In 1995, Graham, Eric, Karen and I set about building the first multi-sector job board in the UK, which became the very successful, Jobsite.co.uk. At the time we thought we had literally invented the concept of the Job Board because with only 40,000 people online in the UK (mainly IT people like us) and hardly any websites online, we certainly weren’t aware of any other model in the market. In those days we were all programmers (well apart from Eric who ran his own very successful recruitment consultancy) with very little business savvy, so why should we even care about researching the market first – we just wanted to get on with the job of creating it. It was only later that we heard about Jobserve.com, a job board dedicated to IT recruitment that had pipped us to the post by quite a few months and there was a site out in the States called MonsterBoard which later became the global Monster brand we know today. With hundreds of boards coming on-stream each year in those early days, the race was on to build the biggest, the highest quality and the best (which is pretty much what we are still doing today).
The idea was always about matching vacancies and candidates, a task I had helped my brother Eric with in 1987 when he asked me to write him a bespoke matching engine for his own recruitment business. Over 7 years later, Eric’s system had been written in over 5 different languages (following very many late nights) and was capable of processing over 10,000 vacancies matching 1000’s of candidates in nano seconds. It was the fact that I was immersed in this technology development that originally inspired me to suggest that we build an online recruitment system to Karen and Graham, who enthusiastically took up the challenge. In 1995, Jobsite was born.
Jobsite was always profitable and certainly fast growing (we were the 3rd fastest growing company in Britain according to one survey – D & B/Real Business) but it was four years into the business cycle before I really came to understand exactly why the Online Recruitment model had really taken off so spectacularly in the way it had and why recruiters were dumping their proprietary databases like they were going out of fashion. Of course I knew all along that the speed to market, low cost advertising with an almost instant response from candidates was light years better for the recruiter than the traditional models they were using (such as trade press and searching their own databases) but what I hadn’t realised was an even more compelling reason. It became apparent that it was all about butterflies.
This all started when I was on a train with our Marketing Director, Felix Wetzel quizzing him about the deals he was doing with huge scale UK recruitment agencies. What I discovered was happening was that the agencies were prepared to let Felix “market” to their own CV database with offers encouraging those candidates to join Jobsite. I was puzzled and really wanted to get to the bottom of why agencies were giving us their crown jewels like this so eagerly. Yes, we were paying them for the privilege but they all seemed to be very happy to do it and we certainly weren’t going to question it. Previously, recruiters wouldn’t let us touch their database with a barge pole.
Over lunch with one of the UK’s most successful recruiters I posed the question, “Why are you allowing us to do this apart from the dosh?”. The recruitment guy explained that the Job boards had solved a problem that they had being trying to tackle for decades. When a recruitment company were given a vacancy, the first thing they would do was to search their own database. They didn’t have very much time to do this though and they would go to absolute pains to find a perfect match. The disappointment they experienced when they rang the ideal candidate only to be told that they weren’t looking for a job at that time was unbearable. With other “Preferred Suppliers” vying for the business, there was always a frustrating race to provide the shortlist to their client and this was certainly not helped by ringing round an endless set of “perfect matches” only be told to bugger off. The recruiter explained that he had virtually every CV that existed in his industry but that didn’t help him as much as our solution. He explained that when the Job boards came on the scene, he was more than happy to give us his entire database and let us cast them all up in the air (in the way we do) and let gravity single out the butterflies from the lead weights. He was then free to catch the butterflies in his net, qualify them without any risk of rejection and quickly provide his client with the shortlist.
I suppose these days, this is exactly what we still do but to a much deeper extreme. Jobsite is embracing (not competing against) social and professional networks such as Twitter, to include candidates from a much wider spectrum. We also have a network of over 400 job boards (whether they be sector specific niche like www.cityjobs.com, regional like www.londonjobs.co.uk or multi-sector like