Who wins or loses by competing against Facebook job platform?

10 Nov 2016

This article was first published in CIR17.21 on November 10, 2016, a client-only report. To receive the bi-weekly Classified Intelligence Report (CIR), go here.

Last month, Facebook attacked Craigslist, LetGo, OfferUp, Gumtree, Trade Me and the “stuff” category of classifieds and marketplaces. Now LinkedIn, Monster, CareerBuilder and hundreds or thousands of recruitment sites have to consider Facebook the next potential disrupter.

The prize is the Holy Grail of recruitment classified advertising: the “passive” job seeker.

Facebook this week began testing new recruitment tools for small businesses (and maybe even large ones) to add a “job” tab to their corporate pages. New tools for reaching job seekers are also in the works.

Will it succeed? That’s the multibillion-dollar question — because recruitment sites worldwide generate billions of dollars. If Facebook can get a significant chunk of that revenue, the death of the job board conversation weve heard for years one we believe is greatly exaggerated may become significant.

First and foremost: Can a general social media platform, even one as big and powerful as Facebook, compete with a targeted vertical site such as LinkedIn, which does only one thing: career networking? Or a CareerBuilder or StepStone, which offers multiple tools for job seekers and a wide range of software and employer services, such as data mining, applicant tracking systems, hiring analytics, compensation information, and more?

A Facebook feed is already inherently cluttered. It started as a place to share personal updates, morphed into an echo chamber for news, and now favors video above other media types. Will jobs fit in? Will they be sticky? Or will they be skipped over or missed, especially by passive job seekers, the way anything that appears while you’re not looking quickly drops off-screen, below the virtual fold?

Facebook will offer small businesses the option of turning basic listings into sponsored, targeted posts — paid, of course. Listings will include an “Apply now” button.

Sponsored posts may be the key. We doubt listings appearing organically will make much of a dent, but paid ones that linger and reappear could. And sponsored posts tend to be less expensive than a Google campaign, which could make Facebook an attractive option.

Facebook said that, just as it launched Marketplace after watching “buy and sell” services grow organically on Facebook Groups, small business have long listed jobs on their pages. The company said it’s merely formalizing that organic job-posting experience.

The LinkedIn “advantage” — that it’s focused on jobs — can also be a disadvantage, because many people only visit LinkedIn to update their profiles or actively look for a new job. LinkedIn simply doesn’t have the same level of obsessive daily use as Facebook.

And can job applications delivered by the relatively unsophisticated Facebook Messenger compete with LinkedIn — or any recruitment site that offers a robust screening products, a dashboard or similar employer tools?

Will Facebook create a resume database, for example? Will it filter by skill sets and keywords that go beyond the employment, education and interest data Facebook users typically fill in when they set up their accounts? Maybe that doesn’t matter.

Lately we’ve written about apps calling themselves “Tinder for Jobs,” with simple swipe interfaces to match job-seekers and employers. (Tilr, which was started by two former CareerBuilder execs, does it. So does Jobr, which Monster bought earlier this year.) Facebook may be counting on small businesses dodging complexity and saying, in effect, “Let Facebook handle the Big Data; we’ll take candidates without the fuss.”

That’s what Work4 hopes. The six-year-old company provides employer job tools for Facebook, including a very similar job-tab feature, enhanced career pages and targeted job advertising. It calls itself “the leader in Facebook recruiting solutions.”

Stephane Le Viet, Work4 co-founder and chairman, told AIM Group the Facebook trial “is great news for Work4.”

“It will strongly increase awareness around Facebook as a top recruiting platform, which we’ve been advocating for almost five years,” he said. Le Viet is upbeat partly because he doesn’t view Facebook as competition.

“Facebook’s announcement is very much a solution for SMBs (small to medium businesses) and our strategy is geared towards the enterprise market, (where employers) have much more sophisticated needs than what Facebook currently offers,” he said.

Le Viet said major companies need automated import of jobs from their career sites to Facebook, rather than manual posting, and delivery of applications into their HR systems. We asked Le Viet if he was worried that Facebook would add such HR-centric functionality in the future.

“We think it’s highly unlikely,” he told us, “since it would require some third-party integration work (with enterprise customers’ HR systems) on Facebook’s end, which they have never done before in any other circumstance.”

Recruitment analyst Joel Cheesman agreed Facebook Jobs, at least for now, primarily appeals to small businesses with hard-to-fill positions, such as trucking or healthcare. But he had a different view of Facebook’s plans. “If at some point, similar to LinkedIn, Facebook users are able to add a professional profile that complements their already-available personal pages — which, let’s be real, is eventually going to happen — and attach that profile to a job opening, and companies can manage and search those profiles, then I think they’re really onto something,” he wrote in his Recruiting Tools column.

Work4 isn’t the only third party that adds job functionality to Facebook. Workable and Jobscore do the same. Israeli start-up GooodJobs did too, but folded last year.

Facebook spun the launch as just “a test page for page admins.” It was first reported by Josh Constine of TechCrunch, who said he “spotted a Jobs tab on (the TechCrunch Facebook) page.” He positioned it as a direct threat to LinkedIn and said Facebook “may be looking to capitalize on the confusion or product stagnation” following Microsoft’s pending $26.2-billion cash acquisition of LinkedIn.

The Jobs project at Facebook may have been in the works for a while. “Perhaps Facebook was prepping for these new features when it tested profile tags last year that mimic LinkedIn’s endorsements feature,” Constine wrote.

Facebook hasn’t made any public comment about the tool other than the one-sentence statement it sent Constine and later to other media: “Based on behavior we’ve seen on Facebook, where many small businesses post about their job openings on their page, we’re running a test for page admins to create job postings and receive applications from candidates.”

We asked, but didn’t get any additional information.

Do Facebook Marketplace and Facebook Jobs signify a major shift for the company, building traditional classified services into its social media platform? Or are they more limited: a quick and easy, if logical, incremental revenue stream, traffic driver and engagement tool?

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Brian Blum

Brian Blum covers the U.S., Canada and Israel for Classified Intelligence Report, and contributes to our special reports and research projects. Originally from San Francisco and now based in Jerusalem, he has been with the AIM Group since 2004. He is the president of Blum Interactive Media, specializing in writing and multimedia content development for online, print, video and audio. His clients include newspapers, universities and non-profits. He is currently working on a book about the billion-dollar bankruptcy of a once high-flying Israeli startup.

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