In this episode, host Jeff Dickey-Chasins and co-host Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter chat with self-described job board geek Dave Jenkins, of Wave. Dave, a veteran of the U.K. recruiting scene, digs into why programmatic is slow to catch hold there, what employers and staffing firms really want, and how his company has evolved over the years. Jeff and Steve also talk about how job boards can be more than just ‘job posting venues’. Steven extolls the virtues of the JobBoardGeek podcast.
0:00:01.9 Jeff Dickey-Chasins: Hi folks, welcome to JobBoardGeek, the podcast about the business of connecting employers and candidates. I’m Jeff Dickey-Chasins, the Job Board Doctor, I’m one of the hosts, and the other host is Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter. Hey, Steven, how are you doing?
0:00:18.4 Steven Rothberg: I am doing really well today, Jeff. Good to talk to you again.
0:00:21.9 JD: We have a great guest today, Dave Jenkins of Wave. He is a self-admitted JobBoardGeek. So, this is gonna be the meeting of three JobBoardGeeks in one virtual space, will just blow everyone’s mind. But Steven, before we do that, I just wanted to sorta pick your brain a little bit. I saw a notice about… It’s actually a very old company, Backstage, it used to be a newspaper and it came out in the ’60s, it’s now basically one of the… An employment platform for people that are in film and the stage and all sorts of creative things, and they just picked up another company called ShareGrid out of Seattle. And ShareGrid actually runs this marketplace for film and photo equipment rentals. And it really got me to thinking, you know, that’s kind of an interesting thing for a job board essentially to buy… Kinda buy something that looks like a job board, but it’s dealing with specific tools that are used in the industry.
0:01:21.0 JD: And it made me think that that’s something I don’t see a lot of in our industry, where a job board will look at acquisition as a way to sort of expand the total revenue that they get from their clients as opposed to, “Oh, we’re gonna try to build some market share. I’m gonna take my competitor out.” And I think it can be a good way for a company to expand. We just don’t see it very much. What do you think… Why do you think that is?
0:01:47.8 SR: Yeah, I agree. From conversations I’ve had with other organizations that have been acquired, merged, received investment money with investment bankers and etcetera, it seems like the easiest path to an acquisition, whether you’re being acquired or whether you’re acquiring another organization is a competitor. Somebody that’s pretty much in the same space, chances are, the customers are somewhat similar, hopefully not too overlapping, the technology, the business process, all of that is really similar. The less similar the two organizations are, the more strategic that acquisition is, and those are typically the deals where you see larger valuations. It could be a European Job Board coming into the US and buying the US Job Board, in that case, the market is very different. But if you get acquired by a direct competitor or they acquire you, the acquisition price is usually lower, just the value add isn’t there.
0:02:44.7 SR: One of the things that really struck me about this deal was, I adore communities, some of the sites out there, like in my backyard, where most of the year I am in Minneapolis, there’s a fantastic site called allnurses.com, basically built on a community of nurses. One of the things that just frequently came up in their message boards were, “How do I find a new job? I’m in a hospital, I wanna move over to a clinic, does anybody have any recommendations?” And so, they kinda add it on the job board to their product. In this case, this job board has gone and purchased a community. And if they’re able to then leverage that devotion to that community, the probably repeated uses, people going back over and over and over and over again, and then maybe every once in a while they’re looking for a job or a new gig, then this is just gonna be a pathway to gold.
0:03:39.4 JD: Yeah, yeah, I agree. And there are a lot of unique things about the creative industry when you get into the way they hire and how people handle that sort of stuff, but the reality is, in every niche that I’ve worked in, there is always a tier of suppliers that the candidates would want to know about, would want to interact with, would want to use. That’s essentially what these guys did, they put the suppliers of the tools together with the candidates for the jobs that are gonna get hired and that are gonna need the tools. And yeah, so, it’s kinda interesting. Well, today we have a special guest from the United Kingdom, Dave Jenkins of Wave. I kinda like to think of Wave when I look at all the different things they do as sort of a Swiss Army knife for any company that’s gonna be out there doing recruiting, ’cause they seem to have a tool for just about everything. But Dave, welcome to JobBoardGeek.
0:04:36.9 Dave Jenkins: Thank you. I think I’ve never been described as a Swiss Army knife, but I’ll take that. Yeah, I like that. It’s accurate.
0:04:45.2 JD: Dave, I was just wondering if you could kinda give us some background about you and about Wave and how you got into recruiting and just sort of how you got started in all this?
0:04:56.1 DJ: Yeah. It was a long time ago now, Jeff. Time goes way too quick, ’cause when I was thinking about it, I look back and yeah, it started with job boards in 1998.
0:05:09.9 JD: Wow.
0:05:10.2 DJ: It was my first introduction to it. So, a while back, and then started Wave in 1999, and I think we were the first online ad agency at that particular time in the UK, maybe in Europe, I don’t know, but we worked with job boards or the job boards that were around then, Monster, Monster Board at the time it was called before it ditched the board. And Stepstone, the original Stepstone and job site and Job Serve, Job Search, you kind of name it, we’ve worked with them, that was the business, we were a media buyer for job boards. And no one really knew what job boards were at the time, and so, that was half the fun trying to convince people to buy space on this thing called Monster Board or whatever, and some people embraced it and others didn’t. But we’ve seen a few of the job boards come and go over the years, so it’s been a lot of fun.
0:06:13.6 DJ: That was then, 20 years on, a lot of things have changed, but actually a lot of the job boards, I don’t know what you guys think, but you look at the job boards now, that some of them still look like they’re from the early 2000s. The format hasn’t changed particularly. But today Wave, as you say, we’re a Swiss Army knife when it comes for staffing agencies. We buy a lot of media, we produce data on trends around what’s happening on job boards. Did a lot of work over COVID, post jobs, and we build sites for staffing businesses as well, so Swiss Army knife is pretty accurate.
0:06:54.9 JD: Well, I mean, of the things that really struck me when I was going through your site, and I remember seeing this the first time I ever looked at it several years ago, is just that, you can kinda see how you have organically added things to your offerings in response to some of the changes that have happened in the industry. I mean, I forget the name of the product, but one of your products essentially allows customers to post to multiple job boards from one platform, right?
0:07:23.4 DJ: Yeah.
0:07:23.7 JD: And that was literally not an issue back when we started in the industry, so, things have changed.
0:07:29.6 DJ: Yeah, I mean, the company has evolved from buying media to then having… Really, we’ve just been trying to solve problems for our clients, and now that kinda comes down to three core products, Wave Tracker, which you just mentioned, is our posting technology, and we built that in order to help clients post the right job to the right channel at the right time. So we look at when candidates are active on job boards, and we give that advice to the client and when they should post their job, and that was mostly in… That was a reaction to A, helping clients post onto multiple boards in one go, but also we wanted to improve the ROI for clients on job boards, because they would… Clients would say to us, “Well, job boards they don’t work anymore, or we don’t get a response, they’re rubbish,” you know?
0:08:29.5 DJ: But actually, when you look at the data and you look at the amount of candidates that go through these boards, it cannot not work. So we wanted to help clients post more intelligently to attract the talent that they’re looking for, and then that kinda covers off the media buying business, because we buy the media, and we post the job, and then the website building side, it was an organic evolution of them saying, “Can you build us a website?” And, “Yeah, sure we can build you a website.” So, it all comes back to trying to help our clients. We talk about creating a world where talent is never missed, and what that means is, we wanna make sure that all of those amazing candidates out there are found, and the recruiters find them. Obviously for the sake of the recruiter, but also for the candidate to have access to those, those jobs that they could miss because the recruiter posted it at the wrong time.
0:09:28.9 SR: It’s an interesting view of the market, I wish that more people had that, because wanting to make sure that the talent is not missed, implies that the talent is there. What I hear a lot of from employers, and I think it’s mostly mistaken, not always, but mostly, is that nobody’s out there. Nobody is looking for a job, there aren’t any people out there who have the right skills, etcetera. I’m a much bigger believer in that there’s a mismatch in the labor market, than that there is a lack of labor. It’s amazing, the US has this thing going on to a bit of a lesser extent, the UK, the Great Resignation, it’s been called. It’s amazing how employers that are paying $20 an hour are fully staffed, but those who are still paying $12 an hour are not for the same job, and that’s not a function of a lack of labor, that’s a function of the labor saying, “If I’m gonna spend 40 hours a week doing a job, I should get paid what I deserve. And if somebody’s willing to pay me $20 an hour and somebody else is willing to pay me $12 an hour, well, guess where I’m gonna end up,” that person exists.
0:10:37.2 DJ: Yes.
0:10:37.5 SR: The $12 an hour employer is the problem. It’s not the lack of labor. I had a question for you though, Dave, for the Wave Tracker product where you’re distributing jobs to job boards. If I’m a job board operator in the UK or South Africa or Poland or Thailand or whatever, and I’m listening to the JobBoardGeek Podcast, because all good job boards do. So if I’m a job board operator, whether it’s in the UK or in another country, and I’m like, “Oh, you know what, this is a company I need to reach out to Dave or his team because they’re gonna solve all my sales woes, I can just get hooked up with them and get all these postings.” Walk me through the realities of that. What kinds of job boards do you work with? How do they get into your system? How are you determining which ones to work with, which ones you aren’t?
0:11:32.3 DJ: There’s two answers to that question, I guess, depending on whether or not there’s a job board that wants to be on Wave Tracker and be able to receive jobs. And the other avenue on that is if a client is wanting to buy space on this particular job board or there is a lack of skills that the client wants and their job board can facilitate those candidates, either way, it starts with a conversation and a discussion around what that job board can offer. And if it’s from a posting perspective, we’re normally led by the client, but we’ll look at the stats and the data, and the client would make that call of whether or not they wanted to post. But from once it’s in the system, we would then start monitoring applications, and we tend to look at three core areas, we look at applications from a location perspective, we look at it from an industry perspective and from a salary perspective.
0:12:36.4 DJ: And so we do that against the job that’s been posted. So if you’re talking about this job board that’s in the UK and clients posting jobs, and all the jobs that are based in Manchester are the ones getting applications, then that will feed our system, and when another client when goes to post a job, and they have a job in Manchester, then that job board would then be recommended as a job board to use, because it’s particularly strong in Manchester. So once we can start collecting the data, we can then see where they’re good and when they’re strong, and then we can make recommendations to clients to post more to it. So, the first part is a little bit of a leap of faith, but after that, it’s based on the results that are being produced.
0:13:21.8 SR: So if the job board has a relationship with one of your employer clients and the employer client says to your team, “Hey, we wanna post jobs one, two and three to job board X,” if they’re already in your system, easy-peasy, if that job board’s already in your… But if the job board’s not in your system, then your staff is gonna have a look, see if technically the job board is able to receive your feed, and I would think from time to time, you’re probably gonna go back to your client and say, “You know what, I understand why you think that this is a good job board for you, but we have data to show otherwise.” Or, we already have a relationship with a board that delivers those candidates better, you know, the volume is better, the quantity is better, the quality is better, whatever it may be.
0:14:02.0 DJ: That’s right. And to your point before, the talent is out there and they reside on these boards, but it might not just be the talent that you’re particularly looking for. I mean, a location is less of an issue now, but you can have some really good talent based in one city, but actually, you’re recruiting in the other. It doesn’t mean that that job board is no good, it just means that the current pool of traffic that they have got isn’t matching what you’re looking for. And we don’t want people to waste money, because then you have a poor experience and then it feeds this kind of, it’s not working.
0:14:39.1 JD: Well, I think I have a sort of a different question for you, because I feel like, you’ve had this unique view of the job board industry, and it’s pretty different, I think from most of the guests that we’ve had on JobBoardGeek so far. Most of them were primarily associated with a single job board, but you, just by the nature of what you’ve done, you’ve had looks into all these different job boards from several different directions, and you have what I can tell, a fairly intimate understanding of how job boards work since you’ve built some. So, I’m kind of curious as to what you think is going on in the UK job board market in general, or maybe job boards in general, and where do you think things are going?
0:15:20.8 DJ: Yeah, well, I mean, certainly job boards in the UK, from what I can see is different to the US, and you guys can shut me down. But actually I think the UK is quite different in general from also kinda mainland Europe. In so much as, we’ve always had four, five major players in the market. Whereas a lot of countries tend to have one or two, certainly within mainland Europe, they will have one or two job boards and they will be the dominant players. Whereas in the UK, we sort of worked across four, five, and they all seem to trade places over the years, but the recruiters always had a lot of options, which is obviously good. We also have niche boards as well, so you know, you were talking earlier, they’re pretty big here as well. But I think one of the key challenges at times in the UK is that there’s lots of different types of businesses here, you’ve got your in-house recruiter employer, but then you also have your staffing agencies, you have your search firms, you’ve got RPO businesses, you’ve got resellers.
0:16:33.4 DJ: And then you’ve got a whole kind of hybrid business that sits somewhere in between those, and one of the biggest challenges for job boards has been the price differentiation between your employer and your staffing agency. And there’s a big difference between the two, you’re talking 100 of pounds for a single post. And I think that’s something that’s going to change, and I can’t see that it’s gonna be sustainable for the future, especially given that the candidates shortages that we’re having here is making that quite difficult for some, certainly your traditional duration-based paper post job boards, I can see some changes happening there. I think COVID has accelerated some changes that I think we’re gonna see in the next 18 months or so, two years, I don’t know. Time scales are difficult to predict aren’t they sometimes?
0:17:32.5 JD: Right. Right.
0:17:33.9 SR: Yeah, selling to a staffing company is very different than selling to a direct employer, and that’s very different than selling through an advertising agency. That the people that you’re dealing with and the organizations you’re dealing with, they have really different motivations.
0:17:47.5 DJ: Huge.
0:17:49.2 SR: And I think a lot of newer job words that might have success selling to a few staffing companies, might underestimate how difficult it is to then start selling the same product through a different channel, like an ad agency. It’s really a very different sale.
0:18:04.5 DJ: It is, and I think one of the key challenges is when you are talking prices and you’re talking 10, 15 pounds per job, if you happen to trade as a staffing business, but if you are a firm of accountants and you wanna buy that same job, then you’re quoted 200 pounds. That’s quite a difference between the two, and it’s not something that long-term is sustainable, but you’ve got a whole industry based on people that are used to paying 10, 15 pounds per job. So, it’s not sustainable, but at the same time, you’ve got a whole industry that is used to… They set their businesses up based on that sort of budget.
0:18:47.0 JD: So, I’m kinda curious, Dave, when I’ve talked to my UK clients, one of the things that seems to befuddle most of them is programmatic, and I feel like over in the US, we’ve been immersed in programmatic whether we wanted it to be or not, for the last several years. My impression is that it’s not as much of a force at this point in time in the UK, is that accurate or?
0:19:10.6 DJ: I think there’s lots of talk of it, it gets talked about all the time, I think it got sold in… The main sell for programmatic, if rightly or wrongly that has been adopted in the UK, I think is inaccurate, because it was sort of promoted as saving you money, and your job ads wouldn’t cost you as much as they do now. But the reality is, I found is that the price is the same, broadly speaking, when it comes to delivering ads or paying for ads on a programmatic and paying for them on a performance base. Obviously programmatic as a technology exists and has existed within our job boards for a long time, but most people are paying for the performance of programmatic. One of the biggest barriers that we’ve had is the setup, the complex nature of the setup. The theory is amazing, and if you listen to the sales pitches of the performance programmatic guys, it is mesmerizing right up until the point that you try and implement it and as a media buyer, you have to talk to your client and you have to start asking them to put tracking pixels and tags on their website, and they turn around and say, “Dave, I don’t even know who looks after my website, ’cause it’s 10 years old and the guys that built it went bust, I don’t even know.”
0:20:35.0 JD: Yeah.
0:20:37.3 DJ: So I don’t even know what you’re talking about this piece of code, and then you’re asking them to provide XML feeds. And what happens is, the polish of the sell in the first place gets worn off pretty quick, and the client turns around and says, “You know what, forget about it, I’m just gonna go back to my paper post job board, because I phone them up and I say, I want a thousand or a hundred jobs and they say, it’s gonna cost me X. I sign up and an hour later they send me a user name and password, I login and I’m posting my jobs, and I don’t have to worry about anything else.” And so, that’s been a major hurdle, and the real obstructing issue that is had from a retail perspective, that is trying to sell those to end clients. From a job board perspective, then they are… The job boards themselves use the aggregators and use the technology to drive traffic to their own site, but from a direct-to-client, that’s been the major… Not the setup, the technology or the technical requirements has been the big issue.
0:21:43.9 DJ: And then once they are set up, the idea that it’s gonna save them some money, that doesn’t quite work out. And so, the novelty wears off. For me, I’m a believer in it. I think that the theory is amazing, and I think we’ll see a lot more job boards embrace it. And I don’t think clients particularly care how they pay for their posting. What they wanna know is, they wanna post a good ad and they want a good candidate, and if they’re paying per click or they’re paying per post, as long as it’s broadly the same, in fact, I think they’ll pay more for good candidates. So I think it’s not so much this whole kind of performance versus duration or programmatic versus a manual upload or whatever, I think it’s more around the quality of the delivery of the candidate, that’s the key thing.
0:22:37.9 SR: I share your opinion. At College Recruiter, for the last four or five years, we’ve had a pretty hybrid business model, and what we’re seeing is very much what you’re seeing. We have employer customers that post to us on a traditional duration basis. We have employer customers that post to us on a non-programmatic, but performance-based. “Here’s a thousand jobs, 50 cents a job, run all of them, and here’s a budget of $5000 bucks a month,” whatever it might be. And then we also have customers that approach to us performance-based and programmatically, and that’s definitely a much more complicated setup. I think Monday or Tuesday, I’m through an ad agency. We were told no to a programmatic campaign, we lost the business, our proposal was declined. And just before we started to get on to this recording today, that same ad agency for the same client, for the same need has come back and it’s like, “Hey, can we post these jobs, the same jobs, but just do it on a traditional duration basis?” They’re gonna end up spending about 20% more to do that. They’ll probably get the same results, but we’ll be delivering traffic to them probably Tuesday, instead of maybe a week, week-and-a-half from now. From the talent acquisition person, it’s like, I don’t really… What I need is hires. How you get me there. Don’t take me on a tour of the sausage factory, I just wanna buy the sausage.
0:24:01.7 JD: Yup, that sounds about right. Well, listen, Dave, I really appreciate you coming on, and I hope you had a positive JobBoardGeek experience.
0:24:11.8 DJ: I’ve had a great time. Time flies.
0:24:14.1 JD: Yeah, time does fly. If people wanna get in touch with you, how do they do that?
0:24:18.8 DJ: Well, you can find me on LinkedIn, Dave Jenkins, you can visit our website, which is wave-rs.co.uk. Hopefully one of those two avenues will lead you through to me. And if you don’t have any joy with that, then ask Jeff and I’m sure he’ll send you my way as well, but yeah, no, do get in touch.
0:24:40.5 JD: For a very small fee.
0:24:41.9 DJ: Of course. [laughter] Of course. Yeah.
0:24:45.7 JD: Yeah. Okay, well, great. Well, thanks for coming on.
0:24:49.3 DJ: Thank you for having me.
0:24:50.4 JD: And Steven, how do people get a hold of you if they want to?
0:24:53.9 SR: Yeah, just join Dave and me at the pub down the street, we’ll be both be enjoying a pint, maybe a snake bite, although some bartenders won’t pour them for me. I don’t know why that would be. But in all seriousness, shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
0:25:12.0 JD: Great, thanks Steven, thanks Dave. And that’s it for today’s episode of JobBoardGeek. You’re listening to the podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers, be sure to subscribe to us if you want via an RSS feed, Apple, iTunes, Google, Stitcher, Pocket Casts, etcetera, etcetera. There’s a whole ton of them. I’m Jeff Dickey-Chasins, the Job Board Doctor, and that’s it for today. We will see you next time around. Thanks. Bye.[music]