Feed Me, Need Me (Part 1): A Primer on Curating a Jobs Backfill

A lot of you who are starting or in the midst of running a job board want to learn more about or make better use of jobs backfills. But, it can get complicated when you get down to the nitty-gritty choices and variations available to you, so we’ve created a 2-part Backfill Primer blog series to help you become an expert!

 

Part 1: Curating a Jobs Backfill

  1. What is a jobs backfill?
  2. Why would I want a backfill?
  3. Can I use backfills to make money?
  4. What options and variations of jobs backfills will I come across?
  5. What are the Pros and Cons of Using Backfills?
    • Pros
    • Cons
  6. Backfill Responsibly


 

1. What is a jobs backfill?

A jobs backfill is an external source of jobs that are imported to your job board, for job seekers to find.

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2. Why would I want backfill?

Backfilled jobs can supplement the number jobs posted natively to your site by employers and recruiters. They are particularly useful for new boards who are still building up their base of job-posting customers, but need to attract and keep job seekers engaged on their site. It’s a way to start finding that chicken-and-egg balance between jobs and candidates for a successful job board.

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3. Can I use backfills to make money?

Backfilled jobs can supplement the number jobs posted natively to your site by employers and recruiters. They are particularly useful for new boards who are still building up their base of job-posting customers, but need to attract and keep job seekers engaged on their site. It’s a way to start finding that chicken-and-egg balance between jobs and candidates for a successful job board.

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4. What options and variations of jobs backfills will I come across?

a. Jobs Backfill Format: XML vs API

Jobs backfills can be imported to your job board in more than one way. Likely the most common format you’ll encounter is XML (short for Extensible Markup Language). Like RSS feeds, an XML feed will take information published in one location and send it somewhere else, like your job board. XML feeds come in different formats, depending on the information being carried. As such, some XML formats may need to be configured for your specific board before a successful import.

Jobs backfills that use an API to import jobs are a bit more advanced. Instead of sending information in XML format between two websites, an API gets the backfill source and your job board to talk to each other directly in order to retrieve and publish backfilled jobs. As a result, when connected via API, your jobs aren’t saved and published to your board. Which brings us to…

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b. Search Results vs Published Jobs

The experience of the job seeker, when encountering backfilled jobs, may follow one of two paths:

Path 1: Search Results
  • The job seeker will search or browse for jobs on your site, and backfilled jobs may appear in the search results.
  • Clicking on the job search results immediately links the job seeker to the original, external job listing, wherever it may have been posted.
  • The job seeker is no longer on your site when he/she views the full job listing and applies for the job

This method may save you data storage, because you aren’t publishing the job content directly on your site. On the other hand, the job seeker gets redirected to a site with different branding and experience, which might ultimately be worse for them and for you.

Path 2: Published Jobs
  • The job seeker will search or browse for jobs on your site, and backfilled jobs may appear in the search results.
  • Clicking on a job search result takes the job seeker to a job post that is published on your board.
  • The “Apply” button links them out to the original, external job listing, wherever it may have been posted
  • The job seeker is no longer on your site when he/she views the full job listing and applies for the job

This method may result in a better and more consistent experience for the job seeker, but publishing too many jobs via backfill may affect the performance of your database, depending on the limits of your storage, technology, and hosting plan.

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c. Snippet vs Full Content

For backfills that allow publishing a job on your site, some may limit the content that can be published on job boards. What this might look like on your board is that only the first 200 characters from the job post may be published on your board. The job seeker is left to judge, from that snippet alone, whether or not to click the “Apply” button, which will then link them out to the original listing.

For backfill sources that allow publishing the full job content of a listing, the job seeker can read the entire job post content and then choose to click “Apply”, and be directed to the original listing.

The difference is one of experience for the job seeker, and jobs that post snippets may create a poorer one. The backfill provider may consequently receive less traffic from your site as a result, which may impact any revenue generated through that relationship.

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d. Real-Time vs Periodic

Jobs are being imported to your site, but with what frequency? If you’re dealing with a massive aggregator, an import of jobs once a day might be more than enough for your board. A smaller source of jobs backfill, such as an employer, might necessitate importing and publishing new jobs as they are posted in their original location. If another job board is a backfill source, you may find updating once a week yields the appropriate amount of new jobs.

For backfills that connect to your board via API, they are able to pull jobs from their source at the same time they are being searched for on your site. Let’s say your job seeker searches for HR jobs in New York, NY. When he or she enters their search criteria, the API calls out to the backfill source and asks for the live job posts that meet that criteria.

The volume of jobs a backfill provider generates may affect your choices on the frequency of feed imports. If your XML feed updates daily and has thousands of new jobs sent every day, you might need to look into restricting the feed or even updating it manually as needed.

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e. Niche vs General

Your job board likely serves a niche, such as a particular industry, location, or type of contract (e.g. remote work, part-time work, etc.). You’ll want to investigate whether or not a backfill source fits that niche, or helps you accommodate for it.

For example, if you focus on automotive industry jobs, but your backfill source is a large aggregator that posts jobs in every industry, you will want to narrow down what jobs get imported to your board. If you serve a regional audience but post jobs in all industries, you need to narrow down the jobs imported based on location.

There may be some jobs backfill sources that specialize in your particular niche or region, so be sure to investigate your options.

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f. PPC vs PPA

For backfill sources that will pay for the traffic you send them, some will pay-per-click and some will pay-per-applicant.

For Pay-Per-Click models, make sure you understand where and how the click is measured. Does a click from the search results on your board count? Or does the job seeker have to click through to the “Apply” button to view the original posting?

For Pay-Per-Applicant models, it’s also important to understand what counts as an applicant. Is it someone clicking on the “Apply” button? (On your site or on the original listing?) Does it only count if the employer or recruiter who originally posted the job receives a completed application?

Be clear on what you’re being paid for and how, so that you can keep track of your revenue and make good decisions on your backfill sources.

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5. What are the Pros and Cons of Using Backfills?

Pros:
  • They can help you start – curating a backfill of jobs is a great way to start building value for the qualified candidates you want to attract, so paying customers can get their money’s worth.
  • They fill in the gaps – depending on your niche or region, you may find your customers post jobs seasonally, and backfilled jobs can help keep your site active and relevant to candidates during those off-seasons.
  • They can be a revenue stream – some backfill providers will pay you for the traffic you send them from your site.
Cons:
  • You’re at the mercy of other people’s technology and business models – if an aggregator changes their settings or policies, your source of quality backfilled jobs may dry up.
  • Your job seekers will leave you – if most or all of the jobs on your site are backfilled, you may find traffic comes in and leaves, without much of a return rate. This is where it’s important to create other reasons for job seekers to visit and stick around.
  • You’ll be less unique – if you’re using the best sources of jobs backfill, chances are your competitor is, too. If you’re posting the same jobs everyone else is, there is less to make your brand stand out, and you bring less value to job seekers, and ultimately your customers.

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6. Backfill Responsibly

Becoming wholly dependent on backfills for your job board’s revenue might leave you in a precarious position, should your backfill providers change their business models.

Try setting both short-term and long-term goals for how you want to use your jobs backfills, and leave room for experimentation. You may only use backfills in the short-term and then do away with them entirely, or you may want to strike a balance between native postings and backfills.

Figure out what’s realistic and the most valuable for you, and use backfills to help you reach those goals.

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Check out Feed Me, Need Me (Part 2): A Primer on Jobs Distribution where we give you the low-down on sending your jobs to other boards, websites, and networks to drive traffic back to your site and get more applications for your jobs.

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