Telling it like it is


Has the recruitment industry really got to grips with what Web 2.0 is all about as yet?  While some commentators have expressed their reservations on this score recently, there's little doubt that the fast-growing WikiJob site - founded only last year - is fully in tune with all of its key tenets.  (We're constantly being reminded that digital natives are more likely to trust the views of their peers than any corporate blurb - online or offline - and WikiJob is full of ‘credible' information from graduates who've recently been through the job search mill themselves.)

WikiJob is, as its name suggests, a wiki - which, for the uninitiated, is "a collaborative website whose content can be edited by anyone who has access to it" (the name ‘Wiki' deriving from the Hawaiian word for ‘quick', incidentally).  In short, it's all about user-generated content - and the content of the graduate-focused WikiJob is dedicated to what it's like to apply to and work for some of the UK's leading employers.  Graduates help other graduates by contributing their experiences of application procedures, recruitment processes and more at some of Britain's best-known graduate employers.

Graduate recruitment - well wiki'd was set up in 2007 by two University of Manchester graduates, Edward Mellett and Chris Muktar.  They'd known each other at school since the age of 13, sharing a love of music and playing in the same band (‘Weapons of Sound', since you ask), before separately deciding to go on to Manchester, where Ed read English and Chris read physics.  Both took a year out following university before returning to face the job market - like many graduates, completely unsure of what they really wanted to do.  And it was this lack of effective career direction or information that ultimately proved to be their inspiration for WikiJob.

"I wanted to earn a lot and pay off my debts," says Ed.  "I'd had some sales experience, so I got a job in recruitment consultancy, focusing on graduate jobs in FMCG and retail.  I picked it for the money, but I didn't enjoy it at all."

"I joined the graduate scheme of a big-four accountancy practice," says Chris.  "I thought it would give me a good work-life balance, a nine-to-five existence, solve all my problems... but I couldn't have been more wrong.  I hated it.  I knew from very early on that I'd made the wrong choice."

In vino veritas

"It was when I was working in graduate recruitment that I realised most graduates didn't have much idea of what they wanted to do," says Ed.  "I thought of setting up a magazine or website to help them, but didn't really know how to go about it."  Shortly afterwards, he met up with Chris for a drink at the Lyceum Tavern in the Strand.  (In truth, many of the best ideas first spring to light in the pub environment, and WikiJob was no exception.)  Chris liked the idea of a website, and although he didn't know anything about recruitment, he felt his IT consulting background would enable him to "do the other half" - the technical bit.

The pair tried out different things over a period of three months.  "There was never a single inspirational moment," says Chris.  "It didn't just fall out of the sky; there was a succession of small ideas at first."  "The wiki idea made the most sense," continues Ed.  "It also meant that most of the work could be done by the users."  A message board was duly launched, and at first things moved quite slowly, with just the odd posting from around the UK and overseas.  But before long the site began to pick up real momentum. 

Approaching critical mass

WikiJob currently focuses on four major market sectors: accounting, investment banking, consulting and law (all the subject of intensely competitive recruitment marketing activity by the major employers, of course).  WikiJob's users contribute detailed information on all kinds of issues - everything from what you're likely to face in the Clifford Chance training contract interview process to the kind of competency-based questions you might be asked at a Goldman Sachs assessment centre.  (If ever there was a case for arguing that a company's employer brand should reflect the reality, this is it!)

"The Exploding Myths conference (hosted at the end of May 2008 by The Careers Service, University of London) was probably the turning point," says Chris, who spoke at the event.  "When we asked how many people had heard of WikiJob, we were amazed at how many people put their hands up."

It's been an interesting roller-coaster ride so far.  "The biggest issue is that we're both new to the game," says Chris.  "It's a home-grown product - no-one told us how to do it, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage."  "And not every employer really understands the wiki concept," adds Ed, "so we're having to introduce not just a new website, but a whole new concept to them."  (It's worth noting that many other online sectors, from travel to retail, already feature ‘consumer reviews' and the like alongside commercial marketing messages, and this is doubtless something that the recruitment industry will have to get to grips with sooner rather than later.)

Positive feedback

But while the response from employers has been broadly positive if, understandably, a little tentative to date, the feedback from users has been little short of adulatory.  "They only ever give us really positive feedback," says Ed.  "It's amazing how many people like it, and say they've got jobs from using the site.  We've also got good press from a lot of the main media."  "We get great reviews on blogs, too - including Russian blogs," says Chris.  "The response from users has been absolutely phenomenal.  It's one of the things that drives us."  "It's a real community," adds Ed, "where people help each other out."  (The essence of Web 2.0, in other words.)

It'll be fascinating to see how this innovative site continues to develop.  ("We're feeling our way at present," says Ed.)  A broadening into other employment sectors is on the cards, possibly later this year.  But, of course, the biggest question is the commercial one.  The guys are currently looking at various ways of marketing and monetising WikiJob, but aren't going to be rushed into a hasty decision.  "One of the things we've discovered about Web 2.0 is that it's an ideas-driven business," says Chris.  "What makes you valued is what's unique about your site, so perhaps we'll be doing a few things that are a little less obvious to improve its value.  My personal aim is to make WikiJob a key resource for graduates in the marketplace."

If early progress is anything to go by, it's already well on the way.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

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Telling it like it is