Should we use online job sites?

When people ask about recruiting, one of the first questions they ask is “where do I find good people?” One of the first straws they grasp at is an online job site such as Monster, CareerBuilder and other more local sites. I think this is a mistake.

Online job sites are lousy places to look for job candidates.

I have a number of things to say about sourcing candidates elsewhere, but this question comes up so often it deserves special mention here. Online job sites (and their older relatives, the newspaper classified ad) are lousy places to look for job candidates. There are several reasons why.

First and foremost, they are far too broad-stroke, casting a net nation- or world-wide, and including every human looking for work in the world. While at first blush that may seem like a good thing, in reality, it’s a disaster. Start with the fact that 9 out of 10 responses you get for your ad will be worthless, and separating out the good ones is a painful chore. Most are simply unqualified, and they have skirted the site’s filters. If you are looking for things to do, and enjoy getting unintelligible emails from all over the planet, this may be fun. But for most of us, this is a royal pain.

9 out of 10 responses you get for your ad will be worthless

This broad stroke also has another downside, you don’t effectively reach the people you want to reach. Think of it in terms of your normal product advertising. If you sell, let’s say, electrical connectors (like AMP, for example), the last thing you would do is advertise on the SuperBowl. Sure it would be expensive, but the real problem is that only 1 out of 100,000 people you reach is your customer. So the vast majority of people you reach are saying “huh?” You are killing an ant with a sledgehammer. Most people would agree that, for AMP, an ad in a trade journal would be far more effective. The same is true for job candidates.

But, you are saying, the cost is negligible (the ads are really cheap), so what’s the harm in casting a wide net? The harm is that you waste time, energy, and goodwill, and you don’t effectively reach those you do want to reach. You look desperate, unfocused, random, and unprofessional. And for all your trouble, you don’t get the quality message across to the candidate you really want.

Also important is to consider is who you do reach. By definition, people who post to Monster are looking for work. Why? Because they are either (a) out of work or (b) about to be out of work. In either case you don’t want them. Sure, some very small percentage of people (<1%) are out of work because of no fault of their own — they were laid off, or they quit because their job situation was untenable. But I think you may not want even them — again, consider why they got laid off vs. their peers. Surely the company doing the layoff kept the winners...

The people trolling online job sites are the losers

It has been my experience that the people trolling online job sites are the losers. They are the perennially out of work people, the difficult people who get fired or laid off first, the unmotivated who can’t keep a job and can’t understand why, and the totally unqualified grasping at jobs well beyond their reach. In short, the first people you would weed out of your candidate pile. So why add them to the pile in the first place?

I have lots of ideas for where to search for good candidates, I’ll post them here soon. In the meantime don’t grasp at the straw of online job sites.