Job boards: Tracing the history and evolution

Job boards: Tracing the history and evolution

What do you do when you want to look up a job today? You register or log on to one of the many online job recruitment portals available and surf through thousands of options displayed on your feed. Complex algorithms used in these job recruitment websites have simplified the process of job hunting. The software used for these sites implement appropriate job automation and scraping techniques to curate a customizable feed for candidates, making the entire process seamless.


Job boards are websites that collate and list job openings from different companies and recruiters. They capture vacancies from employer sites, perform job automation, and update the postings as and when required by the company. Amidst an industry that’s populated with competitive recruiters and aspiring candidates, a job board aids both these users in finding each other.


But, job boards were not this functional and efficient when they first started out. From mere Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) to the modern-day intuitive platforms, job boards have come a long way.


History of job boards


The Beginning


Usenet is accredited for being the first prototype of a job board. The discussion system used its platform to post messages for people to read and discuss. It resembled a BBS and is considered to be the precursor of the Internet forums of today. An actual dial-up bulletin board system, however, was first launched by the Data processing Independent Consultants Exchange (DICE). It was founded by two IT contractors in the year 1990 and was created to find contract jobs easily. Job portals during this period focused on the working class and the professionals in the industry. The first job listing platform exclusively for students was initiated by Career Mosaic in 1994 for the universities in USA and Canada.

The recruitment giant,, was started in the year 1994. Another major venture that boosted job boards back then was the Online Career Centre (OCC) launched by Bill Warren. It was a two-way non-profit organization backed by major corporations.  The venture was meant for both, recruiters to post job listings and applicants to upload their resumes.


The Initial Steps


The years between 1995 and 1999 saw an expansion in the platform, reach, and coverage of primitive job boards.

DICE moved from a bulletin board framework to a web-based architecture. Offline media, like newspapers, started putting out online job listings via platforms like Career Path. Until now, the job sites available garnered and posted high-end intensive opportunities for the IT industry. The outlook changed when purchased OCC in 1995. The purchase opened doors for low and mid-level job opportunities for people. The same year also saw the birth of Craigslist, which took the change a step further. Craiglist offered its clients ‘job lists’ devoted to local classifieds and community forums.

The year 1997 saw the first application of job automation and scraping. Jungle and CareerCast employed these techniques to obtain and refine the job postings on their platforms. The job listing industry wasn’t limited only to the United States of America. StepStone, the first job board system in Europe, was launched in Berlin, Germany in the year 1996.


The Big Time


The Big Time marks the years between 1998 and 2000 that bridged the old structured job boards to the new ones. The use of job sites rapidly spread among the job-hunting community, with running the first Super Bowl ad. The popularity of job boards grew because of this exposure, and JobsOnline was ranked as the number one job site then.

The job board industry till 1998, focused only on the hiring aspect of the recruitment process. Job portals emphasized more on the agency needs than the employer needs. The dot-com crash in 1999, however, ushered a shift in this perspective. With a significant decline in the economics of the corporate industry, job agencies and recruiters both resorted to job boards for filling in the glut of vacancies. Job boards, now, started seeing the need to maintain a balance between the corporate employers and the agencies. This changed outlook paved the way for present-day job boards.


The Recovery


Years 2000 – 2008 saw the recovery of the economy and a revival of the job recruiting industry.

Job sites had started employing techniques like job scraping and job automation on a large scale to acquire more such job openings on their platforms. Along with mainstream job postings, these sites began listing niche jobs, as well as, entry-level jobs on their websites, flexing it for people of all skill sets. Procured from the corners of the world wide web, these openings underwent job wrapping, updating the latest requirements that the employers looked for in the applicants.


The Maturity Phase


This phase was the forerunner to the functioning of the current job boards. Extensive job wrapping, job crawling, and scraping services were employed by sites to expand the scope of their activities. Job sites enhanced the link between candidates and employers, with such techniques. Top USA Jobs was the first job aggregator, to perform job automation, crawling, and scraping, all together, to offer strategic job goals to their customers. The year 2003 saw the inception of LinkedIn with its international outreach and geo-specific features. Companies started developing pre-built job board software that


  • were easy to set up,
  • customizable to a recruiter’s brand,
  • has responsive templates for an intuitive user experience, and
  • has multiple e-commerce options.


The concept of job matching too was implemented during this period. Job matching meant the application of careful and scientific objective job criteria by the employers to ensure perfect hiring results.

The industry did not stop at the launch of LinkedIn or Monster or Google Base. It has been evolving and morphing into the modern-day job boards since 2008, constantly working on improving the platform to benefit more job agencies, applicants, and recruiters alike.


The Evolution of Job boards


Not much has changed in the intrinsic structure of a job board after the maturity phase. What has changed is their approach towards recruitment process.

The earlier approach was a very generalist one. The traditional model surpassed the print media based networking, but it still involved a lot glitches that rendered it inefficient. Technological changes accelerated the refining process implemented by the job boards. They upgraded their software and remodeled their job automation and crawling techniques to amass traffic by offering better client services on their sites. While this evolution is a comprehensive and constant process, it can be grouped into three main stages:


  1. Emergence of niche sites and networks

In the late 90s, the focus of job boards shifted from the conventional IT job base to job platforms for banking, marketing, sales, accounting, and work from home. This approach personalized the job recruitment sector. These sites offered detailed information about job titles, descriptions, roles, and opportunities for people.
The shift from bulletins to network sites extended the job brackets for both the applicants and the employers. With a feature to list multiple postings on the same window, recruiters could depend on a single vendor for numerous job roles.


  1. Emergence of job aggregators and social networks

Before job aggregators, employers would post openings in their company on their website alone. Therefore, candidates had to surf multiple sites to see the recruitment opportunities with different employers. This was, in a way, a limitation for both the parties. Job aggregators, like Indeed, came into the picture and delimited this scope. By obtaining various listings from different network sites, job aggregators presented an open ground for candidates. The job listings underwent rigorous job automation and careful curation to index, file, and appropriately match the candidates with the recruiter in a single search.
An extension of job aggregating sites was the conception of a social job site. LinkedIn is deemed to be the revolutionary job site that effectively clubbed the social and professional aspects of recruitment.


  1. Emergence of ‘evolutionary behavior’

After the recession of 2008, job boards have shown what market analysts call the ‘evolutionary behavior.’ They started modifying themselves to adapt and evolve, regardless of the changing market scenarios. Pay for performance, matching, hyper-niche jobs, socializing on communities and hubs, mobile-based job searches, and options like application tracking systems (ATS) are services that job boards offer their clients today. All these adaptations have helped the boards stay ahead in the growth curve. And today, these websites have become an integral part of the recruitment process at both the ends.


The recruitment industry changes every single day. The market is rife with competition between aspiring candidates and stringent recruiters in all domains and niches. Though they are firmly entrenched in the market today, job boards must recognize this ever-evolving industry and must adapt with agility.