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Are Job Boards Finally Learning to Innovate?

By October 27, 20117 Comments

Job Boards are starting to get the message:  Innovate or die.  For many years the Australasian recruitment market built their empires by sourcing active jobseekers through print media and then online job boards.  As online prevailed, print media wilted, and for a large chunk of the last decade the online job boards had the recruitment industry eating out of their hand, barely able to operate a sustainable business without splurging their jobs across the online platforms.

But in the last couple of years there has been a significant swing towards the sourcing of passive jobseekers.  As recruiters we can seldom offer much value to our clients by purely sourcing candidates through traditional job boards.  For one, our clients have found ways to comfortably do this themselves.  Furthermore, the talent shortages in our region prescribe the passive jobseekers as being the holy grail to deliver to any prospective employer’s shortlist, often being the best-qualified, best-suited and best-placed for the vacancy in question.

The more savvy of job boards are acutely aware of this trend gathering significant momentum.  They recognise that, in their base form, they offer a product that connects recruiters and employers with active job seekers, and no more than that.  So if the money is to made in sourcing passive candidates then how can they adapt and innovate to get involved, stay relevant, share a piece of the recruitment pie?

Like us at Rice Consulting, many recruitment firms are finding themselves sourcing less and less placeable candidates from traditional job boards, making our own databases, then Linked In, and then other social media and referral networks our first ports of call.

We attended a “Forum” hosted by SEEK yesterday which was really more of a presentation of their data analytics and plans for future product developments and “innovations”.  Some ideas such as social media buttons to share posted ads with your Facebook and Twitter audiences are hardly innovative, and probably well overdue.  Other things like the impending SEEK iPhone App and ability to seamlessly transfer your SEEK session from device to device (ie start your job search on your smartphone while on the bus to work, and continue from the same point when you get onto your desktop at work) are smarter, although so exclusively candidate-focused, rather than client-focused, that it’s a wonder who pays their bills.

But Trade Me Jobs came up with something a little bit different this week, something that just might serve to combine the best elements of active and passive job seekers tied into social media sharing.  New Zealand’s most-visited website launched Bounty Hunter on Monday.  The idea behind this is that advertisers can attach a “Bounty” of $1000 to their posted job ads.  People anecdotally browsing the auction site for their next bargain might encounter these jobs and, upon reading a job ad, decide they might know someone who would suit the vacancy.  They can easily share the job ad through their own social networks and if the successful applicant winning the job mentions the name of the referer then the recruitment firm or employer who posted the bounty will have to pay that referer $1000.

Here is the official line from Trade Me Jobs:

“Good employee referral programmes are normally really successful. They work because they encourage people to tap into their own networks, especially those who aren’t looking for work. Combine this with social media & the ability to propagate these connections & you’ve got Bounty Hunter.”

And here is how they say it works:

“Through Bounty Hunter, visitors on our site can forward job listings to friends who are suited to the ‘Bounty’ positions. If their friend gets the job, the Trade Me Jobs visitor who referred the job to them will receive a ‘finder’s fee’. If they were the only person the successful applicant mentions (either when they apply or in person once selected) they’ll receive $1,000.”

Trade Me Jobs are trying to create the perfect win-win-win here.  Admitting that referral bonuses are nothing new, they nevertheless recognise that they can better promote their advertisers’ referral bonuses directly to the millions of eyeballs visiting their pages every month.  This then gives their own customers the opportunity to make some money from their own networks: Win.  The Trade Me Jobs brand then gets promoted virally through their own customer’s social media networks: Win.  And finally the recruiter increases their chances of sourcing a passive candidate and filling their client’s vacancy: Win.

But I sense a hesitation, a certain tentativeness from Trade Me around this new offering.  Innovation should be heralded and shouted from the rooftops.  But I’m not sure if they quite believe in this themselves.  Launching this new offering on a Monday with little or no fanfare is a soft launch.  But doing so on a Monday that is a Labour Day public holiday following the All Blacks winning the final of the Rugby World Cup the night before is surely the softest of soft launches!

I wish Trade Me Jobs the best of luck in this new offering to their clients, customers and jobseekers.  It comes, I believe, with the best of intentions in creating a win-win-win for all involved.  But I also doff my cap to the brave recruitment companies placing bounties on their job listings.  $1000 is a large chunk of a fee in a region where 15% is the accepted norm and sometimes plummets as low as 10%.  It seems ridiculously easy for successful candidates, identifying there was a bounty on the job they applied for, to claim at offer stage that they were “referred” through a friend, with seemingly no cast iron way of validating the truth behind this.

But that is why New Zealand is a great place to launch something like this.  In other parts of the world you would get people taking complete advantage of this.  You would probably even get pseudo-recruiters at kitchen tables creating a whole new cottage industry working purely to refer so called “friends” to jobs who are actually just people they sourced directly through Linked In or other means.

But here in New Zealand Trade Me has a slogan that will probably serve to prevent that kind of carry on.  Their slogan is “Don’t Be A Dick” and, to their credit, most New Zealanders abide by this mantra.

What is also interesting to note is that, out of all of the Bounty Hunter jobs posted so far (at the time of writing), Downer is the only advertiser that is a corporate employer.  All of the other postings are from recruitment agencies.  What does that say, do you think?

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Stewart Farr says:

    “What does that say, do you think?”
    There are lots of recruitment agencies in NZ and few HR? 😉

    But on a serious note – say it does work, its takes off and all the SME’s out there start using it instead of you guys. Could you all move into HR consulting? Or are you only specifically trained in Recruiting/Sales? I can see fundamental advantages in there being an increase in HR in NZ and a decrease of recruitment agents. Job retention may increase and we might start resolving problems rather than washing our hands of them.

    But some curious times ahead. 

  • Seth says:

    Maybe Trademe feels sorry for recruiters – that they have no friends.. and now they can buy other peoples..

  • Peter says:

    Hi Jonathan, thanks for your interest in our Bounty Hunter campaign.
    With regards to your comment re: our soft launch – rest assured there’s no
    hesitation! It was always going to be a tough ask trumping the RWC win but the
    first few days back at work after Labour weekend tend to be big days for job
    boards and we’ve put a fair bit of promotion behind the launch by advertising
    the initiative extensively on our own site, across a very wide range of
    other networks/sites as well as Adshels around Auckland. We’ve
    also announced it via our social media channels, a site announcement and
    it will get a mention or two in our newsletters which reach well over a million
    people. We’re hoping corporates get into it too, would love to have them on
    board. BTW – we’d have loved to use Boba Fett in our marketing but we
    wouldn’t be able to afford it…Cheers – Peter Ashby (Trade Me Jobs)

  • Cambel says:

    Hey who is the innovator here, JOBX has had Social network sharing as part of our solution for 3 years and a mobile solution for at least 6 months, ask yourself.

  • Pascal Wright says:

    who is jobx? 

    SEEK mobile is 100% better than the Jobx solutions. You have to wonder who copied who. 

    • Seth says:

      More to the point – who is Pascal Wright? Fiction I suspect. JOBX Solutions – building a recruiters brand – not that of a commercial job board. If you are a recruiter I would be more than happy to show you how to engage more candidates with your own branded product.

  • Sean says:


    Judging by your blog, you have excellent written comminication skills and no doubt posses the ability to translate technical details into clear and concise written tender submissions. Perhaps you would be interested in a little something I stumbled upon earlier:

    Please feel free to mention my name during the recruitment process.

    Now I’m off to spam Switzerland. They’re good at these type of roles.