Okay, I’m a sucker for dirt on Monster.com and its ilk. And I love to share it. A reader sent this along, after attending the annual CIO Conference sponsored by the New Jersey Technology Council (NJTC), held in Princeton, NJ on March 28. (CIO’s are Chief Information Officers — the top information-technology dogs, at their companies.)

I recently heard the founder of Monster.com, Jeff Taylor, speak. Of course, he’s a successful millionaire and quite full of himself, sporting the obligatory dot-com founder’s “edgy” look — gel-spiked hair, salt-and-pepper goatee, trendy thick-framed sunglasses with vertical stripes (yes, I’m serious). He exhorted the audience to chant in unison, “WE ROCK!” and “HALLELUJAH!” to his callouts — as though we were in church — and insisted we take our shoes off and point them at anyone who hadn’t done so, to make his point about adopting new ideas. Although he’s retired from Monster and was there to hawk his new company, he of course traded on his fame as the founder of the “incredibly successful” Monster.com “job board.”

One problem.

Amidst all this adoration and obsequiousness, no one bothered to mention what a farce Monster.com really is in terms of actually filling posts and, of course, actually helping candidates find jobs.

You ought to re-publish some of your earlier materials, perhaps updated in these again-difficult times, to remind people that if they’re counting on job boards like Monster to find those “unadvertised” positions, they will be very disappointed indeed.

The CEO of the NJTC, Maxine Ballen, gushed about Mr. Taylor and spoke at length about how Monster.com has so wonderfully changed the way people get jobs. I think that’s untrue and is a farce, and gives false hope to desperate people at one of the most difficult times in life, being unemployed. I nearly hurled listening to another false dot.com “visionary.”

Jeff Taylor may have made a killing, but his “invention” serves, well, mainly him and the people who work there, gleefully peddling false hope.

Disclosure: I sometimes have a goatee on my face, and because I don’t color it, it’s salt-and-pepper. So, who am I to talk? Anyway… the same reader then unloaded on another of my favorite dot.com job-board rackets, TheLadders:

I made the mistake of wasting money on TheLadders.com until I got smart, and I had some nasty e-mail exchanges with [Marc] Cenedella [founder and head of TheLadders.com] personally when I took exception to his continual, self-promoting e-mails, false claims of providing a free resume “review” when it was just a lead-in to a paid service, and job listings that were available free of charge at any number of other boards, but advertised as “exclusive, non-advertised” jobs. Cenedella is an ego-maniacal, absurdly self-promoting charlatan just like Taylor. A pox on all their houses.

Whoo-wee. Do you think this reader has made the rounds of the big (and exclusive) job boards? Saved me from having to write a column today. Now I’ve got to go pore over all the e-mail I’ve been getting from professional resume writers who claim TheLadders.com won’t let its resume clients talk directly with the writers who are actually writing those expensive resumes. I guess the boiler-room is just too busy to take calls. (So, who do these $100k+ resume clients talk with after they fork over a thousand bucks or so?)

PS — I cruised over to TheLadders.com to confirm Cenedella’s job title at Ladders, but the site requires the user’s e-mail address or verification code before letting anyone enter. It really is exclusive. Gimme a break. They know who I am. And I’ll share evidence of that in another post.

  1. Nick—Good, great post. Farce is right; some enterprising journalist will not only look into the issues with Monster and CareerBuilder et al, but also look into the aggregators like Indeed and Simply Hired. If you think Monster and C/B have duplicates and false jobs, you can now multiply that by a factor of ten as Indeed and Simply Hired aggregate all the crap and, in turn, feed it to every un-suspecting website who believes they are providing good service to job seekers.
    I should not self promote here but that is why we are so excited about LINKUP. As you know we are providing a very real and simple service for jobseekers by displaying ONLY jobs that are up on a company’s own website, NEVER from a job board.

  2. But here’s a question: Suppose we grade all the Headhunters in the world with a grade of 1 thru 10, where Nick is a 9 (just in case there is someone better than Nick) and the Bottom Feeders your wrote about in “Bad-Boy Headhunters” are a 2 (because there probably are even worse ones).

    Now I know from past experience (I’m not afraid to admit my mistakes) that IF one posts a resume on Monster.com, it will generate a response from the 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s of the Headhunting world. And, I think, maybe a 4 as well. My question is, at what quality point do Headhunters start ignoring job boards as a source for candidates?
    By posting some credentials (and I now know better than to post anything link a real resume) can I attract the attention of a 7 or 8? Or is a 4 the most I can hope for?

  3. I just got a letter from one of my own readers who is very unhappy with her current job and looking for a new one. She reports “looking at the job boards every day,” finding no response to her resume and feeling depressed. That’s the bad thing about the boards. People post on them and feel they are job hunting. Then nothing happens. Argh.

  4. In almost 20 years of working with executive jobseekers, I can think of only ONE who got a job through the job boards (of course, job boards are not as old as 20 years, but who’s counting?).

    Ironically, she landed an executive position with Monster!

    When I hear from someone that he has been “actively looking” using the big job boards, I know that he has been “actively wasting his time.”

  5. Deb Dib: I think you’ve just “actively” coined a phrase! My casual polling reveals similar results. I need to have a very big audience for one or two people to claim finding a job through Monster and its ilk. Even then, they usually explain they know someone who knows someone who found a job…

    Phil: This is related to another phenomenon. A people hire A people. B people hire C people. And that’s when A people leave the organization. A headhunters don’t use the job boards. And B headhunters who try, soon stop because on the boards they encounter the C headhunters… who are not headhunters at all. So, my answer is (D.) there are no 7 or 8 headhunters using the job boards — and to paraphrase Deb Dib, stop wasting your time.

  6. Working Girl: Ever hear of the Mexican Bean Cure? No disrespect intended… but this is a real problem in medicine. A person with, say, cancer desperately goes to Mexico for a cure, because the cure is not sanctioned in the U.S. After a few months, the patient dies. The problem is not just the unsanctioned “cure”, but the concommitant failure of the patient to use other, medically-legitimate treatments that are more likely to result in control of the cancer. So, when you (thanks, Deb!) actively waste your time on Monster, you are failing to use methods that are actually productive. It’s a double failure, or mistake.

  7. The job board industry is a con, pure and simple. We all admire true pioneers – in the Internet, career development and anything else, for that matter – but pioneering something that enriched one person or a handful of people while exploiting others at a difficult time of their lives is reprehensible.

    The leering “visionary” Mr. Taylor and his ilk have no idea what a job search really entails, especially when you’re trying to figure out how to keep your family and finances afloat in the meantime.

    These hucksters – including Mr. Cenedella of “The Ladders” (going down, if you ask me) – are worthy of our disgust and disdain, and nothing more.

  8. Hi,
    I must say that job boards are definitely a farce and a gimmick. Here in India I know that people who claim to be headhunters are also doing nothing but paying the “monsters” lots of money to access their data banks and call for candidates.

    Some of these sites allow you to post the resume free of cost and many others charge a “nominal” sum for the same..

    At the end of the day its a game and I am yet to see anyone having got a job by poring over such sites. I agree Nick that job seekers should do more useful things rather than look at these job boards.

  9. Hi Nick,

    Great post …as always.

    I thought I would put you to the test today ;-) I recently hired seven contractors through three different agencies. During the interviewing process one of the contractors sent me candidates of which 100% were hirable. The other two agencies were at the 10 – 40% mark. That is, upwards of 9 out of 10 candidates did not meet my baseline requirements. Why was the one agency so much better than the others?

    It’s a loaded question – no doubt you have already guessed the answer. As I walked around and asked each contractor how they were recruited by the agency, the contractors from the reliable agency were all recruited out of existing jobs. The other agencies regurgitated job board candidates to me. (I hope and assume they at least did some filtering – especially considering their take.)

    I should point out that all three agencies are well respected, well established, international agencies.

    There are a few key points I interpret from this:

    • Networking is your best option. The best agency found me the best candidates through their people network.
    • See previous point. It is that important.
    • Job boards are not totally useless. They did help some of these contractors.
    o HOWEVER, every contractor who came through a job board was dissatisfied with most recruiters/agencies which have contacted them through the job board.
    o I have another excellent contractor (who I hired through my personal network) who has horror stories about treatment from agencies who picked him up off job boards.
    • I have learned that in the future I will ask all agencies/recruiters what are their sources. I will not use those who use job boards. I am paying them too much to have my time wasted with a lazy process which results in scanning and passing job board candidates who consistently fail to meet my baseline.
    • If your networking is getting you nowhere then volunteer. I have hired more than one person because they demonstrated their commitment and capabilities to me through volunteering.

    I will conclude with a plug for the one agency who really shined: Brunel Multec.

    Keep up the great work!


  10. Your answer to Phil was right on, Nick. Even internal recruiters (as opposed to TPR) at the Kennedy Recruiting Conference in October wanted passive candidates, i.e., those who are top talent and employed. One comment was that saturating the job boards with your resume was akin to committing career suicide.

    There’s an old adage that I’ve modified to apply to finding a job today … if it looks too easy to be true, it probably is.

    You have to play in the right sandbox if you want to get the right results.

    Thanks as always, Nick, for your great insights.

  11. I totally disagree with this favourite dead horse of yours. I’ve used all kinds of boards (including your apparent bete noir, Monster.com) over a decade and have found tons of work through them, both contract and perm. Boards are great and I can’t understand what your position here is based on; to me, it appears entirely without foundation.

  12. Hi Nick. First off, I want to say great blog! I have been a recipient of voc/rehab services in Illinois since 1994, just prior to graduating from high school. I found them to be of very little assistance, and the job-training program I went through was also of little assistance. That was at the Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually-Impaired. Some people undoubtedly will tell you only great things about that place and more power to those people. The only great thing there that I ever experienced was O&M services. But that instructor has since retired. Anyway on with my question. What do you think of http://www.abilitylinks.org? I served on my local township’s advisory disabilities advisory committee, and we had Ken Skord from AbilityLinks as a guest speaker at one point. Being on that committee was a great experience for me, but I’m just curious to know if you know of anyone who has had true success with AbilityLinks. Thanks and keep up the great work. BTW, networking has landed me two jobs in the nonprofit sector thus far so I just thought I’d put in my plug for networking. I am on the second of those jobs. The first was with an organization that ended up shutting down due to financial issues.

  13. Just ran a search to see what Taylor was up to. I am sorry to read all of the naysayers post…. because Monster changed my life! Single mom with 3 children did become employed full through Monster… I was so tickled I wanted Taylor to know and wrote him a thank you letter. It seems to me that many of the above comments are ripe with cynism and that is too bad… I would highly reccomend serious candidates to cover all bases job boards,head hunters, career centers,e tc….What is worse than the current economy is all this apathy for the not so motivated types.. It is the same world it has always been, full of opportunity…go get yours!!!

  14. The ‘farce’ of monster.com is only the beggining.
    Jeff taylor started an auto restoration business called Tango Classic Auto, in Bellingham, Massachusetts.
    He had a manager handle all the dirty work of hiring. The manager explained upon hiring employees, that they would have to be paid under the table temporarily.
    Not only were they to be paid under the table, but they wouldn’t have any health insurance or workmen’s comp. in the event that someone got injured on the job.
    Although Jeff Taylor claimed that he couldn’t afford to start up the business the right way, he was a multimillionaire at the time and was purchasing Shelby Mustangs for $30,000 – $70,000 a pop.
    As further insult to the employees, Jeff didn’t supply his employees with any safety equipment. He ordered his employees to paint the vehicles being restored without the use of breathing apperatus or spray booths.
    Upon one of the employees being injured on the job, Jeff refused to take responsibility for the medical bills and the employee had to pay for the injury out of his own pocket.
    As a result, the employee left the ‘company’ and contacted the Bellingham Fire Department.
    Upon inspection, it was found that environmental laws and fire codes were being violated and the shop was shut down temporarily.
    The department of revenue decided that the amount of taxes that weren’t reported was insignificant compared to the amount of taxes that Jeff had generated through monster.com and decided not to prosecute.
    The rich get richer.
    I find it ironic that Jeff has spoken at events sponsored by the U.S. Dept of Labor and hailed as an example of a successful entrepreneur.
    His successes are hiding the fact that he’s a dirtbag.

  15. Simply put: The job boards are broken. Without driving high visitor counts and fresh resumes (and old ones that are left posted indef) being dumped into their databases they cannot charge the prices they want for ad space and resume search access. People apply to everything they see that they are remotely qualified for in hopes of a getting a response – clogging company applicant tracking systems and/ or blowing up recruiter inboxes. They need an overcrowded system because it benefits them – not the recruiter/ candidate.

  16. Laura, glad you had a good experience but I’ll wager you’re one of the few. Even employers that use Monster provide shockingly low statistics about the percentages of job that Monster and other boards ultimately fill. Bottom line? It’s an empty promise.