Dave talks to Jon Wilson – Talent Matters Podcast


Dave Jenkins talks to Jon Wilson about the importance of strong internal comms in challenging times, the thinking behind the Totaljobs price increases, why ROI should always come first, how a better job board candidate experience will directly impact job ad performance, the current state of the jobs market – and what that means for recruitment, and the mega-trends that will mean businesses will continue to hire.

The One Where They Talk About…

In Episode 7 of the Talent Matters podcast series, Wave CEO Dave Jenkins talks to Jon Wilson, CEO of Totaljobs.

Job board totaljobs.com launched in 1999 and was acquired by StepStone in 2012, the third largest online recruiter in the world. Jon took the helm four months before the first COVID lockdown and navigated the company through some rocky waters. As many will be acutely aware, Totaljobs has this year come under fire from recruiters for increasing their prices so Dave pulls no punches by launching straight into that conversation. They also talk about the state of the economy and the job market and what we might expect in the future.

It’s a fascinating chat and well worth a listen but we’ve compiled the most salient points of discussion here for a quick read in the meantime.

Strengthening internal communication key in challenging times

Like with any challenging situation, you have elements that drive changes and behaviour that are helpful and other elements that are not so helpful. When COVID hit and we all found ourselves at our kitchen tables, the big thing I wanted to address was internal comms. With none of us physically together, we needed to have a complete rethink of our internal communications strategy.

Totaljobs are part of StepStone, the third largest online recruiter in world, so we’re a big organisation and a breakdown in communication could spell real trouble. I knew what was needed was hyper-attention to communication, everything needed to be intentional. A lot of hard work in that area back then has helped to ensure honest, open, clear communications between myself and the team and drive some pretty tough, strong decisions.

The Totaljobs price increases – why and what was the goal?

Changes are always a challenge, for everyone. Our end goal is to make sure businesses are empowered to find the right talent, especially given the impact the talent shortage has had on companies.

What we needed to do do first was create a level playing field on our platform. A fair and equitable rate to receive a fair and equitable service, ensuring a good  return for your money. What’s the net effect of what we’re doing?

Ultimately, we’re trying to ensure a steady stream of quality, active candidates. However, some of our prices were so cheap that a lot of jobs were reposted within days and there was in general a huge number  of job postings on the platform. Too many jobs. Candidates got a poor experience as their ability to get to the hiring conversations were reduced all the time. In fact, everybody’s performances are diluted when there is a large volume of job adverts on the platform. With fewer jobs, the candidate experience is better – people looking for jobs are using Totaljobs more, meaning recruiters are benefiting from a higher performance.

Over 60% of applications generated are now coming via Totaljobs-owned channels, meaning instant job matches, recommendations, email alerts, and so on. Ultimately, if you post a job advert today it will perform better than a year ago.

A direct correlation between price increases and ROI increases

We understand the timing of the increases – coming hot off the heels of COVID – stung some people. There is never a good time and we recognise that. Depending on the level of the discount clients were receiving, the increases could have been extreme. However, some clients were already paying those prices so some equity was badly needed.

As a result of the increase in rates, we are now seeing some clients taking less jobs in their package but getting far more applicants for each of those jobs. At the end of the day, you’ve got to think about what you’re actually buying. Job ads are a proxy for good quality applications. A lot of investment goes into the performance of that job ad and the way we  can help customers understand the return on investment is by delivering that return. Since increasing prices, ROI is increasing – performance has more than offset those increases.

A better performance for candidates and recruiters

Before we instigated anything, we engaged one of the largest consultancies in the world to help us understand what best practice looks like and how we can mitigate risks.

Ultimately, what all recruiters are purchasing from us is applicants. Post a job on our platform and our job is to go to all of the channels available to us to find candidates actively or passively looking, encourage them to engage in the advert and then in the application process.

The proof of how well that is working is in the results – year over year there has been in excess of a 100% increase in the number of applications per job. WaveTrackR data backs that up, showing double and even triple the number of applications per job since the price increase.

Of course, different industries will experience varying degrees of response but all are 100% better than before. We could have played it safe, kept prices low, allowed far more jobs on the platform, and we would actually make more money. However, in that scenario both recruiters and candidates get a poorer performance. That is not what we’re trying to do. Totaljobs is all about delivering a great candidate experience and ensuring that recruiters and employers get a fair result and a fantastic performance.

An investment back into the tech

We are committed to investing back into our tech to further improve the experience for both candidates and recruiters/employers. The goal is always to help people find the right jobs.

We want to to make sure that as many candidates as possible get all the way through the application process and that recruiters feel confident that if they post their jobs on the platform they’ll get great delivery.

The aim is to make the experience so great that Totaljobs is always first, allowing you to be the first to market with your jobs and can therefore have those first conversations with candidates. The entire team is wholeheartedly onboard with the mission that candidates can find the right jobs for them. We want to ensure that every customer gets a fair opportunity to hire the right candidate. And I can promise that more good things are coming down the line. We have the backing of a global business when it comes to tech resources and we thrive on innovation.

High jobs, low candidate numbers and no way to plan

Right now we’re seeing many more jobs in the UK economy than ever before. Office for National Statistics data has found that jobs are 60% higher now than in February/March of 2020. At the same time, candidate activity is 15-20% lower than that period. So you have more jobs but with fewer people looking for a job.

One of the huge issues businesses face is that they need consistency in order to plan but there is literally no consistency coming from the government and the likelihood is that we will have a more challenging economic environment in the future.

There are two mega trends at work here – the size of the working population is decreasing and the average amount of time people spend in jobs is also decreasing.

In 2050, the working population is only expected to be 1.5% bigger than it is today. The working population is hugely slowing down and even declining in some of the world’s biggest economies. One of the reasons for this is that many took early retirement during the pandemic and few have returned, despite the cost of living crisis. The number of retirees returning to the workforce in some capacity is likely to rise, however, meaning you should have an experienced, capable talent pool becoming more active in the coming months.

You also have a huge number of people who were made redundant then moved into other industries and many of that cohort haven’t returned either. The airline and hospitality industries are great examples of this. This has left so many businesses massively understaffed as the people who would have worked in the positions they’re advertising have moved into different industries. The rising cost of living is, to some extent, forcing movement inside economy and there will be a small correction over the next six months, although this will impact people in lower paid jobs and entry level roles more.

A huge legacy of COVID is that businesses have realised that if they stop hiring or reduce the number of jobs now, it won’t be easy to get those people back again so many will just keep hiring if they can afford to do so. Smaller companies that can’t flex that way will see more volatility. However, the tension in the market won’t completely dissipate, which will continue to fuel the movement of people between jobs.

And finally… you’re entertaining, what’s on the menu Jon?

I’m vegan and love a roast (without the meat, obviously!) so it’ll be a full Christmas-type dinner with a plate piled high with all the trimmings. And what will we be talking about?

Job boards are always the most exciting topic at a dinner party!

Keep your eye out for upcoming Talent Matters podcasts where you can expect more insights and advice from an incredibly diverse line-up of figures from the world of recruitment.