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From a follow up survey of attendees to Econsultancy's Digital Cream event in March, one common theme was that companies, specifically brands, are struggling to find the right talent for the right roles.

Having just read the post on the launch of Adzuna, a social search engine which aggregates job ads from a range of sources, I got thinking about the role of job boards within digital marketing and e-commerce, and how they could be improved to make life easier for employers, recruiters and candidates.

I have been with Econsultancy for just over three years and when I first started my focus was to develop our jobs board and recruitment advertising in general.

I don't claim to be any kind of guru on digital recruitment, but over a two year period I have been in daily contact with internal recruitment teams, consultants of all shapes and sizes and media agencies as well as trying to manage the day to day running of our jobs board, gauging what works and what doesn't when it comes to finding digital talent.

So I thought I would share some views on how i think, as an industry, we can improve the value we all get from jobs boards and make them a more useful tool for recruiters, employers and candidates.

Going back to basics, I see the role of any board as connecting a candidate with an employer for a specific and relevant role (often via an agency), or vice versa.

This should be the number one priority and everybody involved in this process (employer, candidate, agency, and jobs board) stands to benefit from this happening efficiently, so everyone should pull in the same direction. However, this is not always the case.

Job boards 

Stick to what you are good at

When you look at the leading jobs boards within digital marketing, they are not just about recruitment ads, but are publications which, over time, have established an audience based around the content they produce.

They have identified their audience, and then have launched the jobs boards to allow the employers/agencies to advertise roles to this audience.

The Econsultancy jobs board was launched in 2005 due to demand from our community. They knew who else used the site, and wanted the opportunity to reach those people.

As a result, we became a niche board for mid to senior digital marketing jobs, since that's who generally reads Econsultancy.

The people running jobs boards need to try and maintain the focus, ensuring that the roles being advertised are relevant for their audience and are adding value.

This can be tricky at times. When you incentivise a sales rep to book as much advertising as possible in order to get their bonus/commission, they will invariably take the money.

I would urge any jobs boards out there to maintain the integrity of what is essentially content on their site. By doing so you will enhance a reputation for your niche, browsers will feel they are in the right place and advertisers will be re-assured that they are spending money in the right place.

Obviously, if your audience is quite diverse then you will need to cater for these areas with a structured search and browsing function on the site.

Recruitment consultancies

When it comes to jobs boards, recruiters should think carefully about how they wish to be perceived.

Remember that you are not just looking for a candidate, you are presenting your brand and image to what is (hopefully) a relevant audience. 

Don't be ticktastic!

This sadly is true of many agencies out there. When presented with a form on a job board which may have 20 tick boxes to categorise the role, they will tick all of them to try and maximise views of the listing.

What you have to understand is that this is immensely frustrating from a candidates point of view. If I look for an E-commerce Manager role by selecting that search filter, and I am presented with a variety of media sales roles from recruitment agency, my initial feeling is frustration that these are not the right roles and then I associate that negative thought with the agency advertising the role.

This can also be damaging to the reputation of the board itself as it dilutes its relevance to me as a candidate.

Play by the rules!

One of the most aggravating pieces of feedback that I used to get was when an advertiser has been bombarded with calls and emails from recruiters, despite the fact that there is a highlighted banner on the positing specifically asking recruitment agencies not to contact them.

This is not getting your foot in the door, it's blowing your foot off with a shotgun before you're even near the door, as many companies will add agencies that practice this to a blacklist and will not work with them in future.

Employers:  brands and digital agencies

At Econsultancy we deal with many brands directly when it comes to recruitment as they make up the bulk of our community.

Some have very large online teams that run into the hundreds of staff and some will be looking for their second or third digital hire.

Make your mind up!

Regardless of the size of your company, be sure to identify the brief properly and provide as much detail as possible.

With smaller companies the role of a digital marketing manager will be likely to include a wide range of tasks across SEO, PPC, Affiliate Marketing, PR etc, whereas many larger organisations will have dedicated teams for these services so the role will be different.

It doesn't matter whether you want the candidate to send emails, run search campaigns and clean the toilets before they leave on a Friday (though the latter may be a bit extreme), the important thing is to be clear about what you want so the candidate can make an educated decision as to whether or not they should apply.

If you can't do that, you need to take a step back and define the role more clearly.

The main argument is that writing a detailed brief is time consuming. This may be the case, but so is sifting through pile after pile of CVs that are not what you are looking for.

You're looking for a what?

Anyone working in digital understands that digital agencies are cool, hip, fun places to work, and most of these agencies love to communicate this fact.

I have visited many digital marketing agencies and know many agency folk and they certainly seem to be fun working environments. However, when it comes to recruitment of skilled digital professionals, posting an ad saying you are looking for "a Social Media Rockstar" or a "Digital Marketing Wizard" just sounds ridiculous, especially when you read the brief and it is for an intern.

How much?

Perhaps I am being slightly naive here, as I can't imagine that all companies will start publishing every salary for every role they advertise. However, I can honestly say from experience and from analysis across roles advertised on Econsultancy, postings that tell the candidate how much they will earn get more responses.

Fact. Why? I am not entirely sure I know the answer but I imagine people respond to honesty, openness and clarity about the roles they are applying for. Ambiguity is an application killer. (I have made a mental note to ask candidates this question: should Econsultancy conduct any recruitment-focused research in the future?)

Where do we fit in?

At Econsultancy we obviously have our jobs board which we are continually trying to improve for recruiters and candidates (we are well aware it isn't perfect), but from a different angle, we have a far more important role to play.

One of the biggest problems within recruitment in digital from my experience is role ambiguity. By this I mean that you could take ten SEO Manager postings from different employers across a number of job boards, and the roles and responsibilities would vary dramatically.

This is not anyone deliberately trying to confuse or manipulate candidates, I think it's just early days for the industry. 

When you look at other industries, more established ones such as accountancy, property, law etc there are clearly defined hierarchies, departments and job titles that are established and have, over the decades, proved successful for these industries.

I think that digital has a long way to go before we can finally settle on what the best way to structure a team is or what responsibilities should sit with who. As an industry we are still in our infancy. Plus the level of innovation means that it would be dangerous to standardise too much as the landscape is constantly changing.

Econsultancy is an authority on best practice digital marketing and e-commerce. We work the biggest brands and agencies across various projects including training and consultancy and we get right to the heart of their organisations.

Our biggest role in the world of recruitment is to look at what works and what doesn't in terms of team structure, identify the key roles and responsibilties that rest with each team member and try to establish some degree of standardisation across the plethora of job titles and digital disciplines that exist.

If we can do this then we can help remove some of the ambiguity and uncertainly that I feel surrounds digital recruitment, and hopefully enable employers, recruitment consultants and candidates to engage in a more efficient way.

Econsultancy are planning some research into this over the coming weeks to look at how various companies structure their teams across digital disciplines (in-house and agency side), where the responsibilities lie within those teams and to examine how effective the different approaches are. Watch this space.

Adam Candlish

Published 10 August, 2011 by Adam Candlish

Adam Candlish is Sales Manager at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

2 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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Daniel Pincott

Daniel Pincott, Director at Stormbridge Digital

Great article Adam...some really good points and tips!

almost 5 years ago

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Cyber Pundit, Principal at YWM Consulting

Good points, and let me say the companies or brands that struggle to find good talent do so for a very simple reason: they don't know what to look for. Job descriptions are written by rote, and recruiters or job board engines look for those keywords to match. Not every CV is search engine optimized, indeed most are not. The old art of getting to know people by talking to them and appreciating their many nuances would work even in today's world, but we rely way too much on decrepit and often misused technology. There's a lot of talent if recruiters know whom to appreciate and how.

almost 5 years ago

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Alastair Digby

Great post Adam. I think you very clearly highlight some of the key issues shared by a lot of job board operators. Finding a fine balance between happy job seekers and recruiters can be difficult but certainly not unattainable. Niche job boards supported by a highly targeted online community are excellent resources for all parties concerned and are more effective then larger generalist sites.

almost 5 years ago

Adam Candlish

Adam Candlish, Commercial Director at DataIQ

@ Cyber Pundit - thanks for your comments and it seems like we are on the same page on most points. Your reference to technology is a very valid one but would open an entirely fresh debate (one which I will hope to cover in future posts) where as the key focus (for me anyway) for this post was to try and get some sort of best practice around the use of job boards in their current form. They can be a useful tool for all parties but each party need to take responsibility to use them in a conscientious and ethical way.
I think longer term the view will shift from job advertising ("spray and pray") to job marketing (Idea suggested to me by @GrahamRuddick) which will require far more effective technology which allows us to match candidates to roles based on more than just key words.

almost 5 years ago

Adam Candlish

Adam Candlish, Commercial Director at DataIQ

@ Alistair Digby - thanks Alistair, and I'm glad you agree with the "niche is best" view.
Harmony in this space is difficult, but as you say is certainly not unattainable.

I think there are three main areas of responsibility:
1. Advertisers - spend more time and thought writing your job specifications. Long term this will save you time and money.

2. Recruitment Agents - play by the rules and make a concerted effort, when using job boards to target the right candidates - not just all of them!

3. Job Boards - measures should be put in place to prevent any kind of "spray and pray" ads or CV harvesting. A very quick win would be to restrict the number of criteria an advertiser can tick - force them to keep it relevant.

Pleas do throw in any other suggestions that you may have.

almost 5 years ago

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Amer Sarfraz, Partner & VP of Business at Bramerz

Great post Adam. Coming from a Digital Agency, I can totally relate to the unstructured work rules and the natural confusion in job posts. Hiring the right candidate surely is a challenge and you can't even blame the hired person when the eventual choice doesn't seem to fulfill your needs, as the problem started somewhere else (in-house) that is.
Still trying to figure out the structures and how to formalize the whole agency hierarchy !

almost 5 years ago

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