Someone I know who works for a struggling social media company recently asked if I’d heard about the excitement in the space. Not sure what he was referring to, I asked, and he mentioned Facebook’s plans to launch a job board. Oh, that. Yes — very exciting. I’m ecstatic — haven’t slept properly since I read about it. In case you missed the announcement, the board “will aggregate the job postings of third-party providers, making them available for search by Facebook users.” What an original idea. It’s not like one can find another site that aggregates jobs. Who says innovation is dead?
Given the less-than-stellar performance of Facebook’s stock and limited potential of the site to generate revenues, a job board looks like an easy solution to mop up some dollars that would otherwise go elsewhere. Given the perceived reach of Facebook, a job board is guaranteed to garner some interest from employers. The question for Facebook, or for that matter anyone posting jobs to it, is will it work?
What most recruiters know is that job boards are good for generating resumes, not necessarily filling jobs. The effectiveness of job boards is difficult to gauge, since there’s no hard data on just how many jobs posted on any board get filled by candidates who came to the board, or even the number of views of any posting. There’s no reason to believe it would be any different on Facebook, and a board may be even less effective than other boards, given how few people respond to ads on the site. The social media ad platform company Mediabrix estimates that the click through rate for ads on Facebook is just 0.05%. One way Facebook can counter this is by putting postings directly in users news feeds — presumably based on data in their profiles and timeline that suggests a particular career choice or skillset.
The Challenge for Facebook
Being able to match user profiles with job postings is difficult at best. Facebook profiles are not like those on Linkedin. The information that’s included is sparse, incomplete, and often does not indicate much about a person’s professional skills and interests. As an example, I looked for nurses in Minnesota — a very well-defined job with clear barriers separating the qualified from the unqualified. There are currently about 2.6 million Facebook members in Minnesota, or approximately half the population. There are about 56,000 nurses registered with the state. One would expect that about half of those are members of FBacebook, but the site can only identify about 1,840 members as nurses, and some of those may be false positives. If that’s how ineffective the site is for a job like nursing, it’s not likely to be much better for jobs that are less rigidly defined.
Obviously users can be encouraged to improve their profiles or upload resumes, but given Facebook’s propensity for abusing privacy such efforts may not be well received. But even if that worked, integrating job postings into users news feeds can become an irritant. This is the fundamental problem for Facebook: the site exists to promote social networking, which can include finding a job, but it is not the primary reason most users go there. Job postings would be intrusive in most conversations, and most people don’t “Like” them. If they’re off to one side, they may just be ignored, the same as most other ads on Facebook.
And then there’s the problem of the content created by users on Facebook: most of it is unrelated to people’s professional interests. We’ve all read stories of how candidates have been excluded because of material they posted. Whether that’s appropriate or not is another matter, but the simple fact is that Facebook can very easily get a candidate kicked out of a recruitment process. I doubt that any design of the job board on Facebook will include a feature to block out content that doesn’t relate to the job. And it’s not inconceivable that Facebook will broadcast job hunting activity to one’s friends; we’d see notifications like “Lisa just applied to the job of Registered Nurse at Overcharge Memorial – 9:03 a.m.”
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The Me-too Board
It’s difficult to imagine what Facebook could do that would improve on the job board model. Some things are not meant to go together, and social media and job postings are one such combination. What attracts people to social networks is content, much of it spontaneously generated from people they know. Nothing in that describes a job posting. A lot of people use their social networks (online and offline) to connect with people at employers, and a Facebook board could show connections in a person’s network who can connect them to a job — much like on LinkedIn and other sites, but Facebook connections are only one level deep. The technology to show multiple levels of connections can be built, but that fundamentally changes the perception (illusion) of the site as a place for friends to connect and share with each other.
So the Facebook job board would rely on the hope-and-pray model — hope that candidates see your postings and pray that qualified ones apply … the same as on any other job board. They should name it Jude — after the patron saint of desperate cases.