In this episode of JobBoardGeek, host Jeff Dickey-Chasins and co-host Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter talk with Jennifer Johansson of Placed, a mobile-first recruiting site that targets the hospitality, retail, and care sectors in the U.K. Jennifer talks about how her background in hospitality helped in designing an app that focuses on soft skills and candidate engagement. Finding candidates in the hospitality sector has been very difficult over the past 2 years, but Placed has seen high adoption from both employers and candidates by…thinking like candidates and employers! Jeff and Steven discuss the recent ‘unicorn’ status of SeekOut, and – as always – end up with two different viewpoints (although Steven somehow sounds more convincing).
0:00:01.5 Jeff Dickey-Chasins: Hello everyone and welcome to JobBoardGeek, the podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers. I’m Jeff Dickey-Chasins your host, the JobBoardDoctor, and with me today is the illustrious Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter. Hi, Steven, how you doing?
0:00:19.1 Steven Rothberg: I am good. Illustrious, I’m kind of feeling like, I’m gonna go start getting names like hurricanes pretty soon, you keep coming up with a different one each week?
0:00:27.1 JD: As I’ve said before, I had to put my English major background to work somehow.[laughter]
0:00:33.5 JD: At any rate, today, we are very lucky to have Jennifer Johansson of Placed here with us, and she has a service for the hospitality industry that I think is really, really interesting, and has some really cool features. But first, I thought Steven, we could chat a little bit about something that happened this week to someone that I think we both know.
0:00:56.9 SR: Yeah.
0:00:58.3 JD: SeekOut, the Seattle based company became Unicorn. They basically got some new funding and their valuation is over a billion dollars, and so, I thought that was pretty cool. They’re part of what I call people aggregators. I’m not sure if anyone else really uses this term, but I started using this term back around 2010, 2011, when they started showing up. Basically, SeekOut takes a whole bunch of data about people gathered from a lot of different sources like GitHub and the general Internet, and just various and sundry databases, they append information to it, and then companies can use them for… Use this data to source candidates. And they’ve got literally hundreds of millions of names in there. And I went and looked at my database, ’cause I’ve been tracking this for a while and I found something kind of interesting, and maybe it speaks to the future of SeekOut.
0:01:50.5 JD: I looked at some of the pioneers that were in the people aggregating say, space. The first one was TalentBin, well, they got bought by Monster, and then there was Connectifier created by a couple of ex-googlers, and they got bought by LinkedIn. And then more recently Swoop Talent got bought by SAP. One of the ones that’s still out there that has not been bought is Telloina, and it was created by Gallo Mogh, who’s also the fellow that created RealMatch, which turned into PandoLogic. And I thought this was interesting that all of these companies got bought or rolled into other things, and then, sure enough, I’m reading the SeekOut information, and they’re saying, “Well, we’re going to use our money to actually add a new service where companies can use our tool to search their own ATS for people.” Because if you’re a big company, you’ve probably got thousands and thousands of names in there.
0:02:42.6 JD: And I’ve seen several of the other people aggregator companies do the same thing, HiringSolved is a good example of that. And I just think it’s interesting, because they all sort of started from the same place and now they’re kinda ending up in the same place. What are your thoughts on this Steven?
0:02:57.6 SR: Yeah, I agree with what you’re saying, but I don’t think that the direction of SeekOut is to be a people aggregator. I think that’s where they’ve come from, but I don’t think that’s where they’re going. And I think that the investment is more a reflection of where they’re going than where they’ve come from, or even where they are. First of all, the CEO, I had the pleasure of speaking with him at a TI tech conference. I think it was a TI tech conference, probably three years ago. And SeekOut was, let’s call it, in embryonic stage at that point. [chuckle] I mean, it was live. I think they had some customers but it was early, early, early, early. Very impressive. I don’t recall if I had learned prior to meeting with him or shortly after. I mean, there was a group of us, it wasn’t a one-on-one, but he was basically Bill Gates’ right-hand man. So, he’s got street cred right there with virtually everybody other than the criminally insane.
0:03:57.7 SR: I heard him on an interview with… That George LaRocque of WorkTech just recorded and released. George is on our board of advisors, one of the smartest guys in the M&A and investment world where money is coming from. And according to that interview, their revenues right now are relatively low, $25 million a year, growing it probably severalfold a year. So their valuation is based upon where they’re gonna be five years from now, much more so than where they’ve been the last year, because you don’t become a $1.2 billion valuation company with $25 million in revenue, the numbers just don’t work. If that $25 million is going to be $250 million in a few years, then absolutely, the $1.2 billion is worth it. So, I think that there’s a lot of valuation being placed upon their leadership team which is very justified and I see their future as being not in the job board space. Anoop actually, the CEO Anoop said in that interview that job boards suck, and I actually replayed, it’s like, did he really just say that?[laughter]
0:05:02.6 SR: Which is interesting, ’cause we’ll get into that conversation with Jennifer in a little bit too. I mean, it’s like, yeah, no, he really said job boards suck. I don’t see their future as being in the talent acquisition space driving candidates to employers as much as internal mobility and really helping to reshape the workplace. If companies can better retain talent, companies don’t have to recruit as much talent and companies will be more productive, and I think that’s the brass ring, not the company. But that’s the brass ring that Anoop is going after, and if he’s even partially successful, that’ll be awesome for all of us, ’cause he will make the world a better place.
0:05:40.6 JD: Yeah, I agree. And so, we’re gonna put a marker on that Steven, and we’ll check back in a year and see what’s really happened. But yeah, he’s a very impressive person, and I think he’s building an impressive company. And speaking of another impressive company, today, we have as our guest, Jennifer Johansson, her company’s called Placed, it’s a app that helps hospitality organizations hire people, and that does it in a different sort of way. So welcome to JobBoardGeek, Jennifer, thanks for coming on.
0:06:10.4 Jennifer Johasson: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
0:06:12.2 JD: Yeah, absolutely. I was wondering if you could just give us a very sort of quick rundown on where you come from? You know, how you got into this space, and just a sort of top-level view of Placed?
0:06:24.9 JJ: Yeah, of course. I’m Jennifer, I’m the founder of Placed. I’m initially from Sweden. I moved to London, UK about 12, 13 years ago. I started working in the hospitality sector when I first moved to London. I was working at SOHO House initially and then moved to another companies that were sort of indirectly working with hospitality businesses, building up relationships, sat in a lot of meetings with managers and venue owners and had conversations. And I think every time the sort of like staffing issues came up, someone from a recruitment background, hospitality background saw firsthand what an issue this is with that high churn service sector. And so, looking into it a little bit, in the UK, hospitality is the largest employer of people under 25 years old, and yet you’re looking at how they recruit and its staff needed Science and Windows, very old school job boards. But also sort of, yeah, print your CV, come along to an interview. You look at this audience they try to attract, the under 25, the very mobile-first generation., they don’t have CVs, they definitely don’t have printers at home to print a CV and go to an interview, and that’s where I match… Where I saw the need for Placed.
0:07:37.0 JD: Interesting. Yeah, I think I was telling you before we started recording that I went to your website and it says, “Your jobs, your way. We all deserve better than job boards.” And actually believe it or not, even though we call this a JobBoardGeek podcast, I think both Steven and I think that traditional job boards kinda suck.
0:07:56.6 SR: Yeah.
0:07:56.7 JD: They just… Their design, whose time has passed. So I think that’s one of the things that I really found that was interesting about Placed is that you do say, “We don’t focus on CVs, we focus on the skills,” and I thought one of the interesting things that you had in there was the ability for candidates to get in and actually do some up-skilling of themselves. Can you tell us a little bit about how that works?
0:08:21.1 JJ: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the sectors that we cover, hospitality, retail, sort of like, broader service sectors, I think there are sectors… They don’t often recruit experience… Past experience and skills is often not needed, whereas personality and attitude is a super, super key. What we’re doing at Placed is really put in that candidate first to moving away from CVs. I think you can be an amazing bartender and an amazing chef, you may not know how to write an amazing CV and that sometimes can eliminate your chances of getting a job, which isn’t correct in the service sector. So candidates, they download the app, they go through various different questionnaires and quizzes. We’re trying to make it a lot more interesting. We’re trying to understand them a lot more. You know, what sort of values are you looking for? Are you looking for career progression or is it more of a summer gig, for example?
0:09:09.9 JJ: Based on that, candidates create their profiles and then automatically get matched to suitable employers. Once they’ve obviously matched employers, ’cause they’re applying for jobs, as you say, there are various different other bids at Placed as well, so we’ve got a community section where we host a lot of content, program and content, that we put together with our employers and clients, as well as interview tips, better understanding of different companies, and then on to these up-skilling quizzes. Those quizzes are actually put together by the companies as well. It’s allowing an employer to connect with the future workforce in a different way, it could be like a fun fact quiz, for example. We obviously work with a lot of casual dining chains, big hospitality groups, that might have interesting history or interesting menus. Instead of putting that in a quiz, we do have some more general quizzes around customer service roles, chef roles, barista roles, as well for candidates to learn and educate themselves about the sector before applying for roles.
0:10:08.4 SR: You know, I love the fact that it’s not just a connector between employers and candidates. Which I think is sort of the traditional job board model. It’s really making those candidates better, which just helps everybody up and down. Well, pun not intended until now, ’cause I’m still going to go forward with it, but it’s everybody up and down the food chain, ha-ha, ha-ha. [chuckle] A question for you, one of the big differences between the market that… Where Jeff and I sit in the US and the UK market, is that in the US, staffing companies are almost an afterthought. Very few candidates will find a job through a staffing company. And in the UK, it seems very much the opposite. Staffing companies do a lot more of the recruitment, the sourcing, etcetera, for a lot of the employers. For Placed, is it the actual employer? Is it the staffing company? Sorta like, who’s your audience on the customer side, on the employer side? Are you selling mostly staffing companies? Mostly to the end employer? Combination of both?
0:11:17.9 JJ: So we actually only send to… Selling to employers directly. We don’t allow staffing or agencies on the platform. I think, again, coming back to this core focus on candidate first and a candidate experience, connecting with employer directly, we believe you are going to have a better experience than through an agency or a staffing company who might think a little bit more about the room margins and those sort of things, so that’s why we’re doing that. And second of all, the way that employers sort of building when they sign up to play similar to the candidates, they also go through quizzes and questionnaires to build their employer profiles. A lot of employer branding is sitting on there as well, and that’s also something that we feel staffing agencies wouldn’t really help employers with.
0:12:02.4 JD: In terms of the revenue model for Placed, how do employers pay? Are they basically paying for a certain license for a certain period of time? Or are they allowed certain number of slots where they can advertise positions? Or how do you guys do that?
0:12:18.6 JJ: So we’ve got a subscription model for our employers. So our employers basically pay for the access. It’s based on how many vacancies you’re looking to host on your brand page at any one time. And then we’ve got different tiers depending on… Yeah, well, you can access on the platform. So we’ve got our… Absolutely, you can access your applications coming in. We also got a Matches feature, which is kind of like the job boards CV database, which is a little bit separate. It’s more filtered that you could access… You can go in and head hunt candidates straight away. And then as I mentioned, it’s sort of like an employer brand that you build up and hosting staff testimonials and really showing off what it’s like to work for your company, and then our team internally help companies to build that out as well.
0:13:02.3 JD: And this actually brings me to the other thing that I always am curious about. How have you built your audience on the candidate side, you know? How do candidates even find out about Placed? And the same thing on the employer’s side, how do employers discover you guys?
0:13:16.8 JJ: So on the candidate side, and I think this is also what sets us apart from a lot of job boards as well, I think we… Yeah, we find all our candidates through social media, and a lot of targeted Facebook ads. We do a lot of TikTok advertising, Snapchat. Again, the audience that we focus on is very much under 25, the mobile first generation, as I mentioned, these are the channels that they are on every day and all day. I think it’s different in the sense ’cause it’s a lot more targeted and it’s a little bit more passive. I think Job Boards, they rely heavily on SEO and people going in and searching for roles, which absolutely is correct, ’cause you wanna connect with candidates who are looking for a job, but what if you can actually connect with candidates before they’ve got into the stage where they start searching for jobs?
0:14:00.5 JJ: So coming in, trying to get the candidates on a little bit earlier, again, coming back to our like community section of the app, you don’t just have to come to Placed to find your next job, you can actually educate yourself, connect with a sector, consumer content, etcetera. So that’s the main driver.
0:14:18.5 SR: Oh, I was just gonna say this, does that mean that if College Recruiter were to start to invest heavily in TikTok videos that I could convince my wife that that’s actually a work function when I’m spending time on TikTok?[chuckle]
0:14:32.8 JJ: College Recruitment? Absolutely.[chuckle]
0:14:34.2 SR: Excellent.
0:14:36.1 JD: I have a feeling it probably works better for Placed than it would for you Steven.[chuckle]
0:14:39.6 JD: But who knows. How about on the employer’s side, ’cause that’s… I assume that’s gonna be a pretty different approach, right?
0:14:47.8 JJ: Yeah. I think we’re quite lucky in the sense on the employer side. I think we’ve got a lot of word of mouth, I think we had early on happy customers that was small industries spreading the word, 62% of our revenue at the moment is coming from inbound leads and sorta likes of McDonalds came…
0:15:04.9 JD: Wow.
0:15:05.0 JJ: Booked the demo via our websites. We’re seeing a lot of these great success stories. And on top of that, we’ve got a brilliant sales and marketing team. So we do obviously reach out to employers as well, and we do email marketing automated. And then we’ve got our sales team who’s connecting with people on LinkedIn and reaching out to them.
0:15:24.1 JD: I guess the one thing that has me a little bit curious and certainly in the US, I think I’m pretty sure this is the case in the UK, I know it is in the EU, the hospitality sector, the retail sector, all the service sectors have been horribly hit by the pandemic.
0:15:39.6 SR: Yeah.
0:15:40.3 JD: And I’m just wondering what effect that had for you guys or has it had any effect?
0:15:45.2 JJ: Oh. Absolutely. I mean, by the time, COVID hits, we were actually only focusing on hospitality sector. So as a business together with COVID, all the restaurants that went into Lockdown, we lost our revenue overnight ’cause we decided to pause all our subscription for our customers to help them out. That was also the year when we started going into other sectors. We started working with the care sector, for example, the retail sector, supermarkets. And I think we realized there’s a lot of these other industries that were very interested in finding hospitality candidates. And then obviously fast forward, 2021, a big year for Placed, and probably not just our sector, but the bounce back year, right? So I think recruitment overall was really busy last year.
0:16:27.9 JJ: And I think for the hospitality and the retail sector, it’s not… Obviously, we’ve had Brexit in the UK as well, and so I don’t think the pandemic is… Yeah, it’s been looming for many years before Brexit as well, obviously everyone knew it was coming, so I think there’s been an issue for many years that no one really dealt with. I think one thing we find quite interesting and great is, we speak to so many like HR directors and recruitment managers, and I think they’re all saying like, it’s a very difficult time, but it’s also exciting, ’cause for the first time in so long, this is actually a problem at like board level. CEOs are involved with recruitment and talent attraction and so, it’s really the right timing and time to do something new.
0:17:11.1 SR: Jennifer, maybe you can talk a little bit about your growth plans, ’cause it sounds like it is in part due to COVID. You went into other industries, which makes a ton of sense. A ton of those hospitality people ended up working in nursing homes doing somewhat similar work, hourly paid, etcetera. It’s fantastic that you were able to help them, are you looking at branching out to the continent, to outside of the EU, to Asia, North America, etcetera?
0:17:39.3 JJ: Yeah, absolutely. We definitely have international expansion on the horizon, and we are in the middle of our expanding round, and following that, it’s gonna be another 12, 18 months quite focused on the UK. We work with a lot of chains and groups that have sites across the UK. So having that strong UK footprint is super important for us before going outside of the UK, but no, absolutely, I think, yeah, what you’re talking about inside and outside of Europe as well, especially due to Brexit, looking at how can we actually maybe go in and help workers in Europe coming back to the UK, just when it comes to like Visas and those sort of things as well.
0:18:19.2 JD: So Jennifer, I have one final question for you, and then we’re gonna have to close up, but I looked at your LinkedIn profile and the header picture showed a bus with a big ad on the side, and I’m just wondering, have you done a lot of offline advertising to promote the site?
0:18:37.8 JJ: No… Yes and no. That was our first out of home campaign. We actually did right after the COVID when everything started whipping up. Did you see what it said on the bus?[chuckle]
0:18:49.4 JD: No, I didn’t see. What did it say?
0:18:51.8 JJ: It said… I mean, we had a few different ones. I think one said “Step aside Job Boards a new sheriff is in town.”[laughter]
0:19:01.5 JJ: That’s fine we got rid of the statements.[chuckle]
0:19:03.7 JD: Oh, that’s great. That’s great. Yeah, I think it’s great. I think it’s great. I’m actually an advocate for getting rid of the word Job Board, because it’s so not descriptive of 90% of what’s out there, but it’s like Band-Aid. It’s one of those words that everyone uses now, and although I guess if you’re in the UK, you call them plasters, right, not Band-Aids?
0:19:24.9 JJ: Yeah. Yeah.[chuckle]
0:19:25.7 JD: Yeah. Yeah, so much for that idea. Oh well. Well, Jennifer, thanks so much for coming on, and if any of the listeners wanna get a hold of you and give you a ring, how do they reach you?
0:19:37.4 JJ: LinkedIn is probably the best way to reach me. So yeah, definitely feel free to reach out. We’d love to have conversations, job seekers or employers or other similar businesses alike as well. So, Jennifer Johansson and Placed app on LinkedIn.
0:19:51.9 JD: Great. Well, thanks so much for coming on. I appreciate it. And Steven, if people wanna get in touch with you, how do they do that?
0:20:00.3 SR: Yeah, when I’m not walking my dog, they can email me at steven S-T-E-V-E-N @collegerecruiter.com.
0:20:08.6 JD: Yeah. Well, so that’s the end of this dog walking.[chuckle]
0:20:26.1 JD: Episode of JobBoardGeek. Be sure to subscribe to us via RSS, Apple, Spotify, Google, etcetera, etcetera. All those great places. My name is Jeff Dickey-Chasins, I’m the JobBoardDoctor, and you’ve been listening to the only podcast that focuses on the business of connecting employers and candidates. That’s all for now. We’ll see you again next time.[music]