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JobBoardGeek: Reinvention as a tool for success

reinventionIn this episode of JobBoardGeek, we talk to Lee Biggins of CV Library, a fixture on the UK job board scene for decades, about how he has used reinvention to succeed. Jeff Dickey-Chasins of JobBoardDoctor and Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter ask Lee about his strategy of dealing with such challenges as GDPR and Brexit, and how he’s used research about his candidates to create compelling PR that builds awareness for the company’s brand. Jeff wonders if Craigslist’s latest sales increase is a sign of industry horizontals on the rise; Steven says ‘It works because it works’. Hmm.

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Jeff Dickey-Chasins  0:01

Hello everyone and welcome to JobBoardGeek. It’s the podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers. I’m Jeff Dickey-Chasins. I’m your host the job board doctor and today I’m here with the co host Steven Rothberg, of College Recruiter Hey Steven, how’s it going?

Steven Rothberg  0:18

It is going really well. I’m in New Mexico this week and looking out the window seeing mountains and a lake. It’s not a hard life. Just

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  0:26

rub it in Steven, just rub it in. Okay. Today we have a great guest. someone I’ve known for quite a while and someone that everyone in the industry knows li begins of CV Library. He has lots of interesting things that I think he he’s going to tell us about. But first, I wanted to start out on something that I got from the AME group. And if you don’t know about the AME group, you should check them out. They do great research on the recruitment industry. And they wrote up an article about Craigslist, they’ve actually documented based on a bunch of analysis how much Craigslist has been earning over the last several years. And back in 2018, they actually Craigslist actually went over a billion dollars in revenue. And then they had a huge drop off over the last three or four years. Well, surprise. Craigslist is up last year 30% In the job posting listings, which is not a surprise to me, since everyone was up last year. But I think it’s interesting. It made me think about the role that Craigslist has played in the job industry. Everyone kind of competes with them because they’re out there. But in a way, no one really competes with them because they are so much cheaper than anyone else. They don’t have any kind of focus. They’re everywhere. In the industry, we call Craigslist a horizontal. Another example of a horizontal would be an OLX. Another example would be Facebook marketplace. And then, you know, traditional job sites like CV Library, like college recruiter, or what we call verticals where they’re there, they’re focusing specifically on jobs. What I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is it seemed like there was a huge spurt in activity on horizontals in the job industry before the pandemic, and now things seem to have flattened out some some of the horizontals of pulled out of the job business, I just, you know, I really don’t have an answer. I just kind of speculate about what the horizontals are going to do. And are they any sort of threat to the verticals? Or is this just Jeff staying awake late at night? For no particular reason? You tell me Stephen, what do you think?

Steven Rothberg  2:26

Well, first of all, I got a chuckle out of you saying like no focus and that they’re then they’re all over the place. It kind of sounds like what my wife says to me when she’s asking me to get some stuff done around the house. But um, you know, the the aim group, I subscribe to a newsletter that they have sort of for the recruitment vertical, and they also have automotive and retail. And it is without a doubt, the best analysis, the best research of anything out there. And what I really love about it is how global it is because they’re going to have stories on UK job boards, and they’ll have stories on Swiss automotive sites, and you can really, really learn a lot by looking at what’s working, what’s not working in other verticals and other industries. And Craigslist is no exception to that is a horizontal working well, is it not working? Well. And I do think that consensus of opinion was it’s not a good place for recruitment ad dollars. And that’s not a that’s not going to be a thriving business. And people would just point to Craigslist being down by you know, almost half turns out that during a pandemic classified advertising takes a hit what a shock. I you know, it’s   a Craigslist is is one of those anomalies where it works, because it works. Anybody that that I hear that says, oh, you know, we’re building our, our user experience. So it’s just like Craigslist, I know, I can have a look at my watch and and figure that they’re going to be out of business in about three hours because it works for Craigslist, but it’s never worked for anybody else. I questioned the viability, the long term years from now of horizontals in recruitment advertising, because I just think that over time, the Googles and the banks of the world are going to be more and more prominent places for people to find that information. You’re not going to have to go to a newspaper to find recruitment advertising. It’s not 1952. It’s 2022. So I’m more bullish on the verticals on the specialists than I am on the generalists.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  4:27

And strangely enough, you actually operate a vertical so I guess that’s a good match. Right? You’re shown what you do.

Steven Rothberg  4:33

There’s absolutely no bias whatsoever. And if you believe that I’ve got some beautiful land to sell you in Florida,

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  4:40

yeah. Right. Well, let us leave that where it is and go on to our guest,  Lee Biggins of CV Library. Thanks so much for coming on to JobBoardGeek today.

Lee Biggins  4:52

Thanks for having me, Jeff.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  4:53

Yes, yes. I’m glad you’re here and I was just wondering for the people here in the in the non UK audience that might not know you and know your company as well. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about where you came from? And what CV Library and all the associated sites that you guys have what you’re all about?

Lee Biggins  5:11

Sure, no, of course happy to do that. Well, for starters, in the US, we’d be more recognized as resume library, right. And in Ireland, again, see the And then we have a huge network of sites, which really are there to drive traffic rather than service recruiters but fairly humble beginnings. I’d like to think if I’m allowed to say so myself, I was very entrepreneurial at school, various different initiatives like selling coke cans of drinks to fishermen, many car washing Empire for all my neighborhoods, but safe to say I wasn’t particularly head down and a grafter at school, I always wanted to just run my company and money for that I left school and went to work for my dad, and he cracked the whip pretty hard on me fitting carpets and flooring for, for the best part, sort of six or seven years, multiple things working for my father and some family things. You know, in the end, I wanted to go out and do my own thing, and there was a right time to do it. And I put a CV together and just thought, well, you know, this, this isn’t going to be as straightforward as I first thought I’d find a job in an office or wherever it was, I’d have to send my CV all over the place. And look, you know, for jobs in the back of newspapers. And anyway, I the internet just kicked off Martha Lane Fox is just like last And, you know, I just came up with the idea if I started a website where you put your CV or resume on and everyone can find you. So 150 pound later on, you know, Hewlett Packard and the internet star Bible. And then down the pub, as we call it in England to find an old mate that had started up a car enthusiasts website and see the library was born, you know that I didn’t really have any qualifications for the role of you know, running a company or building a company or the internet. But no one else did, either. The internet was new to everyone. We were idea conceived in 99 and launched in 2000. And, you know, we learned very quickly, we kept up with the bigger players, we just borrowed 9000 pounds to start the business. Yeah, here we are today, you know, closer to $60 million turnover. Very, very profitable, and, you know, enjoying a lot of success from 20 something years of really hard work, I guess. You know, it’s not been a straightforward journey, as many of you know, it was it was certainly easy in the first 10 years on the backend. various challenges, obviously, the recession, which we came through very well. But you know, some of the things you you actually were just touching on earlier, like the horizontal mean, you know, first of all things started to go mobile. And then the social networks came along, and we had to adapt to those. But interestingly enough, just reflecting on it from a candidate journey, which obviously, we’ve always done and built the business from trying to satisfy our job seekers and the user. And, of course, a great customer service, we offer our recruiters but you know, if I think about the way you apply for a job on the CV Library or resume library now, and how you first did in 2000, there’s really no difference, you you come and search for the job, you you won, you might get there for jobs by now. And of course, we’ve been all improved our matching algorithms versus profiles, etc. But you’ll still click on the Apply button. The only difference is back then is we would just send the application straight to the recruitment. Now unfortunately, we have hundreds of hurdles to jump through ATS integrations to try and streamline that. And it’s not us that’s changed. The industry has changed around us. We had it so simple, so easy to start with in terms of the process and the user experience. There wasn’t really any way to improve that. But now we’re having to do quite a lot.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  9:03

Yeah, I think that’s interesting that there’s there’s been a focus, as long as I’ve been in the industry, and I’ve been in I hate to say it even longer than you have. But there’s always been this focus on the HR side of trying to automate things. But when the automation comes in, it tends to complicate things like he said, you know, you start out and it’s very simple, it’s very straightforward, and then you throw in an ATS. And then you say, well, if we’ve got an ATS maybe we should add this and this and this and this and, and and one day you’re sitting there saying My God, it takes someone 45 minutes to apply for a job, which is which is nuts. So I think it is interesting when you have the industry sort of grew up around you.

Lee Biggins  9:41

Yeah. And then certainly lots of talk about the see death of the CV and things like that. But people like ourselves have produced a CV builder recently for those that don’t have CDs or in jobs that sit with outside where you normally have a resume or a CV so you can build that and distribute it really quickly and that helps with some of these ATS is because back in the day you might be allowed to just say, send a profile so to speak and now they want everything under the sun and we can index some of those questions the ATS also the calendars and have to keep filling them out when we do repeat applications to those those particular ATS and things, you’re quite right, a lot of these things are really just diluting the process. And I really hope that recruiters, you know, especially in the enterprise world will start to realize actually now it’s a much more competitive market to take on candidates that they need to adapt and be things quite quickly 10 Page forms aren’t going to suffice and people are even you know, video interviewing technology has a place in its is certainly helpful. But candidates then having to record videos and recruits and having to watch them and video TVs and movies, I think over complicates just trying to discover whether a candidate is right for the row in the first instance,

Steven Rothberg  10:55

one of the things leave that that’s always really impressed me about you know, you personally and your company more generally is is your it seems from my perspective that you’ve always had this embracement of adaptation that when the industry changes around you when legislation changes you adapt to it, you don’t you don’t try to pretend in 2022, that the world is the same as it was in 2000. I’ve seen job boards marketplaces, call them what you wish come and go where they initially have a fair amount of success, something significant changes outside of their company, they refuse or are unable to adapt, and their business just sort of slowly dwindles away. It’s rare. I can’t think of an example where a really successful business just sort of went out of business overnight because of some external force, but it seems like it’s like a death by 1000. paper cuts.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  11:49

Monster is a good example.

Steven Rothberg  11:50

Yeah, yeah, it was, I can’t look, I can’t look at Monster in 2022. And say it’s significantly different in 2021, or 2021, to 2020. But if you look back to 2000, right, they were the monster and and you know, they’re still a significant player. I think people underestimate their their market presence and how many candidates they help find employment a year, etc, but is a shadow of its of its former self, with you being in the UK and so much of your business being in the UK, you’ve had more than your fair share of of hurdles, and external obstacles to overcome in the last couple of years, talk with us about how you’ve approached adapting your business model with in light of GDPR, you know, when you knew that was coming, and what the impact of that would be, and even just for the benefit of the listeners in you know, Asia, for example, that might not know what a GDPR is, maybe you can explain that. And then also kind of on top of that, then you had the the the pleasure of Brexit and and the impact that that had to Yeah, so if you talk about the GDPR and Brexit adaptations that you had to make,

Lee Biggins  12:57

yeah, there’s a few things that and you’re absolutely right, adapt or die, I think, thankfully, we’re still a very agile business, we are a smaller business, and we are able to adapt. And I think it’s gonna be very interesting longer term to see some of those key players like LinkedIn. And indeed, when their businesses are as old as Monster and CareerBuilder, actually, whether there’ll be capable of adapting to and obviously, they’ve set the scene for how the job board world should operate. And we have to follow those organizations. And then we do so in some of it’s really challenging. I mean, programmatic is hugely challenging at the moment. And you talk about how we have to adapt our commercial model and bringing in pay for performance. And then truly programmatic American discussions. I have meetings about every day, and, you know, layer on top on there, you know, how quickly jobs are changing and the candidate experience and I will answer your questions in a second. But just looking at how many feeds we have to process and how quickly we have to process them these days. I mean, Amazon could send a sec 1000 jobs in the morning, by lunchtime 5000 of those jobs could be could be taken down or expired, because they hit the number of you know, number of applications they put out to the market, they could change their bid, they can change the job titles, it’s just an awful lot to keep up with from the 28 day listing, which you knew was a safe bet, you know, one cost to some years ago, and that’s moved very quickly. In terms of GDPR I have to say, I’m not a GDPR specialist, and I’d be very careful about what advice I’d give them. And what I say about it, we invested a you know, a considerable amount in it, things like optins changed quite a little bit so you weren’t able to automatically opt in to people so that was the main fundamental changes in for us, particularly where it really hurt us was actually training we used to do a lot of online offer a lot of online training courses and things like that, and that in the UK is is that now actually not part of your services seen as effectively paid advertising or something? That’s a, you know, unless you opt people into those things, you have to stop them. And we were sending out 10s of millions of emails a month and making hundreds of 1000s of revenue off those that’s, that’s a revenue stream that went overnight. People like lead have adapted to that in the UK very well. But as it wasn’t our core business, it was better to let it go. We’ve never, we’ve never bought data lists from a candidate perspective, from a job seeker perspective or anything like that. So we didn’t really have to change our behavior in the way we were emailing people, we did have a few instances where we had advertised a feed of jobs via LinkedIn. And that journey had tripped up because we then sent a candidate a job alert, they hadn’t opted into it. And there was a few things that caught us out. But we caught 95% of things pretty quickly. And to be honest with you reacting to the feedback of reasonable candidates wasn’t well received, and wasn’t difficult. Unfortunately, there was a few cereal, a few cereal, forget the word now PC, real people out there that knew the law very well. And they were actually deliberately targeting the job boards to try and get money out of those by deliberately signing up for certain journeys and then coming to us demanding effectively ransoms to which I certainly didn’t pay anything. And we actually went to court with one fella, which took over a year and a half for him. And he got about 150 pounds and total waste of their time, but I wasn’t going to submit to it because we knew we’d have another 50 More had we done that, unfortunately, the bigger businesses would have just paid them off. And that would have just driven more of that. But yeah, the GDPR thing we can do pretty quickly. Obviously, we’ve got CCPA and stuff to deal with in America. But I think that’s become much easier than it was the ATS is obviously it had a little bit more heavy lifting because as recruits have ownership through them of that data, you have to be a little bit more careful. Also, on a CV, there isn’t too much. We had to do things like remove anyone that puts sort of religious beliefs or political beliefs or anything like that had to be stripped out. So we had to build some passing technology for that kind of thing. But that was pretty straightforward. In terms of Brexit well, that I mean, that obviously completely stagnated growth in the UK for three or four years and was a very painful experience. And I’d say probably my most stressful time watching the media and truly watching our politicians completely mess it up. And the Exodus it caused of the low level workers, the blue collar workers and stuff, we had a lot of Europeans doing a lot of jobs, quite frankly, the British too lazy to do. And that’s I think, on top of the pandemic caused this huge spare of need for to find people to fill these logs. I mean, we have a lot of hospitality organizations and other organizations we work to be strong in that used to put adverts in the window and they’d have like 50 people to walk in for one job, there can’t be a single person. So actually, the longer term I think it has benefited us politically, do I think Brexit is the right thing for for the UK? In some regard? Yes, I do think we’ve lost a little bit of our identity. And we need to claim some of that back, I think we need to wait much longer to actually see whether there is a right move or not. I think when you see some of these getting a little bit off piece now. But if you look at some of the things going on with China and Russia, and would we be better off as a, as a group, with Europe and everything, possibly one

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  18:17

of the things that you do that I assume it must be effective, because you’ve been doing it the whole time I’ve been watching the site is that you guys put out a steady stream of press releases about what’s going on with the labor force, then you obviously do a lot of surveys and research. And then you’re always in there talking about this and that and I see it continually getting picked up in all the HR media that I followed, I only follow 5060 feeds. I’m just curious, how did that get started? Is it successful? Is that why you keep doing it? What’s your advice for job boards that aren’t doing it?

Lee Biggins  18:49

Sure. So that’s a really good question. And not one at that time. So before, so I’ll give it my best and full transparency for me, as you’d always expect. So now, we’ve always been hot on the PR front. And I’ve always seen the value of the brand, you know, appearing appearing publicly in the press. We were doing really, really well with press and actually a lot of it was around, would you take the dog to work and all of these things. And, you know, I really want it is to press love that kind of thing. We tried to move away to that to be more educational, PR and running. I was actually in the early days of a shutdown about asking our database, anything other than Do you want to apply for this job. I just saw anything as a distraction. But you know, it was demonstrated to me that if we put out polls in the right manner, and we used our audiences to try and educate the public, then there is value in that. So that’s what we did. And we have a very talented individual, you know, an oppressed team. And we do we do put out a lot and it does get very well received and picked up. So thank you for that and measuring the true value of that. Well, that’s a good question as a business as trying to measure you measure absolutely everything now and like other businesses, we bought BI tools, and we have heads of data and we’re crunching huge amounts of data is after we’re always a data business. But actually, I’m pretty shocked at how we really weren’t a data business. And we’re now trying to become one and tried to be led by the data. And everything we do. The truth is trying to measure how many people read him react to what is still quite an old school media, even if it’s digital, old school media, and someone reads it on a daily mount versus read to, you know, actually in the times, is quite difficult. But if I’m honest, for what it costs us to run that data and produce that they’d seen and filled it out, I think people will be pleasantly surprised and don’t do PR for the sake of doing PR don’t put stuff out just because you know, you want to say that you got into five magazines and do it for the sake of it, do it because there is a wider goal. And I’ve always become, you know, seen as an educator for both job seekers and recruiters, and own authority in that area. You know, we just want to give, you know, we don’t just put that stuff out as PR, we actually use that to help design our products. And some of it comes from product discovery. And you know, a lot of it’s fed back into what recruiters should be doing in reacting when we’re using our service and a spread of value that is sometimes quite hard to determine all of it.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  21:19

And Steven actually does the same thing with college recruiter, they they’re very active in pushing out information about their audience and sort of taking the position of thought leaders, I always encourage my clients if they can to do this sort of work, because the first thing it does, it raises awareness, people are going to say, oh, yeah, Liebig and CV Library, I remember that that’s the first part of the battle in terms of sales when you’re working with agencies and employers. And then the second part is, like you were saying, you actually are able to, to certain degree, guide the conversation and get focused on things that you think are important, or that might be important for your audience. I just think, you know, it’s a great, it’s a great model. And so kudos to you guys.

Lee Biggins  22:02

Okay, yeah, there is also a wider SEO value, which we need to tap into much more, which would be a huge value 10 job board out there.

Steven Rothberg  22:09

Well, and I’m glad that you mentioned that, Lee, because one of the reasons that we got into producing a lot of content was SEO, actually way back probably early 2000s. We had a SEO consultant by the by the name of Joel Cheeseman when he was still writing the cheese head block. And he really set us on the right course. So just write content that people actually will value. Don’t write content that you think is just going to get you to the top of the listings of Google, that’s it’s a recipe for disaster. But when we publish content, we’re very deliberative of who the audience is and what our cost is. And it’s not an ego stroke. It’s it’s it’s not about you know, making somebody feel good or important. It’s, it’s about getting that audience, the employer, the candidate, whoever it might be to be more aware of us maybe take some action.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  22:59

Well, listen, Lee, I appreciate you spending some time with us today. It’s been it’s been great chatting with you. I wanted to ask you if people want to get in touch with you How can in touch with you

Lee Biggins  23:10

probably the easiest way is just literally begins on LinkedIn. There are not many Lee Biggins out there. And I on that, I’ll be happy to get back to them. If not probably one of the other channels that you’re coming through to me know that

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  23:26

Steven, if people want to get in touch with you. How do they get in touch with you?

Steven Rothberg  23:30

Well, they can. They can find me here in Elephant Butte, New Mexico. Utah, bu TT E. I’ve been dropping the E and calling it elephant. But but that’s another story for another day. Or better yet. Email me Stephen at college. Lee, it is such a pleasure to see you again.

Lee Biggins  23:51

Hopefully we get to see each other in person this year.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  23:54

that would be great. That would be great. Folks, that is it for today’s episode of Job Board Geek. Please be sure to subscribe and review us if you want to on any of your favorite podcast platforms like Apple, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, et cetera, et cetera. My name is Jeff Dickey-Chasins. I’m the Job Board Doctor and you’ve been listening to the only podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers. That is all for now and we will see you again not too long from now. Bye

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