Spain’s most used job hunting app, Job Today, began as an idea that came to its co-founder and COO Polina Montano at a dinner party of all places
Polina Montano is no stranger to shift-work. While juggling her post-graduate degree course in entrepreneurship and managing a petrol station in Luxembourg, she had the realisation that scouting staff for 24-hour shift work was a job of its own.
Growth Business caught up with Montano to hear how the HR disruptor grew from an idea to a contender in just over a year, having processed 8 million applications and with 100,000 companies registered on the app across four cities.
How did it all start?
The idea for Job Today came at a dinner party.
At the time, I was running a petrol station in Luxembourg while simultaneously doing a masters in entrepreneurship. It’s a sector with a high staff turnover, so I was constantly confronted with the problem of finding new staff in a very short period of time.
Then I met (co-founder and CEO Eugene Mizin). We had friends in common and I was impressed by his work in venture capital and technology start-ups.
Whenever we saw each other on social occasions, we would use these encounters to exchange business ideas instead of making small talk on topics such as family and holidays…. and each time, Eugene would dismiss my ideas within a couple of minutes.
One Friday evening, we had a dinner party at mine and as it often happened, my hiring manager from the petrol station called to tell me we urgently needed to find and hire someone for the weekend. The idea came to me right there and then: making hiring easier, especially in the service industry, by offering companies better, instant hiring tools. Hiring didn’t have to be painful and slow; it could be made fast and frictionless. For once, Eugene didn’t find any arguments to show that the idea wasn’t viable and very quickly, it became an obsession for both of us. We got the idea of creating Job Today in March 2014. In October 2014, we resigned from our jobs, created the company in November and secured funding the following month.
Since then, the basic concept hasn’t changed. It has always been about creating an interface to connect people to jobs and businesses to candidates.
What makes the attraction and retention of talent in mid-sized companies different?
For most SMEs, there’s no dedicated human resource department and the business owner is doing the hiring himself, as well as a billion other things. He or she usually has neither the time nor the structure in place to deal with job applications.
In the service industry, for instance, most of the energy and available space is not dedicated to recruitment, but to the commercial aspects of the business.
Bigger companies, on the other hand, have a dedicated HR department, a well-oiled hiring process and a well-known brand, all of which makes hiring far easier. They can also offer attractive packages like healthcare, pension and childcare benefits, which are simply not affordable for SMEs.
The way that SMEs can compete with large companies is by offering a different working environment. People are often attracted by the idea of working for a smaller business because they believe they can be more involved in the business, make more of a difference, have a faster career, be part of the decision-making process and have more freedom and flexibility.
How has a mobile-only platform managed to stay competitive?
The HR industry was slow to innovate. 75 per cent of hiring in the service industry still happens offline. It’s crazy! By contrast, 40 per cent of jobseekers use mobile apps and tools in their job search and we anticipate that 89 per cent of them will do so in the next 12 months. Candidates are moving to a mobile interface, so it only makes sense that employers should follow!
We can even see that the main players are starting to use digital technology in their recruitment process. The appeal of social media, platforms such as LinkedIn and apps like ours is constantly growing. Using a mobile hiring platform can provide a simple and cost-effective solution for SMEs. It can also set them apart from other businesses looking to hire by making a more attractive proposition in terms of recruitment to younger candidates in a highly competitive market.
To answer to your second question, an app like ours can stay competitive in the market in two ways. Firstly, we propose a service that is quite new – there are only a few companies which were designed as mobile first hiring platforms from the beginning – and secondly, we focus on a particular part of the industry: the blue collar sector.
Focusing on a specific facet of the hiring process and working to optimise that particular facet is also another way of staying competitive. Some companies will help people to get ready for interviews; other will take care of all the admin related to hiring someone. For our part, we put people in contact with each other, facilitating contact between candidates and employers and optimising the communication between the two parties.
What’s next for Job Today?
We’re only at the beginning of our journey of building a sustainable international business.
In our first year, we’ve seen amazing demand for the service – we’ve recently celebrated our first million candidates on the app – and we’re expecting equally strong traction in the coming months. By the end of the year we’re aiming for a total of 3 million candidates and 200,000 business on the platform.
In the short to medium term, we will reinforce our position in Spain and in the UK. We want to become leader in these markets.
We also want to optimise all aspects of the hiring process, bring added value to the different stages of the cycle and make sure we match supply and demand.
What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?
The key to success for every business is to provide value to your customers – that’s how you win. And to achieve that, you have to understand them.
The importance of the team, and of having the right talent, is also crucial. Without the right people on your team, your company is just an empty shell.
I also never expected things to develop as fast as they did. Coming from a traditional industry, I was really surprised by the speed at which products develop and grow in the mobile industry. It’s unbelievable; it took only a few months to launch the app in a whole country.