Technology

The Job of Challenging Monster


By Olga Kharif Human-resources executive Nicola Worrall sums up her experience with job-search site Monster.com with two words: "very frustrating." Worrall handles recruiting for Input, a Reston (Va.) consulting firm. Whenever she posts a sales or analyst position on the site, she typically ends up getting several hundred résumés -- mostly from applicants who don't meet the basic qualifications and some who haven't even read the job description. She recently fielded an application for a sales position from a Web developer. "You're seeing people spamming," Worrall says. "The process of sorting through résumés gets very tedious."

So, Worrall went in search of alternatives, and six weeks ago, she turned to mkt10.com. Founded this year by Rob McGovern, who also created Monster.com rival CareerBuilder.com, mkt10.com gathers data on applicants' preferences and employers' requirements (see BW Online, 9/7/05, "Web Job Search: The "Second Generation"). McGovern's aim: to do for job searches what Match.com did for online dating.

His brainchild is one of more than a dozen sites that have cropped up in the past six months in hopes of revolutionizing the way people hunt for jobs over the Internet. Along with CareerBuilder, the upstarts are stepping up pressure on Monster.com, the online-jobs market leader, with sales of $594 million last year. Monster.com, part of advertising powerhouse Monster Worldwide (MNST), recently lost its lead measured by unique visitors to the site. In the 12 months that ended in July, CareerBuilder.com had 9.3 million visitors, compared with Monster.com's 9 million and 4.7 million for No. 3 HotJobs.com, according to Nielsen/Net Ratings.

ATTRACTING CASH. Now's a great time for startups to angle for a slice of the $1.3 billion online jobs market, analysts say. After sluggish economic growth crimped demand for Internet job searches earlier in the decade, the field is now expected to expand for at least the next seven years, according to ad strategist Borrell Associates.

That, in turn, is drumming up investors' interest. Newcomers such as Indeed.com, a search engine that aggregates job ads from across the Web, recently attracted venture capital. The site just raised $5 million in funding from the New York Times Co. (NYT), Union Square Ventures, and Allen & Co., which helped arrange Google's (GOOG) 2004 initial public offering.

Recruiters, too, are on the lookout for new ways to lure talent via the Web. Surveys routinely show that more than 70% of employers are dissatisfied with online job boards. Only 6.8% of new hires come from sites such as Monster.com, CareerBuilder, and Yahoo's (YHOO) HotJobs, according to a recent survey of 40 companies by researcher CareerXroads. The rest come through conduits such as the employers' own sites and newspaper ads.

SUPER BOWL ROLE. CareerBuilder is sharpening its attack, following in the footsteps of many of the new job sites by offering a recommendations feature called matching, which monitors the postings viewed by an applicant and then suggests similar positions. It's a capability that Monster.com has been slower to develop. CareerBuilder, owned by media conglomerates Gannett (GCI), Knight-Ridder (KRI), and Tribune (TRB

, TXA), unveiled its matching feature in July.

"What's valuable is having a job seeker find a relevant job," says Richard Castellini, CareerBuilder's vice-president for consumer marketing. "We believe we're on top of the market and moving with it."

CareerBuilder, which contains 13 million résumés and caters to more than 31,000 employers, is also beefing up marketing. Next year, the site will increase its marketing budget by 15%, to more than $230 million, advertising its services in newspapers and on TV, as well as online, says Castellini. It will also once again air an ad during the Super Bowl, where Monster.com used to be the lone job-search promoter. Monster.com no longer advertises on Super Bowl broadcasts.

SPECIALIZED SEARCHES. Monster.com's sales show scant signs of a slowdown, expanding 47%, to $387.6 million, in the first six months of 2005 from a year earlier. Still, even though results are likely to be buoyed in coming periods by an improving job market, it may not be long before Monster.com loses its No. 1 sales ranking to CareerBuilder, says Peter Zollman, founding principal of consultant Classified Intelligence in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Representatives of Monster.com have declined repeated requests for comment for this story.

Some new job-search sites are making their mark by specializing in specific locales or particular types of jobs. SnagAJob.com, for instance, lists only hourly and part-time jobs. Its clients include Home Depot (HD), Wendy's (WEN), and Bed, Bath & Beyond (BBBY).

Others, with nifty names like eBullpen.com and HeadlessHunter.com, use tools such as referrals and personality questionnaires. Mkt10.com asks seekers to rate skill levels and answer queries on personal preferences, such as whether they like wearing jeans to work. Recruiters are also asked to complete a questionnaire, and they ultimately receive a short list of the best candidates from the site's 25,000 applicant profiles. The hiring company is asked to pay a flat $2,000 fee per hire.

"The big [job boards] are going to get nibbled to death by ducks," says Gordon Borrell, CEO of Borrell Associates.

PREQUALIFIED LEADS. Catching up to Monster.com and CareerBuilder won't be easy. The larger sites have amassed millions of applicants and boast their own attractive features. Monster.com lets job-seekers network with one another. And it's unclear how quickly they'll adopt new search approaches, such as filling out questionnaires. "People want results quickly," says CareerBuilder's Castellini.

Corporate sites are already the most effective online-recruiting tool, according to CareerXroads. And many employers are taking steps to make their sites even better. Companies including Boeing (BA) and Google are snapping up technology from startup Jobster.com, which in July added former Microsoft (MSFT) CFO John Connors to its board. Jobster lets companies keep former employees abreast of new job openings while enabling existing employees to refer friends for jobs. "We want to [pre]qualify people by their networking relationships," explains Jobster CEO Jason Goldberg.

The upstarts may have a fighting chance. Input's Worrell says she has been pleased with mkt10.com's performance so far, saying she has interviewed candidates that "were very qualified for the job, or even more qualified than we are used to seeing." It looks like there's an opening these sites might be qualified to fill.

Kharif is a reporter for BusinessWeek Online in Portland, Ore.


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