Competing With the Monster
Survival tactics for niche career sites.

Over the past few years literally thousands of online career sites have sprung into existence. One next has to ask the question: How effective are they at helping job seekers find jobs? According to Richard Nelson Bolles, the world-famous author of What Color is Your Parachute?, the reality is that job sites have about a 41% effectiveness rate ... if you’re in the Information Technology (IT) industry, otherwise about 2%.

Note: (October 21, 2007) Please remember that this article was originally written in 2000. Many things have changed since then. Newspaper job advertising has declined, online career sites have flourished, Internet newbies have had seven more years to adopt web technologies and broadband has dramatically increased the effectiveness of the Internet. Many more people are using online career sites to find jobs nowadays; additionally, niche sites are now growing substantially faster than the large generalist sites.

The truth of the matter is that there may actually be thousands of career sites, but not all sites are created equal.

The biggest sites, like and, serve a vast audience of job seekers and employers. Often, though, when job seekers drill down through the job listings to get to their field and geographic region, a career site really doesn’t offer them much value…unless they’re in the IT industry. This means that a large segment of the job seeking population is not being adequately served by the existing career sites.

According to, the competitive advantages of the web are expected to drive a 1000% increase in online recruiting by 2003. A corollary to this is that most of the newcomers are not IT professionals. This represents both a challenge and an opportunity for online career sites.

Survival Tactics

Market leaders such as are essentially invincible to all but the most heavily funded competition as generalist job sites. The market leaders will also continue to dominate the IT job market, which has traditionally been their primary area of coverage.

An online career site that is not currently one of the market leaders must focus in order to compete with the large generalist career sites. A generalist site simply cannot afford to "be all things to all people." A career site that focuses on a vertical niche or a specific geographical area can provide significant value for a selected group of job seekers, while still competing effectively with larger sites.

Another area where the market leaders can be attacked effectively is pricing. A typical package sold to an employer might include 30 job postings and the ability to search the career site's resume database for a year. Price: $9000.

The justification for the price, of course, is the vast number of people that a job posting will reach. But imagine that you're the CEO of a three-person CPA firm, and all you want to do is hire an accountant for the tax season. Do you really care about advertising to job seekers in Australia? Of course, a million users will see your job posting, because all of those IT folks will be looking for an accounting job….


In the end, the career sites that will succeed will be the ones that provide significant value for the audience they choose to serve. Focusing on a selected audience, providing effective tailored services for that audience and under-cutting the prices of the market leaders are the survival tactics required for newer career sites to achieve success in today's more mature career placement market.


David Keener By dkeener on Sunday, June 20, 2010 at 12:45 AM EST

This was originally published on

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