Since first coming onto the scene in the 1990s, job boards have not always had the best of reputations. Perhaps, it’s time to stop thinking of job boards as the poor second-cousin in your talent supply chain?

Today, they are increasingly sophisticated intermediaries willing to compete for your business — vendors with a lot of financial muscle and a history of technical innovation. At the same time, the variety of products and services are also more diverse than they have ever been.

History. At their birth, job boards faced fear, suspicion and outright hostility from other talent sourcing intermediaries (quite rightly in the case of print media, as it turns out, where job advertising has been in terminal decline ever since), and then, their brief moment in the sun came to a rather abrupt end as social media sites and job aggregators eclipsed their burgeoning business model and quickly turned online job advertising into a commodity.

Over this period, staffing companies have had a love/hate relationship with job boards, relying on them extensively as a primary source of talent and, at the same time, resenting having to give away part of their margin for speculative ads that might never yield any results.

But is this negative perception really fair? Job boards were one of the earliest business models to succeed on the Internet, offering an innovative way to source and interact with talent, reducing hiring costs significantly and introducing a number of well-known brands into the workforce solutions ecosystem.

SIA outlook. We’ve always taken a broad view of the definition “job board” at Staffing Industry Analysts. For us, LinkedIn and Indeed didn’t replace job boards; they were simply an evolution of the original and rather basic business model. We regard job boards as a collection of websites and phone applications that offer employers the ability to advertise local, national and/or international job postings. These fall into six different business models: standard job boards, job aggregators, online classifieds, social media job sites, community sites and programmatic job advertising/job distributors.

With this broader definition, job boards aren’t really the commoditized and outmoded businesses that some perceive, but vibrant, diverse and quickly evolving to meet new business threats and opportunities. Today, there are something in the region of 3,500 job boards globally and we estimate that the global market grew revenue by a healthy 9% in constant currency in 2016 to reach a total market size of $12.4 billion. Three very large firms (Recruit, LinkedIn and Seek) have successfully grown to control more than half the total market.

The Marketplace. None of this belies the fact that job boards operate in a very challenging and competitive environment. Nevertheless, long-term demographics suggest that skills shortages are increasing globally while Internet usage is also growing globally, so it seems the market does have some mileage in it yet. Enough mileage, in fact, to attract two online giants to enter the race.

Late last year, Google launched a job search product that directly competes with Indeed, with the stated goal of partnering with job boards and staffing firms. And, in February, Facebook launched the ability to post and apply for jobs directly via its platform (and in September announced a partnership with ZipRecruiter to get more job postings on the site).

Whether Google’s arrival in the space turns out to be a blessing or a curse for incumbents remains to be seen. In the short term, job boards that partner with Google could see a bump in candidate traffic as Google will make it easier for candidates to find jobs. Longer term, however, those that find themselves too reliant on Google to feed them candidate traffic could easily find themselves in an awkward position should Google ever decide to cut them out of the equation.

For those that need to source talent, this is all good news. For further information on the job board landscape, see our latest report, “Job Boards Market Report: 2017 Update.”