Expert Interview with Chris Bale on Niche Job Boards and Recruiting

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Chris Bale is an expert on niche job boards and niche recruiting; after all, as the founder and head of eTaxJobs, niche recruiting is all he does. Chris talked to us about niche recruiting, how to get the most out of a job board and how employers can do more with their employment search. 

What led you to start this particular job board?

I worked in tax recruitment for 10 years before setting up eTaxJobs. I was convinced that paper-based advertising could not continue. It is incredibly expensive, and most employers tear out the jobs section before circulating any tax technical journal to their staff, so there is always a good chance that no one is actually reading your adverts. I decided that an online platform is what tax professionals would prefer to use, as they could access it easily outside of working hours and would be more attractive to recruiters and employers because of lower cost. Saying this now sounds obvious, but 10 years ago it was a fairly big leap in the tax market, which is by nature very conservative and traditional.

What surprised you about running a niche jobs board when you first started?

The main surprise was how quickly it took off. Although I believed in the product, the fact that there was instantaneous demand to advertise on eTaxJobs was very gratifying. It vindicated my belief that recruitment advertising was moving online and that paper-based advertising was doomed to fail. I guess the other surprise was the amount of work involved in building traffic to the site. It took about five years of work before eTaxJobs gained its own momentum in terms of visitor growth.

What are some challenges that finding a tax job might present that you may not find in other careers?

Actually finding a tax job is pretty easy for anyone who already has experience. The market is incredibly candidate-driven at the moment, and the real challenge is for employers to attract tax professionals and persuade them to change employers. The recession prompted most professional firms to cut right back on graduate recruitment five years ago. Now that the market is recovering in most jurisdictions, there are simply not enough tax professionals with experience.

If an employer is looking for a strong employee, what should they be doing on a job board to attract them?

Most employers and recruitment agencies spend a lot of time writing a job spec. Whilst this is important, the key issue is to create a good job title. On almost every job board, the candidate will be scrolling through lots of job titles and will only click through to the job spec if the job title grabs their attention. My advice is to make the title as informative and interesting as possible.

How can job boards better help employers?

At eTaxJobs, we feel that we offer a much broader service to employers than most other job boards. Because our staff have a tax recruitment background, rather than sales or customer relations, we can actually advise clients properly. Often we write the job specs for them and frequently provide salary advice. For example, last week a client wanted to advertise a job with us based in Dubai and was offering a low salary and no relocation assistance. We felt duty bound to manage their expectations and said that in all likelihood they would receive no responses because the salary package bore no relation to the job or local market conditions. It is this sort of proactive service that I think clients value and will increasingly expect, even if they don’t always like what we are telling them.

What are some trends in job boards online we should be watching?

In my view, there are two types of job boards in the market. There are the ones that were created by entrepreneurs who took a gamble and built a platform for online recruitment. The others are mainstream corporate publishers who could see their magazine advertising income dropping and thought they needed to go online and create a job board. The former are internet purists, the latter are reluctant entrants. The main trend is that the entrepreneurial job boards are reinventing themselves and are now moving into what was historically the publisher’s space. Many job boards are hiring editors and writers to create their own content, they are hiring marketing staff to organise and run technical conferences and they are hosting employer forums. 

The other trend I predict is that recruitment companies will look to acquire job boards in their specialist markets. With employers having the ability to hire direct via social media platforms, LinkedIn and job boards, I believe that recruiters will focus on the top end of the market and will leave the junior level recruitment alone. I also think that many will stop doing contingency recruitment and focus instead on retained search. By acquiring and integrating with a job board, these search firms will be able to offer their clients a one-stop shop and generate high value recruitment fees at the senior end and high volume advertising revenue at the junior end. I have already seen instances of this in the US, UK and Asia in a number of niche markets.

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