The ins and outs of running an online jobs platform in Nigeria

Hilda Kragha

We talk to Hilda Kragha, CEO of Jobberman Nigeria, the country’s largest job placement website, founded in 2009. She discusses the company’s revenue model and explains why LinkedIn is not giving her sleepless nights.

The barriers to entry for a job listing site are relatively low. To what do you ascribe Jobberman’s longevity?

There might be very few barriers to entry for a site, but there are barriers to scaling that site. It is difficult getting from zero to your first one million users. You have to build the kind of relationships required with human resource heads in order for them to be comfortable using your platforms over and over again. This takes time. You also need the right product suite that fits both in terms of price and functionality and you need the right tech so that you never have any downtime. Then you need the right level of jobseekers. If you only have entry-level candidates it is not going to be attractive to people who are looking for experienced hires.

What has helped Jobberman with its longevity is focusing, from the very start and even now, on quality job listings as well as on using data to inform our decisions and not to be distracted by the easier ways to do things e.g. scraping jobs from all over the web.

Who are your competitors?

Our competitors are actually quite localised. LinkedIn, of course, has the capacity to make a huge play in the recruitment space and probably be very successful, but the fact that they don’t have boots on the ground so far in Africa has held them back. We usually see people simply sharing what they have posted on Jobberman on LinkedIn as well.

Our bigger competition is the offline players. There has historically been a reliance on offline systems that have been in place for decades and decades. But now, especially with the pandemic, a lot of these recruiters that we previously considered competition are coming on board as collaborators. They are realising that Jobberman can also be a service provider to them.

Describe Jobberman’s revenue streams.

Our core business model is the recruitment services that we offer through a number of products. Currently, our basic job listing is free of charge as part of our coronavirus initiatives. Usually, it would be 11,o00 Nigerian naira ($30). The next product costs 54,000 naira ($120) and includes a listing as well as a built-in assessment. It is currently our most popular product. For mid-level roles we have Pro-Recruit for 90,000 naira ($233), where we will give you five pre-qualified candidates in five days. Finally, based on the fee model of 10% of the annual salary of the successful candidate, we offer the end-to-end recruitment product all the way to executive level. The future of Jobberman, however, does not lie in executive recruitment. I think it is a good business line, but if you think about the solutions that Africa needs, it is usually scalable solutions driven by tech and you cannot do executive recruitment at scale via technology as it relies heavily on relationships.

Advertising revenue on the platform is less than 5% of overall revenue. Some of the other job boards in Nigeria have a lot of listings because they scrape from all over the web to drive traffic and attract advertisers. We deliberately don’t do that because we want our site to have good quality, verifiable jobs and be easy to use for both jobseekers and employers. Sometimes having too much advertising on your site, even though it brings in revenue, makes the user uncomfortable.

What metrics do you track to make sure you are showing the growth you want?

We track active job seekers and active employers, but there is a risk that this can become a vanity metric. We use our Net Promoter Score (NPS – a metric that measures customer experience and predicts business growth) to see if customers are happy on our site and if they are successfully hiring candidates. Then, naturally, we track revenue. We also track the three and six month retention rate – seeing if the people who have used our products are coming back.

We also look at total leads versus organic listings. This is an interesting metric to measure if the work of the sales team, who are going out and holding events, translates into listings.

What does the sales team look like?

Our sales team is divided into four distinct groups. You have the telesales team that is calling to sell the product and listings. The field sales team are typically more senior and engage in face-to-face meetings. Then we have the customer service and success team whose primary objective is to make sure anyone coming to Jobberman achieves the result they set out for and is happy with the service they receive – for example, they vet employers when they list to verify that all the information is accurate when presented to job seekers and we actively follow up with employers to find out if they hired a candidate from our site. Then, lastly, we have the head-hunters team, which deals with executive recruitment.

Jobberman has just formed a partnership with the Mastercard Foundation with the aim to train five million jobseekers and place three million in employment within five years. Explain the business rationale for this partnership?

Jobberman has been offering employability training for some time, even prior to the partnership. However, the business rationale of the partnership is threefold.

On our jobs platform, as in any marketplace, you are dealing with two core stakeholders. On the one hand you have jobseekers and on the other hand the employers who want them linked to jobs. For a marketplace to work effectively, there has to be trust in your ability to match the two.

We have 2.2 million jobseekers on our platform, but we historically kept getting the constant feedback that jobseekers are not qualified: they have first-class degrees but can’t write a CV; they are not ready for interviews; they have no idea how to behave in a workplace. This affects our marketplace. By investing in jobseeker training and upskilling them, we are making sure that our jobseekers are better prepared for work. It means that, inevitably, our employers – the side that we monetise – will be more successful because they have a pool of better qualified candidates. That is the first aspect of the partnership.

The second aspect is that we will be able to develop products that will help employers to recruit better, such as assessment products and personality tests. These are objective data points which, if employers use them, will build trust in the marketplace. You might not trust the university that the candidate went to or maybe their qualifications. However, if you have given a candidate a skills-based test and they passed, or you have assessed their personality and know it is what you are looking for, then you are more willing to trust candidates from the Jobberman platform. It will give the market the objective metrics that can be used to inform good hiring decisions and increase productivity in their workplaces.

The third aspect is that it will unlock opportunities around data. We have a database of 2.2 million jobseekers and 67,500 employers. Nigeria does not necessarily have any official body that is tracking employment rates or the quality of jobs. It means we are in a position to provide this insight. We can help to show the jobs that are the hardest to fill and where the talent needs to be developed. Or we can see which jobs are oversubscribed and where employers feel that university curricula is not achieving its goals. At a macro level we can analyse this data. This, in turn, helps trainers that want to build curriculums and policymakers who need to make decisions. We can be at the forefront of employment and of the labour conversation in Nigeria.

Will you monetise this data?

In the short-term, we would definitely offer it free. In 10 years’ time this would be a different conversation, but for now it is mostly to help people make better decisions and to help us improve our brand profile.

Tell us about your expansion plans?

We are already part of a pan-African offering through our parent company Ringier One Africa Media, which also owns the Brighter Monday platforms in East Africa. So the focus is on expansion within the country. If you look at the Jobberman platform today, about 70% of all our listings are within Lagos, Abuja or Port Harcourt. We are investigating what it would take to get us in all 36 states. One of Nigeria’s largest challenges is that young people keep migrating to find opportunities, but maybe if Jobberman was in some of the secondary states, we could highlight opportunities in those states as well and more young people would be willing to stay home. For this, we need to have willingness from local partners such as the state governments. We also need to consider that we would likely have to offer lower-tech solutions, possibly integrating into USSD.

The secondary expansion focus, which is related, would be to move from a traditionally white-collar offering to include blue-collar jobs. We understand that this means that we will likely be moving into the gig economy. Here specifically a big challenge is verification. If you allow an artisan into your home, you have to be comfortable that the person is who they say they are and won’t leave havoc in their wake.

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