Google's newest push to radically improve the online job hunt for millions of Americans

Key Points
  • More than 41 million people are searching for jobs and being recruited into jobs every single year.
  • Google has recently launched a new job search tool — as the next step in its Google for Jobs suite — to capitalize on the $200 billion U.S. recruitment market.
  • Google differentiates itself from LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Monster and other online job boards by using machine learning and AI to help job seekers find jobs that are specifically tailored to their needs.
  • Online job boards will have to consolidate or innovate to keep up with competition from Google, HR experts say.
Google has expanded its Google for Jobs initiative, launched last summer, to feature a job search tool that uses AI technology. The company believes it will radically change the online job-seeking experience.
Bloomberg | Getty Images

As an analog of the newspaper classified section, online job boards like Indeed and Monster have long sold themselves as a one-stop shop for job seekers. Yet in the past decade, they've become synonymous with poor search functions, black hole–like résumé portals and expired job posts. The boom of AI technology in the job-seeking market, however, is set to radically change the online job-seeking experience.

One major player leading the charge in this transition is Google. The tech giant launched its own suite of job search products, Google for Jobs, last summer. The initiative was created to power smarter job search and recommendations within career sites, jobs boards and other job-matching sites and apps using AI and machine learning.

Now, according to Google product manager Nick Zakrasek, the company has taken the next step in its Google for Jobs initiative by putting the power of this AI search technology into the hands of job seekers. With this new experience, Google aims to connect Americans to job opportunities across the United States that are specifically tailored to match their needs. The biggest benefit, said Zakrasek, is that it surfaces all the platforms where a particular job is posted, allowing the user to decide which job board they want to use.

There is no special URL for this job search tool. Rather, job seekers simply enter a job-seeking query — such as "jobs near me" or "insurance jobs" inside the regular Google search box. Filters sort key criteria, like commute time and the hours you want to work. It also includes salary-range estimates, which are pulled from sites like Glassdoor and PayScale. Many jobs also offer ratings and reviews of the employer from trusted sites. Zakrasek said Google will continuously be adding additional filters and information.

"If we can just get a few more people connected with jobs over time, percentage point over percentage point, I strongly believe there's little more we can do in search that can have a strong impact," said Zakrasek.

Google's push to improve the online job-recruitment process

It's easy to understand why Google wants to capitalize on the $200 billion U.S. recruitment market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that 20 percent to 24 percent of Americans change jobs every year, which means more than 41 million people are searching for jobs and being recruited into jobs every single year. Several billion dollars are spent on job advertising, and even after people apply, companies on average spend approximately $4,000 per candidate on interviewing, scheduling and assessment.

Google thinks it can bring more value to that process by focusing on tools that get valuable applicants past just clicking on a job posting to actually applying. But Zakrasek said that the company's aim isn't to eliminate job boards like LinkedIn and Monster. In fact, the company actively partners with these companies to get the best data for job searchers and wants to push forward a matching process that hasn't evolved much in over a decade.

Google's desire to push the rest of the industry into the future seems to be working.

"We're not trying to go in and rebuild everything that's already been built," he said. "We want to work with all of these providers to tackle these problems."

Several billion dollars are spent each year on job advertising, and even after a candidate applies, a company spends about $4,000 per each applicant for the interview, schedule and assessment process.
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An industry in transition

Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer of Holmdel, New Jersey-based iCIMS, a company that designs applicant tracking system and recruiting software, thinks the entrance of Google for Jobs into the market has spurred more competition in the sector. iCIMS, which serves around 35 million users around the world, is one of many recruiting companies working with Google. Vitale said that since they've started using Google for Jobs, traffic to the iCIMS career site has increased 90 percent. Traffic from the site Indeed, by contrast, has decreased year over year.

Vitale likens Google's transition into the recruitment process to the way the tech giant took over travel booking, overtaking third-party travel sites like Kayak. She explained that while she still might go to a site like TripAdvisor for better pictures than Google, she'll book most of her travel through Google.

"If they're only serving up job listings, it won't be enough," said Vitale. "Google is going to serve up the best product."

Which is why job boards like Indeed also have been experimenting with AI to stand out in an increasingly competitive market.

Like Google, Indeed uses AI trained on a data set with trillions of data points to surface the most relevant jobs for job seekers. Indeed also employs natural language processing to the listings that go on its site, optimizing what Raj Mukherjee, senior vice president of product at Indeed, calls "just a bag of words," into text that appeals to the right candidates. He said that since the site started applying NLP, the rate of employers responding back to applicants has increased 10 percent across all industries. Indeed also employs AI to evaluate candidates résumés to help them see how much of a fit they are for a job before they apply. He sees matching candidates with employers as the fundamental challenge of the industry — a challenge that he sees AI as poised to solve.

"You could imagine pressing a button in the morning and getting a job offer," he said. "It won't happen next year, but certainly in the longer-term future we do see that as our overall thesis."

But most job boards are just "on the surface" of what they can do with AI, said Angie College, vice president of operations and candidate experience at Adecco, a staffing company that serves 700,000 job seekers daily. She said that while the company is in talks with some unnamed job boards to directly integrate its recruiting software, most of their experience right now is with using advertising on the boards. For their application process, they use Mya Systems, an AI recruiting tool that engages directly with applicants via text, to more quickly place recruits.

The job board of the future

AI is one big way to carve out a competitive advantage, especially when it comes to job matching, but increasingly being able to integrate with other stages of the recruiting process is essential to having a competitive edge with employers and candidates alike. Being able to not only surface jobs for candidates but connect them directly with recruiters is one way that job boards will continue to differentiate themselves in the future.

Increasingly, companies like Adecco and iCIMS are looking at both internal and external tools that can proactively serve up jobs to candidates, even when they might not be looking. And large job boards, like Indeed, are aware of the market demands. For instance, now Indeed offers Indeed Assessments, candidate evaluation models that can help employers figure out a candidate's fit for a job before interviewing them.

If we can just get a few more people connected with jobs over time, percentage point over percentage point, I strongly believe there's little more we can do in search that can have a strong impact.
Nick Zakrasek
Google product manager

"I think résumés are really one-dimensional. They're a static piece of data that looks back at what you've done. They don't show what you want to do or even prove that you have the skills you say you do," said Indeed's Mukherjee. "What we fundamentally believe is that you need to complement résumés with assessments."

Shobhit Gupta, business strategy and operations lead at AllyO, an end-to-end recruitment software that works with companies like Hilton and AT&T, also has seen his customers increasingly express an interest in being able to integrate the job search and actual recruiting process. His company is currently speaking with two major job boards about integrating AllyO into their products.

"There will always be a need for a broad channel to invite more quality applicants. Does it need to look like today's job board? Not at all," said Gupta.

Gupta said that while high-volume automation will continue to be important to high-recruiting sectors like retail, features that allow a company to become an "employer of choice" will help job boards reach companies in industries like finance and consulting, where the best applicants might not be actively looking for jobs. He cited LinkedIn, which incorporates social networking and a news feed; and CareerBuilder and Monster, which offer brand consulting. Indeed also offers a product where companies can curate a page with reviews and job listings, and offers the company metrics about whose visiting its page. Recruit Holdings, Indeed's parent company, acquired Glassdoor for $1.2 billion in early May, 2018.

But even as job boards take on other services and companies seek more proactive recruiting methods, it doesn't mean that the job board itself will go extinct.

"The job boards are extremely important," said College. "They still hold a very valuable place in our recruitment process."

Vitale added that she doesn't see the bump in traffic from Google for Jobs as "lasting forever," especially as the rest of the market catches up.