
For SMEs, LinkedIn’s strength is also its weakness. Enabling recruiters to approach passive candidates is a big USP for LinkedIn. But it’s also hit and miss – and therefore time consuming – because most of the people a recruiter approaches on LinkedIn aren’t actually considering a career change. So it can become quite a costly exercise to generate enough candidate interest from people who are actually open to a move. That’s a cost that large corporate recruiters are happy to shoulder, particularly when recruiting for business-critical positions or in areas of extreme talent shortage. But that’s equally a cost that many SMEs simply cannot afford to incur. Plus LinkedIn’s membership means the site is skewed towards being able to fill professional and executive roles, whereas in a lot of SMEs the recruiting focus may be of lower skilled and blue collar roles.

2. LinkedIn has a steep learning curve

Overall I’m a fan of LinkedIn and what it’s enabled modern day recruiters to do. But it’s also true that there is a lot to master to become an expert recruiter on LinkedIn. Figuring out how to search the site takes time and expert training. Having a profile that makes candidates warm to you doesn’t just happen – it takes creativity, expertise, and time. That’s before we talk about reaching out to candidates on the platform, which is an art in itself.

Once you’ve identified the candidates you want to approach on LinkedIn, there’s a huge difference in success rates amongst recruiters. Whether your messages to candidates elicit a positive response or not can make or break the hiring economics of LinkedIn. The trouble is, for SMEs that’s a steep learning curve – the costs of which are borne by the small business. Contrast that with the relative simplicity of posting a vacancy onto a job board and it’s easy to see why lots of small businesses might favour the certainty of response that a job board brings.

Whilst it’s true that one area of the LinkedIn site is a job board, LinkedIn is like newspaper websites in that the jobs section isn’t the primary reason that people visit the site. It’s not a pure job board and its traffic isn’t primarily the active job seeker variety that you’d find on a job board. So overall its function is primarily that of a candidate sourcing tool.

3. Job boards may prove to be more affordable

With LinkedIn’s targeting capabilities, you can really focus on reaching the right candidate with a direct approach. But once you factor in the cost of a LinkedIn licence and the time needed to master the site and start generating good shortlists, it may start to look like a costly option – particularly so for in-house hiring managers and HR departments of SMEs who often don’t have lots of executive vacancies to fill. In comparison, job board spend can be more flexible and affordable. If you need to recruit for a wide variety of roles, then having your budget tied up on LinkedIn may hamper your ability to recruit for that whole spectrum of openings.

Final thoughts

I know what you’re thinking… Why would someone running a social media agency be promoting job boards over a social network? The answer is quite simple. I do still believe they have a place – most notably because there’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to recruitment or recruitment marketing. This is particularly true for SMEs who often don’t have the expertise or budget for licences to go down the LinkedIn route.

Ultimately, it’s about getting the balance right, knowing who you are trying to reach and how much time and money you’re willing to spend to find the right candidate. Both LinkedIn and online job boards can support your recruitment strategy, but don’t myopically pursue one at the expense of the other simply because business headlines have made you think that’s the right thing to do.


Contributing Author
Tony Restell Founder of Social-Hire.com

Tony Restell is the Founder of Social Hire, a specialist social media agency whose focus is on using social media for recruiting. Previously Tony built and sold a successful job board business in the UK. He’s a guest speaker at leading MBA schools across Europe and a published author.


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