First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Mircea Popa: The COVID19 pandemic impacted our social, personal and business environment due to its restrictions, the unforeseen administrative circumstances, unpredictable economic evolutions and other uncertainties. However, it offered for myself, my family and my colleagues the opportunity to appreciate much more what we have, and helped us to assess and restructure our system of values and personal priorities.
Spending much more time at home, having limited direct interactions among our network of contacts and business connections we learned to redefine our relations and dependencies highly dependent on technology and telecommunication. The “tele-socialization” reduced the physical distances but the pandemic taught us that firstly, we are still social beings, and secondly, we are strongly dependent on face-to-face communication to keep running our business.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined JobNinja
Mircea Popa: Not long time ago, Lorent Meyer and myself (two enthusiastic and non-curable optimistic young people) we started JobNinja with the aim to simplify the recruiting process significantly. Even if on that time we were not aware of some sensitivities and issues related to this challenging domain, we have developed an innovative online platform to enable the employer to easily reach and identify the right candidate for his job, and vice versa: to assist the potential employees to identify, select and apply for an appropriate position by using a very user-friendly tool. The job seekers are able to upload their data through an app and then apply for any particular job by simply swiping -tinder for jobs.
How does JobNinja innovate?
Mircea Popa: While targeting a general or a very specific term that people use on our platform, we offer a pay-per-application model for performance sensitive customers, especially recruiting firms. By presenting useful and quality targeted content, we can also be called “programmatic advertising job board”. In accordance with our business model, most of our efforts are addressing the needs and requirement of the employers (in other words our site is a bit more “kinder” in terms of employers versus the job seekers). Our intelligent traffic optimizer places the ads on multiple partner job exchange boards, analyzes the generated traffic for every individual job and optimizes the traffic according to the number of applications received. Consequently, the traffic that leads to applications is increasingly purchased from the partner job exchanges.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Mircea Popa: In the near future, in the post-crisis economic environment, industry may suffer major changes impacting the job markets; the whole recruitment process and all the actors should adapt consequently. We assess that the “jobs looking for the candidates” tendency will step back and balance the traditional approach leading to a more specialized, intelligent and targeted search both for recruiters and the job seekers. This means that when addressing our clients’ needs and requirements, we must take into consideration some of the identified changes generated by the management and the personal understanding of the COVID19 phenomena.
Coronavirus Pandemic impacted multiple, interrelated domains at macro- and micro-levels. On one hand we are taking into consideration the existing and potential changes in the economic/business and the social domains, and on the other hand the personal understanding, expectations and needs related to the job and health security. We have to be aware that an individual might be driven in their decisions related to their way of working or potentially a new job, by their confidence in the administrative and social systems (health, public transportation, education) and the feeling of security offered.
We are aware that the context (the market, the economic and social environment) and responsiveness of our platform play a major role on our business process models and determine or influence the customers’ behavior. For example, during the Coronavirus crisis we succeeded to preserve our fix customer base (and consequently we are not seriously affected) but it seems that some of competitors are much more impacted by this situation (probably because marketing budget reductions leads to cutting the high-priced partners).
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Mircea Popa: Programmatic advertising requires an important investment of time and resources to really capitalize. Nevertheless it seems to be the future of job advertising. Using the programmatic job advertising, one can expand its horizon from the traditional job boards to the whole web. It might be an “universal tool” still inappropriate for a very tailored, specialized expectation (precision surgery). Programmatic only works for high volume recruiting and for flexible customers. Fixed budget customers still tend to use pay-per-post sites as performance-based sites can`t offer the guarantee of spending a specific amount of money.
As an example, last year we failed to sign a contract with an important customer because we are not able to guarantee the spending of 100.000€ in 6 months time frame. Taking into consideration their business processes, the budget had to be spent entirely and we were supposed to deliver applicants for that amount. If we should had delivered applicants for 90.000€ our customer would have been unhappy because he would get a smaller budget for the next trimester.
There are still a considerable number of medium and big enterprises constrained by their specific business models, budget-based or not (enough) performance targeted; they have the predisposition to think and act in fix monthly or yearly allocated budgets and that self-imposed boundaries are more important than the potential performance.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and JobNinja in the future?
Mircea Popa: My approach is simple, considering that stress is good for the business, keeping all of us alert, active and resilient. Of course, too much stress is non-constructive but a positive thinking and optimistic attitude are the best treatment for that and for potential anxiety. Most of our problems and issues are unique challenges without pre-defined (best) answers. However, there is always a solution, even if sometimes we are not choosing the optimum one; we are learning and improving ourselves and our business. This mentality will drive us in the future too: keep going, follow your dreams transposed in the appropriate strategy and minimize all the factors that impact the implementation plans.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mircea Popa: The market -both the demand and the offer- is large enough and offers a sufficient playground for everybody. The competition between the two sides is usually addressing the requirements of specific target groups, in accordance with the strategies of each actor and it does not focus on an “enemy” site or platform. It is about building and maintaining the superiority (or dominance) above the targeted groups (potential clients – job seekers). So, everybody can coexist. From the other side, a client may use the services provided by a generalist or a specialized site in accordance with its particular situation (strategy or/and the available resources).
JobNinja is responsive, fair, open and transparent for our clients. We are aware that most of the competitors are using various models (especially PPC) to bring more applicants, but that approach can lead to hundreds of unqualified applicants. We offer the bill per application (or even per applicant). This is more value-based for employers, it reduces the risks of click-fraud and increase the chances for getting qualified candidates, thus it offers a major advantage to our customers, even if it can turn out to be more expensive if the rates per candidate are significantly higher than the rates per click.
Your final thoughts
Mircea Popa: At JobNinja, we are doing our best to address the needs and interests of all our customers (clients and job seekers) by offering a reliable partner and an user-friendly environment. One of our objectives is to succeed to meet their needs and expectations, to create trust and confidence, and finally getting satisfaction (and consequently for us … audience). Our existing (and I think our future) customers expect information on the job market that’s useful, relevant, timely, practical and as complete as possible. So focusing on that JobNinja can enhance its position on the market and fulfill its missions.
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