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Ten years and six weeks ago I published the first issue of my newsletter, InSight.

In it I articulated my thoughts on the RCSA Conference that I had just attended. Seventeen subscribers received that first newsletter.

Today is the 500th issue of InSight and I am, as far as I can tell, the longest, continually published recruitment-specific blogger in Australia.

Thank you for reading my analyses, my rants, my opinions, my complaints and my views on all things recruitment for as long as you have been a reader. I greatly appreciate all the feedback I receive on a regular basis.

Also a special thank you and acknowledgement to Liana Duric, my invaluable foil (and only employee) since InSight’s first issue. She is, undoubtedly, the unsung hero of these past ten years as she has provided the highly necessary voice of reason to my work providing the honest and constructive feedback that ensures what you receive is as readable as it is interesting and useful.

I still derive great enjoyment writing about a sector that continues to provide such a rich source of interesting material. Thank you, to you the reader, for your constant stream of tips, suggestions and sources of inspiration; please keep them coming. I intend to keep blogging for as long as there is an audience for my analysis and opinions.

This week’s blog is another look at the recent uproar about Seek’s activities and what we, as an industry, might take from where we find ourselves.

How do I make Seek redundant?

The first issue of Insight was published at the near-peak of the pre-GFC recruitment industry boom; nobody was predicting the fallout that was just over the horizon, precipitated by the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. 

As the 500th issue of InSight is published, we now find ourselves in another boom market.

As I wrote about last week, you can be confident that times are good and are likely to continue in the short-to-medium term, at least, when Hays are hiring new recruiters at a rate of one every day of the working week, for months in a row.

Although, as long term readers are fully aware, I am an optimist about the future of the industry there are signs that need to be heeded.

The recent investments and market behaviour of Seek Limited has been, or should have been, a wake-up call for all in our industry.

Two weeks ago I attended a meeting where Seek representatives, Managing Director Michael Ilczynski and Head of Sales (Recruiter Segment) Con Marcheson met with RCSA CEO, Charles Cameron and RCSA Vice President, Sinead Hourigan, along with other members of the RCSA Online Workforce Solutions working group (of which I am a member).

The ninety minute conversation covered a number of areas of mutual concern.

Seek is unapologetic about their focus on maximising the job-seeking experience for each visitor to their job board platform. This means that the job seeker, regardless of the job that they apply for, can select a privacy setting of their choosing, which may make their details available immediately to other advertisers and subscribers, including other Seek-funded companies.

Sidekicker (a Seek-funded company) are aggressively targeting direct-hire advertisers with an email campaign that holds nothing back and seems to contradict Seek’s assertion that Sidekicker see their offering as much more of a labour-management platform than a direct recruitment-agency substitute.

Although their activities are the current focus of the Australian recruitment industry, it would be short-sighted, and a mistake, to fixate solely on what Seek are doing.

Even if Seek disappeared tomorrow, there would still be plenty of recruitment technology entrepreneurs eyeing off their small slice of the multi-hundred billion dollar global recruitment industry.

Although many recruitment technology companies are, so far, failing to deliver in line with expectations, there are other companies, especially in the contingent recruitment space that are building some momentum. Weploy and Adepto are just two of such offerings that have dispatched very upbeat progress reports to their respective communities this week.

These two companies have a much easier sell compared to their recruitment technology peers because their products, although very different, are solving problems that are very easy for the end-user to identify, and articulate the cost of. For end-users, this makes comparing their current solution to the alternatives that Weploy and Adepto offer, far easier.

The question that every agency owner and executive should be asking is not “How do we stop, or beat, Seek?”; the more powerful question is “How do I make Seek redundant (to me)?”

Three years ago I wrote about an agency that had done exactly that – closed their Seek account because they decided that screening candidates who applied to job board ads was an unprofitable use of their consultants’ time. The way this agency sources and assesses high quality candidates is not a way that their clients can easily or cost-effectively replicate.

The agency owners most agitated about Seek’s current activities are, unsurprisingly those whose business models most heavily rely on sourcing candidates via Seek ads.

In no way does this invalidate these owners’ concerns, or even anger, at Seek’s activities (or at the very least Seek’s lack of proactive communication about their various recruitment technology investments; sentiments I share), but consider how different things would be if a large majority of their respective agencies’ candidates were generated from avenues outside the Seek job board.

When you rely on a dominant (near-monopoly) supplier for an important component of your service offering, without a well-resourced plan to reduce your future reliance on this supplier, you are backing yourself into a corner with few palatable escape options if your supplier ‘goes rogue’.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” 

Buckminster Fuller  American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, and inventor.

I am truly fascinated to find out how different, or similar, the recruitment landscape will be when/if I reach InSight issue #1000 sometime in late 2028 or early 2029.

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