Having worked on a few hundred job board products, and been the only vendor to have received and rejected a multi-million deal to sell our job board CMS to two of the largest job board groups in the world, I have an insight that I don’t think can be matched.
101: Don’t launch a job board unless you have a service you can piggyback off, CVs/active candidates to offer day one and/or very deep pockets to market it.
Jobserve: £250 million is not quite a billion.
Robbie Cowling was the inventor of the job board, despite what some Americans may claim, and the reason it was an instant success is that he had already assembled a database of active candidates whom his previous service helped to find work with recruiters. Which meant he also had an active client base who was only too ready to receive the service on both sides. The job board was Jobserve; it was for the IT marketplace and in the early days heavily dominated by the IT contract market. I worked as an IT recruiter during this time, and it revolutionised candidate attraction.
Why is Robbie not a billionaire? Well, look at his other sector job boards, and they did not launch with the same advantages and, well, have never really troubled the market or made a major impact. Robbie has also made a great deal of money through property investments outside the Jobserve environment, sources close to him suggest, and maybe he did not have his eye on the ball all the time. Enter Monster and their global product offering, with a marketing campaign that included TV.
Jobserve was also slow to adopt search engine optimisation for its sites and was one of the last to get the spider to index jobs, so missed out on the rush that was the “long-tailed job seeker search”. Monster, Total Jobs and Jobsite all got there first, then came job aggregators. This was a major miss, because optimising for the “long-tailed job seeker search” is how you get mass and accurate traffic for the jobs on your website.
So is this sour grapes?
Nope. Robbie Cowling is an absolute industry hero of mine; even when he had millions, he was still out controlling the quality of the service he delivered, and, well, if the ‘Times Rich List’ is correct he has many hundreds of millions more than I do. So he is a super nice guy and has the money to prove he has a business brain beyond many. However, what I think he teaches us the most is that if you are so close to a business it is easy to get blinded by it. So you get it, in this case, to be worth many million,s but not the billion or more it could have been worth and recognised for your contribution globally to online recruitment.
Job boards are not easy; it is not just a case of putting one online and you will be the next Robbie Cowling or Potts brother (Jobsite founders), so before you even pick up the phone to a vendor, make sure you have a ready-made client base waiting for your service, live candidates ready to supply for jobs or very deep pockets to market the site.