Recruiters with six-figure jobs to fill know better than to post them online and start a stampede of marginally qualified job seekers. But they also know that the Internet is the easiest way to find applicants. The Internet’s surprising answer to the problem? Charge them to look.
A growing number of niche sites devoted to high-end jobs in the US are finding that applicants are willing to shell out a few dollars—or a few hundred, in some cases—for the chance to get access to job ads. The strategy will not help the big online job boards find more applicants for entry-level positions, but analysts say it is ideal for sites such as TheLadders.com, ExecuNet and others seeking the senior executive crowd. “It turns out that having the job candidates pay is a great screener, and employers love it,” said Charlene Li, an Internet analyst with Forrester Research.
Li said that the online employment category, dominated by Monster, CareerBuilder and Yahoo’s HotJobs, is expected to generate about $1.9 billion (Rs7,790 crore) in revenue this year, up from about $1.6 billion last year. But, she said that the category in recent years has undergone an explosion in the number of job boards that serve specific niches.
The upper-level jobs niche has been slower to develop, though, because companies typically hand off such jobs to corporate recruiting firms. Those firms, such as DHR International and Korn/Ferry International, set up their own websites, but those sites are used mainly to market the firms’ offline services instead of connecting applicants with companies online.
To fill that void, several former HotJobs executives introduced TheLadders.com in 2003, with the mission of posting only those jobs with annual salaries of $100,000 or more. At the time, the company made an odd bet—that it could attract more applicants if it charged them a monthly entry fee of $30, or about Rs1,200. That is precisely the opposite of the approach used by mass market employment sites, which charge applicants nothing but charge companies to post job openings.
In its early years, TheLadders.com was slow to grow, partly because it did not attract enough job postings. But as employers and corporate recruiters learnt that they could find qualified applicants for nothing, the number of job postings jumped.
Now, according to Marc Cenedella, the chief executive officer (CEO) of TheLadders.com, the site listed 70,000 jobs last week and is on pace to exceed $30 million in sales this year from about 1.4 million subscribers.
“We’re doing the same thing that’s done in national parks: Put a price on it so you get the right number of people,” Cenedella said.
Cenedella, who was a senior vice-president at HotJobs when the company was acquired by Yahoo, said The Ladders.com would expand in the coming months to include jobs with annual salaries of $75,000 or more in the US (Only about 10% of the roughly 150 million workers in America earn $100,000 or more, he said, while 20 million earn from $75,000 to $100,000). Even that lower salary threshold, however, is high enough to attract job candidates who will pay to see the listings.
Li, of Forrester, said TheLadders.com and other fee-based online job boards could face difficult times as baby boomers retire and the job market opens up.
Some of the big online job boards have also tried to aim at the highest paying jobs. In 2000, Monster started ChiefMonster.com, which screened prospective job seekers to ensure that they were worthy of the best jobs, but the service failed to attract a following and Monster shut it down.
Other sites devoted to six-figure salaries and senior executives say that they, too, are thriving. ExecuNet, a service based in Norwalk, Connecticut, charges about $400 annually, or $39 monthly, for its online networking, industry data and job listings, among other things.
According to David B. Opton, the company’s CEO, the business has about 25,000 subscribers, but their average income is $221,000 and the average age is 48. Job postings have increased about 30% over the last year, he said, and, perhaps as a result, ExecuNet’s membership has risen 15%.
Networking sites have become an increasingly important tool for companies looking to fill senior positions. LinkedIn, in particular, has emerged as a favourite trolling ground for corporate recruiters across the spectrum of job levels. The online market for high-priced talent extends beyond full-time workers.
Take HotGigs, for example. The company, which is based in Minneapolis, provides job listings for contract workers. In the three years since its debut, its customer base has grown to nearly 70,000 consultants who pay $100 yearly for the right to answer job listings from about 19,000 companies and recruiters.
Doug Berg, the company’s chief executive officer, says the idea of paying to apply for a job is foreign to some people.
“We get a lot of people who email us and say they shouldn’t have to pay for a job,” he said.
“Our thing is, if you’re a professional consultant, you have to learn how to market yourself. Besides, if I didn’t charge, every wannabe in the world would come in.”