Over the last 15+ years, jobs boards have established themselves as a reliable and lucrative online business model.
For many of the more established online recruitment businesses, it began in the latter days of magazine publishing where recruitment adverts were placed in the back section of industry journals.
Over time, charging for job ads became far more profitable than the magazine subscriptions themselves, and the job advertising sections were spun off as standalone brands. To this day, selling job adverts to employers is how job boards make money.
Much like property, auto listings and dating, recruitment ads remain a stable part of any classified business.
Here we take a look at some of the main considerations and principles for anyone trying to figure out how to start a job board business. These should all be included in your job board business plan.
What is your niche?
Do you have a particular niche in mind? If not, don’t forget you are going up against some very significant competition.
Indeed dominates the job board industry in the UK. Generalist competitors battle hard for market share, but it’s the niche players who have the best chances to connect with and monetise their target market.
If you are looking to promote your job board to an existing community or market, this will certainly give you a head start. In this game, narrow but deep is generally better than wide but shallow.
Jobseekers of employers first?
Chicken or egg? Some job boards tend to think of their jobseekers as the ‘product’ that employers come to buy and as such focus on attracting jobseekers.
But how do you attract jobseekers if you don’t have jobs?
One option is to ‘backfill’ jobs onto your newly launched job board so you will have jobs on there from the outset. This involves taking a feed of jobs from an ‘aggregator’ site and means that jobseekers will be redirected away from your website when they find a job they want to apply for.
Check out our List of Top UK Job Aggregators 2021.
The most established job board business model involves monetising your job board by selling job listings.
But you will only have a satisfied customer if people actually apply for these jobs.
As such it makes sense to focus on registering candidates before you start selling job listings.
Your job board business model – free/paid
Are you looking to make money from the outset? Or build an engaged community first?
Let’s start by looking at how job boards make money.
How do job boards make money?
Most charge employers for job listings or access to a CV database. Others charge candidates for early access to the best jobs. The job board business model you choose is up to you, but it’s worth thinking carefully about.
Whichever way you intend to monetise, you need to think about the unit economics around how you will attract jobseekers and employers.
At the end of the day you want to be sure that you are able to offer a product or service that offers superior results or value to what already exists in the marketplace.
Be sure to do your research.
How to market a job board
So where do you find your jobseekers?
There are some standard standard methods you can use to market a job board to jobseekers, but it’s also worth thinking creatively about how to encourage jobseekers to register on your job board.
Google AdWords is a staple source of candidates for job boards.
Here, your niche is your friend.
If you are able to convince candidates that you have jobs specific to their search term and location, you have a strong chance of efficiently attracting candidates via PPC.
PPC is great way to boost candidates but it can also be expensive. An SEO strategy is key to ensuring you can lock in organic growth over the long term.
Because people want to work close to where they live, a combination of job type and geographic location offers great opportunities for for highly specific SEO search term visibility.
Be sure that you are taking SEO advice to make sure you don’t miss out on this big opportunity.
There aren’t many business models I can think of where email is so important.
In general a candidate job search cycle last 3 months. In that time, a single candidate will apply for countless jobs.
If you do an effective job at not only attracting candidates but registering them and bringing them back to apply for subsequent jobs via the likes of email, you are vastly improving the efficiency of your business model.
Effective job alerts are crucial to ensure you alert all relevant candidates when a matching job is posted on your job board.
Aggregators can play a useful role in the development of a job board business, but should also be treated with caution as it can be easy for a job board to become overly dependent on aggregators.
Their main use is in attracting additional applications to your jobs. Usually on a cost per click (CPC) basis, you can offer your chosen aggregator(s) a feed of your jobs. They will repost the jobs on their website, and redirect any applications back to you.
In addition, if you are attracting candidates but don’t have relevant jobs for them, some aggregators will offer you a ‘backfill’ feed whereby they publish jobs on your website and you earn a small commission for each application you send back to them.
So you have your jobseekers acquisition plan in place, how to you attract employers to post their jobs on your job board?
Hopefully you have done your research and identified your ideal customer type. Now you need to start getting on the phone and pitching your solution to them.
This is the best way to get into the mind of your customer, and quickly understand whether you are on the right track with your business.
Your biggest ally here will be tools like LinkedIn as well as seeing which businesses are currently advertising vacancies that fall into your niche.
There are a number of tools and techniques you can use to develop a target lead list for your sales outreach.
If you know what kinds of employers you are targeting, then it should be relatively straightforward to figure out where online they hang out and start targeting them with digital ads.
Digital advertising is a great way to build brand awareness and make sales outreach conversations easier.
People are much more likely to chat with you on the phone if they have already heard of your brand.
The fact that you have launched a new job board in itself is newsworthy. Write a press release telling your story and share it far and wide to job board press like Onrec, as well as any magazines or online publications that operate on your niche.
What are your KPIs?
Establishing some Key Performance Indicators is crucial in ensuring that you are hitting your goals.
Here are some useful measures:
Applications per job
Is a customer that doesn’t get any applications going to be a happy one?
For that reason Applications per job may be the single most important KPI for a job board. You may have various application per job targets based on location and job type, but in essence there is likely to be a minimum number of applications that you want to hit to ensure you don’t churn customers.
At the same time, don’t forget that not all applications are equal and quality is better than quantity.
Cost per application (CPA)
How much does it cost you to generate each application? Some channels will cost more than others but you should have an idea on the average.
Average order value
Let’s say your main revenue stream is going to be a 30 day job listing. The cost of this is likely to be your average order value or (AOV).
These are your top level KPI metrics.
Understanding will give you a good idea of the unit economics that will drive your business.
Let’s say your AOV is £200 and you want to ensure you drive at least 10 applications per job to give your customer the best chance of hiring.
If your CPA is £5 you know that it will cost you around £50 to deliver desired number of applications (10x£5). That’s £50 of your £200 to deliver the desired number of applications, leaving £150 profit.
Which job board software?
You can of course build your own job board software from scratch, but there are a number of white label job board platforms out there that will enable you to get up and running quickly.
Probably a good idea if you are just starting out.
Other things to remember
- In general one of the biggest points of dissatisfaction for jobseekers is not receiving a response to their job application. Finding a way to make sure employers respond to all applicants will increase your jobseeker satisfaction ratings.
- Jobseekers prefer to speak directly to employers than via recruitment consultants. Be careful with recruitment consultants. Allowing recruitment consultants means you are likely to have duplicate jobs on your website which will inflate your job numbers and frustrate jobseekers.
- Average jobseeking phase is 3 months every 3 years. Make sure you squeeze the 3 month window for the opportunity it represents.
- Location is the #1 most important factor for jobseekers when applying for a job.