In this episode of JobBoardGeek, we talk to Roy Baladi of JobsForHumanity. Roy’s start as a Wall Street quant gave little hint of his eventual role in founding JobsForHumanity, a network of job boards that target underserved and diverse candidates. Jeff Dickey-Chasins of JobBoardDoctor and Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter discover how Roy’s initial experience in founding JobsforLebanon led him to refocusing on a bigger audience: the candidates around the world that traditional job sites overlook. Jeff also takes aim at a questionable article using iffy data, while Steven chimes in with his usual sage advice.
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0:00:33.3 JD: Hello, everyone and welcome to JobBoardGeek. I’m Jeff Dickey-Chasins, the job board doctor. I’m your host. This is the podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers. And here with me, I have the sunny Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter. He’s the cohost. Hey Steven, how are you doing?
0:00:53.8 Steven Rothberg: Sunburned, I guess.
0:00:56.3 JD: Yeah. You’ve been standing out in the light of optimism too much, I think. Is that what it is? Well, today we have a great guest. We’re gonna be talking with Roy Baladi of Jobs For Humanities. He’s doing a really interesting thing here. It’s not just one job board, it’s a bunch of job boards. But first, I wanted to talk a little bit about an article which I sort of see is kind of emblematic of a bunch of articles that I’ve seen out there. This one happened to be pulled from Human Resources Executive. So the headline says, “A Staggering Number of People Are Now Afraid of Losing Their Jobs”, and there’s a big circle, and there’s this number that says 9,900%. So I start reading the article in fear and trembling thinking even the job board doctor might lose his job.
0:01:43.8 JD: Well, so what happens when they start talking about is that, this is an analysis by lemon.io, which is a software developer’s marketplace. And what they analyzed were Google search trends using the term, “will I lose my job in a recession over the last 12 months?” So it’s not a survey. And it’s not… There’s nothing rigorous there. It’s really just sort of some trends on Google. I had a couple of reactions to that, because all of us in the industry are dealing with employers and candidates and both of them are very much influenced by information that’s pumped out about the state of the labor market. And, okay, for software developers, which is who this lemon.io is pitching this to. Yeah, they might be a little bit nervous because Microsoft has been laying off. Google’s been laying off. Apple’s been laying off. A lot of these big guys, ’cause they had been going nuts on hiring.
0:02:41.4 JD: But the other side of the story that no one talks about is that the people they lay off almost immediately turn around and get hired again by all the companies that need that talent. It’s not exactly like these people will go on the dole, and, gee, I’m a software developer, will I ever get a job again? But sort of expanding that to the general labor market. One of the things that people don’t tend to keep in balance when they see this kind of article is, we’re in this situation where we’ve had one of the largest expansions or maybe it is the largest expansion of jobs in history in the US. We have one of the lowest rates of unemployment right now that we’ve ever had. We’ve had wage growth. And really the only thing that’s making people nervous in a lot of sectors has been inflation. Guess what? Inflation’s dropping and sort of the marker that people put out there about gas, that’s dropped for literally weeks on end.
0:03:34.2 JD: So it’s interesting when you see these kinds of articles just drop in and at a certain amount of frequency they kind of work against what we try to do with candidates, which is to say, you have the capability and the opportunity to find a job that you want right now. You don’t have to be scared. You can go somewhere. And also on the employers’ side, the employers are… They’re locking down and you’re saying, “Hey, actually look at your spreadsheet. Are you doing okay? Are you continuing to grow?” Then don’t pay any attention to the article. I don’t know. As you can tell, it worked me up. What about you, Steven? What’s your two cents on this?
0:04:11.7 SR: So my two cents is, first of all, I applaud you for using the word dole. That’s very British of you, and so I think any conversation in which somebody can work that word into a sentence is a conversation that I wanna be a part of. So thank you. Yeah. I think what you’re kinda saying is, it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy, right?
0:04:32.0 JD: Right.
0:04:32.1 SR: The sky is falling, the sky is falling, the sky is falling. Is the sky actually gonna fall? It’s like shark attacks that every few years the media gets all crazy about, oh, there’s all these shark attacks and you see the news stories and you think that there are way more shark attacks and there aren’t, there are just more news stories about shark attacks. And so it makes us all feel like there actually are more shark attacks when there actually aren’t. It’s clickbait, right?
0:04:57.3 JD: Right.
0:04:57.3 SR: It’s getting people to be alarmed, click that title of the article, read it and see some banner ads alongside it and then Lemon makes.00001 cents from some kinda programmatic display ad that they get from Google. The other thing, Jeff, that occurred to me when I was having a look at the article is the timeline. They said that it was, that those searches were up what? 9,900%, or something along those lines over the same searches a year ago. Well, who in August of 2021 was worried about a recession?
0:05:35.5 JD: Right.
0:05:35.9 SR: It just wasn’t on the radar. We all knew that there was gonna be another recession, but it wasn’t something that people were worried about a year ago or very many people anyway. I think that the timeline has something to do with this too. The threat of recession right now and some economists would say, “We are in a recession.” Some economists would say, “No. When you got three and a half percent unemployment and so on and so and high inflation, you can’t be in a recession.” It just doesn’t seem that a year ago is a valid comparison to the recessionary talk. If that article had looked at month over month or maybe year over year searches like that for the last 20 years, I think I would pay a lot more attention. You’d see some more trends rather than just sort of two points in time where they’re kinda cherry picking. So my judgment, this article by Lemon is a lemon.
0:06:28.3 JD: Yeah, I wish the article was by Lemon, but the article is actually by a writer at the Human Resources Executive, which is held in some esteem in some corners, to me it felt the like the writer was under the gun and they saw a press release and they’re like, “How can I whip this up into something that’ll get everyone excited.” And having been a writer in the past, I understand that impulse so.
0:06:50.1 SR: Well, I would say they whipped this up but, and got us excited, so mission accomplished.
0:06:54.4 JD: That’s right, if you get the job board doctor frothing away, then you’ve got problems, I tell you. So and anyway, let’s move along. Today, I’m very happy to welcome Roy Baladi of Jobs For Humanity. So welcome to JobBoardGeek, Roy.
0:07:09.5 Roy Baladi: Thank you for having me, Jeff.
0:07:10.9 JD: Yeah, I appreciate you coming on. I wanna start out talking to you the way I often start out with most of our guests, which is how did you get into the recruiting business? And then what was the spark that made you decide, I wanna start Jobs For Humanity, and this network of sites that sort of sits under its umbrella?
0:07:31.7 RB: I used to be a Wall Street trader, and in New York City from 2006 until 2010, first thing that my boss told me at the time is, “You sold your soul.” And I told myself, “That’s a horrible thing to say to a 22-year-old who’s full of ambition,” and had literally just come from the Dominican Republic, building a middle school, and learning about micro-finance. I lost my taste for Wall Street very, very quickly, after I figured out… And I’ve gotten satisfied for about… Learned the thrill and gotten that past my system and being in New York and that strong ambition, and when I left, I felt like I found myself asking myself a question of, Where do I fit? Where do my skills fit? I studied computer science and math and finance in college, went on Wall Street, as a quant at first and a trader, but I do not wanna do this anymore, where do I fit? So that is how I entered into the HR space without even realizing it.
0:08:29.3 RB: Started my first startup, I was 26 years old, raised a million dollars. The whole purpose of it was to build an assessment that would let you know what are the best careers for you based on your skills, what you’re good at, and what you like to do, innately. I built a good product, I did not know how to market it, and then ultimately it failed, but then at 30 years old, I asked myself that exact same questions, where do I fit, because you don’t know what you’re doing when you’re an entrepreneur. And you’re doing a bit of everything, but it’s not really specific. You don’t know what that job title means, use is, and so my algorithm told me that I should point it as a first role to be a Product and Operations Manager at a startup called Learn Best, I looked it up, it was 10 minutes away. Walked to the company, printed my resume, printed the job description and told them, “Hey, I see the job, I can actually do it, or can I talk to someone about it?” They said, “Do you have an appointment?” I said, “No.” “Did you walk off the street?” I said, ‘Technically, yes. And I also saw the job this morning and took the elevator, but I can do that job. So can I talk to someone about it?” And the lady said, “Hey, I’ll talk to you for 10 minutes. I’m the Chief Operating Officer.”
0:09:30.3 RB: And I told her, “What role are you trying to solve, why is this job up?” and she said, “Well, we’re trying to fix scheduling between these potential customers and the financial services professionals, and sometimes the counter gets overlapped.” I told her, “Well, that’s a combinatorics problem.” She’s like, “A what problem?” I said, “Combinatorics. And this is how when you’ve got multiple variables, you find the optimal path.” And so, that turned into a three-hour interview and I got the job the next day. I didn’t last very long there, I didn’t really enjoy operations, and I ended up at SmartRecruiters at… It’s a series A stage startup, and I continued my journey in the recruitment tech space. The way I started Jobs For Humanity, started because I was volunteering in prisons, at Tellico Bay State Prison for first time I went there, and I stayed there for five years, going time and time again, and realized how men who were my parents age, up to my parents age and older, who looked so hard on the outside, tattooed up, actually were really, really good souls and kids, and thirsty for affection, thirsty for appreciation and a shot at life, at that age, in their 60s and 70s.
0:10:38.4 RB: And the more I got to know who they are, the more I realized that you can really change as a human being, and a lot of them would get out of prison early, and because they had actually changed and they would have… When they go to the parole board and they’d get through but they couldn’t get the job.
0:10:53.3 RB: That was one of the main impetuses for starting Jobs For Humanity.
0:10:56.0 JD: Thanks. I think our paths first crossed when you were at Smart Recruiter, so I didn’t know a lot of the background, but it’s not surprising what you said, ’cause everything that I’ve learned about you from those days and just being friends on Facebook, it’s like, Okay, yeah, that fits, that fits, that fits. This is not somebody who’s personality changed a year ago and was something completely… When you started talking about Wall Street, it’s like, wait a second, are we interviewing the same person I thought we were interviewing? But one of the things that I saw you sharing on Facebook, gosh, I think it goes back a couple of years ago now, was the work that you’d done with in Jobs for Lebanon, and there was that big explosion in Lebanon Harbor, talk with us, if you might, about some of the sites that you have under Jobs For Humanity, what their missions are, and also for the job boarders who are listening to this, how they might be able to help support your mission.
0:11:53.7 RB: So the jobs for Lebanon page is JobsforLebanon.com, I started it when the country went bankrupt. It’s hard to understand what that means, unless I tell you, imagine going to the bank, Bank of America, Chase, whichever, and then they tell you, “Sorry, the bank is closed.” You just can’t open the door, you try to log in online, and they say the site is down, you’re like, “But I got my bank and my money with you. Let me just get it out and I’ll be fine.” You can’t speak to a human, you can’t access that bank. Imagine that happening to every person in the country. Well, that’s what happened to Lebanon, one day to the next. Small caveat, the fine print is that you could take $300 out once a month, and in local currency and the local currency is devalued twenty to one. So basically, you can get $5 out. So that’s literally what happened to the country, and therefore no one could hire and everybody had to fire just about everybody they had or just not pay them. So me and a few friends started JobsforLebanon.com, built it on top of SmartRecruiters where I used to work, so that we can have a solid backend and then an elegant frontend and launch a campaign for Lebanese around the world to higher Lebanese in Lebanon on a freelance basis, figure it out, like you don’t have to go through the whole immigration part, just on a contract basis, you’ve got really smart people, who just entered the labor force, skip the line, hire them.
0:13:05.8 RB: That very quickly became a strong rallying cry in… Resonated within the country, a lot of volunteers joined and we quickly became the largest job site in the country. A few months later… So that was in December of 2019. March 2020, COVID hit. June 2020, or actually August 2020 is when the explosion rocked the entire country. I was there and surprised… And first of all, shocked, and I didn’t know what the heck happened, but surprised afterwards that really nothing happened to me, because I was just like less than a thousand yards from the port of Beirut, but that gave me a resolve, realizing that your money can go overnight, your health can go overnight, your home can go overnight, and there’s nothing you can do about it, ’cause you can’t even fix your house because your money is stuck in a bank that doesn’t exist anymore. People who’ve watched Grant Heist on Netflix or wherever, well, that’s literally what happened in Lebanon just a couple of years ago.
0:13:53.8 RB: So I decided to quit everything and started Jobs For Humanity, which is… And I already had the template. I already had Jobs for Lebanon. And I had the site up, a site up that I could turn into a factory of job boards for underrepresented communities. And I had the backend in place. I knew how to launch a campaign. So JobsForHumanity.com houses multiple job sites, which is jobs for the blind and low vision, the neurodivergent, single mothers, refugees, the formerly incarcerated ethnic minorities, and now we’re adding baby boomers. The whole point is to be able to call onto welcoming employers to hire people from underrepresented communities and draw a straight line between where I am today, which is I want to hire people from underrepresented communities, I don’t know where to find them, and I am able to create a safe space for them, whether we’re talking about the interview process.
0:14:36.0 RB: So putting together a good training, a diversity training for each one of the communities, very practical insights and program, and then how to create a welcoming space once they are in the company. So that’s what Jobs For Humanity is, and also, people can participate, just go on the site. There are volunteering opportunities that are by and large volunteer-led and as well as opportunities where if you work at a company and you want to hire people from underrepresented groups, there are almost a hundred thousand job seekers who are looking for work, highly qualified. I really mean when I say highly qualified, like 20 years of experience in robotics kind of qualified and… So post jobs or reach out to us and then have your organization work with us, and if you’re a job seeker, there is a path for you.
0:15:20.0 SR: Are there partnership opportunities that you have for other job boards?
0:15:22.8 RB: Absolutely. The way we’ve grown, and the way we grow is by partnering with just about anybody who has their hearts in the right place. So our job posts, we post them in various other job boards. We’ve partnered with so many local nonprofits, and like 40 of them, Lighthouse for the Blind, Be My Eyes, The Frist Center for Autism and Innovation, The Michigan Alliance, Talent Beyond Boundaries. A lot of these organizations hires so on and so forth. And we offer a path for their job seekers to be able to find work. We’ve partner with diversity job boards by posting jobs there, so absolutely.
0:15:58.6 JD: One final question and then we have to close it up, unfortunately, but is there a revenue model that’s going on here? Is there money going back and forth from the employers to the job boards to help support the infrastructure?
0:16:12.5 RB: Yeah, there is. So the model that we have in place for companies that want to work with us at a company-wide level is tiered, so for a 1,000 a month, you can hire up to five individuals, for 2,500 a month, you can hire up to 15 individuals a year, and we’re very flexible with it, and every time you hire someone and let’s say this person was referred by, Be My Eyes, for example, we’d offer Be My Eyes $1,000. So we’d averaged it out so that cost of hire to an employer averages around 1,500 per hire versus a 4,000 something average. And then we give back a $1,000 for local organizations, which means that we give back a third of the revenue that we make back to local organizations and candidates themselves to keep the social impact ethos in our charter.
0:17:00.4 JD: That makes a lot of sense, Roy, and it sounds like a great model and obviously, it’s worked so far. Well, listen, it’s been great chatting with you and learning a bit more about what’s going on with Jobs For Humanity, and I encourage our audience to go and take a look at all their different sites and see if that’s something that you might want to partner with and in terms of your site ’cause we reach a lot of job boards that do diversity and work with underserved populations. But Roy, if folks want to get in touch with you directly, how do they do that?
0:17:31.9 RB: You can reach out to me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn, and if you go on the site, if you send a message to contact us, it’s a small team and I get every one of those messages. So any of these messages or ways are good.
0:17:47.6 JD: Great. That sounds wonderful. Well, thanks again. And Steven, if people want to get in touch with you, how do they do that?
0:17:54.3 SR: Shoot me an email. Steven, S-T-E-V-E-N@collegerecruiter.com. And I want to thank Roy, your team, Jerome Ternynck, the people at SmartRecruiters for really helping to make this world a little bit of a better place. Thank you.
0:18:09.7 JD: And folks, that’s it for today’s episode of JobBoardGeek. I want to encourage you to subscribe on Spotify, Apple, whatever floats your boat. And 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 it for now. We’ll see you again next time. Bye.