JobBoardGeek – Colorado, Ukraine, and some services that form the backbone of the job board industry – Job Board Doctor
In this episode of JobBoardGeek, we talk to Mike Woodrow of Aspen Tech Labs. The company, which has staff in multiple locations including Colorado and Ukraine, provides key software for the job board industry: job feeds, job spidering, and job board software. Jeff Dickey-Chasins of JobBoardDoctor and Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter learn how the company has managed to grow revenue by 50% each year for the past 3 years, and how the war in Ukraine impacted its employees. Jeff and Steven also discuss job taxonomy, and why DHI/Dice decided to get a patent to protect theirs.
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0:00:37.7 Jeff Dickey-Chasins: Hallo everyone and welcome to job board geek. 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 extremely discreet Steven Rothberg of college recruiter, he is the co-host. Hey, Steven, how are you?
0:00:55.2 Steven Rothberg: I am great, Jeff. I’m pretty excited about the weekend coming up, we’ve got some great weather and going to my first outdoor musical festival in three years.
0:01:04.9 JD: And you can practice being discrete while you’re at the music festival. Right.
0:01:11.8 SR: Don’t tell anyone.
0:01:11.8 JD: Well, today we have someone that I’ve known for quite a while, Mike Woodrow of Aspen Tech Labs, he’s gonna be coming on in a little bit to talk about what they do, it’s an interesting company, in a lot of ways, they form sort of the unseen backbone of the job board industry, but I’ll let him talk about that, but first of all, before we get into that, Steven, I had something come across my desk last week, Dice had released a Press release saying that they had a patent now on the taxonomy that they use on their dice job board to help candidates find jobs and employers find candidates, and if you’re not familiar with taxonomy, it’s simply a structure that allows the search engine to map skills onto specific jobs and to map jobs onto specific skill sets, so ultimately it’s a form of matching. In fact, it’s interesting, I have a good friend of mine that works for a very, very large multi-national corporation, and his entire job in HR was to be doing internally for this company building a jobs Taxonomy so that they could do a better job of finding the people that they wanted…
0:02:23.1 JD: So the thing I thought it was interesting about Dice doing this is that A. The vast majority of job boards don’t even think about this sort of stuff, they’re reliant on their search engine or their job board software or bullien or whatever happens that their tech department has come up with to this sort of matching B, it’s interesting because you don’t typically see anyone in the job board industry. Going after patents, it’s not a common behavior, it does happen, but it’s not common, it’s more typical that you’d see a Google or a Facebook or someone… I look at this and I think, Well, but it makes a ton of sense because there’s a couple of things that DHI could do with this if they wanted to… First, they can just say, Hey, we’re the only ones that have this, and it’s gonna be a competitive advantage, it’s so great that people that come to our site, they’re gonna have much better results, you’re not gonna be able to get this on any of the other tech job boards, or they could instead say, You know what, we’re gonna make this a standard across the industry, we’re gonna get all the job board software companies and all of the tech job boards to start using our taxonomy, kinda like what Google did with their job stream because it’s an advantage, it, it will help you find something and it’ll obviously build the value of DHI overall, which is something being a publicly held company, they’re very, very very focused on.
0:03:46.5 JD: So I just thought it was kind of interesting. It’s not something that I see very often in the industry, I don’t know what are your thoughts about it steven.
0:03:54.5 SR: Interesting, I have a couple of main takeaways from the press release, so one is just me being a little bit snarky, but Let’s lead… Let’s lead with that, ’cause I’m really good at that. I noticed in the press release that they quoted, I think it was the CEO of Dice Hartsel, where he said something to the effect of that they’ve been building this for 10 years, I don’t think that’s something you brag about in this kind of context. There are definitely things that when… The longer it takes you to build them, the better that people will value them because it just… It takes time. I don’t think that with tech, having something take 10 years is something to be proud of, I think that it probably really just means that they’ve been accumulating the data for 10 years, and that they’re making use of data that goes back 10 years. I thought the press release just could have been written better, drawing on data points from a decade worth of candidate searches, I think that something like that would have been better rather than just…
0:04:56.8 SR: Our developers didn’t think that this was important enough, and it took them 10 years to get around to doing it, which is also how you could read it, that aside, it reminded me a lot of a competitor to College Recruiter our company after college, after college promoted very heavily, its patents, and I can tell you that when we went up head-to-head against after college, when we were talking to employers about posting to us, very few of those employers would be aware of or mention after college;s Patents, but the ones that did it mattered greatly to them, so I think it’s a really great sales and marketing tool Dice was gonna be able to employ. I am skeptical, Jeff, about whether dice is gonna be able to roll this out industry-wide and make this some kind of… Yeah, they’re so focused on IT, and I just can’t imagine that 100,000 job boards globally are gonna say, Oh, well, you’ve got a patent on this. It must be great. I think if there were gonna be a whole lot of job boards using something like that, I think it would have been… What’s now called Google Cloud, which we use for our search, there certainly are many job boards that use that, but it’s percentage-wise, it’s gotta be way, way, way under 1%.
0:06:13.9 JD: Yeah, I think you’re probably right, but again, like I said, it was just something that was kind of interesting to me, And listeners, if you think I’m nuts, and there are in fact dozens and dozens of job boards out there issuing patents right and left… Please let me know. I’m happy to be corrected. So our guest today, like I said it is someone I’ve known for a while, his name is Mike Woodrow, he runs Aspen Tech Labs. And Mike, I want to welcome you to job board geek.
0:06:41.3 Mike Woodrow: Alright, how are you doing, guys? Yeah, thanks for having me on the podcast. Happy to be here.
0:06:45.3 JD: Yeah. Thanks for coming. Listen, I’ve been very familiar with your products, literally, the company was founded the year before I started consulting, and so I was telling Steven earlier that one of my very first clients ended up on the job Mount job board software because it was available and it was significantly better than the other options that were around, I think that the whole job board software market has changed a lot over the last 15 years, but I think it’s interesting how that’s been expanded. So I’m curious, why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you got into the recruiting industry and how you got involved with Aspen Tech and why did it get started in the first place?
0:07:28.7 MW: Sure, I’ll give you a quick run-down of that, so I’ve got 30 years in recruiting, I was an executive recruiter, I did some contract recruiting back pre-Y2K, so I came at it from the recruiting side, the retained search side, and in the early 2000s, I decided that I wanted to kinda take advantage of the online recruitment space, so I launched a small job board that was a complementary, a complementary service to my retained search firm, so that’s how I got into the job board space, and I used some technology called that was searches… You probably, guys probably remember those guys back in the day…
0:08:03.0 JD: Yes, I remember them. Yeah.
0:08:06.5 MW: And then about, I don’t know, five or so years later, I just decided I want to upgrade my tech, and so I started doing some research, I met a guy and we launched an upgrade a few years later, one of the guys who I launched the job board with called me and said, Hey, you know, this partnership that I’ve got in the UK, is not really working out. I’d really like a US partner. Would you be interested? And so that’s when Aspen Tech Labs got launched. We bought out some job board technology and we launched job mount, and that was where we started…
0:08:34.6 MW: We started as a job board provider and we still provide job boards and we’ve upgraded them, and it’s a good little niche business for us, but really our business now, or probably around 2010, our business really started to morph into jobs data, so that’s really… Our expertise is in the jobs data space. We do a huge amount of jobs data management, and that kind of starts with either scraping or collecting jobs data that some of our customers give us, so now we have about 300 job board customers globally, and we monitor about 60,000 corporate career sites every day for jobs content, we collect that, and kind of what you were talking about in the taxonomy side, we collect that jobs data, we clean it, we modify it in some ways, we might upgrade the the geolocation or we add some taxonomy to it, we categorize the jobs kind of whatever our customers need us to do…
0:09:28.3 MW: And then we deliver that jobs data to our customers in whatever format they want, it’s a great business because it’s a subscription business, so… And in the last eight years or whatever it’s been, the job space has just kind of continued to grow, so our customers have continued to grow and they’ve added more scrapes and it’s been a great business for us, that’s really our core business, but we’ve added some elements recently, and we have some new things come in that could be interesting too, I think to the industry and to your users. As part of collecting this jobs data for our customers, a lot of these jobs are in the public domain, they’re not proprietary jobs, they’re in the public domain, if our customers give us an FTP or something proprietary, we kinda set them aside over here, but jobs that are in the public domain, we’ve created a large pool of these jobs, so we’ve got about eight million jobs in our jobs database now that we call our jobs index, and we’ve got various customers, some small job boards, who take a couple thousand jobs, and some large aggregators who take all of our jobs.
0:10:32.7 MW: Some of the large guys wanna have all of the jobs for their visitors, even if it’s not a customer of theirs, they wanna have those jobs available and because we scrape and collect the jobs from the Canonical jobs or from the their original source, we always have the apply link back to the ATS to apply, so there’s no kind of redirects three times and then we can talk about that in a separate podcast, but that’s one of the bones of contention I have with this industry, is when people make 20 cents or 12 cents or arbitrage make five cents and bounce candidates around…
0:11:05.9 MW: It Drives me crazy. But anyway, I digress. So we pulled the canonical jobs, and so we’ve got customers who are taking that and you know, why would a small job or take these jobs, why would they take 5,000 jobs or 15,000 jobs because they wanna provide a quality Visitor Experience for their users. A lot of these jobs are not widely available because we collect so many jobs and we collect them… We kind of have unique ways of collecting these jobs, we’ll have companies that might only have 20 jobs, those jobs are in our jobs index, so those jobs are not widely available, so we can help a job board like, I don’t know, only data jobs or whatever, engineering jobs or cloud jobs, things like that, we can give them really fine, finally curated jobs that they can use, so that’s… That’s Something that’s kind of interesting. And then the other thing that work And I think that’s kind of cool. We’re actually gonna present at rack bars, or we’re hoping to… In Amsterdam, in September is we will call them business intelligence, there’s a lot of information that comes from these jobs, and a couple of things that are interesting are Colorado and part of New York or requiring salary data that’s coming…
0:12:20.3 MW: I think so, that’s coming… So would employers wanna know what their competitors are offering for wage data, we think that that’s really interesting. Some of the ad agencies have told us, Hey, we’ve got 500 customers in the UK that we manage the recruitment spend for them. We wanna know where else are these companies advertising? Are they advertising in Poland? Are they advertising in Canada? Where else are they advertising so that we can use that for business development and we can go to our existing customers and say, Hey, we can help you in Poland, we can help you in France, and not just in the UK.
0:12:56.3 JD: So those are a couple of things that are interesting, and then just generally, what’s happening with IT jobs in Omaha, what’s happening with nursing jobs in the Northeast… Is there an increase is there a decrease what’s happening with that, so we’ve got all this data and we’re in the process of standardizing and cleaning it, unfortunately, we grew fast or maybe not as smart as we could, or took the 10 years that Dice took to do their thing. But the jobs are kind of all in different formats you know as if Recruiter wanted them this way and dice wanted them this way, and so we’ve got these jobs that are different, and so we’re standardizing them all so that we can kind of look down…
0:13:34.2 MW: We subscribe to a Google Cloud’s product called Looker. It’s a great visualization product that sits on top of data sets, and so we’re able to visualize some of these things and offer that to our customers, so those are a couple of things that are interesting that are going on and it is kind of the large organic jobs as well, as business intelligence around the jobs data. Yeah, so we’re kind of all about jobs data, so if we don’t really deal with candidates and we don’t do matching between candidates and job postings, it’s just not a space that we’ve ever gotten into, but on the jobs data side, we’re kind of always interested and if someone has an idea or something that they’re looking for, and we do just a quick sales pitch, we do a ton of free trials, so if anybody is interested, if I can get these jobs data, look at this jobs data, would that be interesting to me, so we’re happy to kinda share that with your audience and say, Hey, take a look at this if this could be of value to you, great, because again, it’s a subscription business, so we’ll invest to get somebody go in because once they turn something on, they tend to keep it.
0:14:36.6 JD: As the first sponsor of the job board Geek Podcast, I think it was entirely appropriate that you just gave a little sales pitch, so that’s so I’m cool with that… And Just a brief comment. And then a question, Mike. But I remember when we were together a few years ago at the what was then called rack plus, which is now Rack bus, and we were in Barcelona together, we were talking about that, the job feed, where job boards can come to you and say, Hey, we’re looking for more engineering jobs or more jobs in Chile or whatever. And then you have a product for them, and that’s a big issue for a lot of newer job boards, where it’s kind of a chicken and egg situation where you’re not gonna have candidates coming and coming back to your site if you lack job content, if people run a search and they get one result, they’re never gonna come back and they’re gonna tell their friends never to come back. On the other hand, I’ve always had a problem with going to those employers and saying, Hey, we’ll run your jobs for free for the next three months, six months, 12 months, because to try to get those employers to then pay for those postings after that free trial is a challenge.
0:15:45.3 JD: So going to an intermediary like you and getting those same jobs from you really solves both problems, and so for the job boards that are struggling to have critical mass with job content, I would definitely encourage them to give you or your team a call, we’ve used Aspen for 10 years or something like that, and your team has just always been rock solid, I know you’ve got some people in the US, and you’ve got some people overseas, talk with us, if you would Mike, about what you’re seeing is the differences between, say, the American job board market and Europe, Asia, Africa, etcetera.
0:16:22.4 MW: So there’s a couple of interesting points there, one is the jobs content, the aggregators will give job boards jobs content, paid content. The problem that I have with that is that it’s not really curated and a job… A new job board, especially that they’re attracting candidates and they are using their marketing dollars to get them to sell that candidate to an aggregator for 20 cents, or they don’t even really pay 20 cents ’cause they only pay on 70% of the clicks, so it gets down to 14 cents or something like that. You’re selling that candidate to someone who does a much better job of marketing to that candidate with job alerts and things like that. So I’m not a big fan of using paid feeds for content, but then the flip side of it is you have to pay us for the… So you can either get paid a little bit or you can pay us, so there’s a little challenge there for people, but I always say it’s much cheaper to pay us and keep those candidates… Ownership of those candidates yourself, but in terms of the difference in the markets, actually, you have mentioned we have people overseas.
0:17:24.3 MW: On January 1st, we had 49 people in Ukraine, so we’ve had a crazy year to say the least. So we can talk about that separately, if that’s interesting to your visitors, but… So we moved a whole bunch of people and we haven’t had any business disruption because it is kind of crazy you know and some crazy man or Putin decided to do what he did rather than mess with power and internet, which is kind of what I thought he was gonna do. But anyway, but the difference is, I think, is that especially the CPC market in the US has exploded, and so and the CPA market it is more mature. But even as that matures and the CPC market explodes, so that’s much more mature in the US than it is in Europe, it is one thing that I see the difference. So it exists over there, but it’s not as widespread in the US, there’s just so much going on with it, and the employers are just so desperate for people… Which is great for the industry because there’s so much advertising going on, that’s one of the differences, other than that nothing really comes to mind about major differences. What do you see is the differences between the markets?
0:18:33.2 SR: I definitely the pay for performance, which is closely related to programmatic, they are two different things, but often used together. I think another thing is languages. When you’re looking at the American market, it’s basically the size of the European market, but we more or less have one language and they’ve got 4,822 with them…
0:18:53.9 MW: You are right.
0:18:53.9 SR: So it’s a heck of a lot more complicated to do business in Europe than it is to do business in the US, and I think a lot of the job boards, there reflect that you don’t seem to… You don’t see very many European job boards, so you know serving that the entire market, there seem to be a lot more job boards that just serve Romania, that just serve Poland, that just serve the UK, etcetera, and I think language has a lot to do with that.
0:19:18.3 MW: Yeah, yeah, I would agree with that.
0:19:19.5 JD: Mike, I had a question, and we kinda touched on this earlier, but I just wanna go back to it. So I think two big things have happened to the industry, and I think they probably hit you as hard as anyone else, the first being the pandemic and the second being the war in Ukraine. I’m just curious if you can tell us a little bit about how each one of them affected your business and what has it ended up having positive effects for you in the long run?
0:19:44.5 MW: Yeah, I think no one really wanted to use the word kind of pandemic-friendly business, but the job space, certainly JP Morgan cut hiring, but Walmart and Amazon just kind of went crazy with hiring, so and all D and all these guys… So our business has been at 50% a year for the last three years, and we traditionally grew kind of a 30-ish percent or whatever, so we’ve been growing significantly, so we can’t really say it had a negative impact at all, I mean, the business has grown and we have become more mature. So the pandemic really hasn’t had an impact on the business. And then kind of the strange thing about the war in Ukraine is, it hasn’t had an impact either, we’ve got this really great workforce who care, Steven, you’ve seen it, these guys, these guys… It’s like their customers are their family, and so I don’t know how we built this workforce like this, but everybody… And I think to be fair, after a couple of weeks, people needed something to do other than follow the news when the war started, so and we never had anyone in Eastern Ukraine, we were always in Kiev and outside of Kiev and then West.
0:20:53.0 MW: So we moved a ton of people in January, we started moving people because I was worried, and then all of our tech is AWS, so it’s all under [0:21:02.1] ____ in the US anyway. So Tech was never an issue for us, it was kind of the support that we were worried about, we started moving people in January, then two things happened that people forget about, one is I had some people on a business trip in Portugal when the war started and their young families were in Ukraine, so that was a problem, right? Because… Oh, good news. We had people in Portugal, bad news their families are in Ukraine when they’re… Imagine if you have a young family, and our workforce is young, younger than us…
0:21:31.7 JD: I have not heard.
0:21:33.9 MW: So luckily for our… Luckily for our customers, but we kinda got that resolved, but… Yeah, so we kind of pinched ourselves, but everybody has been safe people have, some people have actually returned to Kiev, which is a little bit surprising, but not really, I mean and people wanna go home, people wanna… I don’t know if you saw an article, but that said today that there was the play opened… Some plays opened last night, Theater opened last night, or the last couple of nights in Kiev, movie theaters have opened back up, so people are trying to figure out how to live, but it’s tough.
0:22:06.0 MW: It’s definitely tough for everybody. Thanks to you guys, our customers and everyone who supported us, we’ve been able to really support our people and friends of… We haven’t really written a big check to the Red Cross instead, we’ve done things for local communities and things like that, and we really support Ukraine I mean and the companies like us who pump money into your Ukraine, that’s how those countries, I think have stayed afloat for the last 10 years, there’s lots of dollars and Euros flowing into these countries to keep them going, I hope that other companies will do the same thing and not lose confidence and keep working with them ’cause it’s a great workforce. The country needs it. It’s absolutely brutal. It’s really, really brutal. That they’re just essentially, in my opinion, it’s not really the Russians, but Putin and they’re just trying to destroy the country, they’re just trying to destroy the country, and it’s sad because it’s so unnecessary.
0:23:04.5 JD: It’s very disturbing. I have some clients from Ukraine, and one of them said to me, it’s like, I can’t believe this is happening in the 21st century, but it is unfortunately… Well, listen, Mike, I really appreciate you coming on the show. It’s been very interesting, and if any of our listeners wanna get a hold of you, what’s the best way for them to do that?
0:23:25.0 MW: Yeah, so just like Mike and Aspen Tech Labs, our website is webspidermount.com, that’s kind of our core site for our jobs, they can listen to the ad at the beginning of the podcast and get some information. But yeah, we’re having a lot of fun. And despite kind of some challenges and stuff, the industry is growing, I’d really tell everyone to keep an eye on kind of the CPC and the CPA piece of the market. That’s interesting, and there’s a lot going on there. If there’s something we can do to help take a feed that you’re getting and curate it in some way, or you can figure out how they can figure out how to do that, I would encourage everyone to be there, and let’s also just remember the candidate. Candidate is the one that keeps us all in Business, and so let’s remember to think about the candidate and do the best we can for her experience through the process, we try and do that, and I encourage everybody else to too.
0:24:20.5 JD: Thanks for coming on. I appreciate it. And Steven, if anyone wants to get in touch with you, what do they need to do.
0:24:26.6 SR: They can email me, Steven@collegerecruiter.com, and I’m happy if anybody is interested, in sort of hearing our experiences with Aspen, reach out to me. It’s gonna be boring. I’m gonna say It’s awesome, Mike’s folks in the Ukraine our experience with them. And then I’m just gonna use a word that is to be taken in the most positive light, and that is, we refer to them as freaks, they get their work done ridiculously quickly and just rock solid, I just don’t know where you find these people, but keep finding them and maybe give us a dozen of them or something, ’cause I think everybody could use it them. They’re awesome. Slava, Ukraine.
0:25:06.8 MW: We appreciate that. I we appreciate it.
0:25:08.5 JD: Thanks a lot. And That’s it for today’s episode of job Board geek. Please feel free to subscribe via Apple, Spotify, Stitcher. Whatever gets you excited. My name is Jeff Dickey-Chasins, the job board doctor. You’ve been listening to the only podcast that covers the business of connecting candidates and employers. That’s it for today, and I will see you again next time.