Help wanted ads. You know, it really wasn’t all that long ago when this part of the job searching process was fairly simple, typically requiring only a newspaper, a yellow highlighter, and about 20 minutes on a Sunday morning. Makes one feel downright wistful for the past, when you stop and think about it…
These days there are estimated to be over 50,000 third-party websites that broker published job opportunities — with new sites emerging every day to the confusion of just about every professional in existence. And while only a relatively small minority of successful job seekers land positions through such sites (estimated to be 15-20% of total hires) that doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t actively monitor the Internet job world — and treat it as one of your primary avenues for turning up a new opportunity.
But where exactly should one search amongst this sea of options? Which sites are the most reliable and which ones will instead just have you chasing your tail? Every few years, I try my best to answer this question by conducting a “shootout” of sorts between the top job boards, running a variety of realistic search examples and evaluating the results to try and separate the wheat from the chaff. And having finally gotten around to conducting the next installment of this effort, there were a few surprise twists and interesting results that emerged, altering my recommendations slightly from previous years.
For those who aren’t interested in the nuts-and-bolts of this analysis, feel free to just skip down to the “final conclusions” segment of this article. But if you’re interested in learning a little more about exactly how I went about testing these sites, and what my efforts revealed, here’s the rundown:
Essentially, what I did was take nine websites that are typically considered to be the most popular and effective (at least in the Pacific Northwest market) and then ran a series of sample searches through each one, focused on turning up any job openings within 25 miles of Seattle posted over the past two weeks. The sites I tested were Indeed.com, Simplyhired.com, Beyond.com, Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, Craigslist.com, LinkedIn’s “Jobs” Section and the Go2Worksource.com job board of the Washington Employment Security Department.
In running my search comparison, I focused on five fairly common roles that a Northwest professional might be seeking (CFO, Executive Assistant, Marketing Manager, Sales Representative, and Human Resources) and took the programming steps needed to ensure all “alternative” spellings and forms of the job title were considered in the search, as well. Additionally, since not every website allowed me to specify the exact same 14-day date range or 25-mile radius around Seattle, I picked the option that came as close as possible, most of which weren’t terribly far off from these target numbers.
After running all the searches above, and accounting as much as possible for the slight discrepancies between site functionality, it became immediately clear that the challenge of searching for useful job postings pivoted heavily around the same two factors that seem to affect almost every other type of data in the world — quality vs. quantity.
For example, when running a search for CFO jobs on Indeed vs. Simplyhired, the former site came back with a mere three results — while the second produced a whopping 48 Seattle CFO listings over a two-week span. Sounds like an open-and-shut case, right? Well no, because upon analyzing the results further, one quickly discovers that of the 48 results touted by Simplyhired, an extremely large number of them turn out to be duplicates, shameless resume click-bait, or jobs of highly questionable validity given that the details provided are extremely murky or ambiguous. This was true for many of the other sites tested, as well. You’d get a very large and impressive number of listings up front, but when you sifted through the leads, you’d find that very few of them turned out be “organic” or “legitimate” in nature. So Indeed took the gold medal in this regard, by far, appearing to scrub its results very carefully to ensure you wouldn’t just keep poring through the exact same listings, time after time.
Additionally, a brand-new development as of last year (as you can read in the articles here and here) is that two of the leading sites, Monster.com and LinkedIn.com, have both decided to abandon their prior role of simply running a small number of high-quality openings employers actually paid money to list — and have now jumped into the “job lead aggregation” business, themselves. While perhaps a smart business move for these sites from a bottom-line perspective, these decisions muddy the waters considerably for job hunters, since now you’ll start to see the same huge collection of “scraped” listings appearing on these sites, as well, adding to the chore of picking out authentic individual listings. What’s more, independent sites like Monster and CareerBuilder used to let the main aggregators like Indeed pick up and circulate their listings — which no longer appears to be the case, best I can tell. So while we came close to the idea of one-stop-shopping for published listings, in years past, it appears now things are likely headed in the opposite direction.
And lastly, in terms of some additional results from my trial runs, I’d comment that several of the nine sites considered — namely Beyond.com and CareerBuilder — were so frustrating to work with that I just can’t recommend them in good conscience. CareerBuilder, for example, seems to offer no way to search for leads directly by job title, which I believe to be a critical piece of functionality, and the leads on Beyond.com are so choked with advertising that I can’t really recommend that site highly either. What’s more, I saw little evidence that either site contained many original leads that one couldn’t find one more easily or conveniently using other methods.
In light of all this recent testing, I’m happy to say that for the majority of job hunters, my recommendation remains unchanged from the past several years. If you’re looking for the best overall balance of quality, quantity, and efficiency, then I’d suggest all you need to do is run a mere three searches — one on Indeed.com, one on Craigslist.com, and one on LinkedIn — and you’ll find the lion’s share of current published openings in your field. The reason? Indeed will do the best job of aggregating leads from public sources and employer websites out there, which you can then supplement with additional “fresh” jobs from Craigslist (which doesn’t allow other sites to duplicate its postings) as well as LinkedIn, which also blocks other sites from touching its content and has seen a dramatic rise in employment advertising in recent years.
Have the time to be really thorough? Hate the thought of missing even a single good listing in your field? Then in addition to the above sites, you might also try searching SImplyhired, Monster, and Go2Worksource on a regular basis. While you’ll likely have to plow through many fishy openings or duplicate leads you’ve already seen via the sites above, there’s still a decent chance — and a better chance than in years past — that you’ll come across a few legitimate “diamond in the rough” opportunities on these sites, as well, if you follow them closely.
Beyond that, honestly, it’s a free for all, and I don’t believe that using dozens of other job sites will be all that productive for most people, especially when one again considers how few hires are actually driven via published job listings versus networking and other sources. Sure, you might cherry-pick a few additional career pages of employers to whom you’re particularly enamored, as well as monitor any job sites in your industry that require password-based access (and therefore won’t be aggregated) — but all in all, I’ll stand behind my recommendations above for the majority of folks in transition.
As always, I’m open to input from any of you out there who have conducted similar experimentation with these types of sites — or simply formed an opinion, through trial and error, of which job boards out there work better for your purposes than others. Please feel free to post a comment if you’d like to contribute or expand the discussion!