Meet Brett Iredale from Job Adder

Following last weeks interview with Kevin Howard from Jobs in HR today we have another local recruitment expert Brett Iredale. Brett runs the successful automated job posting system JobAdder and as you will see from the interview an early adopter of technology. While the last few interviews have been focused on recruiting I am working to expand the topics into other areas of HR.

Tell us a bit about your background, how did you end up in the job board business?

My background is in IT, in particular business systems consulting and sales. I started my own business in IT Recruitment in 2001 and first started developing niche job sites in 2002 as a way to attract staff for our recruitment clients. The job boards were really an experiment initially and I was lucky to have the background and the people around me to be able to do it very affordably. Long story short the job board business generated a lot of interest so we white labelled the software, streamlined our processes, automated the entire thing and started rolling out more job boards.

When did you setup JobAdder?

We started developing JobAdder in 2005 for the reasons outlined below.

Who or what was your inspiration to start JobAdder, and can you briefly explain the idea behind JobAdder?

JobAdder came about as a result of our experiences selling job board memberships. As job board owners we kept coming up against 2 issues over and over again:

1. Without an automated job posting solution our advertisers were just not posting their ads so it was very difficult to get traction. Advertisers would ask for an introductory offer but then they wouldn’t get around to posting their jobs because it was all too hard. Converting a client to an ongoing contract from that starting point is nearly impossible.

2. When we started launching job boards we soon discovered that the recruitment systems our clients were using wanted an average of $10,000 a site to integrate our job boards into their posting platforms. It became very clear that most ATS systems see job posting as a low priority pain in the butt. I approached the only dedicated job posting software provider that existed back then and found them even less interested in integrating our job boards. I was told “sorry we only integrate large well known job boards”. That staggering attitude was the impetus for what we now have in JobAdder.

With these challenges in mind we had little choice but to set about solving our own problem.

Can you explain the value proposition of the JobAdder tool?

There are a number of important value props however here are a few of the key ones
1. Save time and money by making it easier and faster to post ads onto multiple job boards
2. Increase staff satisfaction and productivity by reducing menial time consuming tasks
3. Increase job distribution and brand awareness by making it easier to utilise additional job boards
4. Spend your advertising dollars more effectively by better understanding the effectiveness of the job boards you are using.
5. Turn your own web site into an effective candidate attraction channel by using the broad range of tools available in JobAdder such as an integrated job search on your web site, send to a friend, referral tracking, ability to send jobs to social networks, job alerts and more.
6. Control and understand ad spend through the sophisticated job allocation system

How do you feel this approach benefits the advertisers and candidates?

Benefits to advertisers are covered in the previous point. Benefits to job seekers are that consultants have more time to work with candidates, thereby able to provide a better service.

Why did you decide to move away from niche jobs boards, such as NowHiring, to focus only the JobAdder service?

I have a deep passion for niche boards and had I been 2 people and not one I would still be involved. My situation was simply that I had 2 businesses showing strong potential and as a small business I felt that the smart thing to do was to find a home for one and focus 100% on the other. 6 months on I am absolutely certain it was the right move.

You have integrated with over 125 jobs boards, are you able to comment on if niche job boards gaining or losing postings?

I think it is safe to say that across the board most job sites are seeing reduced job volumes. We track the advertising volumes of most major sites in Australia and have been seeing this now for a couple of months. However job board success is not measured purely in job volumes so a drop off in ad numbers in itself does not mean certain sites are struggling. There are a number of niche sites that continue to increase their brand awareness and seem to be making strong inroads.

While you have integrations with the major Australian job boards, what are some of the more obscure boards you work with?

If there was a job site for left-handed Smurfs we would integrate them. Unfortunately we haven’t come across that one yet but we do have a very broad range of niche sites from niche Microsoft software solutions (DynamicsCareers.com) to job and resume sharing sites such as RecRadar.com and the very new 2vouch.com.au. Another niche site that keeps popping up is Adage.com.au – a site for mature aged workers (mature being over 40 years of age, cough cough). Adage recently picked up a gong at the Diversity at Work awards presented by Sir Bob Geldof so it is plain to see that niche sites form an important part of the job board eco system.

You have recently launched a new version of JobAdder, what are some of the new features?

This has been a major new release so pretty much all areas of the product were touched however some of the major enhancements were:

  • Improved User Interface. The UI has been modernised and subtly re-engineered to allow us to continue to expand the product throughout 2009.
  • New job board integration platform. Our developers have spent months developing a new job board integration platform that allows our consultants to add new job board partners in as little as an hour each. It is critical to our growth plans to be able to add new sites quickly and easily.
  • Free trials. We have taken the decision to open up our site to allow prospective clients and clients of other systems to be able to sign in, have a play around and even post live ads to free job sites in our network.
  • A new template system that allows users to easily save and re-use job ads as templates. For example if you have ads you commonly write then you can now save them as templates and use them over and over again as required.
  • Improved spell checking including a new and improved spell checker and the ability for managers to set rules in place so that users cannot post a job without first spell checking it.
  • A new job board module for advertisers wanting to send jobs to their own sites either using iframes or XML. We have always provided this service however the new system includes a number of enhancements such as referral programs, job alerts, ability to send jobs to social networks and more.

Clients can track applicants within the JobAdder tool, does this mean you are really an ATS with a job posting engine?

No, applicant tracking in JobAdder is predominantly for reporting purposes. ATS systems are complex animals and there are some very good ones out there, however as a group they tend to be lousy at job posting so we are continuing to focus on our knitting.

With so many jobs being posted everyday what are some of the tips you could provide for crafting the perfect job posting?

I am not sure there is such a thing as a perfect job posting but in my experience the number one rule is to focus on the person not the job spec. Understand the person you are targeting and write your job ad accordingly. There are a number of ways to understand the kind of person you are targeting and I don’t recommend one method over the other. The important thing is that you do understand the type of person you are after and write the ad as though it is written just for them.

You recently blogged in late October that “The reality for job boards is that the strong will get stronger and the weak will get weaker.” Can you explain this statement a bit further.

I don’t believe a downturn in itself creates more opportunity for niche sites. Advertisers tend to rationalise their ad spend when things tighten up so by definition it cannot mean a blanket advantage to niche job sites. What we are seeing is that advertisers are seeking efficiencies as they are in all other areas of their business. This means looking at where they are getting best results so that they can spend a greater percentage of their budget with proven performers and spend less on speculative channels . If (and only if) a niche site is delivering strong results to an advertiser then there is every chance it could be selected on a panel instead of a second or third ranked generalist site.

We are seeing a similar thing in the generalist market. A lot of advertisers who were previously advertising with 3 generalist job boards have rationalised that back to 2 sites.

For this reason I believe the relative gap between top and bottom stretches in a downturn. There is not as much money to go around so stragglers and underperformers will be left behind and strong performers who are adding real value will shore up their positions and move ahead relative to their competition.

What do you see as the current trends for recruiting talent in Australia over the coming one to two years?

That is a broad question but I see a strong sustained move towards technology and towards corporate careers sites (of course you would expect me to say that).

For example I know quite a few companies in Australia now receiving more than 15% of all job applications through their own web sites. At the other end of the spectrum we still have some large recruiters and corporate advertisers who don’t even advertise their jobs on their web site.

There will continue to be a lot noise around social networking however I think it will largely continue to just be noise.

Do you see a growth in posting jobs via social networks such as Facebook, MySpace or Twitter?

I hear an increase in the number of people talking about such sites however a lot of the noise is coming from people who don’t really use or understand these mediums. I do use them to varying degrees and so do all the people who work here and so far we remain underwhelmed.

Linkedin (Facebook for adults) will continue to grow in popularity and effectiveness but I am afraid I do not see Facebook and Myspace as the next hot frontiers in online recruitment.

That said we will continue to invest in leading edge technology and will continue to look very closely at anything that we believe will add value to our users. For example we are currently working on some significant social networking initiatives for 2009 and are trialling in some very exciting emerging technologies that we hope to roll out in coming months.

What blogs do you read and why do you recommend them?

Unfortunately I don’t read as many blogs as I used to. I tend to read a lot of technology and trend related blogs (mainly out of the US) however won’t give away my favourite ones in this article if that’s OK. In terms of online recruitment I read Cheezhead although he has lost focus over the last 6 months so my interest there is waning. I read your blog of course Michael, John Sumser, Mashable, Standout Jobs Blog, The AIM Group, YourHRGuy, Destination Talent and many of the other usual suspects.

It is difficult recommending blogs because they are such a personal thing. It depends on the industry you are in, your particular personal interests, the writing styles you like and so on.

What other social media tools, if any, do you use?

My tried and tested social media of choice remain the phone, the BBQ and a bottle of wine.

For me “online social media” is still a contradiction in terms. If I am online I am either working or wasting time but I am definitely not socialising.

Any final comments or words of wisdom?

I am too young to be wise and as my wife always reminds me, nothing I say is final.

Meet Jobs in HR founder Kevin Howard

Last month I posted an interview with an internal recruiter from Oracle Australia, David Talamelli, and decided this will become a regular feature. I have always wanted to profile interviews on the blog however up until nowI did not feel Australia had enough of a local online market to generate interesting posts. That has changed.

Today’s interview with with Kevin Howard founder of Jobs in HR, an email jobs list for HR professionals. I have known Kevin for about four years now, but only meet him once in person just after I started Inspecht, and felt it would be good to get an understanding of how Jobs in HR operates. I thank Kevin for the time he took to get through the interview, I hope you all enjoy it.

Tell us a bit about your background, you have a recruitment background correct?

I have a technical background originally. I worked on radar systems for 8 years, followed by a couple of years with a specialist computer systems company when I first came to Australia. Like a lot of people in recruitment I got into by chance in 1989, when a company I was using to recruit staff offer me a job!. I started off servicing the electronics industry initially, mainly in communications and then the large IT companies as networking technology really took off. I worked in recruitment for 12 years, ending up as CEO and part owner of a recruitment agency with offices in three states, which we sold to a large UK firm in ’97. I stayed on as CEO after the sale and left at the end of 99 after merging our company with another IT recruitment that the group had purchased.

When did you setup the Jobs in HR email list?

We launched Jobs in HR in August 2004.

Who or what was your inspiration to start the email list?

I was advising an environmental consulting firm on their recruitment strategy and discovered that there were a couple of recruitment advertising products based on the subscriber mail list concept. I wanted to do something a little different to recruiting but utilise my knowledge of recruitment, so I decided to start developing similar targeted advertising products for other disciplines. Building a product for HR profession was a no brainer from a strategic perspective.

Why did you choose an email list as the delivery vehicle when everything was going on to the web?

Precisely because email is a delivery system – it’s ‘push’ advertising, rather than ‘pull’, so it doesn’t rely upon people visiting a passive job board on the web. The copy is delivered directly to the audience’s desktop.

How does you service work from an advertisers point of view as you do not seem to run jobs more than once, unlike many job boards?

It’s important to note that we are not trying to be like the typical job boards – our goal is to complement the big job boards, by reaching the people they don’t usually reach. This means reaching passive and senior job seekers who rarely visit job boards, if at all.

We work on the premise that if you deliver quality content, you attract a quality audience. This means don’t ‘spam’ your audience with repeated, cross posted and irrelevant job ads. People don’t want to see the same jobs again and again, nor do they want to receive jobs in Perth, when they’re looking in Melbourne. We also exclude jobs for commercial (agency) recruitment consultants because we know most career HR people are not interested in these sales oriented roles.

We know for a fact that this quality approach works. Within a few months of launching Jobs in HR, feedback from our regular advertisers (HR recruitment specialists) was that they were receiving applications from passive and senior candidates whom they would not expect to be browsing the usual job boards.

Some of Australia’s leading HR recruitment specialists have advertised all their jobs with us from the outset. But even after 4 years of operation there are other recruiters who still don’t “get it”.

How do you feel this approach benefits the advertisers and candidates?

Our value proposition is very simple.

Advertisers reach a targeted audience whom they are very unlikely to reach through other advertising channels, particularly the big job boards.

Candidates get fresh HR jobs delivered directly to their desktop without having to trawl through thousands of jobs on a job board.

There is however added value for recruitment agencies who advertise their jobs with us – they are putting their brand in front of over 8000 HR people every week.

You have over 8,000 subscribers to your list, what do you feel has been the key to the success?

Word of mouth and the quality of product has certainly been a big factor. We also spend a lot of money each year on promoting Jobs in HR to HR people.

With over 8,000 subscribers do you track how many times the email is forwarded to others?

No we don’t, and although we know people do forward our email bulletins, we don’t count that in our audience numbers because it’s impossible to quantify. Without using questionable means it’s not possible to track this anyway.

We also know that there are other people who don’t subscribe but simply treat our as a normal job board and simply browse the site from time to time. Again, we don’t count those in our audience.

8,000 subscribers is just under 10% HR practitioner’s in Australia, do you feel this means they are all active candidates?

There isn’t really much reason to subscribe to Jobs in HR unless you are at least moderately interested in a new job, so I would say they are all potential ‘candidates’.

Around 35% of our audience subscribe to daily email updates. These people are obviously “active” job seekers. The other 65% will range from people who are reasonably active through to very passive candidates, who are only likely to make a move if something really special comes along.

I should mention that there is also constant ‘churn’ – people unsubscribing and new people subscribing every day. In the region of 50-100 new people per week.

You have an RSS feed on your site, is this method used by many people, if so why?

We adopted RSS at your suggestion. Although we were happy to do so it hasn’t proven to be very attractive to HR people. Less that 2% of our audience use it as far as we are aware. I don’t think RSS is used much by people who are not involved in technology in some shape or form. I thought this might change when IE7 came along (with it’s ability to read feeds) but it didn’t make much difference.

Email is still the killer application as far as communication is concerned.

What do you see as the current trends for recruiting in Australia?

If, as some economists are predicting, we are heading for a deep global recession in 2009, then the recruiting landscape will change markedly.

Some big employers have already frozen recruitment, others have announced significant job cuts and I suspect there is much more similar news to come.

I believe we will see a reversal of the trend for large employers to build in-house recruitment services. As an employer you really need to be doing a lot of recruitment to warrant employing dedicated in-house recruiters.

If companies shed their internal recruiters this may result in more opportunity for the RPO suppliers or a return to using external recruitment agencies on an ‘as needs’ basis.

I think we will see an increase in the use of contractors instead of hiring permanent staff.

I believe some employers in the private sector will use the downturn as an excuse to shed non performing staff but some may also be quietly doing some recruiting shortly afterwards.

Having the right people on board becomes even more important in a tough economic climate but hiring them doesn’t necessarily get any easier. Companies don’t usually lay off their best performers and good people are less likely to change jobs if they think they are secure where they are. Smart companies will be keen to retain the talent they worked so hard to recruit and develop in the last couple of years.

Despite the fact that there are few positives there for external recruiters, I do believe the recruitment industry will contract significantly. Jan is a notoriously quiet month in recruitment so we may start to see some lay offs before Christmas.

As for recruitment advertising, the market has become increasingly fragmented with a plethora of new job boards large and small. Although many recruiters and employers have actively sought out alternative ways to reach prospective candidates, my belief is that only those products that reach a different audience to the large established job boards will survive.

These are of course only my personal (pessimistic) views and it could all pan out very differently!

You have expanded into vertical areas other than HR recently how did you decide on which areas to focus?

One of our products, Jobs in Planning existed before Jobs in HR. The planning profession (town/urban, environmental, social, economic) is small and easily identifiable so we chose that as a pilot product.

The most recent product is Jobs in Safety. We knew there was increasing demand for safety people, it overlaps with HR where we are already well established and we also felt Safety was not very well serviced by the big job boards.

What blogs do you read and why do you recommend them?

I read yours of course, because it’s one of the few local blogs which is directly related to HR, recruitment and related technology and is reasonably unbiased.

I read TechCrunch regularly, because it’s probably the world’s most influential web 2.0 blog, and Vitamin (thinkvitamin.com), because we build web sites. The Nowhiring blog was good fun but it’s replacement, Jobadder, is pretty quiet nowadays.

There are heaps of other blogs that I read regularly, usually because I’ve seen an article in an email newsletter. I subscribe to several email newsletters, one of the best being a daily email from an NZ recruitment advertising company called the Haines Morning Report.

Have you ever considered blogging?

Considered it yes, but I just don’t have the time with all the other projects I have in the pipeline. If I can find some spare time I will likely spend it contributing towards HRbuzz.com.au which is a forum we run.

What other social media tools, if any, do you use?

I joined Facebook just to see if it was worthwhile – it wasn’t. I’m on Linkedin, although I don’t really ‘use it’ much (but that’s a serious recruitment tool). I spend more time on forums, such as Whirlpool and a few obscure ones relating to personal interests. I prefer forums to blogs because anyone can post on a forum (usually) and they also usually have more functionality.

Any final comments or words of wisdom?

I think I have said enough already 🙂