January 2, 2013

Are developer job boards a waste of money?

Almost a year ago, I compiled a list of job boards for developers. There are a ton of boards on this list, ranging from the well-established 37signals job board to relative newcomers like gun.io. However, I haven’t heard much about how effective they are. This is my experience using job boards to hire a developer:


Last winter, I lead the search for a junior software developer to work on some Rails/CoffeeScript projects. We weren’t located in a place with a high density of Rails developers, so we decided to use developer job boards to broaden our search.

We had a limited advertising budget so I wanted to make sure we got the most out of our posts. I researched the common job boards for developers and decided on the 37Singals job board ($400) and Authentic Jobs ($99) as the best bets for our post.

We also posted on the monthly “who’s hiring?” thread on Hacker News (here’s the January 2013 thread as an example) and on usethesource.com (now apparently defunct).

Traffic by source

All the places we posted the job linked to a landing page so I could collect analytics on traffic sources.

Job post analytics from Google
Traffic by source (click to enlarge). The first spike is direct traffic (maybe from refreshes while setting up the landing page?) and Renren (a Chinese social network). The second spike on February 1 is the Hacker News post.

I set up a sample version of the landing page so you can see roughly what we were working with.

Applications by source

We got a total of 21 applications. On the application, we asked how the candidate found the post:

    ------------------------------------
    | Site                       |  #  |
    ------------------------------------
    | Hacker News “Who’s Hiring” |  3  |
    | Google search              |  2  |
    | indeed.com                 |  2  |
    | 37Signals                  |  1  |
    | Authentic Jobs             |  1  |
    | Our website                |  1  |
    | Glassdoor                  |  1  |
    | usethesource (defunct)     |  1  |
    | Didn't respond/unknown     |  9  |
    ------------------------------------

(I didn’t do a good job of forcing candidates to answer this question, so we’re missing data from about half.)

Conclusions

  1. Authentic Jobs was probably worth the money. We paid $2.61 per click for this $99/month job post. $99 is substantially cheaper than other top job sites, and Authentic Jobs has by far the slickest design of any job board (as of earlier this year).

    Also, the person we ended up hiring saw our post on Authentic Jobs.

  2. 37Signals was probably not worth the money. We paid $5.88 per click for this $400/month job post. It didn’t drive substantially more traffic or applications than Authentic Jobs or the free Hacker News post.

    The relatively poor performance of this job post probably has more to do with our specific job than with the job board itself: it certainly is not the standard Rails dev position.

  3. Use the Hacker News “Who’s hiring?” thread. This free post performed better than Authentic and almost as well as 37Singals in terms of traffic, and better than both in terms of applications.

  4. Deciding which job board to use is hard. There are a bunch of job boards and each has a different gestalt that’s hard to quantify (I tried, with limited success). If you have a limited budget and no personal experience, it’s really hard to know what boards to use.

    Companies with larger recruiting budgets (i.e. most tech companies) seem to just post on all the job boards rather than try to figure this out. This makes sense for these employers as it’s a drop in the bucket if you’re paying San Francisco or New York level developer salaries.

I wish I could offer some more concrete conclusions, but this is difficult without larger numbers. It would be great to see similar data from others – so if you’re willing to share your personal experience with these job boards, either as an employer or a job seeker, I’d love to hear about it.


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