Are Specialized Job Boards More Effective?

As the so-called war for talent rages on and employers continue to seek qualified candidates, specialized job boards are becoming more prevalent, adding to the already robust offering of tools available at recruiters’ fingertips.

Yet, with job boards already divided into niche subsets — like or — some employers are requesting even more specificity.

The latest example is We Work Remotely, a job board that caters to organizations seeking remote workers. It primarily focuses on computer programming and design jobs, though it also features posts for copywriting and customer service positions.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of Chicago-based Web application company 37signals and authors of “Remote: Office Not Required,” founded We Work Remotely with the goal of helping companies find talent no matter its location.

“We used to run a general purpose job board for people in the tech industry, but we thought that space was already well-represented,” Hansson said, “so this board focuses exclusively on remote positions. Not looking at remote workers is infinitely more restrictive than only looking at people who can come to your office.”

Like most other niche sites, We Work Remotely includes job postings that don’t show up elsewhere. It also features contact information for hiring managers. Most important, by targeting specific skills, those who post to the job board compete with fewer companies than they would at one of the larger job websites.

When searching for “programming jobs,” for instance, returns more than 1,000 jobs. The same search on We Work Remotely yields just 44 jobs, with all of the results being those where employees can work away from the employer’s office.

Hansson said he believes this type of narrow search is the most efficient way for recruiters to find quality candidates in an era where being at the office isn’t necessarily required — especially for programming and other tech-savvy positions.

“I think having many boards associated with niches is the way to go,” Hansson said. “I can’t even imagine having to wade through hundreds and hundreds of applications from a general purpose board like Monster or the like.”

However, not everyone is convinced niche job boards are the most efficient way for recruiters to find candidates.

Elaine Orler, president and founder of Talent Function, a talent management consultancy, has been implementing recruitment software for large organizations since 1993. She said there are major challenges in implementing niche job boards.

“The job board needs to prove to the employer that they have access to talent the employer might not find otherwise and engage job seekers in a way that creates community and loyalty to their job board,” Orler said. “That competitive advantage is one of the differences in why some sites succeed and others fail.”

With job boards remaining a solid avenue for organizations seeking potential candidates, Orler said the companies she consults still have budgets for marketing positions to third-party job boards. And as jobs continue to become more specialized around a given industry or trade, there’s legitimate reason to believe such specialty job boards are a valuable option for corporate recruiters.

Still, Orler stresses that just having a specific niche is not enough to make it entirely viable. In fact, most companies use what Orler calls a “blending strategy” — posting to job boards both large and small to ensure that they do not miss out on anyone.

Additionally, specialized job boards “must command the attention of the job seeker and broker the connection,” Orler said. “The board needs to demonstrate that they are able to draw the right candidate-job seeker connection.”

Hansson said he has already seen We Work Remotely foster positive relationships between candidates and employers. He also said he thinks niche job boards have real staying power in a recruiting climate saturated with options for recruiters to source candidates.

“We keep getting great stories about employees and employers finding each other,” Hansson said, “and that’s what it is all about.”

Eric Short is an editorial intern for Talent Management. He can be reached at