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JobBoardGeek podcast: From low-touch to high-touch – one site’s story

JobBoardGeek PodcastIn this episode of JobBoardGeek, we talk to Noel Andrews of JobRack.eu about how his technology-focused job board pivoted from a standard job post model to a ‘high touch’ model that provides outsourced and specialized recruiting for clients. JobRack candidates come from Eastern Europe, which has a history of high-quality education and technological excellence. Noel also digs into the benefits and challenges of a high-touch model, as well as pricing and how they source. Jeff Dickey-Chasins of JobBoardDoctor and Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter also discuss the recent funding round for Talent.com; Jeff wonders if this is a race to IPO with Adzuna. Steven – as always – has the last word.

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Transcript:

0:00:01.4 Jeff Dickey-Chasins: Hello everyone, and welcome to JobBoardGeek, the podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers. My name is Jeff Dickey-Chasins. I’m the JobBoard doctor, I’m your host, and with me, I have the discerning Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter. He’s the co-host. Hey, Steven, how’s it the going?

0:00:20.5 Steven Rothberg: Well, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news on this week, Jeff. Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

0:00:25.7 JD: Let’s hear the good news.

0:00:26.7 SR: Okay. Good news is that a little over a week ago, we added a new Chief Operating Officer to our team, Brad Boggs, who ran the job board business for Diversity Jobs, and then he was running the job board business over at Circa. And yesterday, we were able to announce that Matt Simpson, formally of Job Gate, is joining us as our Head of Sales and Partnerships.

0:00:48.0 JD: That’s great.

0:00:48.6 SR: Do you want the bad news now? I think it’s more interesting actually.

0:00:51.7 JD: Okay, what’s the bad news?

0:00:53.1 SR: Bad news is here in Minnesota today, it’s overcast, cold and raining, so I kind of feel like I’m getting ready for my July trip to the UK.

[laughter]

0:01:05.0 JD: Yeah, it’s kind of the same thing in Iowa, although, I will say, when I look at the weather radar, I’m very glad ’cause if I drove an hour west, I’d be in snow. Be thankful for small things. Anyway, today we have a wonderful guest, a fellow I have known for quite a while, Noel Andrews of jobrack.eu. He has a very interesting business model that sort of works in a couple of different ways. It’s definitely not your traditional job board, and we’ll be talking with him in a few minutes. But first, Steven, I just wanted to chat with you a little bit about something that happened last week, which I thought was kind of interesting. Talent.com, which is the Canadian aggregator… It’s been out for a number of years. I think it originally started its life as Neuvoo and intelligently changed it’s name since no one knew what Neuvoo actually meant… Just raised $150 million in revenue, and of course they’re saying, “Yeah, we’re gonna do the usual stuff. We’re going to expand into new markets and get new sales people and prove our technology and whatnot.” But there’s also been a lot of chatter, some of it coming from them, that they’re gearing up for an IPO. I thought this was interesting for two reasons. The last reasonable sized IPO that I remember in the job board industry was Zip Recruiter, and it went pretty well.

0:02:20.0 SR: Yeah.

0:02:20.7 JD: But now in the UK, Adzuna is also busy gearing up for an IPO, and as you probably know Adzuna is an aggregator that has many fingers in different countries, including the US, competes with talent.com. I think it’s interesting that you’ve got these two aggregators barreling towards IPOs probably sometime this year. Talent.com claims to be the second largest aggregator in the world after Jooble at this point in terms of traffic, and it feels to me like a race. It feels like which one of the aggregators is going to get to the market first because it would seem that the first one to hit the market would get the most attention. I don’t really know, but what’s your take on this?

0:03:01.6 SR: Yeah, I agree. I hadn’t thought about it in the context of it being a race. Sometimes it’s better to finish second. You can let the other guy go first. I’m thinking like World War I. You get out of the trench and you’re running towards the other trench. I would rather finish that race second than be the guy out in front. [laughter] And I’m saying that partly deliberately because if there are gonna be some missteps, if they’re gonna take some fire, if the market doesn’t like it, if I was talent.com, I’d rather have that hit Adzuna. If I was Adzuna, I’d rather have that hit talent.com. I don’t see this as an either/or though.

0:03:37.1 JD: I would agree.

0:03:37.6 SR: It seems to me… I know a fair number of people that at both of these companies… We do business with both of these companies. They’re solid. I’m not giving investment advice, but I wouldn’t mind having some pre-IPO stock in either one of those companies. Hint, hint, hint, hint. [laughter]

0:03:54.4 JD: Well, maybe we can get Doug on the podcast at some point and you guys can chat about that, but yeah, I tend to agree with you. I think it’s interesting because I remember there’s been a couple of companies in our industry that kept threatening to IPO. And I’m thinking specifically of Glassdoor and Snagger Job, and they kept saying, “Oh, we’re gonna IPO, we’re gonna IPO,” and then with Snagger Job it’s never happened. With Glassdoor, Recruit picked them up.

0:04:19.1 SR: Yeah, and if they’re gonna IPO or really continue to move towards that, they’re in play, and absolutely, if somebody comes along and makes them an offer that’s similar to what they would get through the IPO, you gotta think a board of directors are gonna instruct the C-Suite, bird in the hand. Take that good offer. We have no risk of what might happen the morning of an IPO. We’ll probably talk about some of it today today, but some war that can really change things. The war is a heck of a lot more important than any IPO. If they can get a good offer and sell it to a recruit like Glassdoor did, they’re gonna do that.

0:05:01.0 JD: Well, I hear there’s this company out of Minnesota called College Recruiter that’s going through a lot of growth. Perhaps maybe they’re looking for some acquisition targets. I don’t know. [laughter] Anyway, anyway, onto something much more interesting and to the point. Today we have with us Noel Andrews of jobrack.eu. Welcome to JobBoardGeek Noel.

0:05:21.7 Noel Andrews: Thanks Jeff, thanks Steve, and I’d just like to say I’m dialing in today from a sunny blue sky London, England. It’s the second day of spring, and it’s the second day of blue sky and sunshine gents.

0:05:33.3 JD: That’s weird. That is truly weird. [laughter]

0:05:36.5 NA: It’s a myth. Everyone thinks it’s grey and rainy all the time, but honestly the winter’s been good. We’re gonna have an amazing summer, and so for your cloudy days, you should come over here right now, Steven, and get some sunshine.

0:05:48.2 SR: I am on the next plane.

0:05:50.6 JD: Anyway, Noel, I just wanted to start out by asking you a little bit about how did you actually get into the recruitment sector initially, and tell us a little bit about Job Rack and who does it serve, and why is it different?

0:06:06.1 NA: Sure thing, no worries. So, Job Rack kinda who it serves, so we serve online business owners all across the world. Everything from ecommerce businesses to agencies, to coaches, to all kinds of businesses, and they’re looking for remote talent. And crucially we help people hire from Eastern Europe. That’s our kinda very, very kinda clear niche around about 22 countries with a big focus in around six or seven around the Balkans. So places like kind of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, places like that. So where you basically get kind of like really, really kind of high quality, really great education, great English, really great value ’cause their cost of living is kind of dramatically lower than in the Western world. And crucially like a real cultural alignment with people in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, etcetera, with the Western world.

0:06:50.6 NA: So not some of those kind of cultural challenges that can often happen hiring kind of elsewhere. So that’s our kinda niche. That’s what we do and how did I get into it? Well kind of a very… Kinda quick version of it is I’d spent 15 years in the corporate world in kinda technology leadership and up to IT director type roles and always kind of building leading and kind of just driving kind of very large teams. And I had… One day I’d spent a kind of a day doing back to back interviews and they were all lovely people, but terrible at interviewing absolutely terrible. And I came home thinking there’s gotta be a better way, what’s going on here. And then I just kind of had this flash of light, a flash of inspiration, hang on, no one’s ever taught how to interview. And so maybe it’s a business idea.

0:07:29.3 NA: So I then kind of took some time out, spent a year building an interview coaching business, which had some success, but I just couldn’t quite scale it. And I was coming to the end of that. I was… I’m in some entrepreneurial communities and I was having kind of conversations with lots of people that were struggling to hire because as you guys know, hiring is hard especially finding the right people. And just through one of those conversations, JobRack was actually being put up for sale. It had been built up over a couple of years, but always as a side hustle, it was either gonna be shut down or sold. It had been kind of mothballed for about nine months. So just to like $1 per job post just to stop any kind of scammers. So it was doing… It was doing $15 a month in revenue, right, to give you an idea of just how small it was. Right. And so it was not a particularly expensive purchase. Well, crazy…

0:08:10.8 NA: So I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or not, but the conventional metric that people use to value a business is like, well, it’s like a multiplier of profit which I think means that I paid infinity which isn’t such a good stat, but then I have… I think that there’s some amazing stats around, I don’t know, three… What is it 300 or 1000X in the monthly revenue and stuff like that, which is a lot more exciting. So yeah, I jumped in and that was nearly three and a half years ago now. So there’s a lot changed. It’s no longer a side hustle, and it’s now kind of a proper business. We’ve got a team of 12 growing to about 16 over the next month or so. And yeah, we’re kinda helping customers all over the world hire really great people from Eastern Europe.

0:08:47.1 JD: Awesome. So sort of to… From infinity to beyond or whatever Buzz Lightyear said.

0:08:53.7 NA: Indeed. Yeah, Definitely.

0:08:54.9 JD: I’m wondering from a sort of a business model perspective, typical job board does no vetting of candidates, right? They’re not looking to see if those degrees or work experience that you have are real. They’re not assessing your skills in any kind of what mandatory way. And often just not at all, talk with us about if, say I was an employer and wanted to hire a social media strategist through you. How do I know if that person is good or not? Do we just rely on their word? Are you doing assessments? How does that work?

0:09:33.1 NA: Yeah, sure. So it varies based on the service. So we’ve got kind of two primary services, we’ve got a very conventional job board service. We refer to it as DIY, so Do It Yourself. And with that, it’s very similar to a lot of other job boards. We do put some effort though in, so one of the things that’s really important to us is that all of our candidates are from Eastern Europe. So for around 80% of our candidates and our kind of database, we are vetting them through a… We’re checking their ID. So passports or driver’s licenses, things like that. So about 80% of them, we’ve absolutely confirmed. We make it kind of reasonably difficult for people that aren’t from Eastern Europe to sign up and we kinda do spot checks on the kind of the 20%. So that’s the first thing we do.

0:10:08.1 NA: Then we give a lot of guidance to our clients, our employers on how to hire, right. ‘Cause ultimately it’s always gotta be down to the employer. They’ve gotta make sure they do their due diligence and so some of that is we’re guiding them through, hey, use an application form right. Don’t rely on CVs. ‘Cause CVs are at best mildly useful, at worst they’re complete waste of time. And so, we’re guiding our employers through things like that. We have things like, skills, databases, and profiles of our candidates and we encourage them to do those honestly. But the big part of it is just how we encourage and guide our clients in how to hire. So that’s on like the DIY side. Then we’ve got the Done With You service, which is much more focused around us doing all of the hard work and crucially a lot of the time that is where people are looking to hire roles where the candidates just are not hanging out on job boards. Right? If you are a software developer right now, pretty much anywhere in the world, you do not need to be on a job board. Right. There’s… The best guys, that’s not where they’re at. And so we have… There’s ways in which we can help the clients and we take a much more active approach doing screening interviews, screening calls, vetting, referencing, all of that kind of almost conventional recruiter side of things, but in a very, not conventional recruitment style side of things. And certainly not with the conventional recruiter fees either.

0:11:14.6 JD: So I’m curious then if I remember correctly, there were three tiers of service that you offer. Right. And… So what’s the top tier. What are you doing when you… When someone uses that?

0:11:27.0 NA: Yeah. So the top tiers are like full done for you service and that’s kind of almost conventional recruiter where we’re interviewing as well. Now the problem with that approach is that, the employer still normally needs to interview as well because we can interview people. We can get to the very, very tight, short list, but ultimately the candidate, if you wanna be a long term team member and be part of a team, you want to spend time with the employer.

0:11:47.0 NA: So the employer needs to interview anyway. So what we found that we could do is actually streamline that service. And that is what became the Done With You service in the middle. So we were able to reduce the effort and the cost, but not really reduce the effort from the employer side of things. And then it makes it much more appealing and it means that candidates aren’t having to go through two intensive interview rounds. We can kind of do what we need to do to shortlist and verify things a lot like that from a much more efficient kind of screening process. And the things that we do, we use video capture from the candidates, but we also use video from the clients as well.

0:12:16.9 NA: So for instance, on our job posts, we always include a video to introduce the job post, kind of, Hey, I’m Noel from JobRack and I’m looking to hire a customer success manager. This is what it’s gonna be like. So it kinda gets the little bit of rapport between the candidate and the employer straight away. And we do that again when we’re introducing the test tasks, for instance. So again, they have some contact with the employer, the full done for you service, we can do those interviews, but really it only works. And the only time we do it now is when we’re really… We know the employer really well and we kind of act on their behalf. So if someone comes to me and says, hey, now we’ve worked with ’em for a few years. And they say, Hey I need five customer support agents and we’ve done that role for them numerous times. We can pretty much act as them and that’s much more straightforward, but we don’t do a lot of that. I think the key thing is… Most team members wanna feel like they’re coming in to be part of the teams. They need contact with the employer.

0:13:02.5 JD: What you’re describing to me is not totally unusual. I have worked with a number of job boards that have had what they call is source and screen services. I think you guys go a little bit further than that. But one of the challenges when I’ve worked with those clients that they’ve talked about is that they have two things. First of all, there’s the pricing issue. How do you set price where clients are gonna want it and use it, but also where it’s feasible for you to do this sort of high-touch work. And I’m curious, first of all, what is the pricing for the Done With You service on a per candidate basis? And then second, how do you sort of manage the time that you put into that so it works out for you financially?

0:13:41.6 NA: Yeah, so we have three tiers just based on the complexity of the role. So it varies from 1500 US for, say virtual assistants, customer support, social media assistants. We’ve got a mid-tier for operations managers, project managers, technical specialists like PPC, things like that, which is 2000 US. And then we have our top tier for developers which is two and a half thousand US, which I’m repeatedly getting told by my clients is too cheap, certainly on the developer side of things. ‘Cause finding developer talent is really, really hard. However, there are some things that we’re doing that it is still profitable for us. And so that works really well. And I would much rather start out making it like almost a no-brainer for our clients. And then obviously we have to be profitable. And we are. And then over time, we’ll kind of just take a look at that and say, “Where should that be?” But I like being in that place. I like it being a no-brainer. And we can find the kind of right candidates. In terms of making sure it’s profitable, well there’s a couple of things we do, is one, my team is in Eastern Europe, obviously. So therefore they have a lower cost of living. And that comes with certain benefits around kind of the value. But we pay well. And that’s really important to me, that I wanna pay well, and then expect a huge amount from them.

0:14:41.1 NA: My team are already clear on that. And we have a great team. And to the extent that we have a lot of candidates coming to us proactively now, saying that they want to work with us. What jobs do we have available? ‘Cause they are hearing what it’s like to work at JobRack, which is a beautiful place to be. So yeah. So carefully, I think is the answer to your question, there, Jeffrey. We are monitoring how much time and energy and cost are we spending on the sourcing stage? How much time and energy and money are we spending on the management stage? So the first bit is find great candidates. The next bit is manage them through the process. And managing the clients. And setting clear expectations with the client. So it is profitable, but it’s hard work. The day that I decided to move from a focus on a basically, a money-while-you-sleep job board, which is a beautiful business by the way, which is why they’re so popular, to basically in high-touch agency service. Lots of people thought I was absolutely crazy. In terms of growth, there’s a lot of benefits with it. You can afford to invest a lot more in kinda growth and marketing when you’re charging $1500 to $2500 than you can when you’re charging $199 for a job post.

0:15:40.7 JD: And I think you touched on sort of the key operational issue for what you’re doing versus someone that’s in the UK, using UK employees or someone in the US, using US employees, which is your operational cost is based in a lower cost area. And so you can do those kinds of things. But actually, speaking of the geographic area that you’re focused in, one of the questions I have for you is how is the war affecting your candidates and your employees, if it is.

0:16:07.9 NA: So right now… So the Ukraine… Ukraine has never been a big focus for us for candidates. Because the cost of living has increased significantly over recent years. Because of all the tech companies that have piled in there. So developer rates in Ukraine have kind of been almost on a par with London rates, which is insane. Because their cost of living is nowhere near London cost of living. So as a result of that, we haven’t… It’s kind of one of our primary, kind top six or seven countries in that sense. That being said, it is for my team, particularly, a good number of them are old enough to have remembered what it was like to be going down in the cellar or in the basement when they know the war in Bosnia, etcetera. So they did remember that. So it’s all a little bit kinda close to home. Obviously being an Eastern European focused business, we are very, very actively looking in how can we help the situation? How can we help displaced Ukrainians kinda get work? How can we help digitally skilled displaced Ukranians get work? How can we help and encourage employers to hire displaced Ukranians, within the same sense that… Within the cautious nature that says that, “Well, hang on a minute.” A business owner still has to hire people that can work for them and be productive, etcetera.

0:17:14.8 NA: And someone who’s going through an actually horrendous situation, that’s a tricky balance. So we’re looking at that. We’re supporting a number of charities that are on the cold faces of war, kinda helping people out. And we’re looking and saying, “How do we help?” We have got a massive reach across Eastern Europe and across the world of clients and employees. It’s just one we’re trying to do cautiously to make sure that we do it the right way.

0:17:34.5 SR: Just a tip, Noel, not just for you, but also for your clients. But this morning, about an hour or two ago, I got an email from Dr. John Sullivan, who writes a lot for publications like ERE. His e-newsletter today was all about hiring from Ukraine. And I think they were something like eight or 10 things that employers should pay attention to. One of them was language that 20% of Ukrainians are… I don’t know what the English language skills, if he’d sort of defined it, whether it was conversational or better yet bilingual or better yet fluent. But certainly a… Like you were saying, for a lot of the candidates that are using your service, is culturally more western than say, South East Asia. Healthcare and education and all of that is much more like what you’d find in much of Europe than in other areas of the world. So I would suggest that you have a look at that, and for those who are listening as well. One of the really great things about John Sullivan is that when he publishes information, it’s kind of on a please share basis.

0:18:43.5 JD: Well, listen, it’s… We’re about ready to run out of time, Noel. But I did wanna ask you one final question, which is, what’s your take in terms of where you think the… And I use the term loosely. Everyone that I know would agree that I call a lot of things job boards that other people wouldn’t call job boards. And I call what you do a job board, just because it’s such a loosey-goosey term. But where do you think the job board industry is going in terms of models? Do you think that it’s heading more towards niche high-touch models like yours, or is it going more sort of the Indeed one-size-fits-all? Or do you think all of the above?

0:19:20.2 NA: I think there’s a huge range of opportunity. I think we’re gonna continue to see lots and lots of different options. We see niche job boards popping up every single day. It has never been easier to launch a job board. You can do it in about 45 minutes, whether it’s Job Board Fire or one of the many other tools that you can use. And you can even hand-crank one in Webflow and kinda some of the no-code solutions within… Via an afternoon of effort, and have something that looks polished and looks professional. You can tie it in with the aggregates, etcetera, if you choose. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity for a very niche job board. And that is great. However, what we see from a candidate perspective is that a candidate that’s good for one job might also be very, very good at lots of other jobs as well. So, the candidates aren’t quite so niched.

0:20:01.4 NA: I think there’s still tons and tons of opportunity. I think platforms like LinkedIn that make it too easy to apply for jobs. It’s a one-click application. You just tend to get really, really poor quality applications that then causes you tons of work. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity for hiring services, which is kind of how I describe what we do. There’s a lot of employers that recognize either, they don’t know how to hire or that they don’t want to know how to hire, or that it’s really hard and they want help to do it. And even though it’s whether they’ve got internal HR teams, you know the act of sourcing. We’re sourcing right now from 32 different sources, including we’re going… We source from GitHub for developers for instance. We do, we’ve got activity going on on TikTok for sourcing. We’ve got all kinds of different really wonderful places, private communities that we’re in. But your average employer and hirer should not be doing.

0:20:43.7 NA: There are better things that they can do with their time. And the job board and the hiring services market, I think there’s still tons and tons of opportunity, there is some get… There are still tons of opportunity in it. The same challenges that have always been there are still there, getting the jobs, getting the candidates, and above all, doing a good job. There’s, for me right now, there’s maybe a few too many people starting up job boards thinking it’s a route to easy cash. And it’s not okay, you know not to do a good job of it. If you just wanna knock up a job board and potentially make some cash, etcetera, then great. If you wanna feel really good at the end of the day about providing a really great service and have… We’re at 85% of our customers are either repeat customers or referrals. That’s the kind of business that I like running when I have conversations with people that are excited to work with us and are excited to refer us. That’s the kind of business I want… It’s not an easy business, but there’s lots of fun that can be had with it, too.

0:21:31.0 JD: If you have any people that you’re talking to that think that running a job board is easy, send them to me, I’ll set them straight.

[laughter]

0:21:38.7 JD: I’ve had many sad conversations with people that are like, “I wanna start a job board.” And then I start talking about what they have to do, and they’re like, “I thought it was… I thought I could just set it up and go to sleep.” Anyway, well, listen Noel, I really appreciate you coming on the podcast. And if anyone that’s listening wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to do that?

0:21:57.3 NA: Yeah, best way, is just head on over to jobrack.eu All our details are there and you can always book in a call, and we can jump on a call too, have a quick chatting.

0:22:04.4 JD: Great. Well, thanks so much. And Steven, how would people get in touch with you if they so wanted to do that?

0:22:09.9 SR: I’m not really sure why anybody would, but it would be @Steven, S-T-E-V-E-N, @collegerecruiter.com. Noel, thank you so much.

0:22:19.8 NA: No worries, Steven. No worries, Jeff. Great to chat.

0:22:21.9 JD: Great, thanks. Thank you, and that’s it for today’s episode of JobBoardGeek. Now, be sure to subscribe to this podcast via Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, whatever you want, and as I always encourage people give us a thumbs up or a thumbs down, you can give me a thumbs up, you can give Steven a thumbs down, and then you have a balanced review. My name is Jeff Dickey-Chasins, I’m the JobBoard Doctor, and you’ve been listening to the only podcast that focuses on the business of connecting candidates and employers. That’s all that we have for today. See you again next time.

[music]

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