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JobBoardGeek: Employee-owned, 20 years old, and thriving: Corridor Careers

JobBoardGeek PodcastIn this episode of JobBoardGeek, we talk to Liz Kennedy and Dan Holterhaus of Corridor Careers. The site, which is 20 years old, is part of the Gazette, a regional media company in eastern Iowa. Jeff Dickey-Chasins of JobBoardDoctor and Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter discover how the site has weathered many changes in local and regional recruiting, and how its partnership with Recruitology has helped with bigger clients. Liz and Dan also run an associated podcast called Careers & Coffee – check it out! Jeff weighs in on the recent SCOTUS rulings regarding abortion and handguns, and Steven – a reformed lawyer – adds his two (or three) cents.

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Transcript:

[music]

 

0:00:34.9 Jeff Dickey-Chasins: Hello everyone, this is JobBoardGeek, the podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers, I’m Jeff Dickey-Chasins, I’m the JobBoardDoctor and your host, and with me is the endearing Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter, he’s the co-host. Hey, Steven, how’re you doing?

 

0:00:50.7 Steven Rothberg: I’m doing pretty well, Jeff. It is great to be with you too here today.

 

0:00:54.9 JD: Yeah, it’s good to have you back. I missed you, I guess, on the last recording, but it’s good to have you back, I think, on this recording. Today we have a couple of guests I’m very excited to have on, Liz Kennedy and Dan Holterhaus of Corridor Careers. They’re just down the road from me here in Iowa. Their job board is one that’s focused on a geographic region and is also tied to old school media, so I think they have an interesting story to tell. But first, Steven, I just wanted to talk a little bit about some big news here in the US, and for non-US listeners, I’ll try to be as explicit as possible so you know what we’re talking about, but our Supreme Court handed down two decisions last week.

 

0:01:34.9 JD: The first decision greatly increased accessibility to handguns, and the second overturned what’s called the Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion almost a half century ago. So instead of a one-two punch, they raised some issues for employers. The first is workplace violence, which is already a problem in the US. Increased accessibility to guns, I think is probably gonna increase workplace violence, I think it’s gonna be hard to make it less so. Then second, for the 57% of the workforce that is female, eliminating bodily autonomy and eliminating the ability to access abortion is inevitably going to have big consequences for them in terms of where they live, what they do, and how they’re treated by their employers.

 

0:02:22.4 JD: So I was looking at this from the perspective of job boards and employers and the whole business of hiring and retaining candidates. I think employers are really getting pushed into some tough corners here. In regard to abortion, if an employer is based in a State like Texas that’s essentially banned abortion, do they do what Indeed did, which is basically say, “Hey, we’re gonna pay for you to go to another state and receive abortion care,” are they gonna do nothing, which I think is what probably a lot of employers are gonna do, or are they gonna take the most radical step, perhaps moving to a state that is more favorable to half of their workforce? Hard to say, but I think it goes back in terms of employers and candidates to, where does a candidate wanna work and how does the employer wanna portray themselves and their work culture and the benefits they offer to candidates, and that’s where job boards come in.

 

0:03:16.8 JD: They essentially are the marketing voice for employers and the information source for candidates, and I think job boards are gonna have to do their best to increase the amount of information that candidates get, but this is an evolving story. And as I say in my blog post which comes out on June 28th, it’s one that’s not over because this court seems to be set on overturning things, and so they may very well overturn some other aspects of the employer-candidate or employer-employee relationship. What do you think about this Steven, where are you coming from? What are your thoughts?

 

0:03:51.7 SR: Well, I’ll try to keep it relatively brief because we could go for days on this, so as you know, I like to call myself a fully recovered lawyer, went to law school, graduated, practiced for a year and then got out of law to enjoy my life, but I do get sucked back into this, and when I have conversations with my family, phrases like, “Stop being so lawyerly,” frequently come up. So let me separate out my personal thoughts on this from the job board industry. So my personal thoughts on this is, I’m mortified, and it’s not just these couple of decisions, there were some others that came down the line too. Now, state employees are allowed to coerce minors into prayer.

 

0:04:29.2 SR: And so there’s just… The country is definitely shifting politically. Now, if you are on the conservative side, that’s a good thing, if you’re on the progressive side, that’s a bad thing. For job boards, I suspect that there’ll be virtually no change. I have a hard time believing that job boards are going to be able to ask employers what their policies are, and then to get enough of the response that that’s gonna be meaningful in the search results, and then to be able to present those search results in a way that candidates will actually search on them. I do think we’re gonna see the emergence of some job boards that like our society are polarized. So I could see job boards emerging that will only accept ads from progressive employers. And I can also see job boards emerging that will only accept ads from conservative employers, and there are some out there now, but they’re certainly not big household names. So I think we’ll see some job seekers going to those, just like they might go to a job board that specializes in jobs in the Midwest, or jobs in engineering, or jobs with employers that are green, or whatever. So if it matters greatly to you that you work for an employer that is, say, progressive, you could go to a job board that has done some of that vetting and to determine it.

 

0:05:50.5 SR: One of the complicating things that I’ve been thinking about with some of these rulings is, okay, so let’s say you’re Indeed and you’re headquartered in Texas, and you say that you’re gonna pay X dollars on to your health insurance plan for employees to go across state lines to receive the medical care that they want. Okay, fine. And DICK’s Sporting Goods, big-box retailer, one of the biggest sporting goods companies in the country, maybe the biggest, they just said that they’re gonna pay $4000 for the woman and a companion to travel to a state for travel costs, the health fees, etcetera. Under Texas law, they can come… They absolutely could go after Indeed if Indeed pays for an abortion for a New York resident getting an abortion in New York, because now Indeed as a Texas company is facilitating that. I can certainly see a massive impact to her employers. I’m struggling to see how job boards being a big step removed from that process are gonna deal with that. Jeff, I think the job boards that are involved as quasi staffing companies where they’re doing screening and selection are more likely to be influenced by this than, say, an aggregator that just sends a candidate to the ATS, your thoughts?

 

0:07:07.5 JD: Yeah, I think so. I think the other job boards that are gonna be affected are job boards like The Muse, Glassdoor, Fairygodboss, that focus on the company rated type aspect of it. So in the meantime, I want to welcome Liz Kennedy and Dan Holterhaus of Corridor Careers to JobBoardGeek. Thanks so much for coming on.

 

0:07:30.2 Liz Kennedy: Thanks for having us.

 

0:07:31.3 JD: Yeah, I’m glad that you guys are here. I wanted to start out by just asking both of you, A, do you consider yourselves part of the job board industry, and if so, how did you end up in this particular aspect of the industry as opposed to what you were doing before you started with Corridor Careers?

 

0:07:52.0 LK: I can take that. First, so do I consider myself part of the job board industry? Absolutely. We produce a job board that’s niche and has to work with various aggregators out there and has been in… Corridor Careers has been in business for over 20 years.

 

0:08:06.3 JD: Wow.

 

0:08:07.9 LK: So we’re pre-Indeed if you think about it. When Corridor Careers was birthed, it was just an outgrowth of the Metro Economic Alliance and the media company in town deciding that there needed to be some kind of online space, an online presence for job board search… For job postings, and eventually The Gazette took it on and dedicated a team of entrepreneurs to continuously improve it. When I started at The Gazette, I was working for the marketing agency that was a subset of The Gazette as a project manager for websites, and saw this marketplace, this team that was handling Corridor Careers, and it was just like an OV, their agile practices, their product management, it was just so forward thinking at the time for me, ’cause I wasn’t as familiar with product management at the time, and I was just like, “I wanna be on that team.” So it wasn’t really about recruitment, it was about, I wanna be on that team producing that product.

 

0:09:02.6 JD: Yeah, well, it’s fun to work with smart people. You mentioned The Gazette several times, maybe for our listeners, you can tell us which Gazette, what is it, where does it… What area does it serve and so on?

 

0:09:13.2 LK: Yeah, well, we are thegazette.com. So… [chuckle]

 

0:09:17.8 JD: Okay.

 

0:09:18.1 LK: One of our original CEOs purchased that domain and thank God he did. So, no, The Gazette is the second largest newspaper in Iowa. We serve Eastern Iowa, we also have a state-wide footprint when it comes to legislative news and content sharing agreements with other local media associations, but the big distinction for The Gazette is that we’re 100% employee owned. We have three or four in the country. We just met… I just met one from Canada that was employee owned, so we’re a very tight-knit small group of media companies that are 100% employee owned.

 

0:09:50.1 JD: That’s cool. I did not know that. In terms of the reach of Corridor Careers, is it all over Eastern Iowa, or does it really just focus on what we call the corridor?

 

0:10:01.3 LK: Yeah, I’ll let Dan take that one.

 

0:10:03.0 Dan Holterhaus: Yeah, sure. Well, our reach, I would say is… It’s nationwide. We do serve a tight niche, right? So Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Eastern Iowa. Most of our employers that are posting on our board are in this area. We do have a couple say in the Quad Cities, and every once in a while from out of state that we’ll post on our board. A majority of our site visitors are from Eastern Iowa, but we also, and especially lately, we’ve been seeing more and more growth coming from what we would kind of refer to as boomerangs, so maybe people that grew up in Eastern Iowa or in Iowa, moved to Chicago, moved to Minneapolis, Kansas City, and they’re looking for jobs back in Iowa. Some of that could be… Could have been pandemic related, right? So more and more employers are hiring remote jobs or semi-remote jobs, so we are seeing more and more people from around the Midwest and around the nation searching for jobs on Corridor Careers, and we can assume a good majority of those people would be looking to relocate to Iowa, some could be looking for remote work as well.

 

0:11:09.8 SR: Yeah. That’s definitely a niche site targeting a pretty rural state or any geographic area is… After COVID, I think, gonna do a really nice job for those people working to… Looking to work remotely. They don’t have to work in San Francisco anymore, if they wanna live back home where their families are, and you’re gonna be a great resource for them when they’re looking to make that decision. Question for you, one of the things I’ve seen with a number of geographically centered sites, sites that define their niche geographically, is that they very often will partner with other sites that are also geographically focused, but complementary. So in your case, maybe a site that targets the… Minnesota, where I’m at, which borders Iowa or Illinois where Chicago is so massive and only a couple of hours away from the eastern edge of Iowa. What kind of partnerships have you guys looked at and maybe even entered into with some of those other geographically niche sites?

 

0:12:17.3 LK: We haven’t really done any of that type of partnerships. Mostly our partnerships have been with the vendors that we work with to distribute our jobs to multiple sites, so we currently work with Recruitology and AfterCollege to get our site… Get our jobs posted on multiple job boards, and they’re always adding niche boards, so we kinda rely on our vendor to provide us with those partnerships for the most part, but it’s kind of an interesting idea. I just think one of our strengths at Corridor Careers is that we focus on jobs locally and as soon as we kinda blur that with some of these other regions that are kind of far, I mean, the average commute time in Iowa is 15 minutes [laughter], so if you’re gonna… You’re not really looking to commute an hour in Iowa, if you came here you came to the wrong place, so we kinda focus our efforts on maintaining that core for our niche.

 

0:13:11.5 SR: Yeah, it was the Recruitology example that I was actually envisioning. So, for maybe some of the listeners who aren’t familiar with them, maybe talk about how you work with them and how that’s helped your business, because I think it’s… Companies like that provide a lot of value to job boards, whether they’re niche by industry or niche by location, and I think you guys can probably illustrate that really well.

 

0:13:35.4 DH: Yes, absolutely. I can take that one. Yeah, so we kind of like to say we’re a one-stop shop for a job board. So our local employers that we’ve had a relationship with for many, many years, wanna distribute their jobs to national job boards to get in front of more candidates, who wouldn’t wanna do that, right? So Recruitology has been a really nice vendor for us to help get us and our local employers in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa City area access and the ability to distribute jobs out to the Glassdoors, Indeeds, ZipRecruiters of the world. In turn, that helps our employers hire faster, hire better candidates.

 

0:14:15.7 DH: So we have a good amount of visitors from Iowa each month to Corridor Careers, but these large job boards, obviously, I think any time we’re thinking about a job seeker, they’re probably using multiple sites to look for jobs, so Corridor Careers is part of that strategy, but they might also be using Glassdoor or Indeed, something like that, so the more distribution we can get, the better. The other way Recruitology has been really good is, it’s just a feed, so employers can actually do a self-serve job on Corridor Careers, and about… Within an hour that job can be distributed out to those major job boards.

 

0:14:53.9 JD: So I kinda wanted to jump in here because I’ve chatted with you guys a few times in the past on things, and I think one of the things that I remember about what you do is you handle your local marketing really, really well, and you handle content marketing really well, and I was wondering if you could talk to us a little bit about what are some of the different things you’ve done to reach this local market that maybe the typical job board wouldn’t do?

 

0:15:18.2 LK: I don’t know if we’re doing anything that a typical job board doesn’t do. One of the things that we do focus on is kind of our brand mission, and so when it comes to what features we develop on Corridor Careers, we’re very cognizant of, how do we want the experience to be for job seekers. And so for instance, job alerts are a very common feature for job boards, as soon as you sign up on Indeed or any other job board, you’re gonna get this barrage of like, “Get our job alerts,” and you’re gonna get SMS messages, and then maybe your cell phone number will be shared with other partners and you’ll get SMS from all of these different companies. We decided that we were not gonna be that aggressive for our job seekers, we wanna be friendly, helpful, and kickass. And we don’t feel like spamming you with text messages is helpful, friendly, or kickass. And so we try to stay close to that core mission. And so whether we’re marketing on social, we’re building our email list, which is really important right now, we’re kind of thinking, “Okay, what are the features that we’ve developed that we feel are good?” So for one thing, any time we create a feature on Corridor Careers, we try to do our best to make it available to someone who is entering guest checkout. [chuckle]

 

0:16:37.6 LK: So you don’t have to log in to our site in order to see our jobs, to take part, to even do our save a job feature, you don’t have to, we use the browser session to do that, and that’s because we want you to be as anonymous as you wanna be using our services, because that’s the biggest issue with job seekers, is they give up their privacy immediately, and I just don’t feel like that should be the end goal for every job board out there.

 

0:17:02.8 JD: I totally agree with you. I think that’s really smart on your part, and I look at it from a perspective of, I come ultimately from a marketing background, and when job boards ask all these intrusive questions or they make someone create an account just to look at a job or just to get a job alert, it’s friction, and I’ve done tests with clients, I’ve done… I did tests at Dice, it was really obvious, every single time you ask for information you get dropped out, and if you ask for enough information, everyone drops out. So I think what you’re doing is really smart. We’re almost out of time, but I wanted to ask you about your podcast, you guys have a podcast out there. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about it and how it got started and how’s it going?

 

0:17:45.5 LK: Well, Dan is the host of our podcast so he’ll be handling that one.

 

0:17:50.3 DH: Careers & Coffee, yeah. Yeah, we’re probably not quite as consistent as JobBoardGeek’s podcast, I think you’re doing one a week right now, but yeah, Liz and I… I think it was early last year, so probably in March, and I think I was out on a walk after work or something, and I was like, we need to… I sent Liz a message and I was like, “Hey, we should create a podcast, let’s just try it.” I would say it’s been… It has been well received, we have a total of nine subscribers on YouTube right now, so that could probably use some work. And so, yeah, getting back to the marketing aspect of it, right? But yeah, I think overall, we’ve been able to discuss a lot of relevant topics, not only in Eastern Iowa, but what’s going on, and especially during the pandemic, our work transitioned to 100% remote, now we’re back in a hybrid and just a lot of those conversations. We also had opportunities to have interviews with recently hired people, new people that were starting at The Gazette.

 

0:18:52.2 JD: Cool.

 

0:18:52.5 DH: And so those are really interesting, especially with everything that’s going on in hiring over the last year or two, how there was no jobs available, and then it’s like, “Holy cow, we got a shortage of workers,” so it’s just been very interesting to see that progression.

 

0:19:07.9 JD: It sounds like the podcast is… And apart from the value for your listeners, it’s the way for you guys to get closer to the candidates and listeners, and it’s just another way of getting that 360 degree view of what they’re like and where they’re coming from. That’s neat. Congratulations, that’s good to hear. And I’ve listened to it and I’ve enjoyed it, so. Well, listen folks, I’m really glad that you came on to JobBoardGeek, and for our listeners, if they wanna get in touch with each of you, what’s the best way for them to do that, Liz?

 

0:19:38.2 LK: Well, they can just email contact@corridorcareers.com or visit our website at corridorcareers.com. We’d be happy to chat with you and answer any questions that you have.

 

0:19:47.8 JD: So you don’t wanna divulge your personal cell phone number or anything on JobBoardGeek?

 

[laughter]

 

0:19:53.5 LK: No thanks.

 

[laughter]

 

0:19:55.6 JD: Yeah, smart move, smart move. And I don’t think Steven as… In his lawyer mode would let you anyway, so. Well, thanks for coming on, and Steven, if folks wanna get in touch with you, how do they do that?

 

0:20:07.7 SR: Well, they can call your cellphone number and let me give that right now.

 

[laughter]

 

0:20:14.0 SR: They can reach out on LinkedIn, linkedin.com/in/steven, S-T-E-V-E-N, rothberg, or just email me, steven@collegerecruiter.com.

 

0:20:25.8 JD: And I just have to point out to my listeners that I give out my cell phone number so infrequently that Steven was busy sending texts to my landline and didn’t understand why I wasn’t responding to them, and failed fairly reasonably.

 

0:20:40.4 SR: It was so great, because all the responses I got were way more meaningful than our normal conversations.

 

[laughter]

 

0:20:49.9 JD: That’s great. Well, on that note, that’s it for today’s episode of JobBoardGeek, be sure to subscribe via Apple, Spotify or whatever floats your boat out there. This is Jeff Dickey-Chasins, I’m the JobBoardDoctor and you’ve been listening to the only podcast that focuses on the business of connecting candidates and employers. That’s it for today, see you again next time.

 

[music]

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