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All That Glitters Is Not Gold - The Dirty Little Secret Behind Many Niche Job Boards

January 15, 2010
by Gwen Darling
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As a blogger for Healthcare Informatics , it is my job to use my experience, expertise, and whatever else I can muster to provide thought-provoking content, without sliding into self-promotion of any kind. Although I’ve mentioned in passing a time or two that my “ day job” is the ownership and management of Healthcare IT Central’s Career Center and Job Board , I’ve been very careful not to exploit my position here by promoting our unparalleled services. So it is with great care that I write this post, attempting to stay as neutral and objective as possible while I let you in on a disturbing secret that may surprise you. And not in a very good way, I’m sorry to say.

Job boards. What immediately comes to mind? Most people will say Monster and CareerBuilder, which are, without a doubt, the goliaths of the job board industry. Many people in IT are also familiar with Dice, and The Ladders, which take a more targeted, sophisticated approach to the job board business. All of these resources have their share of pros and cons, but the complaint that many job seekers have with these “monster” job boards is just that – the sheer size of the platform can make a job seeker and/or an employer feel quite insignificant and frustrated, as they wade through the millions of job postings and/or resumes.

Enter the niche job board market. Savvy entrepreneurs, recognizing the need for a more targeted experience, have launched niche job boards to help attract, with pinpoint precision, candidates and employers who fit a very specific demographic. Ready to leave it all behind for a job in the beautiful Caribbean? There’s a niche job board for you. Do your friends tell you that you should have been a comedian? There’s a niche job board for you. And speaking of leaving it all behind, are you sick and tired of those dry cleaning bills? There’s a niche job board for you.

It all sounds great, yes? So what could be the possible downside to such a targeted resource? Well, here’s where the dirty little secret part comes in. Many niche job boards are actually a beard for recruiting companies to attract and then poach the best candidates for themselves. Technically, I guess, there’s nothing illegal about this practice – these companies have simply adopted a “Don’t tell if they don’t ask” approach. And to be honest, when I first was exposed to this type of recruiting setup (in the travel nursing industry) I thought it was quite clever – talk about getting a leg up on your competition! But the longer I’m directly involved with both candidates and employers, the more I realize just how misleading, unfair and unethical this practice is from both sides of the hiring equation.

On the employer’s side, they unknowingly place dollars directly in their competitor’s pocket, as they post their job on Healthcare IT Planet or some such “job board” and pay the job posting fee (which actually goes to XYZ Recruiters who own Healthcare IT Planet – that’s just wrong). Additionally, the unwitting employers are paying to attract candidates to upload their resumes into the database secretly controlled by guess who? XYZ Recruiters, who most assuredly poach the hell out of the database before allowing anyone else who may have paid for the privilege to view it (if they allow this at all). Not to mention the fact that any employer who registers at one of these sites is also giving their competitors a clear look at their preferred login and password information. Not cool.

From the candidate’s point of view, this cloaked, “behind the scenes lurks a recruiter” tactic is also extremely unfair because they cannot be sure if their information ever truly reached its intended recipient, although, by golly, they do get a call from XYZ Recruiters. And to add insult to injury, many pseudo job boards take advantage of aggregated job feeds from sources such as SimplyHired.com and Indeed.com, creating the appearance that they have many more proprietary positions than they actually do. Unfortunately, there is no way to verify the validity of the jobs pulled in from the aggregated feeds – so many job seekers waste their time by applying for jobs that no longer exist. But no worries. They’re sure to get a call from XYZ.

Is this practice unique to the travel nurse industry? Unfortunately not. This practice will rear its ugly head wherever there is keen competition for qualified candidates. So guess what? Healthcare IT is the perfect target for these kinds of unethical setups, and it’s already happening – trust me on that one.

So, am I advocating avoiding niche job boards altogether? Well, of course not! With a bit of sleuthing, you can easily determine which sites are legit, and which ones will help you provide the exposure and candidate experience necessary for a successful candidate sourcing outcome.

Here are some important questions to ask before choosing to invest your time and resources in a niche job board:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->1.Who really owns the Job Board?

Employers:
This is key. If a recruiter owns the board, there’s a good chance they won’t come out and tell you, but a little “Who Is” detective work will usually prove to be quite useful. Ask if the resume database if available for a fee. If the answer is no, there’s a very good chance that it’s because the owner is recruiting the same types of candidates you seek, and doesn’t want to share. And if you find out that that’s the case? Post your jobs somewhere else.

Candidates:
Ditto on the detective work, unless you’re content with the very real possibility that you’ll only hear from one recruiting company. Incessantly.

2. What about customer service? Is there a dedicated phone line that is manned during business hours with a real person on the other end?

Employers and candidates:

Email is great, but sometimes you have a question that is better discussed on the phone. If you cannot easily talk to a real person during normal business hours, or if there is only a “Fill Out This Form” or email link on the “Contact Us” page – there’s a good chance it’s because they are too busy with their day job, recruiting your ideal candidate. Go somewhere else.
 

3. Are the jobs listed unique to that Job Board, or are there filler jobs added from aggregate sites?

Employers:
Your goal as the job poster should be to provide the best exposure AND the best candidate experience for your job posting. Consider this question from the candidate’s point of view.

Candidates:
This question becomes critical when considering your job search time management. Job sites that pull in jobs from other job sites have ZERO quality control when it comes to verifying the true availability of the jobs from the feed. Is it a “real” job or a bait and switch ploy to get your resume in the database? Do you have the time to find out?
 

4. Is the Job Board a place where you feel comfortable exposing yourself and your brand?

Employers:
You may never have stopped to think about it this way, but every time you post a job you are exposing your brand to the scrutiny of all who view it. And just like I tell my teenagers, you are judged by the company you keep. From a marketing standpoint, it diminishes the perceived value of not only your brand, but the job itself, when you post on the Job-a-matic job boards that are springing up everywhere. The few extra bucks you may save? Not worth it.

Candidates:
Before you spend your valuable time uploading your resume to the latest and greatest Healthcare IT job board, stop and think about what you’re getting ready to send. Your address, phone number, details about your work history, names of references, and the fact that you love ice-fishing? Do you know and trust this resource? Not sure? Don’t do it.

<!--[endif]--> 5. Finally, are there references or testimonials available from satisfied customers?

Employers and Candidates: Any ethical job board that is worth your time and/or financial investment will have happy customer evangelists who have, one way or another, spread the word about the positive experience they’ve had – most likely online. If you can’t find any mention through Google, Twitter, or LinkedIn, ask the job board company directly for references. If they say no – there’s your answer!

Much like the California Gold Rush, the news of the upcoming Healthcare IT employment surge has every Tom, Dick, and Mary trying to figure out a way to take advantage of it. That’s exciting – there’s just no telling what innovation may be unveiled as a result! But as with the Gold Rush, there’s always someone who’s going to throw some salt on the ground and call it gold. You just have to know the difference between the two.

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