In this episode of JobBoardGeek, we talk to Elizabeth Willetts of InvestingInWomen, an U.K. job board focused on part-time and flexible work for moms. Elizabeth was frustrated with employers that didn’t support part-time positions, and so she built a site that focused on those companies that offered those types of jobs. Jeff Dickey-Chasins of JobBoardDoctor and Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter discover some of the challenges she faced (such as buggy software), and how she’s managed a site with both high- and low-touch hiring solutions. Steven finds a listing by Indeed for their internal development team’s white-label job product; Jeff feels like it’s deja vu all over again.
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0:00:34.7 JD: Hello, everyone. And welcome to JobBoardGeek. It’s the podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers. My name is Jeff Dickey-Chasins. I’m the Job Board Doctor. I am your host. And with me today, I have the SEO curious Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter. He’s the co-host. Hey Steven, how are you doing?
0:00:53.1 Steven Rothberg: I’m good. I’m trying to think of some keywords to use in response to that.
0:00:56.8 JD: You know, I just thought after our last session with Peter and Nick that describing you as SEO curious is probably a good thing.
0:01:04.7 SR: I’ve been called many things in the past. And that’s definitely not nearly the worst. So we’ll go with it.
0:01:10.9 JD: Yeah, I’ll have to come up with something worse for next time. So today we have Liz Willetts of Investing in Women. She’s gonna be on the show in a little bit. But first of all, I wanna talk a little bit about something that you actually brought to my attention. Amazingly enough, it was a job posting by a little old company called Indeed. And the job is for a programmer to work on their product that they call Cortex, which is essentially a white label job board platform. Indeed says that they’re going to use this platform to work with their partners and help provide the high tech and highly useful job search experience for these partners that they provide on their own site. It was kind of funny. I looked at it and thought, “Well, okay, that’s smart.” And then my second reaction was, “Why did it take them so long?” And then my third reaction was, “This is like Back to the Future.”
0:02:01.6 JD: And I say that because when I was with Dice back in ’97, one of the first things that I worked on was putting our technology in the hands of a lot of our employers because they didn’t have the capability of really powering their own career sites at that point. It was much more primitive time. But CareerBuilder’s done stuff like this. I know Monster did a whole lot of this. So it’s a time honored tradition in the job board industry. I just think, like I said, it’s kind of funny that they weren’t doing it before now. Maybe they did that before and they called it the Prefrontal Cortex or something. I don’t know. Anyway, that was a bad joke.
0:02:39.9 JD: So feel free to laugh. So, Steven, what do you think about this?
0:02:43.1 SR: I love the way you put the, Back to the Future. Just because an idea is an old idea it doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.
0:02:49.0 JD: Right.
0:02:49.5 SR: And where this came to my attention was one of our developers is working remotely for a while in Japan. And he has developer friends in Japan who sent this posting to him and basically said, “Is this kind of what you do?” And it’s like, “Yeah, sorta.” But you know what it really reminds me of is when Indeed launched or shortly after that. And they did a really amazing job of partnering with job boards.
0:03:18.0 JD: Right.
0:03:19.0 SR: Where they sold traffic to job boards. Job boards could send them feeds of jobs and we were getting, I think, something like 80,000 candidates coming to us a month because of providing Indeed with job postings, job posting content. They also had sort of the flip side where they would provide you with Backfill. And it was an API that you basically bolted onto your search results. So if you had five jobs that matched the user’s search, Indeed would then show that user another 50,000 jobs or whatever from their database. And the sites that had more traffic would get paid for that. So that was one of our bigger revenue streams for years, was that Backfill from Indeed, this seems really similar to that. I think it’s a great idea. One of the things that I was kinda curious about though is why there isn’t much information available about it yet, other than through the job posting. ‘Cause I did a little bit of Googling and I could find almost nothing on this Cortex product. So stay tuned. I think over the next maybe, what, three months, maybe six months, we’re probably gonna see a lot more of this.
0:04:33.6 JD: Yeah. Well I’ll be curious. I mean, we’ve both been around long enough to know that these things pop up and then they sort of rumble around and then they disappear. And you never know why they disappeared. You just know that the company quit working on it or shut it down or whatever. Anyway, today I’m very happy to announce that we’ve got Liz Willetts of Investing In Women on the show. Liz, welcome to JobBoardGeek.
0:04:58.9 Elizabeth Willetts: Thank you so much for having me. I was saying I listen every week to this podcast so I’m so excited that you invited me. So thank you.
0:05:05.9 JD: It’s always wonderful to hear that someone listens to the podcast. So thank you very much on that. I originally found out about you through LinkedIn, if I remember correctly, and then you just told me that you bought my book. So thank you for that as well. But I was wondering if you could sort of give us a rundown of how you got started on Investing In Women. I know that you had a background in recruiting.
0:05:28.1 EW: Yeah.
0:05:28.7 JD: But why did you do that, and how did it get started and who are you targeting with the site?
0:05:35.3 EW: Yes, so I started… Well, I was… My background is recruitment. So I’ve been in recruitment for 15 years. So both agency and in house and was made redundant during the height of the pandemic from my recruitment role. And I have… Well, they’re still small, but they were very small at the time. They were one and three. I have two children. And I wanted another part-time job that I could still fit around them. And every time a recruiter approached me and I asked, would they consider part-time? They said no straight away or ghosted me. And it just got me really crossed ’cause I’ve seen this happen to so many of my friends that they ended up having to take a role that was way below their skill set, experience level, pay grade, just in exchange for that flexibility. And I think that that is such a huge contributory factor to the gender pay gap because too many women are forced out of work, because statistically women do twice as much, housework, childcare, care and responsibilities, etcetera. So they need flexible working at the moment more than men. I think that more jobs should be open to flexible working. So yeah, so I got really sort of quite passionate about it and knew, understand recruitment. I’m denied about becoming just an independent recruitment consultant.
0:06:55.3 EW: And then I must have just, I don’t know, I must have seen an advert somehow. You know how cookies follow you for a job bot software. And I thought, actually, if I did that, I could help more people because I wouldn’t have to niche down as much. So it was always the plan, but I decided I needed to build up my confidence. I started blogging, just posting on social media about 18 months ago, and then launched Investing In Women as the job bot last June. So still, just over a year old. And in terms of who it helps, I mean, it mostly does help moms that are looking to either get back into work after a career break or looking for part-time or flexible work that they can fit around their families. That is the core market, but I’ve helped dads, I’ve helped students, helped people that are approaching retirement that want flexible work that don’t wanna do traditional 9:00 to 5:00 in an office. And the roles are predominantly corporate, head officey type positions that you’d find those individuals on LinkedIn. But, yeah, all sorts of roles really within corporate head office.
0:07:58.5 JD: And have you found over the course of the year that you’ve been doing this, that remote work has become more accepted because of the pandemic or? ‘Cause I mean it’s a big deal here in the US.
0:08:08.3 EW: It’s such a big deal and it’s becoming really expected as well. Even chatting to recruiters that I know that aren’t specialized in flexible work. They tell me that their candidates want that flexibility and the jobs they’re struggling to fill are the ones that are 9:00 to 5:00 in an office. It’s just so odd how it’s all changed. Even my candidates are like rejecting the… We’ve got hybrid, concept hybrid, so it’s like three days in an office, two days from home. And my candidates now have viewed that as full time not flex, whereas I think pre-pandemic, everyone would’ve thought that was great, actually, that was quite flexible. But I think, but the boundaries have been pushed. It’s a lot more accepted, people… A lot of my clients are really open about, “Oh yeah, it’s full time, but they can do the school run. They can catch up from work in the evening. We do that.” I think the pandemic really changed it and people doing Zoom calls, their kids walking in, people realize that jobs aren’t the most important thing to people. People’s lives and families, and a job is just a part of that. And the employees that are hiring that are gonna do well are the ones that recognize that.
0:09:14.7 SR: I totally agree with that Liz. So many bad things came out of COVID, but one of the good things that came out of COVID is that we all realized that we’re all people.
0:09:21.3 EW: Yeah.
0:09:21.4 SR: And we have our own lives and families and interests and we work to make money and we work hopefully for fulfillment. But at the end of the day, we also still go home and we have little kids to take care of or whatever.
0:09:36.4 EW: Yeah.
0:09:36.5 SR: Or in my case, a dog. [chuckle] Yeah.
0:09:38.6 EW: Yeah.
0:09:39.4 SR: And also just as an aside, you made a reference to remote working.
0:09:43.6 EW: Yeah.
0:09:44.1 SR: And you may have seen that earlier this week that the Netherlands became, I think, the first country to pass legislation that guaranteed the right to work remotely.
0:09:55.1 EW: Yeah.
0:09:55.2 SR: So if it’s a recruiting job or something along those lines where the work can be done from home you now, in the Netherlands, have the right to do that work from. The Dutch are cool.
0:10:06.3 EW: Yeah.
0:10:06.7 SR: Question for you. Speaking of LinkedIn, I think that’s come up like maybe the third or fourth time in just a few minutes. I saw on LinkedIn the other day a nice photo of you.
0:10:16.4 EW: Oh, yeah.
0:10:16.9 SR: And you were sort of holding up a trademark that you had just received.
0:10:21.5 EW: Yeah.
0:10:21.5 SR: It’s not something that we’ve talked about on the show yet about protecting your intellectual property in that way, your brand name, but maybe you can kind of walk the listeners through why you felt it was important to protect the name and what was involved in doing that.
0:10:39.7 EW: Yeah.
0:10:41.0 SR: And because I think a lot of listeners probably have never really even thought about doing something like that.
0:10:45.5 EW: It never occurred to me either and then I bought a course. You know, you find these online courses and did… And he was like, “Yeah, you need to trademark.” And then I looked and saw that actually some of my competitors had trademarked. So I thought, I just don’t want to run the risk of losing my name after, especially, you know, if this takes off and like three, four years down the line and then you lose your name and that’s then obviously a disaster for any business. So yeah, I couldn’t trademark Investing In Women the words because it was supposedly too descriptive. So I had a logo designed that was unique to me. So we’ve trademarked the logo. You can’t trademark something off canvas that’s just a template. It has to be a unique logo that’s been designed from scratch. So I got a graphic designer to design a logo and then we trademarked the logo. So yeah. But my friend she’s an IP lawyer, so she gave me some advice and then yeah. Once we’ve got the logo done, it was really easy. So it was in the, probably different in the US, but in the UK it was like they checked it for a hundred pounds to check that they could trademark it. And then it was an extra a hundred pounds to trademark. Took about eight weeks. It wasn’t too big.
0:11:58.5 SR: Sounds like a good friend to have. So you’ll share her contact information and Jeff can get the same rate from her as…
0:12:06.7 EW: Yeah. [chuckle]
0:12:09.0 JD: Yeah. Yeah. So Liz, I’m kind of curious, you talked about starting the business and how you sort of evolved there. What’s been the biggest challenge that you’ve had during this first year?
0:12:22.0 EW: Yeah. I mean, oh gosh, loads. I thought it was gonna be easier than it is, or was. I think everyone thinks that I just thought, “Oh, I’ll just place this job board and then all the traffic will come,” and it’s not been as easy like that, I’ve had to work so much harder than I thought I would. Probably the biggest thing was I had to rebuild the website, which was at the time, felt disastrous, because I’d employed someone to build it on a recommendation. She built it. It was really buggy. And then she got a job. So she was like a freelancer and then she got a proper job, another job. And so I had to move to a developer that she’d recommended and then they looked at it and said, she’d just like made an absolute mess of it. And I didn’t really know on the backend, but I know now, she’d used two different page builders, which supposedly you’re not meant to do it. It’s on WordPress. So yeah, they were like, “Basically you’ve got two captains steering the ship,” [chuckle] or something like that. So they had to rebuild it all from scratch and it was really expensive ’cause I had to do it twice.
0:13:25.8 JD: I wish I could say that I’ve never heard this story before, but I kind of feel like I talk to people once or twice a month that are in the same situation where they go in and they think, “Well, you know, we’re gonna build this platform,” and something like what you’re talking about happens. Or the developers decide that they’re bored and they just leave and you’ve got a half built platform. Or the developers didn’t actually understand how to build a job board, that’s not uncommon. I had one client that I think spent over $100,000 on his job board and it still didn’t work right. But it sounds like you’re in a pretty good zone at this point with the site.
0:14:05.8 EW: I’ve got a really good development now. After all that, I’ve got somebody that I work with really well. He’s a freelancer, he’s really responsive if something… It’s not buggy anymore. And just touch words, seems to run. [laughter]
0:14:21.8 JD: Yeah. My acid test for software is if I don’t have to deal with it, then I consider it to be very good software, if it works. So I’m kind of curious about your revenue model. I think I understand it, but I was, when I was sort of poking around on the side, it sounds like you kind of run the range from a standard job posting, paper post model, all the way up to providing hand-holding and recruiting.
0:14:47.4 EW: Yeah, I do. I feel like it’s like a hybrid. I feel like it’s a half job board, half recruitment agency. My background is recruitment rather than tech or job board. And I started this job board with my redundancy money, which was like 5,000 pounds, I think like $8,000. I had no advertising budget. I had to be really scrappy. The person that designed my logo, she was a student. And so I had a mentor at the time who said, “You’re gonna have to build a personal brand.” So that’s why I’m so heavily on LinkedIn and because of that, candidates messaging me all the time, which was great. And so, to begin, I was like, “Oh gosh, they’re messaging me all the time. I’m not a recruiter.” But actually I’ve gone with it. So like a recruiter would do, I’ve categorized everybody based upon like their skills and experience.
0:15:38.0 EW: So a job board advert starts at 195 pounds, or $250 or something. And then, so it’s probably a bit more, it is more expensive than like an Indeed or another more generalist site. But then once an advert has posted, ’cause I’ve now got like tens of thousands of people all categorized, I approach those relevant people I know within my network, encouraging them to apply like a job, like recruitment agency. And then I also offer additional sourcing, packages. So I sometimes feel like I also like do freelance recruitment for people, ’cause I can do the sourcing on LinkedIn. I also do the full, I call them, VIP packages where I do first stage interviews. And then if they want additional help, I can arrange all the interviews and the offers, etcetera. So yeah, that’s how it works. There’s different packages.
0:16:27.0 JD: It’s interesting ’cause you kinda run from a low touch to a high touch offering.
0:16:32.0 EW: Yeah.
0:16:32.1 JD: And there’s lots of different types of clients and so it’s nice to have that flexibility that you can offer that. So what’s the next big stage, or have you thought that way about the business in terms of something that you want to do in the next year?
0:16:45.8 EW: Well, I really want to do a podcast, so it’s quite nice to be a guest.
0:16:49.9 EW: And so, every week I do LinkedIn and Facebook Lives to my… I’ve got a Facebook group and so I’d quite like to turn that into a podcast. And I would obviously love to be able to serve more clients. So I think the next stage would be getting another recruiter on board to help with the sourcing. So I’ve got VA at the moment and somebody that does marketing and social media, but it would be good to get more support in terms of candidate sourcing. I’m trying to… My market is quite, even though it’s quite broad, it’s still quite niche ’cause it’s sort of people looking for flexible corporate roles. So it’s not like I get a lot of referrals, which is quite nice.
0:17:26.8 JD: So, and this is just me being curious about what works. I noticed that one of the social channels that you promote on your site is Instagram.
0:17:36.8 EW: Yeah.
0:17:37.5 JD: And I’m just curious, does that get you much response with either people that are hiring or people that are looking?
0:17:44.0 EW: I’d say LinkedIn is like my number one, if I lost LinkedIn, I’d be like distraught. Whereas if I lost Instagram, I wouldn’t want marks for my tears, but I’d probably take a leave it. When I look at all my traffic sources, my highest traffic sources are LinkedIn and Facebook. I get a lot from Facebook, through Facebook, my Facebook group and other Facebook groups.
0:18:01.0 JD: Have, have you ever tried TikTok?
0:18:02.3 EW: I posted a couple videos, but not really. I don’t really use it as a user, so I think it’s quite hard. I love, actually love LinkedIn as a user as well, and as a consumer and…
0:18:13.4 SR: Yeah, Jeff, I think I know where you’re going with the TikTok. If I understand correctly, I love it because I could totally see Liz spotlighting… Kind of here’s somebody who came to our site and this is her story and this is how she found a job and look at her now, you know, kind…
0:18:32.5 EW: Yeah.
0:18:32.8 SR: And if you were to do that over and over and over again, I think you’d build up a real cult following.
0:18:37.4 EW: Alright. You made me want to try TikTok now.
0:18:40.3 SR: Yeah. I mean when I first came across you and the message, one thing that really came across to me is you’ve got just this very authentic passion and energy. And you’re an… You’re not just somebody running a job board and making money off of clicks or selling postings. I think you’ve got a really genuine admiration for the candidates who are using your site.
0:19:03.3 EW: Yeah, I do. I love them. I think that’s, I genuinely love them.
0:19:07.4 SR: Yeah. And it comes across and I don’t know how you’re doing it. If it’s an accident, keep up the accident. If it’s deliberate, keep that up. But it really comes through and I think that TikTok would be a great way to… Because you can just be you.
0:19:25.0 EW: Okay.
0:19:26.0 SR: And be talking to people where a whole lot of other people in our industry that are really just more on the finance side and actually don’t really care all that much about the candidate, you know?
0:19:35.8 EW: Yeah.
0:19:36.0 SR: For them to do interviews like that, they’re gonna have to pretend to be something they’re not, and that just doesn’t work.
0:19:40.8 EW: I’ll try TikTok.
0:19:41.8 SR: And, and if that works, then you can send a commission, I’ll give you my address.
0:19:47.9 EW: Obviously. Yeah.
0:19:50.0 JD: Yeah. Yeah. Steven is always looking at the angles here, you know.
0:19:54.3 EW: I know TikTok… I think TikTok is like the new Instagram. Just when you read the news and Instagram’s obviously copying TikTok.
0:20:02.4 SR: It’s back to the future.
0:20:05.3 JD: Well, genuinely, I was just curious because I was out to lunch with some people that I used to work with at Dice, 30 years ago. And they were like, “Are any of your clients using TikTok?” And I’m like, “Not that I know of.” And they’re like, “Oh, you should be doing it. It’s incredible. And blah, blah, blah, blah.” And I’m like…
0:20:22.3 EW: I will try it ’cause I’ve heard. I’ve heard people like the reach, you guys, it’s amazing. Like so much better than Instagram.
0:20:28.3 SR: What I actually heard was Jeff saying that he was out to lunch and the rest of it just kind of faded away from me.
0:20:36.3 JD: Yeah. Well, thank you Steven, for that comment.
0:20:38.8 SR: You’re welcome.
0:20:39.9 JD: Liz, if any of our listeners want to get ahold of you, what’s the best way for them to do that? I assume it would be through LinkedIn, right?
0:20:46.3 EW: Through LinkedIn. Yes. I’m Elizabeth Willetts on LinkedIn, but everyone calls me Liz, but I’m Elizabeth Willetts on LinkedIn. And you can email me at email@example.com. I’ve got a Facebook group called Working Mums UK. You’re more than welcome to join. I’m trying to think. Yeah, LinkedIn is where, I’ve always got a LinkedIn tab open. [chuckle]
0:21:09.0 JD: Okay. Okay. And listeners I’d say that her last name has got two L’s and two T’s in it.
0:21:15.9 EW: Yeah, that’s right. And an S at the end.
0:21:17.4 JD: Steven, if anyone wants to get ahold of you, how do they do that?
0:21:20.3 SR: There’s are no T’s in my first name. Well, actually, no, there is. Darn it. Darn it. Oh man. You can tell it’s a Friday.
0:21:26.6 JD: He just learned how to spell his first name a couple weeks ago.
0:21:28.0 SR: No kidding, man. It’s like, what am I, three-years-old? So it’s, shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
0:21:36.6 JD: Great. Well, thanks again for coming on Liz, it’s been wonderful.
0:21:39.2 EW: Thank you.
0:21:39.9 JD: And folks, that’s it for today’s episode of JobBoardGeek. Be sure to subscribe via Apple or Spotify or whatever else you’d like to subscribe to. Again, my name is Jeff Dickey-Chasins, Job Board Doctor, and you’ve been listening to the only podcast about connecting candidates and employers. That’s all for now. We’ll see you again next time.