Don’t tell your customers how to recruit! – Job Board Doctor

Jobboardgeek podcastIn this episode of Job­Board­Geek, we talk to Ian Part­ing­ton of HST Hir­ing Group about what’s changed – and hasn’t – in the last 20 years of job boards and recruit­ing. Ian, who pre­vi­ous­ly found­ed and ran the Sim­plyJobs group of job boards in the U.K., has seen a lot of changes in the indus­try, but he also notes niche job sites con­tin­ue to be rel­e­vant to employ­ers. He also gets into how his lat­est ven­ture offers recruit­ing ser­vices the way the cus­tomer wants. Jeff Dick­ey-Chasins of Job­Board­Doc­tor and Steven Roth­berg of Col­lege Recruiter ask him about the effects of Brex­it and the pan­dem­ic. Jeff chats with Steven about ZipRecruiter’s 94% increase in Q4 rev­enue – good or bad? Shock­ing­ly, Steven thinks it’s not a bad thing.



0:00:01.5 Jeff Dick­ey-Chasins: Hel­lo every­one and wel­come to Job­Board­Geek, the pod­cast about the busi­ness of con­nect­ing can­di­dates and employ­ers. I’m Jeff Dick­ey-Chasins, the Job­Board­Doc­tor. I am your host, and I’m here today with the arbi­trage-inclined Steven Roth­berg of Col­lege Recruiter. He is the co-host. Hey, Steven, how’s it going?

0:00:20.9 Steven Roth­berg: It’s going great, although I think you meant alba­tross, not arbi­trage.


0:00:26.4 JD: No, I don’t think so. So, today we actu­al­ly have a real­ly inter­est­ing guest. A fel­low I’ve known for a long time, Ian Part­ing­ton, orig­i­nal­ly of Sim­plyJobs, the founder. He’s out of the UK. He’s now on a new ven­ture called HST Hir­ing Group, and he’s doing anoth­er job board as well, and I’m sure he has his fin­gers into four or five dif­fer­ent pots. We’ll find out about that, but first, Steven, I want­ed to talk to you a lit­tle bit about finan­cials I saw come up this week. ZipRecruiter was report­ing their Q4, and the rev­enue for them is up 94% even though the net income fell. I thought it was inter­est­ing because 94%, that seems like a pret­ty big num­ber to me. But it’s inter­est­ing how they’ve been able to sus­tain this in light of the fact that there don’t seem to be enough can­di­dates to be fill­ing jobs. And I’m just guess­ing that they’re mak­ing a per­sua­sive case to employ­ers that, “You need to stay out there and try to reach the can­di­dates that are out there.” Now, Zip is fore­cast­ing a year rev­enue of about 878–892 mil­lion, which is get­ting up towards that $1 bil­lion mark. So, Steven, I’m kin­da curi­ous, what do you think? Do you think they did a good job? Or do you think they should have done bet­ter?

0:01:41.4 SR: Okay, well, I hadn’t thought about it in that terms either. I was think­ing, “Good job.” I wasn’t even think­ing, “Could it be bet­ter?” So, Zip has done a real­ly fan­tas­tic job of exe­cut­ing. One of the rea­sons I real­ly like to look at Zip’s earn­ings, its stock price is, it’s real­ly one of the only pure played job boards that are pub­licly trad­ed. Dice is anoth­er one. If you look at Indeed owned by Recruit and some of the oth­er ones like Mon­ster with Rand­stad, there’s so much of the staffing busi­ness that gets into the stock price. You can’t real­ly look at that and say, “How are job boards per­form­ing? What does the mar­ket look at job boards for val­u­a­tion pur­pos­es?” But Zip is a good indi­ca­tor for that. They’ve got a real­ly fan­tas­tic man­age­ment team, lead­er­ship team. The founders came from out­side the indus­try with a white board and just basi­cal­ly re-imag­ined what it should look like from an employ­er and from a can­di­date stand­point. They’ve exe­cut­ed real­ly won­der­ful­ly.

0:02:43.8 SR: I would have to say that the rea­son that their rev­enues are up so much is that they’re rid­ing the wave. The small busi­ness­es, espe­cial­ly in their core mar­ket in the US, are hir­ing way more now than they were a year ago. Zip is one of the best places for those employ­ers to adver­tise those jobs. If their earn­ings were up a pal­try 20%, I think we would be throw­ing arrows and darts at them and won­der­ing what the heck they’re doing over there. 94% to me real­ly indi­cates that they’re exe­cut­ing well, and that the under­ly­ing econ­o­my is work­ing in their favor at this point.

0:03:21.9 JD: Yeah, I think that’s true. And I was think­ing about some of the oth­er boards. You’re right, everyone’s up and every­one that is pub­licly trad­ed pret­ty much is up. Job Boards from SEEK to Jobindex in Den­mark to Dice that you men­tioned. But most of them are not up 94%. A lot of peo­ple are up 20%, 30%, some­thing like that. So it’s an impres­sive num­ber. So we’ll see how long they can keep it up. I think that’s the chal­lenge that indeed his­tor­i­cal­ly had run into until the pan­dem­ic boom, is that the big­ger you get, the hard­er it is to make those big per­cent­age jumps. So we’ll see what hap­pens.

0:03:57.7 SR: I think that Zip also announced at the same time that they’re doing a stock buy-back. If I’m not mis­tak­en, it was like $100 mil­lion or some­thing. I think they went pub­lic at $21, maybe $22, their stock was at, I think, $19, so down a bit. A stock buy-back means basi­cal­ly that the peo­ple in con­trol think that the stock is under­val­ued. It’s a good time for them to be pulling some of the stock, even if you spend cash on buy-back shares. When the stock price goes up to $22 or $25 or $30 or what­ev­er, then they can always turn around and sell that to the pub­lic and get more equi­ty that way. I think the insid­ers at Zip are feel­ing as good about their finan­cial per­for­mances as you and I seem to be.

0:04:45.9 JD: We recent­ly talked to Arran Stew­art of He’s on a buy­ing spree. We’ll see if Zip is his next buy­ing tar­get, right?


0:04:54.4 SR: Yes.

0:04:54.9 JD: Okay, well, mov­ing on. I delight­ed that we are able to have with us today one of the pio­neers in the job board Indus­try in the UK, Ian Part­ing­ton. He was the fel­low that, if I remem­ber this cor­rect­ly, found­ed Sim­plyJobs and ran it for a num­ber of years, and is now run­ning HST Hir­ing Group and run­ning a legal aid job board as well. And Ian, wel­come to Job­Board­Geek.

0:05:22.7 Ian Part­ing­ton: Good after­noon. Good morn­ing.

0:05:24.2 JD: Yeah, it’s one of those, depend­ing on where you are, right? [laugh­ter]

0:05:27.3 IP: Absolute­ly.

0:05:29.0 JD: Hey, Ian, I was won­der­ing if you could give us a run down of how you man­aged to get into this inter­est­ing indus­try and how you came to start Sim­plyJobs and where you are right now.

0:05:41.8 IP: Sure. Well, my first job board busi­ness was set up in 1999, a web­site called JustEngi­neers, that was set up off the back of, it was around the time of var­i­ous Job Boards start­ing to launch. Mon­ster was big in the UK, Job­site was big in the UK. And I was actu­al­ly work­ing for an engi­neer­ing recruit­ment con­sul­tan­cy. We just did… Staffing firm, but we were using these sites, Job­site and Mon­ster. I think step store in the UK for a small amount of time then, and I was just one of those entre­pre­neur­ial, I guess. “This seems real­ly easy to do. Why don’t we build a job board and just spe­cial­ize in engi­neer­ing? It’s real­ly easy.” This was from the guy who only three or four months ear­li­er has start­ed using email in the busi­ness, [laugh­ter] But long sto­ry short, I knew a cou­ple of guys who run web devel­op­ment agen­cies, and I just said, “There’s Job­site, we work that, but for engi­neer­ing.” And it went from there. It was obvi­ous­ly a time where you could get away with that type of atti­tude and no knowl­edge and what have you. And that took off real­ly well. And I was active­ly with­in that busi­ness for about three years. Moved away, a few board­room deci­sions that I couldn’t agree with so I moved away from that, and then I set up on my own as Sim­ply.

0:07:03.1 IP: And I knew that I want­ed to stay in the job board busi­ness, I didn’t wan­na move back into recruit­ment or any­thing like that. But I also knew that essen­tial­ly niche was the way to go in my view. There was a lot of gener­ic job boards out there, I saw you speak­ing to Lee Big­gins about this the oth­er week. And I felt that niche was the way to go. So I quite sim­ply looked at what niche areas were under­served in terms of job boards and set up some new job boards. So we had Sim­ply Sales Jobs, then there was Sim­ply Mar­ket­ing Jobs, then there was Sim­ply HR Jobs and they were going along quite nice­ly. And that busi­ness grew in the UK over a… Well, I was with it for 16 years and I moved out of the busi­ness in July, end of July 2020, since then, I was real­ly pleased real­ly when I left the busi­ness and made it known on LinkedIn that I was leav­ing the busi­ness, the response to that was quite hum­bling actu­al­ly, you know? The nice com­ments that peo­ple were mak­ing and what have you, it real­ly was unex­pect­ed and quite hum­bling. But also off the back of that I got approached by a num­ber of dif­fer­ent job board oper­a­tors, to say, “Would you like to come and do some work with us? Would you like to advise us, would you like to do some con­sul­tan­cy work for us?” And I had a great time doing that.

0:08:15.8 IP: It was excel­lent, you know 18 months of sit­ting in oth­er people’s busi­ness­es, find­ing out what they’re doing, and then advis­ing them what I felt they were doing well, and what they could improve on and what have you. I found that absolute­ly excel­lent ’cause I had no real desire to, at the time, set any­thing else up. I didn’t leave Sim­ply with a, “Right, I’m gonna go away now and set some­thing else up.” It was just the time to leave. But as that con­sul­tan­cy time came on, there was more and more… I start­ed to get that urge again to work for myself and set some­thing else up. Now, we’ve got HST Hir­ing which is basi­cal­ly a hir­ing busi­ness across var­i­ous dif­fer­ent ele­ments. So we’ve got a can­di­date man­age­ment sys­tem, we do tra­di­tion­al fee-based recruit­ment, so going right back 20 years to what I was doing before I set up the job boards. We do more recruit­ment as a ser­vice, where com­pa­nies are out­sourc­ing, they’re hir­ing to us, but we’re using the tech­nol­o­gy to help facil­i­tate that whether it be mul­ti-post­ing or the can­di­date man­age­ment sys­tem. And I got dragged back into job boards as well real­ly, as part of the over­all busi­ness. One of the mar­kets that we deal in quite a lot is the legal mar­ket in the UK. So there are a num­ber of legal law-based job boards, but we want­ed to be a niche with­in a niche.

0:09:37.7 IP: So we deal in legal sup­port jobs, so that will be para­le­gals, legal assis­tants, legal sec­re­taries, legal recep­tion­ists. So it’s a niche with­in a niche essen­tial­ly, because those are the lev­els of peo­ple who use job boards to apply for jobs. You tend not to find expe­ri­enced solic­i­tors or what have you, using job boards. They’ll use word of mouth, or head­hunt­ing, or LinkedIn or some­thing sim­i­lar to that real­ly. So yeah, HST is as I say, I don’t wan­na use 360, it’s a bit of a cor­po­rate buzz­word, isn’t it? But we look to hire for com­pa­nies how­ev­er they want to hire basi­cal­ly, rather than pigeon­hole just dig­i­tal or tra­di­tion­al.

0:10:18.6 JD: And not going to them say­ing, “This is the only way you can do it.”

0:10:21.2 IP: Exact­ly.

0:10:21.4 JD: You know, we’re gonna give you a bunch of dif­fer­ent options.

0:10:23.4 IP: 100% yeah.

0:10:24.8 SR: You know the UK job board mar­ket bet­ter than I think Jeff and I could ever hope to. What would you say is the best thing that job boards that focus on the UK are doing and what would you say is their biggest area for growth? The biggest weak­ness, the biggest prob­lem?

0:10:44.2 IP: I can real­ly com­pare this to the US, I think, and maybe some Euro­pean. I do think that the UK mar­ket, both job board ven­dor and direct employ­ers, real­ly embrace the niche area, there’s a lot of niche job boards in the UK, which I don’t real­ly see, as I can real­ly only talk about the US and some of Europe giv­en my expe­ri­ence. I think there are more niche sites in the UK and so there’s a focus on being real­ly good at one area. As opposed to try­ing to be, you know, obvi­ous­ly peo­ple like Total Jobs and CV-Library, peo­ple like Reed do gener­ic very, very well. But I do think from a very ear­ly time, the UK, there was a lot of niche and a lot of focused job boards and I do think that they do that well. We know that they know their mar­kets very well. In terms of what they don’t do well, I can real­ly only speak for our­selves, but I do think we were symp­to­matic of it, is the reliance on recruit­ment agen­cies, staffing firms for busi­ness. Now, it’s not to say that you don’t want staffing firms as a client, as a job board oper­a­tor, but I think, and again, I can only real­ly speak for Sim­ply on this, the strive for mon­ey maybe dilut­ed the qual­i­ty of the prod­uct that you were giv­en. So you had recruit­ment agen­cies who had mul­ti­ple vacan­cies, which meant that there was mul­ti­ple spam jobs, or there was jobs that were there just to cap­ture job seek­ers or what have you.

0:12:11.9 IP: And most job boards were guilty of this, so I think maybe that the job seek­er expe­ri­ence wasn’t high on the under­stand­ing of job board oper­a­tors. It was about dri­ving rev­enue. Not all, as I said, there was some real­ly good ones out there in real­ly niche areas who didn’t fol­low that route. But that’s just my view. But I think the pan­dem­ic, my time at the job board was basi­cal­ly just after the pan­dem­ic had start­ed, but you saw a lot of these job recruit­ment agen­cies either go com­plete­ly, What is it? When the tides out you can see who’s wear­ing swim shorts? There was a lot of that going on. [laugh­ter] And also I think even the recruit­ment agen­cies, even then they rec­on­ciled how many job boards that were using, I mean, we built Sim­ply on a sub­scrip­tion-based and month­ly recur­ring rev­enue basis and we lost it, obvi­ous­ly a decent amount of that in the March, April, May of when it first hap­pened and it was a bad time. But yeah, I think that would prob­a­bly be the good and the bad in my view.

0:13:12.1 JD: Well, Ian, I’m kin­da of curi­ous, and this is a lit­tle relat­ed to what Steven was ask­ing, we’ve talked with some of the guests that we’ve had on the pod­cast about the shocks that have hit the indus­try over the last few years, so there was the big reces­sion of 2008–2009, and that was def­i­nite­ly some­thing that shook out a lot of play­ers, and then job boards came back pret­ty strong after that. And the two shocks I see that I’ve heard peo­ple that I work with in the UK talk about the most are the pan­dem­ic of course, which was across every place, but at the UK just like all the rest of them, and then Brex­it, and those two things seem to have real­ly had an effect on the UK job board mar­ket. Look­ing at those two, do you have any feel for which one you think is gonna have the longest-term effect on the indus­try?

0:14:01.6 IP: Yeah, it’s inter­est­ing, I think the pan­dem­ic… And I say I came out of the job board indus­try end of July, so I could only talk about the four or five months, but obvi­ous­ly I’d like to keep abreast of what’s been going on, I think the job board indus­try, it seemed to be that there was obvi­ous­ly a mass pan­ic when it first hap­pened, nobody’s recruit­ing, what the hell’s all this work­ing from home sit­u­a­tion? But in all truth, I think it last­ed maybe three or four months, and I think after that time, and the way they’ve got a bit bet­ter, and the lock­downs in the UK became a lit­tle bit more lenient, so I think com­pa­nies became more under­stand­ing that this is the new nor­mal if you will, so this is the way that we’re gonna have to work mov­ing for­ward. And when you get to Sep­tem­ber, Octo­ber time, peo­ple start­ed to recruit again, and so I think the dip in terms of the pan­dem­ic, was prob­a­bly only a short peri­od of time. It was a shock and awe sit­u­a­tion real­ly where it was like, “What the hell do we do here? We’ve nev­er seen this before, what do we do? How is this gonna affect our busi­ness?”

0:14:58.4 IP: You saw on LinkedIn for exam­ple, loads and loads of peo­ple open to work, open to work, and then all of it, it just seemed to be fair­ly overnight, all those open to work dis­ap­peared, peo­ple have found jobs again, which was great. So I think it was only maybe a five or six month peri­od, and as you’ve said pre­vi­ous­ly about ZipRecruiter and all of these oth­er job board show­ing mas­sive growth, you would expect mas­sive growth on real­ly poor years pre­vi­ous­ly, but I think they have recov­ered and I think they’ve recov­ered real­ly well. I know that the gener­ics in the UK are doing good busi­ness, so I don’t think the pan­dem­ic was a long-term prob­lem. In terms of Brex­it, I think the pan­dem­ic masked a lot of the prob­lems that were poten­tial­ly gonna hap­pen with Brex­it. I don’t get over­ly… I’ve nev­er been involved in the hos­pi­tal­i­ty indus­try or what­ev­er it may be. There are cer­tain indus­tries that are gonna be impact­ed by Brex­it much more than oth­ers. The mar­kets I’ve always been involved in have been bit more pro­fes­sion­al ser­vices and engi­neer­ing and avi­a­tion and things like that, obvi­ous­ly avi­a­tion has been, I wouldn’t say dec­i­mat­ed, but obvi­ous­ly it’s at a pan­dem­ic, that the fuel rates have gone ridicu­lous and that’s gonna be a trou­bled sec­tor for a while I think. I’m not prob­a­bly the best to talk about Brex­it in all truth, oth­er than an over­all view, but I do think the pan­dem­ic in terms of Brex­it, maybe came a good time.

0:16:13.5 JD: I think one of the things that I noticed, and maybe this is dif­fer­ent in the UK, but one of the key effects of the pan­dem­ic in North Amer­i­ca for sure has been that com­pa­nies that were not using remote work­ers sud­den­ly had to use remote work­ers. And so now we’re see­ing a lit­tle bit of bounce back where it’s kin­da like a rub­ber band com­ing back where a per­cent­age of those com­pa­nies are say­ing, “Okay, now you got­ta be back in the office, now you’re gonna be back doing what­ev­er you were doing,” but a per­cent­age of them are say­ing, “Hey, you know what, why? This is an expense.

0:16:44.2 IP: Yeah, yeah, absolute­ly.

0:16:45.5 JD: Let ’em keep work­ing at home if that’s what they want.” And I think that’s affect­ed some of the job boards in terms of how they’ve approached can­di­dates, and in some ways it’s giv­en them a big­ger audi­ence to put up in front of employ­ers, at least those employ­ers.

0:17:00.8 IP: I think that’s actu­al­ly been prob­a­bly one of the impacts of the pan­dem­ic that I didn’t men­tion, is that there’s a bit of pow­er shift a lit­tle bit, where the job seek­er now has, I think, a lot more pow­er. There are more jobs than there are job seek­ers, so you see it all the time, it’s a dif­fi­cult mar­ket to be work­ing and what have you. One of the biggest ques­tions that get assessed by job seek­ers now, 100% is, what’s the work­ing arrange­ment? Is it work from home? Is it hybrid work­ing? I think most sen­si­ble busi­ness­es have gone with a hybrid work­ing mod­el where­by they’re doing three days in the office, two days at home. That brings its own prob­lems because their terms of con­tracts of employ­ments are five days a week in the office, so it’s more of a dis­cre­tionary, the deci­sion, but I do think the con­tracts of employ­ment are gonna have to be re-writ­ten as time goes on to deal with it.

0:17:52.0 JD: Well, lis­ten Ian, I got­ta wrap this up, but I have one last ques­tion for you. I’m just curi­ous to hear because you’ve been in the mar­ket for a long time through a lot of dif­fer­ent busi­ness con­di­tions, you went out of the mar­ket, now you’re kin­da back in the mar­ket, but you’re doing a bunch of dif­fer­ent things, and I haven’t asked this ques­tion of any oth­er guest so far. Do you think job boards are on their way out? The whole time I’ve been work­ing in the indus­try, I start­ed in ’97, they’ve been say­ing, “Oh yeah, job boards are dying, they’re gonna go away, they’re gonna go away.” Do you think now we’re actu­al­ly at a point where over the next decade, next four or five years, job boards are gonna dis­ap­pear?

0:18:23.5 IP: No. No, I real­ly don’t. I do think that job boards, more so than ever, are gonna have to real­ly adapt to the new mar­ket, the way the mar­ket… ‘Cause I think employ­ers are far more savvy now about recruit­ing, I think, so they are gonna have to do things like pro­gram­mat­ic… I wrote an arti­cle and I put it on LinkedIn, I found it the oth­er day actu­al­ly, in 2016 about PPA and PPC, and there’s not many com­pa­nies who were doing that, obvi­ous­ly Indeed are doing it real­ly well, as ZipRecruiter do it, and what have you, but I do feel that that’s gonna come into it more because the buy­er, the employ­er, is far more savvy than they were even five years ago, and I think they’ve start­ed to move more now towards more dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing rather than using recruit­ment agen­cies, but I think there’s still a space for both, but I do think job boards are gonna have to adapt their offer­ing far more, and far quick­er than they prob­a­bly had to do over the last two or three years.

0:19:25.5 JD: Yeah, I think that’s an insight­ful com­ment, and when I think about the indus­try, ’cause I kin­da look at it the same way that you do, but I think about what hap­pened to Mon­ster, and I feel like Mon­ster, they were ini­tial­ly inno­v­a­tive, they went through a peri­od of acqui­si­tions and they sort of sat fat and hap­py for a long time and they lost their atten­tion to the mar­ket. And so I’ll be curi­ous to see if that hap­pens with Indeed or it hap­pens with any of these, Total jobs or any of these large com­pa­nies, I guess we’ll just have to see.

0:19:57.2 IP: No, absolute­ly.

0:19:58.5 JD: Yeah Ian, I’m so glad that you were able to come on. It’s good to see you, good to talk with you. And if any of our lis­ten­ers wan­na get in touch with you, how do they do that?

0:20:08.3 IP: Well, obvi­ous­ly on LinkedIn, they can con­nect and mes­sage me on LinkedIn or if they want to mes­sage, it’s

0:20:16.5 JD: Great, well thanks Ian, appre­ci­ate you com­ing on Job­Board­Geek.

0:20:20.5 IP: I’ve enjoyed it. Thanks very much, guys.

0:20:22.2 JD: Yup, and Steven, if any­one wants to get in touch with you, how do they get a hold of you?

0:20:25.5 SR: Eas­i­est way is shoot me an email, Steven, S‑T-E-V-E‑ Ian, I hope the next time we meet is in the same place as the last time we met, which is a con­fer­ence in Barcelona.

0:20:39.4 IP: That would be great.

0:20:40.1 SR: I would not have any objec­tions to see­ing you there.

0:20:43.1 IP: Not at all, not at all.

0:20:44.2 JD: I’d be okay with meet­ing you in a pub in Lon­don too. [chuck­le] So we’ll see what hap­pens. [chuck­le]

0:20:49.5 IP: Okay, great, though. Thanks very much.

0:20:51.3 JD: Well, thanks. And that’s it for today’s episode of Job­Board­Geek. Be sure to sub­scribe to our RSS feed or on Apple, Spo­ti­fy, what­ev­er you wan­na use, we’re there. Feel free to review us, thumbs up or thumbs down. I’m Jeff Dick­ey-Chasins, I’m the Job­Board­Doc­tor, you’ve been lis­ten­ing to the only pod­cast that focus­es on the busi­ness of con­nect­ing can­di­dates and employ­ers. That’s it for this episode and we will see you again next time.


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