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Superbowl commercials: No more monkeys or monsters

Let’s face it: The Superbowl has become more of a commercial event than an actual sports event. We have in particular to thank for this phenomenon but oh how the times have changed and although many other companies have joined in, we’re not likely to see anything related to talent acquisition this weekend.

I think the Superbowl commercials, and in particular the ones we used to see for job boards, are a good indication of the how the times have changed, particularly for sourcing and recruiting. In the beginning, job boards like, and (among others) were looking to increase the number of candidates on their site. It was relatively easy; spend millions on a Superbowl ad, get millions of new candidates to post their resumes. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

So while you may or may not have liked the monkeys in the office (Careerbuilder) or “When I grow up” (Monster), the times have changed and you will likely not see any of these companies advertising this weekend. Not one.

Why? Because a few years back, the prevailing wisdom was that more was better when it came to talent acquisition. If you could just get more candidates on your site or in your applicant tracking system, you would have better hiring success.

Did it work? Not really. OK, for a while, the top job boards and many companies were very happy to have a great flow of candidates and supply probably exceeded demand. But soon, these boards and systems were flooded with candidates from every high, low and middle level position ever created and not only was quality suspect, there were just too many to go through. And many companies found ways to quickly dump resumes into their local applicant tracking systems but this only diluted the quality of their database, adding to the confusion.

Fast forward to today. Sourcing and recruiting is more about focus, networking and quality. There is little benefit to having a database of several hundred thousand candidates if you can’t find the one Ruby on Rails person you need. While there are positions and areas that require large numbers of people, unfortunately with the current state of the economy, those types of positions already have plenty of applicants and potential employees just waiting for a job opening.

The lesson here is talent acquisition takes focus, planning and execution. It also takes resources. This is why many companies struggle with social media. It’s similar to the job board Superbowl ad mentality. You can blast your message out to the masses and get thousands of people to “like you”, but did that one Ruby on Rails person connect with you? If not, then it’s really not helping that much.

I think the days of big blast, big Superbowl commercials are over for job boards. It should make you stop and think whether or not your talent acquisition efforts are focused and well executed or still just scattered and expensive.

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