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Keith Potts, Evenbase, Evolution And The Hottest Prospects For Digital Recruitment In 2020

I was lucky enough to get an early look at some extensive research from Evenbase titled “The evolution of digital recruitment: The hottest markets in 2020″. It makes for interesting reading and it is published this morning. Evenbase are one of the worlds leading digital recruitment groups (Full description at the end of the post.)

The research was conducted by MBA & Company in late 2012, and took in to account factors like GDP growth potential, level of employment, maturity of digital recruitment, mobile adoption, social media integration and other factors. I got to discuss this research at length with Evenbase CEO Keith Potts, to understand a little better what this research means from one of the veterans of the industry. A conversation with Potts about anything is always illuminating and enjoyable, and this was no different.

The culmination of the research is the production of the Evenbase hot list of who they believe will be the top 10 countries for digital recruiting by 2020. This is the list in order:

1. Brazil –A young, confident and ambitious market, Brazil has growth potential on many levels and is known to be digitally innovative.

2. India – India’s sheer economic growth potential makes it an exceptionally interesting market. Only serious development imbalances keep from the top slot.

3. China – Although significant political and cultural challenges remain, the sheer growth performance and destiny of the world’s largest economy make it attractive.

4. US – Expected to stay a dynamic, innovative economic powerhouse and driver of change in digital recruitment over the next few years.

5. Australia – Another confident and ambitious AsiaPac country, Australia’s skill shortages make it ripe for innovation in digital recruitment.

6. Japan – This massive, technologically innovative economy is undergoing cultural change after many years of stagnation.

7. Canada – Although small in size, Canada has been fast to adopt new ideas, with a range of unique opportunities for the introduction to the new digital recruitment offerings.

8. Germany – Considered as the European economic powerhouse for the foreseeable future, and currently undergoing significant labour market changes

9. Russia – A wild card, Russia is beset by deep political and economic issues but has a range of opportunities to unlock its untapped potential.

10. Mexico / UK – Mexico, another wild card, is highly problematic at present but has the potential to suddenly take off and become the new Brazil. The UK has significant economic growth issues but is traditionally one of the world’s largest recruitment markets.

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I discussed these results with Potts to get his take on what the research means, and what the big surprises were. He cited Mexico being on a par with the UK, the high ranking of Australia and Brazil ranking above China. The thinking behind China was that there is still plenty of uncertainty around the future political situation in China. This was certainly the message I took back from #truSingapore and #truHongKong. By contrast, Mexico is showing stability year on year, and Australia has a huge demand for technical and engineering staff that will fuel growth in digital media, particularly given geographical challenges. Competition is another key consideration, and what is already established in the market. The report cites the example of Japan, which offers great potential, but has a well established and very competitive local market. There are 3 times more employment agencies in Japan than their nearest competitor. When a market is so well established and populated by competitors, better to explore the growing markets which offer more potential and a less developed market.

The scarcity of labour is another consideration, along with pay. Where jobs are harder to fill, and the salaries are higher, then there is more demand and greater reward for digital recruiting. I was surprised to read that the salary for an executive post in Brazil is double that of the US, which goes some way to explaining the top spot for Brazil.

Keith Potts

Potts sees the rise in adoption of mobile and mobile apply anywhere being one of the main game changers in digital recruitment over the coming years. The when and where people are looking to use mobile for web search and applications will have a massive impact on the digital products in these countries. The brands that get this right will gain a real competitive advantage, hence the importance of mobile to Evenbase.

How this manifests is going to be dictated by understanding the local market. A good example of this is India and the US, where the cost of data access compared to what we know in Europe means text messaging features much higher than  mobileweb access. Whilst there are global trends, each of the countries have their own unique problems which calls for a local solution. Potts sums this up in the report with the comment:      

” Globalisation levels some playing fields, but national identities remain complex – models that work in Belgium will probably not work in Brazil”

This is why Evenbase invests so much time and effort in to local partners who really understand what is going on in their own back yard.

Potts sees Workana as being one of the rising stars in the group because of the service they offer. Evenbase recently invested in the Argentinian start-up, who are fast becoming the region’s leader in brokering freelance work on-line. Potential clients post work (rather than jobs on the site), and freelancers pitch for the work by presenting their portfolio. Customers can check references on previous work, social recognition, endorsements, etc. through the site, and the more the freelancers work through the platform, the higher their ranking. With more and more jobs converting to work and projects, and the rise in freelancing and working from home, this platform has the potential to grow quickly, and globally. They are another string to the Evenbase bow.

I asked Potts how he felt this shift, and the rise in digital recruiting would impact on recruitment agencies, after all  if Evenbase are making it easier to connect employees and employers, and contractors and contracts with contractors without the need for the middleman, then the market potential must be shrinking. Potts was quick to dismiss this, explaining, “We are talking about people not products, and people are incredibly complex. As long as companies need people, agencies have a part to play. Many (though not all) direct hiring organisations are behind the sourcing capability of the agencies, and this means agencies will be around for years to come, even if the market is shrinking”. We share the view though that many agencies will need to work harder on relationships, becoming career managers rather than people placers, but like the job boards, they are a long way from dead yet.

I spoke with Potts about how he sees job boards evolving over the coming years. He highlighted the changing pricing models giving the examples of Jobsite.Co.Uk and the US launch of Jobsite.Com. Whilst Jobsite.Co.Uk currently operate a pay per post  model, Jobsite.Com utilise scraping technology to post jobs (at no charge) from company career sites, offering job seekers up to 4 times as much relevant content, using social profiles and Evenbase’s semantic matching technology, Jobtology, to offer up only jobs they are qualified for. Customers pay for access to candidates who fit and have expressed an interest in the opportunity, in a pay per performance model. Potts highlighted that it was important to understand these new markets, in order to offer the best digital products for each of them on a local basis.

Potts feels semantic matching, and Jobtology in particular, will play a big part in improving candidate experience and quality of response by only offering jobs or candidates that are relevant. I shared the research from the UK #CandE’s that the average response needed to fill a job is 85 applicants, and that an average of 70% of these applicants are unqualified. Only 20% of applicants see anything other than the job ad before they apply, hence the mismatch.  Potts pointed out that Jobtology uses social profiles and other data to match potential candidates only to jobs where there is a fit, and this will significantly change these numbers, after all, if applicants don’t see jobs they don’t fit, there is no danger they will apply. This will see a reduction of jobs by e-mail, and other filtered services, with matching and messaging by the most appropriate channel, such as mobile. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

I asked Potts where the aggregators like Indeed and Evenbase own Jobrapido fitted in to this brave new world. His reply was that Vito (Lomele), the Jobrapido founder can take content from any job board in the world and serve it up to. JobRapido have a presence in 55 countries, and are the number one job site in many of these locations. This doesn’t mean that all of these countries will be a priority (hence the research), but it does give Evenbase a foot in the door. Growth in new territories by Jobrapido will come by investment in those countries who are displaying the best potential for GDP growth, a key factor in the research.

Given the growth of Jobrapido and competitor Indeed across the globe, i asked Potts how this had impacted on the domestic job boards. My thinking was that there was now only a need to advertise on one board, and the job would go viral via the aggregators. Potts responded that recruiters haven’t caught up with this yet, and that 95% of advertisers go for the job board model. The remaining 5% opt are smarter and go for a joint approach. Whilst any job can, and will end up in the aggregation channels, it is the sponsored ads that get front page listings and promotions. An increasing amount of the aggregator revenue stream is coming from job boards, who recognize the additional traffic and response driven by these platforms. Interestingly, spend on both job boards and aggregators are continuing to increase. What is clear from the Evenbase strategy is that whichever way customer spend goes, and it may switch as more companies look to join the smart 5% who invest in both, they have both options covered. Jobrapido is proving a shrewd acquisition by the group.

Away from the job boards and aggregators, Potts highlights the new products that are being developed by Broadbean to support direct sourcing efforts. The first launch will be a universal search tool, that will enable recruiters to search across multiple channels from one place. Whilst they are not ready to share yet, there are a number of new products on the road map that Pott’s feels will make a real difference to recruiters. It will be interesting to see what is coming next, because Potts was clearly excited by the prospect.

We concluded the conversation by talking about the last piece of the digital jigsaw, social media and social recruiting. Potts has a clear view of where social meets traditional media.  He sees social as the natural partner for digital recruiting. There is the benefit of being able to integrate social profiles in to matching without the need for candidates to submit data, particularly when you consider mobile. Social channels like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter give potential  candidates the opportunity to become aware of companies through employer branding content. The research places less importance on social media, and the likelihood of job seekers turning to social in their search. I think this is an area that sometimes confuses job seekers. Whilst they may not expect to apply in a social channel, the time spent by users in the channels means they can only be influenced in all of their decision-making by the content they come across whilst browsing. It is a little bit like the mobile questions, where job seekers often  rank mobile as not important, not because they don’t want to apply by mobile, technology means it is not really an option at the moment. The result is that it is not a consideration. This will only increase response in other areas of digital media, and open up opportunities for social sourcing through the Broadbean products.

After the call, I had the opportunity to reflect on the first conversation I had with Potts when he was announcing the launch of Evenbase, and the thinking behind forming a combined digital media offering across the DMGT brands, and the second conversation after they had acquired Jobrapido. The strategy was to take the brands global, look for new investments and products that strengthened the group, and to be able to develop an offering in all areas of digital media. This was a big plan, but it looks like it is paying off in a relatively short space of time. Having witnessed this close up, the prospect of expansion based on this research is realistic. In Evenbase style they have chosen to share the full research with anyone interested. You can download this on the Evenbase site. I enjoyed my conversation with Keith, as always it was an education.

Bill

DISCLAIMER: I am an occasional adviser to Evenbase and Broadbean.

About Evenbase

Evenbase is a global digital recruitment group and part of dmg media

The Evenbase portfolio includes the flagship job board brands Jobsite and Oilcareers, the leading multi-poster and unified search provider BroadbeanJobrapido – one of the world’s largest job search aggregators, and recruitment partnerships with brands such as 02 Active and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

The portfolio spans 55 countries, includes a network of over 60 recruitment sites and employs more than 400 people, with offices in North America, United Kingdom, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates and Australia..

The Evenbase Quarterly Job Market Review (My Take)

My friends from Evenbase recently published the Autumn edition of their quarterly job market review for the UK. I always look forward to this research because it is conducted independent of the Evenbase brands and provides a real insight in to the UK job market. The survey is conducted by HPI Research.

The survey methodology

The quarterly review is based on in-depth, independent online research among 500 job seekers and 200 recruiters, carried out by market research agency HPI in April and May 2012.
Respondents are selected from a third-party database of job seekers and businesses, with a 50/50 split of male & female respondents, as well as a good spread across factors such as age, location, sector and salary. This spread is maintained consistently across the research each quarter, so that the findings can be compared with confidence.
Job seekers are split approximately 50/50 between active and passive candidates. Active is defined as anyone who is attending interviews or has taken steps to find a new job, such as looking at relevant vacancies. Passive is defined as anyone who is considering or open to switching jobs, but has not yet taken any action.
Business respondents are selected according to business type as follows:
● 50 recruitment decision-makers from SoHos (10-49 employees)
● 75 recruitment decision-makers from SMEs (50-249 employees)
● 75 recruitment decision-makers from corporate organisations (250+ employees)

The headlines. (My thoughts are in italics below the headline.)

> 57% of active job seekers feel the job situation is worse than last year

This is an interesting stat, given that the Evenbase report that job advertising is up on the last quarter. More jobs but less confidence. This perhaps reflects the miss-match between the types of jobs and the experience and skills of the job seekers who are active. In demand employees tend to be in demand by their current employees  with less job insecurity and a reluctance to move. I describe this as the war for other people’s talent.

> Advertised vacancies have risen from  5.5 to 7.7 mostly on-line

For the moment, advertising is still the default process for companies recruiting. Get a job, post it and see what happens. As more companies in the corporate sector develop their direct sourcing capability in their recruiting teams I anticipate this changing. Not imminently, but gradually quarter by quarter over the next few years. Job boards will never die, there will always be a place for job portals but I anticipate more companies looking to their own resources over time. In particular, I would be interested in how many of these companies are moving from automatic post to developing talent pipelines and developing their capability to search historical candidates.

> SoHo employers have open posts but corporate and SME remain cautious

The growth in hiring is coming from companies with under 50 employees. Smaller companies are more agile to change, responding to changing market demands and technology. Smaller companies will also contain a good % of technology start ups in the last 3 years who were set up and built with the new economy in mind. Those that are proving successful will be the ones hiring for growth. Technology companies should be considering offerings for this sector. Recently Work4Labs have announced the release of a free SME facebook job posting tool, Tribepad have released an SME version of their enterprise product, SMART Recruiters have developed a free ATS. These are great examples of products developed for this growth market.

> Job seekers using agencies as the route to work down 5% on the last quarter

This perhaps reflects the perception job seekers have of the value of agencies right now, and should be a worrying statistic for them. Another consideration though might be that as the active job seekers don’t match the needs of the active employers (as evidenced in point one), the agencies are distancing themselves from less in demand candidates and being more specific in advertising and approaches. Job seeker apathy seems to be prevalent right now, evidenced by some of the results in this latest survey. As much as they are reluctant to make speculative inquiries to employers, they are also moving away from registering with multiple agencies unless there is a very specific job advertised. If I were running an agency right now I would want to investigate this to understand why agencies are being seen as less of a source of the best next move, and more of a necessary evil for a specific job.

> Job seekers making speculative applications down 6% after a 9% rise last quarter

This is a reflection of 2 things in my opinion. Job seeker apathy, and unfriendly technology and process employed by corporate companies. When I reviewed a series of career sites recently, it was not uncommon to see notifications of speculative CVs not welcome or “if you don’t hear from us in 3 weeks we are not interested.” The speculative CVs fall through the cracks and just get ignored. It comes as no surprise to discover that job seekers are deciding this is a waste of time, which means companies could be missing out on some great talent, and need to rethink this process.

The most used recruitment methods.

> For SoHo organisations personal networks are the most used recruitment method – 35, job boards – 25, newspaper ads – 20, agencies – 15, trade publication ads – 10, social networks – 15.

> For S.M.E.’s:   Trade publication ads – 30,  Job boards – 32, Newspaper ads – 30, Personal networks – 25, Agency – 22,Social networks – 16.

> For Corporate: Agencies – 32, Trade publications – 27, Job boards – 25, Newspaper ads – 22, Personal networks – 20, Social networks – 10.

I would be interested in knowing where social media fits in with the high ranking personal networks. It might be that social channels like LinkedIn are an important part of personal networks, and what the respondents mean is that they are not planning on posting jobs in social networks. This is an area of confusion for many people, what recruiting via social media actually means. I also feel that the impact of employer branding activity in social media channels should not be under estimated in driving applications via career sites and job boards, although these may not be included in the respondents thinking.

The agency numbers for corporate remains high. I would be surprised to see this figure remaining high over the next 6 months, as more corporates adopt direct sourcing as an approach to hiring. It would be interesting to know the split between RPO and agency hiring, which I suspect would paint a different picture.

Most considered job search methods by job seekers.

> Job boards – 75, Company websites – 72, Newspaper ads – 70, Agencies – 60, Spec CVs – 55, Trade publications – 50, Social networks – 40.

Probably the biggest surprise here is that newspaper ads and trade publications feature so highly. I would be interested in understanding how much of this is through traditional printed newspaper ads, and how much is through the associated on-line job sites. If you go to Guardian On-line for example, or the caterer on line, would you consider this a newspaper or a job board? I suspect the former, though my view is that it is the latter. 

Most considered recruitment methods by business

> Job boards – 60, Newspaper ads – 50, Personal networks – 50, Agencies – 45, Trade publications – 47, Social networks – 40.

It is interesting to note that career sites feature so highly on the job seeker list, but don’t merit a mention in the considered recruitment methods by business. Perhaps this explains the generally poor state of many career sites, with limited investment in development or design, particularly around mobile.

> Smartphone ownership among job seekers up from 47% to 71% in 3 months.

> Location search for jobs the big feature

This is really self explanatory, and begs the question why more companies are not taking mobile and mobility more seriously. With such a hike in Smartphone ownership by job seekers, you would expect the increase in mobile sites and mobile friendly features to grow at the same rate; You would also expect mobile to be top of the list of requirements that companies want from job boards, but it doesn’t. 

Last week I blogged that e-mail opens on mobile devices had now taken over from desktops. Even features like jobs by e-mail, and the attached links should reflect this. If messages are going to mobile, and job seekers are opening them in the down time, then the job boards should reflect this. I suspect the reason mobile is not more in demand from companies is that they are not yet ready to extend the experience from board to application. 

The location features is perhaps the most interesting point in this data, and is a key consideration in how jobs are served to job seekers. It is common to post jobs from the location of the recruiter rather than the location of the job. I will be posting on this in more detail next week, in the build up to the mobile tracks at #trulondon.

> Price the biggest factor in choosing job boards,Specialism and knowledge feature highly.

No surprise to see price as the biggest factor in choosing a board. When price is the main consideration, it is fair to assume that companies find it close to impossible to differentiate between the main boards. This should be an important consideration for the boards themselves. Companies are less interested in the value add features like video upload, and are looking at the basic features.

Based on the points around specialization being key in choice, the main boards need to find a way to segment jobs and develop focus in core markets. This will help companies to compare board to board in order to choose the best option on something other than price. The desire for niche locations should also send a clear message to agency recruiters, the appetite in the market is for specialization, and clear differentiation. 

>Social media features are ranked as slightly more important than previous surveys, though still not important.

It is encouraging to see an increasing demand for social media features, even it is quite low. I would expect this to continue growing over the next year, becoming more important to companies. Over the last year we have seen more social features develop linking the boards with the job seekers social networks. The more features that are added to the major job boards, the more important they will become in buying decisions.

> Press and TV advertising to support job boards the biggest drop in importance to companies.

Only down by 7%, but the biggest drop in this section of the survey. I think this might be a reaction by the increased spend over the last quarter by all the boards in media and TV advertising. As each of the main boards even up the spend, it becomes less of a differentiator, and as a result, less important in decision making.

> Mobile still not featured as a requirement by companies

As mentioned earlier in the post, mobile is off the companies radar right now, but this has to change.

This is a quote from the report that gives a good indication as to job seeker behaviors:

“For the second quarter in a row, a close look at the most popular and desired job board services among job seekers yields few surprises.
Browsing for jobs remains the most used service, but there was
continued growth in the number of people researching sectors and
companies – an indication that job seekers are spending more time
on preparation and less time on direct approaches to companies,
further illustrated by the reduced numbers of candidates storing CVs online for direct applications.”

My feeling is that this is in part down to the rise in mobile.Job browsing via mobile in down time is also another factor in the browsing figures. I know from previous data from Jobsite that mobile access to the board continues to rise.month on month. 

The quest for more information indicates that job seekers, particularly those who are working, want to be 100% sure of their decision before applying. This highlights the big part social media and employer branding can play in the decision. The more information that is easily accessible, the more likely the potential candidates will be able to research and make informed decisions. This type of employer brand content does not necessarily increase applications, because candidates are as likely to opt out as opt in, but it often results in an increase the efficiency of application to interview to hire.  I would be interested in seeing future surveys asking companies what employer branding activity they are doing in social to support their recruiting efforts, and job seekers, what research they conduct in social media channels. My feeling is that this would give a much better insight in to the part social media is playing in recruiting, and not just the applying part.

> CV uploads up by 9% to job boards

Again my feeling is that this is linked to the impact of mobile. Candidates need a CV on-line in order to apply via mobile. This also illustrates that job seekers are in for the long haul. Uploading a CV to a database is a more passive approach to speculative applications. The job seekers want to give companies access to their details. In the last report from Evenbase, there was a big increase in the time employers were spending searching the database. This increase could be an extension of this. As job seekers have got results from being on the database, so news spreads.

> New measure of the desire for contacting employers via Facebook and LinkedIn – low at 17%.

For the first time, the survey looked at how job seekers felt about being contacted directly in social media channels by employers. The low number is a surprise. I suspect this is the result of clumsy recruiter contact in LinkedIn. The Facebook question is an interesting one. When asked the question, job seekers often say that they do not wish to be contacted in this channel. This contradicts the reality of the volume of hiring that goes on in the channel through fan pages. I would like to see that question posed the other way round, “How would YOU feel about contacting employers in social media channels?”. I suspect the results would be quite different.

> Researching companies by job seekers continually  growing in importance.

I won’t comment further on this as it has been covered in some detail earlier in the post.

> CV to email and jobs to print most desirable features. No appetite for video upload, chat or other perceived value add services by employers.

It looks like employers want the simple functions with no frills. I think it is probably to early to dismiss these add on features yet. It is notable that job seekers want access to more information on companies, whilst the companies want to stick to the provision of the basic information i:e: jobs. This could be because companies are not ready for video or engagement features yet, rather than a lack of demand from the job seekers.

> Most used services by employers CV search and advertising a job.

CV searching continues to grow in importance to employers. this indicates that recruiters are taking a more proactive approach to sourcing people, possibly because they are not getting the response they want from advertising, or because they are unsure what they are looking for and want to see the options. Either way, it seems that both job seekers and employers are heading in the same direction for a change on this one. As searching in CV databases becomes more sophisticated through the addition of new features, I would expect to see this rising as a source of hire.

> Display of print advertising on boards doubled this quarter.

This points towards companies wanting to stand out to beat off the competition. Employers clearly feel that visual look will help them to be different and improve response rates. I’m not sure that this is not thinking old school newspaper advertising i.e.: the biggest ad stands out. It would be interesting to see some data on the improved (or not) effectiveness of display ads.

Once again, thanks to Evenbase and Jobsite for making this data publicly available. When you follow it over time you start to see the trends evolving. You can download the original report HERE. This certainly impacts on my thinking. My big take-aways are the gap between what job seekers want and employers demand from job boards. It is almost opposite (except for the CV database), the certainty candidates are looking for before applying, and the rise of mobile.

Be glad to know your thoughts,

Bill

DISCLAIMER: Evenbase and Jobsite are platinum sponsors of #truLondon