Job boards have been around since the mid-1990s. As the internet took off, it didn’t take long for a number of visionary entrepreneurs to realize that the new medium would be an ideal place to advertise jobs. Dice, Monster and CareerBuilder (originally branded Netstart) were among the early movers in the US alongside Jobserve in the UK, Stepstone in Germany and SEEK in Australia. These pioneering firms decimated the world of print classified advertising and, in the early years, staffing firms began to seriously question whether job boards would disintermediate them.

Since then, the market has matured and morphed. While standard job board services have become commoditized, over a 20-year period we have seen the evolution of a broader online job advertising industry comprising a variety of business models such as job aggregators, online classifieds, social media job sites, community sites, programmatic job advertising/job distributors and job post optimizers.

The proliferation of these new business models, combined with advances in artificial intelligence and other technologies, have afforded new opportunities for online job advertising firms to enhance and adapt their services as well as to develop new products. In addition, the potential of talent acquisition technology more generally, including the human cloud, has revived investor interest resulting in a series of significant fund-raising successes and M&A deals.

It may have caught some by surprise, but job boards are “hot” once again.

Strong Growth and Innovation.

SIA published its latest market trends report in July 2019 and estimated that global online job advertising revenue grew by an impressive 15% in 2018, reaching US $22 billion. This growth has been driven by continued economic expansion (driving increased demand for workers and increasing candidate scarcity), increased mobile phone access and mobile solutions, more differentiated job search products, and more candidate traffic driven by the Google for Jobs API.

The two largest firms — Microsoft (LinkedIn) and Recruit (owner of Indeed, Glassdoor, Simply Hired and a number of Asian job boards) — now control almost half (49%) of the market, by our estimates. Outside the top two, however, the market is very fragmented with a long tail of smaller, mostly local players.

It is commonly understood that the classic job board model was seriously undermined by the arrival of job aggregators such as Indeed, which was founded in 2004. However, while Indeed continues to enjoy success, of the 50 firms in our ranking of the world’s largest online job advertising firms, 45 managed to grow revenue in 2018, including the vast majority of traditional job boards.

Notably, job boards with a local focus continue to do well in comparison to their generalist peers such as HeadHunter, the market leader in Russia, and Bayt, the market leader in the Middle East.

It is also clear that innovation is happening across the whole sector and market leaders cannot afford to be complacent. While they may have an advantage in terms of brand recognition and reach, each category of the online job advertising sector faces newer “challenger” brands with new twists on incumbent products, built on newer technology and, sometimes, successfully exploiting niche categories overlooked by older incumbents.

Innovation in the job board market can be seen in companies like Hired. Founded in 2012, Hired operates a curated job marketplace where job candidates are pre-vetted and have transparency into salary offers, competing opportunities and job details. Innovation can also be found among those job boards harnessing blockchain such as, which claims to be the first platform that can “completely replace a recruitment agency and fully automate the hiring process”.

Even the largest firms have new models snapping at their heels. Indeed is seeing SEO-savvy, mobile-friendly firms like Ukrainian job aggregator Jooble gaining traction while Jobcase is an interesting example of how a niche approach to the social media job site category can be successful. Launched in 2015, the company has been described as a LinkedIn for blue-collar workers. In February 2019, it reported 100 million registered users and 25 million unique active visitors each month.

Strong Investor Interest

SIA counted 25 acquisitions involving online job advertising fi rms between January 2018 and June 2019. The most notable was Recruit’s purchase of employer review site Glassdoor for US $1.2 billion in May 2018. Separately, Recruit’s Indeed subsidiary recently acquired four fi rms: Workopolis,, Interviewed and Syft. Other acquisitions have seen fi rms invest in complementary activities such as résumé-building, candidate assessment, internships, search/match/parse software and online education.

Meanwhile, the industry has also come to the attention of the venture capital community. Among the largest deals completed include Jobcase, which has raised US $118.5 million in equity capital since February 2018; Hired, which raised US $30 million in new fi nancing in June 2018, bringing total capital raised to more than US $132 million; and ZipRecruiter, which raised US $156 million in a series B fundraising in October 2018.

Turning up the Heat

Online job advertising is a sector that should see further growth and innovation. With no deterioration in the global economy, SIA is anticipating further double-digit revenue growth for online job advertising in 2019.

Interestingly, this year we saw early signs of convergence between traditional job board models and online staffing platforms as exemplifi ed by Indeed’s acquisition of Syft and Snagajob’s rebranding as Snag to incorporate those that want to snag a freelance job, not just a permanent one. The two models sit comfortably together so we would expect to see more such convergence in the future.

We are at the brink of a technology revolution and early advances in artifi cial intelligence provide only a hint of what might be possible using more advanced deep-learning and neural networks. Online job advertising fi rms are rich in data and ideally placed to benefi t from the application of AI to the extraction of big data. At the same time, a number of job boards are trialling credentialing/ identity management initiatives built on blockchain that could revolutionize the way skills, identity, reputation and other candidate and/or client credentials are validated.

The fear that job boards would disintermediate staffing fi rms turned out to be incorrect as staffing fi rms simply became the largest and most sophisticated users of their services. However, if staffing executives are feeling secure, it’s worth bearing in mind that history is not over yet. It’s not clear whether AI will ever reach the level of self-awareness necessary to replace a human recruiter and blockchain could yet collapse under its own hubris. But, if advances in AI start to truly challenge human interpersonal skills and blockchain can reinforce trust in the process, what place will there be for a staffing intermediary burdened with expensive and inefficient human resources? The hot online job advertising sector could potentially get a lot hotter.