JobJacking Revisited

(January 17, 2008) From the beginning, there were ‘issues’. Vertical search engines (and gasp, big giant universal search engines, too) make their money by taking other people’s intellectual property and doing something with it. When Google ‘indexes’ your web pages, it is copying them into its database for its use. When a Job Board ‘scrapes’ ads from other job boards and corporate websites, they are doing the same thing.

Most people turn a blind eye towards this aspect of using the Internet. After all, the benefits outweigh the costs for almost everyone involved. It’s a polite version of ‘the ends justify the means’. There is an old fashioned word that describes using other peoples stuff without their permission. Two aspects of this issue are coming to the surface in the Recruiting Industry:

  • The ownership and usage of job descriptions and job ad content and
  • The ownership and usage of personal information

Between the growth questions in social networking software applications and business model adjustments in the Job Aggregator space, the overall question of data ownership is coming into focus. Interestingly, it’s never really framed as a question of ownership

Take a look at these bits and pieces. They provide the foundation for the next several articles.


John Sumser. – © 2008 Two Color Hat, Inc. Santa Rosa, CA


  1. John,

    A few thoughts on how to draw some distinctions… If a hardware store hangs a “help wanted” sign in their front window, and I tell a friend of mine who’s looking for a job, am I jacking? The store _wants_ to get the word out. Presumably, a company posting a job on the public Internet wants maximum distribution.

    Conversely, if I hand someone my business card after sharing a drink at the airport bar, and later find my info for sale on Jigsaw, then I might feel that a certain faux pas was committed, though not nearly so much as if it were my personal information. In a sense, this is much the same objection voiced by college seniors about recruiters accessing their Facebook profiles: I didn’t intend for the information to be used in that way.

    To me, these scenarios are almost completely different; what ties them together is that those most likely to feel or be victimized are those who are, innocently or willfully, ignorant of the current state of information technology. This is a much larger problem, with implications far more severe for e-commerce and other aspects of Internet life.

  2. The first example is actually exactly perfect for that piece of it. If a store is hiring, they definitely want to get the word out — to the kinds of people they want to hire.

    They would undoubtedly be upset if you took their sign. They’d probably be upset if you copied the sign without permission. If you told people about the opportunity in your own words, well that would be something different.

    When I am on the receiving end of service from people who assume they know what I want, I usually get crummy service.

    I am pondering your larger point. I really don’t have my mind made up on this issue. I’m trying to work through the pieces. Thanks for helping to clarify things.

  3. It should be an opt-in/opt-out deal.

    True, companies like indeed are profiting from other sites content but they are also providing free traffic to corporate career sites where before there was none.

    I cant tell you how many employers ive spoken to whom have said that indeed was driving a lot of traffic to their sites and not costing them a thing. Needless to say these people where happy about it.

    The policy should be…

    DO scrape content from direct employers but provide them with the opportunity to opt out.

    DO NOT scrape content from sites that make money from the content unless they opt-in.

  4. When a company puts an open position on their website. they want to fill that role. I am going to make some calls today to some internal recruiters and ask them if they really care if a vertical search company comes along and takes their job from the corporate site, makes a couple of bucks through it all and delivers a candidate that gets hired. I really don’t see this as a major issue in the employment market. I think that if vertical search is used properly, it can be the best thing that ever happened to a company who has positions to fill. Free distribution. Good old flip dog may come off the shelf one day soon given the recent monster acquisition of affinity labs. I am sure Monster is not too happy about the old dog that just wouldn’t die. Sometimes thoughy, an old dog is better than no dog at all. I bet if you walked down the street in your city and asked 100 random people if they have ever heard of indeed or simplyhired or getthatjob or whatever else, most would say no.

  5. Stealing the sign is an easy one because the theft of the sign denies the owner the benefit of its use. Reposting a job from a company’s website does not do this, insofar as the company’s goal is to attract jobseekers.

    There is a mountain of case law out there dealing with trade secrets. The principle is that if companies want trade secrets protections, then they need to affirmatively take measures to protect those trade secrets. Part of that is exercising control over information distribution, and doing things like clearly labeling confidential documents as such.

    If I start a business paying off bartenders near large staffing firms to solicit tips on confidential searches, I will probably get sued, much as Apple is notorious for going after rumor sites that publish trade secrets. However, the primary cause in these cases is to find the leaker, and if the rumor site didn’t compel sources to violate their NDAs, then things get hairy for the company. In at least one case, a site agreed to shut down after settling out of court, in what most observers think was effectively a buyout of the site by Apple to get rid of them. Of course, they can throw the book at the employee who leaked the info.

    The only area I’m not sure of is whether a company could copyright their job postings, and thereby assert a right to control their distribution or the creation of derivative works as such. In ethical terms, I am not 100% there in thinking that a job posting is quite the same as a painting or a song, but I would be open to the argument that it could be a protected work. That said, no one is copyrighting their job postings, and I doubt anyone ever will, though what a bonanza that could be for the USPTO.

  6. Jobs don’t belong to job boards, they belong to the employers – a fact that Monster and CareerBuilder don’t want to acknowledge. Hiring companies love the free traffic. The hard truth for the major job boards is that seling a page of HTML for hundreds of dollars isn’t sustainable in the long term.


    Paul Pickthorne
    Chief Free Officer – 100% Free Job Board

  1. 1 » The Week In Recruiting (Reading the blogs, so you don't have to) Exploring the wacky world of employment

    […] Gee, what will they outsource next? 2. Job jacking? What next? Recruiter drivebyes? 3. The end is near! (Or is it?) 4. Top 10 Social Networks 5. The […]

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