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New Job-Hunting Sites Might Be Monster Killers

By Leslie Walker
Thursday, August 18, 2005

Monster.com may grow up to be a dinosaur. That was my first thought upon seeing a new breed of online job sites shaking up the recruitment industry.

Simply Hired and Indeed, upstarts less than a year old, are getting attention for their Google-like approach to helping people find jobs. They do for job listings what Google does for general information -- crawl or "scrape" listings from thousands of sites and create a free, searchable index in one spot.

The key difference between these sites and leading job boards Monster and CareerBuilder is that employers don't pay to be listed. Simply Hired and Indeed base their results on a crawling of the Web and mathematical formulas that attempt to judge the relevance of each job opening to a user's query, much as regular search results are presented on Google. As a result, Indeed ( http://www.indeed.com/ ) and Simply Hired ( http://www.simplyhired.com/ ) offer many more listings than Monster or CareerBuilder -- including some found at those sites, at specialty recruiting services and the sites of individual employers.

Indeed is even developing a pay-per-click advertising model that mimics Google's, including an online auction in which employers and other companies will bid to have their ads displayed alongside regular search results. In most cases, the paid ads will link back to listings on an employer's site. Simply Hired wouldn't say exactly how it plans to make money, except that it will use some form of pay-per-qualified lead and pay-per-hire model.

"By and large, employers will foot the bill," said Simply Hired chief executive Gautam Godhwani. "Over time, we are going to be able to bring a targeted job seeker over to your Web site or send them to a listing you have anywhere on the Web."

Executives at both sites contend that their approach will complement rather than replace the paid listings of Monster and CareerBuilder, which is owned by a group of newspaper chains.

But if Indeed and Simply Hired succeed, they will put pressure on the big job boards to lower or eliminate their basic listing fees and find other ways to collect money from employers. After all, if you were an employer, would you prefer to pay $300 for a listing on Monster, pay nothing to post it on a site like Craigslist, or just display it on your own site? All three routes would produce essentially the same listing in search results on Indeed and Simply Hired.

Google, meanwhile, has declined to disclose any plan it may have for indexing jobs, but you can bet that the search giant is preparing some form of recruitment search -- and that will only intensify the squeeze on paid sites.

The No. 3 recruiting site, Yahoo HotJobs, surprised analysts last month by introducing a job search that for the first time includes free listings copied from sites across the Web. But to minimize the chance of undercutting its paid listings, HotJobs shows the freebies at the bottom of its results, below its premium jobs. Moreover, HotJobs doesn't appear to be showing listings from key rivals such as Monster, making it less comprehensive than Indeed and Simply Hired.

That would seem to validate the claims from the upstarts that they are less employer-centric than the big boards.

"Our whole approach is to put the job seeker first and make the process simpler for them," said Paul Forster, chief executive of Indeed. "It is a different philosophy from the job boards, which essentially put their clients first because you can only read jobs posted there by their clients."

Recruitment is a huge industry, of course, and the Internet has had the newspaper industry in a tizzy for years with its steady cannibalization of print classifieds. No wonder the New York Times Co. joined the consortium that announced an investment of $5 million in Indeed last week.

There's plenty of other activity in this industry, too, including the purchase last month of a similar service called WorkZoo by Jobster Inc., a rival Web recruitment service.

Also likely to accelerate the free listing trend will be the debut next month of an Internet domain suffix that will allow employers to post openings at Web addresses ending in ".jobs" -- GiantFood.jobs, for example, or BestBuy.jobs. The new addresses should make it easier for applicants to go directly to company sites to see what jobs are open.

For the most part, industry analysts seem impressed with the new job search engines, while pointing out that their revenue models are unproven and they still have to prove that they can help job seekers find their dream jobs.

"There is a point of providing too much information," said Greg Sterling, an analyst for the Kelsey Group, a consulting firm.

I think he's right. Ironically, what could trip up these sites is their sheer success, meaning if they collect too many listings in one place, they will overwhelm users. I believe that is why some job hunters already have stopped using Monster in favor of niche job boards that focus on particular industries.

But a pal who does a great deal of job hunting online tested the new sites at my request and was impressed. She said she will continue using them if for no other reason than to find the "occasional surprise opportunity."

Those surprises seem to lurk everywhere online, don't they? And that's giving Web business strategists fits while putting the established Monsters at continued risk of extinction.

Leslie Walker's e-mail address iswalkerl@washpost.com.

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