Career sites face fierce battle for brand loyalty

If you think the competition for jobs these days is tough, just be thankful you're not an online career site....

If you think the competition for jobs these days is tough, just be thankful you’re not an online career site.

The number of ‘e-cruiters’ in Canada has grown exponentially over the past 18 months, to the point where it’s hard to tell the players apart. Sites such as Workopolis.com, Monster.ca, Jobshark.com, CareerClick.com, JobsOnline.ca, HotJobs.ca and Brainhunter.com – to name just a few – have quickly become major contenders in a fierce battle for the brand loyalty of job seekers and recruiters alike.

While it’s still anyone’s game, experts contend it’s just a matter of months before a shake-out reveals a brand new online recruiting landscape – one that will likely see three or four major players, supplemented by a number of niche sites.

Julie Kaufman, research manager, skills research, at Toronto-based IDC Canada, says there’s little to differentiate the various competitors – all are busy improving the functionality of their offerings – so the marketing battlefield is where the war will be won or lost.

‘When the competition is rising as rapidly as it is in this space, you’ve got to get your name out there, and make sure everyone remembers who you are. That will be the deciding factor as to who is still around in 18 months,’ Kaufman says.

Kim Peters, president of Workopolis.com, agrees.

Fortunately, she says, ‘Canada’s biggest job site’ hit the ground running when it launched last January, and is now the number-one Canadian career site at the domain level, attracting some 357,000 unique visitors in October, according to figures from Toronto-based media measurement firm Media Metrix Canada.

The site, a joint venture between Globe Interactive and Toronto Star Newspapers, has communicated its brand promise – to provide the greatest number and broadest selection of jobs in Canada – using television, print, online and out-of-home advertising. It recently reported revenues of more than $1 million – a ten-fold increase over the October revenues of its predecessor, Globecareers.com.

‘We’re focusing on building not only great technology, but also a great brand – sustainable both in the consumer side of the market, and the human resources, professional side of the market. That’s really what this is all about,’ says Peters.

Montreal-based Monster.ca, one of 13 ‘Monster’ sites owned by Massachusetts-based TMP Worldwide, recently concluded its ‘Monster Monday’ fall campaign, targeting people who dread going back to work after the weekend. The Canada-specific creative – which builds on an acclaimed U.S. spot featuring children stating their ambition to be middle-managers and yes-men – comprised five-second billboards on Global Television Network, aired every half-hour through the Sunday evening line-up.

Jennifer-Lee Thomas, director of communications with Monster.ca, says the priority this year will be a message of ‘empowerment’ – encouraging unhappy employees to explore all the possibilities open to them by getting them to use the tools available on the site.

‘Since 1997, it’s been about drumming up awareness,’ says Thomas. ‘Now, it’s a question of taking that awareness and bringing it to the next step – evolving the site and making the best use of technology.’

HotJobs.ca, a relative newcomer to the Canadian market, has opted to go to market with a more positive, optimistic message.

‘What you hear most of the job boards doing is communicating negative messages like ‘you’re trapped,” says Mike Boydell, president of HotJobs.ca, the Toronto-based subsidiary of HotJobs.com. ‘Our positioning is around taking control of your destiny.’

At stake is a ‘very strong market,’ says Sherry Barmania, director of communications for Media Metrix Canada.

According to the firm’s Canada at home data for the month of October, 14.2% of all Canadians on the Web, or 1.8 million Canadians, visited a career site in the past month. Visitors tend to go deeply into the sites, Barmania adds, and spend a lot of time there – an average of 26 minutes, two days a month.