The pending sale of Monster.com — on the heels of a study earlier this year that suggests most jobs are filled through networking — raises serious questions about the viability of online recruiting.

Job sites aren't the oasis for the unemployed and unhappily employed they once were, experts concede. Chalk it up to newer options including social media, said Lynda Zugec, managing director for The Workforce Consultants, a Toronto- and New York City-based HR consultancy. 

“Almost anyone can use their social media accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter as a job posting board,” she said. “This also has the advantage of being closer to what has previously been understood as the ‘referral process.’” 

Because of these low- and no-cost alternatives, she said HR departments are increasingly reluctant to spend money to post job listings on job search sites. “There is just very little appetite for organizations to pay for postings," Zugec said.

The Slow Demise of Monster.com

Earlier this month, Monster Worldwide — the parent company of Monster.com — entered into a agreement to sell itself for $429 million or $3.40 per share to Randstad Holding, a Netherlands-based human resources (HR) consulting giant. It's not a done deal yet: MediaNews Group Inc., Monster Worldwide's biggest stakeholder, is fighting the proposed acquisition because it feels the price undervalues the company.

But the proposed deal nonetheless raises interesting questions about online recruitment. 

Monster.com launched as The Monster Board (TMB) in 1994 and went public two years later. It merged with the Online Career Center (OCC) in 1999 — and by 2000, was valued at more than $8 billion. At its peak, its stock was $91 ... a far cry from the proposed acquisition price.

So what happened? In a recent article on The Rise and Fall of Monster, Raghav Singh, who has developed and launched multiple software products and held leadership positions at several major recruiting technology vendors, called it a failure of innovation, noting that the site never delivered on its founder’s complete vision — "a place where people constantly kept skills and work histories up to date, even when they weren’t looking for jobs. He talked about 'profiles' on the site, not resumes. Does that sound like something else?"

Singh continued:

  • "LinkedIn can better match people to jobs and suggest candidates for recruiters to consider because it has access to vast amounts of data from members and employers. It took a long time before it was realized that the most value to be had from the Internet is data. The success of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and many other firms is founded on their being able to tap the value from data gleaned from billions of interactions that occur online. LinkedIn can better match people to jobs and suggest candidates for recruiters to consider because it has access to vast amounts of data from members and employers. Job boards were well positioned to collect data, but when they emerged it was far from obvious that data had much value. Monster brought online the method by which jobs had been filled for over a century (The first job ads were placed in newspapers in 1836). This was a cool idea in 1996, but employers were soon demanding more."

Relationships Matter

As online recruiting evolves, what's old is somehow new again — including the old adage that it's not what you know, it's who you know. A study earlier this year by the Adler Group and LinkedIn suggests that 85 percent of jobs are filled not by online job applications but through networking.

how people get jobs

Networking rules, even for the most active candidates, as shown on the left. For tiptoers, who are casually looking for another job, networking beats applying directly for a job by a factor of 3:1. And for passive candidates, the ratio of networking to applying is really significant — 7:1.

As Lou Adler, CEO and founder of The Adler Group, explained in a blog post:

  • "Before jobs are posted online they’re filled either internally or through a referral from a trusted source. Even better, candidates don’t need to be a perfect fit to be hired for these jobs. Instead they’re evaluated based on their track record of past performance, leadership ability and upside potential. Often the jobs are modified to better fit the career needs of the person being hired."

Adler and LinkedIn surveyed 3,894 talent acquisition decision-makers who work in a corporate HR department and have some authority in their company’s recruitment solutions budget. 

Fitting Roles to Candidates

One of the complaints about online job applications is that they force candidates to answer in a rote, objective way and preclude any opportunities for applicants to creatively or subjectively explain their experience or skills. But employers seem to be recognizing this issue, and flipping the recruiting paradigm.

Cambridge, Mass.-based marketing automation provider HubSpot and Udemy for Business recently released an e-book, "How to Hire and Train Marketing All-Stars." It suggests there has been a major shift in the recruiting — from a model where a recruiter suggests to a candidate “you could be a fit for this role” to one where the recruiter suggests “this role could be a fit for you.”

In other words, smart employers are bending job descriptions to fit the skills of exceptional candidates rather than trying to find a candidate who meets the job description. Look for “T-Shaped” candidates, the experts at HubSpot and Udemy suggest:  those with a light level of knowledge in a broad array of skills, and deep knowledge or ability in a single one.

Human resource departments are using a multitude of strategies to recruit top talent today, said Paul Rubenstein, partner and leader for talent strategy, leadership and assessment services at Aon Hewitt, a global provider of human capital and management consulting services.

“A few examples,” he said, “include cultivating talent communities of passive candidates, relationship management over a period of time, realistic job previews, using assessment science to understand fit.”