UK worst G8 country for youth unemployment, behind only Spain & Greece, says @WorkFoundation http://ow.ly/hfEnD
So guardianjobs.co.uk has broken the 2 million users-a-month barrier for the first time, and according to the press release it has sent out: “the continuing rise in traffic is attributed to the quality of jobs carried across a wide range of sectors and a strong pool of both passive and active job-seekers”.
Hmm. I suspect it might be more about the active job seekers than anything else.
After all, as even the calmest and least sensational of commentators agree, the UK unemployment rate is about to smash through the 2 million barrier – it if hasn’t already done so (http://tinyurl.com/bxd8e6).
In other words, there are more people out there looking for jobs than ever before (or at least, more than at any other time since the birth of digital recruiting). Is it just possible that more than anything else, it’s the high number of job seekers out there that is fuelling guardianjobs.co.uk’s traffic numbers?
The Guardian might argue that those job seekers come to guardianjobs.co.uk because they know they’ll find that high “quality of jobs carried across a wide range of sectors”. But the truth is, a quick glance at most job sites’ ABCe (www.abce.org.uk) audit – assuming they are independently audited- will show a big jump in numbers. For example, TotalJobs saw the number of their monthly users increase between Dec 08 and Jan 09 by a massive 90%.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising guardianjobs.co.uk – in fact I think it’s a strong site in many areas and in some cases would always appear on the schedule. But let’s not get carried away with some increases in audience and traffic numbers at the moment because right now, that is par for the course.
In any case, if we assume that guardianjobs.co.uk’s press release “big-ing up” the numbers was the result of a slightly over enthusiastic sales effort, let’s look at what resourcing professionals and advertisers really are interested in when they are formulating attraction strategies for their recruitment needs.
Are we interested in traffic and audience numbers? To a point. But it’s not the be all and end all. Once upon a time those numbers might be a useful indicator of potential success (or otherwise) of a campaign, but these days, there are so many active job seekers out there (as we’ve discussed), that it’s a little less relevant. People are more desperate so there’ll be more applicants. But in that middle-to-senior management space that the Guardian and its sister job site occupy, employers want quality – not quantity.
The stuff that would really make us sit up and take notice is data on likely success – numbers of applications in similar roles, numbers of shortlisted candidates, and offers made, for example. In fact, the same kind of information that resourcers and advertisers have been asking for, for years. Except now, thanks to more joined-up technology, we do have the ability to capture, manage and share this information. The question is, are we (by which I mean media and site operators, advertisers and resourcing professionals) ready to really take advantage, by working in a more open and collaborative way?
OK, this one may be sour grapes. It’s definitely borne out of sheer frustration. But why, oh why do we still hear “we really like you, but we just want to go with a smaller agency” as a reason why we’ve lost the pitch? (Smaller, niche agencies presumably get the polar opposite from time to time: “we just want to go with a bigger agency”).
Now I know that sometimes HR and resourcing teams are just too nice; they don’t want to have to tell you that you were too expensive, the creative work was rubbish, the strategy had more holes than swiss cheese, or even that “we thought the MD was an idiot”. But let’s just put that thought to one side for the moment, can we?
Take today. My company has been doing some fantastic stuff in terms of new business (including a number of blue chip wins we’ll be announcing very shortly), but we’ve also pitched to a medium sized manufacturing business with a global export business, based in the West Midlands, a month or so ago. Let’s call them Company X.
We’ve been talking to Company X for months. We know them. They know us. From the first metaphorical shy, nervous smiles across the dancefloor, to the breathless, desperate throws of that first night together, to the pleasant routine of the comfortable, lived-in relationship. We know everything about each other.
So why did they wait, until we’d gone to the effort and expense of pitching for their business, before telling us (today) that actually, with hindsight, umm, you know, they really liked our pitch but well, the thing is, they realised they’d be better off with a smaller agency? But we’d really like to keep in touch, you know, just in case.
I completely understand that some organisations would feel more comfortable working with a smaller partner. But couldn’t they have told us before we were ready to commit? It’s not like we were pretending to be anything we’re not, was it?
So you have to wonder, maybe getting jilted by Company X had nothing to do with our size. As I say, we never tried to hide our size and were completely open at the credentials stage months ago. So maybe we really were too expensive, or they didn’t like the creative work, or the strategy, or even the MD?
In which case (and this is a plea to any HR or resourcing professionals who happen to stumble upon this blog), please give us honest feedback. You’re not going to appoint us? OK, we can take it. We’re big boys and girls. No-one expects to win every pitch (like I say, we’ve won a number of blue chip accounts already this year – our strike rate for January is 3 out 4). But every organisation (including my own) that pitches for your business will invest a huge amount (of time and money) into getting their pitch ready, and that represents a considerable commitment to you. The least you can do, is to give us honest and clear feedback – so we can properly understand where it went wrong and what we need to do next time, however hard that may seem (nothing wrong in aiming for 4 out 4, is there?). So if you thought we were too expensive, or you didn’t like the creative work or the strategy, or even if you thought the MD was an idiot, please tell us. We can take it.
On second thoughts, maybe size is everything?!
Soon to launch search.co.uk (http://jobs.search.co.uk) is touting itself as “a revolutionary new recruitment advertising site where you only pay for results”.
But is that really true?
I’m happy to be proved wrong of course, but looking at the blurb for employers, I’m not sure if there’s anything new or revolutionary about it, other than the pricing model of course. And that’s hardly revolutionary – there are any number of on/offline recruitment services available that have some form of response-based pricing/pricing-by-results model, and search.co.uk seems to borrow from those.
The way it works is this. I post my vacancy for free, and only pay for the applications I receive. A rate card cost of £15 per application for the first 10 applications, and £10 a go after that. They’ll even throw in a vacancy management system so I can easily post my jobs and an employer profile site. Which is good.
But it’s hardly revolutionary; it takes a pricing model used by employment agencies, paid for search, and even some recruitment advertising agencies (who offer a joined up attraction plus screening and selection service) and puts it into a jobs board setting.
Which is hardly surprising, given that search.co.uk is part of Search Consultancy, a recruitment solutions business that (according to its site) offers a range of recruitment advertising, response management, temp and perm agency services, volume resourcing and on-site/outsourced recruitment.
But if we leave its ownership to one side (as an advertiser I’m always initially sceptical of a jobs board that is part of a wider recruitment advertising/employment agency: can they be entirely independent of their owners or am I being asked to support my competitors, and pay for the privilege?), the problem with search.co.uk’s pricing model is all about timing.
After all, with official unemployment figures rising to 1.92m as at November (surely they must be well past the 2m mark by now?) there are record numbers of applicants for most roles, never mind that the quality is not necessarily there, and that is bound inflate the amount that employers using search.co.uk have to pay.
With search.co.uk, if I receive 10 applications for a role, I’ll pay £150. Which sounds reasonable. But if get 100 applicants (and let’s face it, lots of junior and middle tier roles are regularly attracting much higher levels of response), I’ll pay £1,050.
Which is a lot more than I would pay if I was using a carefully selected combination of existing job boards, paid for search or social media options.
Search.co.uk would claim to have thought about that. You can ‘cap’ your budget and limit the number of applicants. Which is OK, but as an employer you want to select the best candidates from the total number of applicants received, not stop taking applications at some arbitarily set limit. So it’s not an ideal solution.
But they do make a bold claim. “Guaranteed quality applications or you don’t pay”.
Well, that’s good. They’ve solved the quality issue. Until you learn that “quality applications” is defined as someone who has the right to live and work in the UK and lives within 40 miles of the job.
Which clearly won’t cut it for most employers.
Actually, on second thoughts, that makes me a qualified brain surgeon. Really, it’s true. I have the right to live and work in the UK and there are any number of hospitals within a 40 mile radius of where I live. My mum will be so proud …
The problem with a response-based pricing model of this type, is that somewhere along the line you are going to have to limit the number of applications you accept, or costs will run out of control. And if you limit the size of the pool you’re fishing from, it’s bound to limit the number of quality applicants in that pool.
Maybe at another time, in those halcyon, pre-credit crunch days when we were still talking about rising employment and ever more acute skills shortages, this kind of model would have worked. But in today’s high unemployment economy, getting the right balance between cost and the best candidates probably means sticking to the more established pricing models (including traditional job boards, social/professional networking sites and search).
As my wife is so fond of telling me, it’s all about timing.