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JobBoardGeek: Serge and Shelley said what?: all about the Canadian job board market

canadian job board marketIn this episode of JobBoardGeek, we talk to Serge Boudreau and Shelley Billinghurst of The Recruitment Flex podcast (the #1 HR podcast in Canada) about the Canadian job board market. Since Serge’s day job is with Career Beacon and Shelley runs a recruitment ad agency, they are willing to dig deep into the Canadian job board market. Jeff Dickey-Chasins of JobBoardDoctor and Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter discover how Shelley fired Serge, and how Serge has trouble ‘being good’ on their podcast. Jeff discusses a recent court ruling against LinkedIn and for web scraping; Steven claims that LinkedIn can’t lose for winning.

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0:00:00.0 Jeff Dickey-Chasins: This episode of JobBoardGeek is brought to you by Aspen Tech Labs.


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0:00:33.3 JD: Hello everyone, and welcome to JobBoardGeek, it’s the podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers. I’m Jeff Dickey-Chasins, I am the Job Board Doctor, the host of the show, and with me is the always humble Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter, he is the co-host. Hey Steven, how are you doing?


0:00:53.0 Steven Rothberg: I am great, I was so excited earlier today. I got a package in the mail from a couple of people in Calgary. I’m assuming you got exactly the same package that I got. And mine was stuffed full of maple syrup, Timbits, Canadian Club Rye Whisky, a plate of steaming hot poutine and best of all, two center Ice tickets to the Battle of Alberta game. How did you enjoy your package, Jeff?


0:01:20.0 JD: Steven, I think you’re off your meds is what I think.




0:01:25.4 JD: They don’t deliver the mail every day here in the town that I live in…


0:01:29.8 SR: You don’t get gift boxes from Canadian guests? Do they only send it to me?


0:01:35.5 JD: Canadians don’t like me, I don’t know why. I have relatives that are Canadians, but no. Anyway, today we have Canada’s answer to Chad & Cheese as our guests, Serge Boudreau and Shelley Billinghurst, they’ll be on in a little bit to talk. But first, Steven, I wanted to talk a few minutes about something that happened in the US courts, I guess last month. The Ninth Circuit Court seems to have firmly and decisively rejected LinkedIn’s claim against hiQ. Now, this case has been battling around in the courts for a couple of years now, maybe even longer. In essence, hiQ was scraping public profiles from LinkedIn and using them in their own product, and LinkedIn didn’t like that and said, “You can’t do that, this is our property.” And initially it looked like things might go LinkedIn’s way, it got bounced up to the Supreme Court, Supreme Court bounced it back down to the Ninth Circuit.


0:02:35.8 JD: In April, they put out their opinion that basically as far as they are concerned, there are three different ways of accessing information. You have publicly available information on a computer that doesn’t require permission to view, you have information that can be viewed on a computer with permission and you have that permission, or you have information on a computer that requires permission and you don’t have that permission. Well, obviously, the third was what LinkedIn was saying that they had, and in fact, the Circuit Court said, “Nope, nope, you know what? This is public information, and unless you put some sort of technical barrier up, you really can’t make the argument that it isn’t public information because in fact, LinkedIn’s whole business model is built around the fact that you can go there and look at people’s public profiles.” So to me, it looks like this case is honestly and truly dead but you know what, listeners? I don’t know if you know this, but Steven is a lawyer, he’s also a Canadian, I’m not sure that has anything to do with this particular case, but I just thought I’d throw that in there. And Steven, what do you think about this? What’s your opinion on it?


0:03:46.0 SR: Yeah, I went and graduated from law school, so therefore technically a lawyer but really only practiced for a year, so definitely I’m about the last person you’d wanna take any kinda legal advice from. I was really surprised that it ended up this way. Way back in I think 1867, when I went to law school, we talked about this case where a telephone book publisher essentially wanted to grab all of the phone information from a rival’s phonebook, publish it on their own and package it in a new way, and that was allowed. They couldn’t reproduce exactly the same pages and sell it that way. So I suppose that this is similar to that. HiQ, which I think is named after a 1980s soda, what they’re basically doing is they’re grabbing the data like Google would, and if you google anybody’s name, probably their profile on LinkedIn is gonna come up first. So for LinkedIn to argue that this is non-public and nobody has permission to see it is… I thought that was a stretch at best, but what hiQ then does with it is more like the phonebook publisher, where they package it together and then they turn around and sell it.


0:05:02.9 SR: LinkedIn’s in a tough situation because if everybody out there can grab its data and present it in a different way, maybe less expensively, whatever, that really is gonna hurt LinkedIn. The answer is, put everything behind a password protected wall but then they lose all of their search-engine traffic. It’s a little bit of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t. At the end of the day, in my mind, LinkedIn won. HiQ is outta business, anybody who is thinking of pulling a hiQ by going and using LinkedIn data like this is gonna know that they’re gonna be buried under millions and millions and millions of dollars in legal fees. Even if legally hiQ wins this, I think from a practical standpoint, it’s just an incredible chilling effect on the ability of anybody to use LinkedIn data.


0:05:55.0 JD: Yeah, I think you’re right on that. Coincidentally today I was talking with a client and they were throwing out an idea that was analogous to this, and I was saying, “You’re going up against some really deep pockets, and you’re probably right, but being right is just gonna make you poor, it’s not gonna make you money. I think that’s just the way the world is, it’s not fair, but who said it was? Anyway, today, I feel very fortunate to have two guests on here that have had us on their very well known, internationally renowned podcast, The Recruitment Flex, Serge Boudreau and Shelley Billinghurst, and I want to welcome you folks to JobBoardGeek, how are you doing?


0:06:43.0 Shelley Billinghurst: I’m great, thank you so much for having us on your show. This is really special.


0:06:48.0 Serge Boudreau: I wouldn’t call it special, I think that’s a little bit of a stretch, Shelley, you’re just being overly nice.


0:06:54.6 SB: Serge, be honest, you said you would be on your best behavior.


0:06:58.2 SB: It is.


0:06:58.6 SB: Now come on.


0:06:58.8 SB: Okay, I’m sorry. Yeah.


0:07:01.5 SB: Be your charming self.


0:07:01.6 SB: Okay, I’ll be my charming self. Yeah, it’s an honor to be on JobBoardGeek. Do you know how much respect I have for Jeff, and a little bit for Steven, but especially for Jeff.


0:07:13.6 SR: When you’re intoxicated, it’s easier to have respect for me, yeah.


0:07:17.0 JD: Serge always knows the right thing to say at the right time, and I’m sure Shelley would back me up on that, so. Well, I’m gonna throw this out to both of you guys because both of you come out of the recruiting industry from different places, and so why don’t you tell me a little bit about your background, your origin story, how you became the superheroes that you are today, Shelley, why don’t you start out?


0:07:42.0 SB: Well, thank you, because you know if you’d let Serge start, it’d be 20 minutes before you took a breath.




0:07:51.6 SB: Okay, I’ll be nice. I’ll be nice from now on. So recruiting is my passion, I had my first recruiting job in 1994, and I knew within three days that I found my life’s work. So I worked in the recruitment industry, and then I went in-house and realized… I just said 1994, so were there job boards then? Actually…


0:08:15.0 JD: Yes, yes.


0:08:15.9 SB: But did anybody know what they were? Yes, it was those early days, very early days, so roll the clock forward to the year 2011, I think, 2010, I met Serge. I at that time was leading a pretty significant talent acquisition team at a corporation, and one of our vendors was Canada’s largest job board, and Serge was my account manager, and the relationship has continued, even though it was a little rocky to start with, but our relationship has continued, it’s actually blossomed because once Serge was my account manager, and then he went over to work for Indeed, and he approached me and said, “Hey, what do you think about being an ad agency?” And I went, “Let’s do it.”


0:09:08.5 SB: So it was actually Serge’s introduction that started me on the path of Hire Value, my company, becoming a recruitment, marketing, and advertising agency, so I owe him a lot. I spent hundreds of dollars a year sending very extravagant gifts, mostly just to his family, never to him, thanking them because then during the pandemic Serge and I decided… We talk all the time about recruitment, and what’s broken and what’s working, whether it’s… We both love technology, and that’s how we started the podcast as well, was we thought, “How hard can it be?” Oh Jesus. It’s hard, it really is. And I do have to say Serge is just the driving force behind it, he’s really been leading the charge for The Recruitment Flex Podcast as well, so Serge, why don’t you share your origin story? How did you get into recruitment, and how did you end up being the master of the Canadian job board world?


0:10:10.3 SB: So first of all, Shelley, you’re not the host, so we’ll let Jeff… Are you co-hosting? Is that the case?


0:10:18.5 SB: Oh no, I thought you meant our show.


0:10:20.9 SB: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re the host, but you’re not the host of this show where you’re already giving instructions on what you should…


0:10:23.4 SB: Oh, sorry. Let me pass that back over to you, Jeff.


0:10:26.5 JD: You guys are sending this thing off the rails really, really well.


0:10:32.6 SB: Well, that’s the point.


0:10:33.9 JD: It’s a lot easier with just a single guest, you can whap them upside the head and they start for a talk… For a bit, but yes, so why don’t you tell me your origin story, Serge?


0:10:45.0 SB: Okay, I’ll be very succinct, unlike Shelley. So basically, Shelley is right, we met around 2011, 2012, and the story is a little bit different than what she’s saying, so let me give you my origin, then I’ll give you that story, what really happened. So yes, right, I met Shelley. I was in… I worked for Workopolis, I was the Director for Western Canada, the rep that was representing Shelley actually left, so one of the things that I stepped in, being one of our biggest clients is… I still remember the meeting, so I walked into their office and Shelley walked… I’d never even met Shelley. She walked out, beautiful, short lady, and gave me the hardest handshake that these delicate nonlabor hands have ever felt, and I’m like, “This woman is a tour de force,” and basically the conversation…


0:11:40.6 SB: She fired us. She fired us because she didn’t think she was getting the results that she was supposed to get, even though she was wrong. We were driving the results, just the metrics that they were measuring internally wasn’t that great, and Shelley, I’ll let you review it here in a second, but then I spent quite a bit of years in that space and at Workopolis growing it. Then Indeed came calling, Indeed came calling, and this was before the acquisition, and they wanted to build out their operations here in Western Canada, so I joined, built out the team, and Shelley was right. One of the first rules I had was building out the ad agency network for Canada ’cause there’s not many of them, and we needed to basically build them from scratch for multiple reasons, and the first person I call is, “Shelley, you need to do this,” and I think it’s worked out for you, Shelley.


0:12:31.0 SB: Quite well, thank you very much.


0:12:32.7 SB: And the other factor is, I’m a practitioner, leaving Indeed, I came back in the space that got me into it leading corporate teams and talent acquisition, and that’s really where my passion is, but lately, three months ago, I got brought back in the job board world, joined after an acquisition of Career Beacon, which is a very well-known job board in parts of Canada, but it’s actually from my hometown, so there was a little bit of nostalgia that stepped in, and the CEO having the same last name as myself, I’m like, “This is just meant to be, and it’s been a wild ride getting back into it, even though I’ve kept really close tally of what’s going on in this space for the last 15 years of doing this. So yeah, that’s a little bit of the origin story, and Shelley is right, Recruitment Flex has been a lot of work, a ton of work, but tons of fun, and I would have never met you guys if it wasn’t for The Recruitment Flex, so right there, the whole value of the thousands of hours I’ve done this for, meeting you guys is just the paycheck I needed.


0:13:40.2 JD: Well, it’s always wonderful to have guests that compliment us, don’t you think, Steven?


0:13:45.1 SR: I try not to think, though this is one of the most enjoyable episodes that we’ve had so far because I’m really enjoying seeing Jeff struggle with three people who are going off the rails on him. Usually he only has to deal with one. So maybe Shelly, you can start, and then Serge, you can tackle it too. The question that I had is, I grew up in Winnipeg, I’m a dual citizen, so I know more about Canada then the typical American does, but one thing that most people don’t realize around the world is just how vast Canada is in terms of how geographically vast it is, it’s the second largest country in the world by land mass, probably the 120th by population or something like that, but there’s a lot of open space, and one thing that I can see when I go to Canada even today is there are significant differences, culturally, how business is done, how you just even order things in different areas of the country. The US is much more homogenous than that, despite having some significant regional differences in US, Canada is much more fragmented. You go into a shop in Atlantic Canada, it’s very different than going into some place in BC. So for the Job Board business in Canada, is it the same? Are there dominant regional players in certain markets, and just different ways of doing businesses in different areas? Shelley?


0:15:17.5 SB: So I love that you connected the dots on that, because you’re absolutely right. The way business is done in Vancouver, how businesses operate in Vancouver, what industries, just even the way they approach their employment law, it varies slightly across Canada, but there’s a big piece that you jumped over, and that’s Quebec. Quebec is a very, very different market. They even have different laws, different employment laws, so when it comes to… When you’ve got companies that have operations across the country, yes, there are very distinct differences, which makes it complex for employers for sure, but there is… I see a regional distinction as well for job boards, where Quebec is one of those… I don’t know if anybody’s actually cracked the code. There is one major player, Jabilla Co, but have they really cracked the code? What do job seekers in Quebec really want in terms of an experience in looking for work?


0:16:20.3 SB: And then we see Vancouver and Toronto have these real… They’re really heating up for tech talent. And so, where do those people go? What are the job boards that… And do they go to job boards? There’s a question mark, but we do know the dominant player here in Canada, of course, is Indeed. Then we go out to… And I don’t wanna steal Serge’s thunder because there is the dominant player in Atlantic Canada, and it’s an anomaly because even in places like Quebec, where we’ve got Jabilla Co. There’s still I’d say a 50:50 split for what candidates want in that experience, but when you get out to the Atlantic provinces, I can’t explain it, so I think I’m gonna have to hand that one off to Serge. What is happening in Atlantic Canada? What are they doing right? I think I mean.


0:17:10.2 SB: Well…


0:17:10.3 SB: There I go again. Am I controlling the interview?




0:17:15.5 SB: There you go. I’m gonna jump in, and I’m going to agree with you, Shelley, on how it’s fragmented, but it’s interesting because the majority of our population is based in two provinces, so Ontario drives most of the population across Canada, we have 40 million, just the GTA, so Greater Toronto Area, you’re covering almost 15 million people in just one segment, but generally what we’re seeing in this job board, yes, there’s Jabilla Co. In Quebec, but if we really dig in deep, Jabilla Co’s traffic is almost nonexistent if you look at the big picture because in Canada we have a working population of around 20 million, a little bit more than that, and Indeed drives around 12 to 50 million unique visitors a month. When it comes to client market share, they have 85%, so we are fragmented, but not really because Indeed is dominating in most markets, and they’re even dominating in Quebec, the market share is not as dispersed as it is maybe in Ontario, but they’re dominating. Atlantic Canada is really interesting because Career Beacon has a firewall, and partly Atlantic Canada is a firewall in a sense.


0:18:27.9 SB: Quebec is very different. Atlantic Canada is different in its own way because it’s got a very unique culture when it comes to French and English. New Brunswick is the only bilingual province in the country, there’s a lot of local type of approaches when it comes to business. So Career Beacon has been able to have more than 50% market share in one market, but the rest of the country is very dominated by Indeed, and the numbers are interesting ’cause the unique visitors in Indeed are insane, like 50 million is in this type of market, and 85% of the traffic is just… It’s crazy, but then we look at the other players, there’s no one close. If you look, there’s Indeed. The number two, when it comes to traffic, is Workopolis, which is owned by Indeed. Then you’ve got Glassdoor, you got Simply Hired, so when you’re in Ontario right now and you’re a job board trying to make inroads, do you know what happens? That search page or that search-results page is all Indeed, and you cannot break through as a job board in the biggest market, so they’re gonna have a dominance in this Canadian market for a long time, even though I think they suck lately, but they just… This is where the job seekers are going right now.


0:19:42.7 JD: Well, let me ask you guys a question though, because one thing that I’ve seen in the US market to a certain degree and other markets where they’re active, is Google for jobs, when they implemented their new job schema in certain countries, that had an impact on who was dominating the first page. Is that the case in Canada? Has it been implemented, and if it has been implemented, did it have an impact?


0:20:09.7 SB: It has been implemented. It’s still shit. The job quality, it’s just horrible. It hasn’t improved even. I think they made the changes in October, and Shelley you might have seen it differently, but working with their schema and looking at the job-seeker experience on it, we all know that generally jobs seekers start on Google, and Google has such a unique opportunity to take advantage of that, but they just haven’t in Canada, and it’s been helping other job boards more than but not dramatically, like we’re not seeing like… Indeed is not scared of Google for jobs in this local market, but for our local niche, when I say niche, we’re not niche, but like for Career Beacon, it’s helped us, it puts us on a map, it gives us…


0:20:53.5 SB: It actually drives a fair amount of traffic but nothing significant, and be like Indeed is gonna be scared of us or other players that we’re seeing ’cause we’re seeing like Jobillico, but Jobillico’s traffic is nothing, but then we’ve got like some province with a regional board doing well. Like SaskJobs jobs in Saskatchewan does really well, and they rely on Google for jobs, so they’ve seen actually an uptick in traffic as we’re seeing all the other job boards seeing a decrease all across, except Indeed, Career Beacon, and SaskJobs are the only ones that are seeing uptick in traffic, and I think it’s partly because the work we’ve done with Google for jobs in these two job boards that have helped us, but we’re talking like 2% increase, it’s not significant.


0:21:37.5 JD: So I have one other question, and then we’ll probably have to wrap this up, but this is fascinating to me in the sense that I’ve had a number of Canadian clients who’ve all been niche job boards, none of the big boards, but in Australia, Seek effectively froze out Indeed. They basically just said, “We’re not gonna let you get our jobs,” and when Indeed couldn’t get their jobs, they… They’re there but they’re not a player. They really don’t have anything. And it surprised me that Workopolis didn’t do the same thing because they really had a lock on the Canadian market for a long time. Was that just incompetence or was that in fact, Workopolis said, “Well, maybe they’ll take us over”?


0:22:18.5 SB: I think the proxy… Sorry, Shelley. I’ll start on this one. I’ll answer. I think the biggest factor is the proximity to the US compared to Australia. Our behaviors are very similar. When Indeed started really taking over the search results pages and having all the jobs, where Workopolis… We were basically a duration-based type of advertisers and we did try multiple ways of getting more traffic but we never focused on SEO till it was too late, and before we realized, we looked at the numbers and it’s like “Oh crap. Indeed is almost doubling our traffic,” before we even realized it was happening. Obviously I was focused on the sales side and I wasn’t involved on that end but I know from my perspective, that’s what happened, ’cause we could have, very similar to Seek, we could have kept that market share, and you still look at it this day even, it took a long time for Indeed to really make a big dent on Workopolis. It took like seven, eight years, and even when they bought them, Workopolis was still doing okay, not great but they were doing okay, they had a very sustainable business.


0:23:27.2 JD: Yeah. I’d say there’s probably a reason why they bought Workopolis, because they weren’t able to make as much forward momentum in the market as they wanted to. Shelley, you were looking at this from a different perspective. Obviously you didn’t have any skin in the game in terms of who succeeded, how did you look at it?


0:23:43.0 SB: Well that’s really… When Serge tells a story about our first meeting, he comes in, he’s the director of Western Canada, and I’m saying, “We’re canceling, we’re canceling you.” Like we were not getting… Even though he’s disputing it, I’m telling you we were not getting applicants from Workopolis, which was such a shame. I was a huge fan, it was really encouraging but excuse me, Workopolis I think was also purchased by a media company, is that right, Serge? If I’m remembering that correctly. That they were not investing in new technology, and I said, “Well, what are you guys doing?” And I got crickets, as a customer, and I think our account was pretty significant, and I just kept coming back and getting the same answer. “What are you doing? What are you doing to keep up with technology? What is Workopolis’ plan?” Because it was a neck and neck race for what LinkedIn was starting to offer.


0:24:36.1 SB: Now keep in mind, this was 2011, right? 2012, and LinkedIn’s products were really starting to ramp up for an in-house recruitment team, and then Indeed came on the scene just in terms of being an option for us, but that to me was the beginning of the end, was I didn’t see them investing in themselves. They had a great brand, their brand presence and what they must have spent on marketing and branding Workopolis was unequal. Like they were a household name across the country, and I think they pissed it away. I really do. I think they failed to continue to innovate and invest in their own product, and that’s what happened from a customer’s perspective.


0:25:20.5 JD: I think that’s… I think that’s a good observation, and it’s frustrating for me. I’ve been doing… I’ve been providing consulting for 14 years now, and so I’ve watched this happen in market after market, and I remember talking to my UK customers before Indeed was making their move into the UK and they were saying, “We’re coming to the UK,” and I’m saying, “Okay, you guys should not be cooperating with them. You should not be buying from them. You should block out your jobs from ’em because they’re gonna come in, they’re gonna do the traffic. They’re gonna get you hooked. They’re gonna dump you and they’re gonna take your business away.” No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Three years later my UK customers were coming to me crying. I work with boards all over the world and if I hear Indeed’s coming in, I tell my customer what’s gonna happen, because it’s no surprise, it’s always the same playbook. Anyway, enough, and full disclosure, I should say that my nephew is one of the high-ups in Indeed in Quebec, so we always have fun making fun of the board when we meet each other. Folks, this has been great having you on, just as much fun as I thought it would be. Too bad we couldn’t broadcast some of the stuff that was said before we started recording, but that’s probably better for the audience. But anyway, Shelley, if our folks wanna get in touch with you and talk to you more, how do they do that?


0:26:42.5 SB: Thank you so much. I can be reached on LinkedIn, and it’s Shelley with an E-Y Billinghurst, I think there’s a few Billinghursts on there maybe but not many, and so I’m the one with Higher Value Inc. Or through our company page on LinkedIn, and our website for The Recruitment Flex podcast.


0:27:04.5 JD: Perfect. Perfect. Well thanks for coming on, and Serge, how do people get in touch with you if after listening to you, they wanna talk to you?


0:27:12.5 SB: Well they can find me on my Only Fans page. Yes there’s a subscription charge, but if you don’t wanna pay the subscription, the best place to find me is on LinkedIn, so Serge Boudreau, sounds like it’s spelt, do check out Our podcast is available on all major platforms. It’s the number-one HR podcast in Canada, and soon to be the world, so we’re making our way.


0:27:41.1 JD: Yep. Watch out, Chad and Cheese, right?


0:27:42.5 SB: Watch out, watch out.


0:27:43.5 JD: Yeah. And Steven, finally, for those that wanna get in touch with you, how do they do that?


0:27:48.5 SR: Yeah, definitely, I just have to add, I listen to every episode of The Recruitment Flex, and it’s not just for Canadians. It’s fantastic for Canadians, but for people in other areas too, there’s a ton there that is applicable to every market, and just also like learning what’s happening in Canada can benefit you if you’re in Romania. There are remarkable similarities. Contact me, or just have Serge have one of his relatives send some seafood to me and I’ll be sure to reply to you.


0:28:25.5 SB: I love at the start that you mentioned every Canadian stereotype possible in our gift basket.


0:28:32.5 SR: I did not get in… I did not get into beaver tales. That was one thing that Americans just wouldn’t understand.


0:28:41.0 JD: I will admit that most of my knowledge of Canada has come from the Canadian side of my family and the Inspector Gamache novels, so my view of Canada is very, very skewed, but anyway it’s positive. So that’s it for today’s episode of JobBoardGeek, please be sure to subscribe via Apple, Spotify, whatever floats your boat. My name again is Jeff Dickey-Chasins, the job board doctor and you’ve been listening to the only podcast that focuses on the business of connecting candidates and employers. That’s all for now, and we will see you again next time.

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