Aaron Harris for the Toronto Star
Case Studies

Online job board TorontoJobs.ca needs an update to fight stagnation

Vital Stats
Years active:
Core Customers:
Everyone from multinational companies to small businesses in the GTA
TorontoJobs.ca is the only company in Canada that offers a job board and recruitment services all under one roof

TorontoJobs.ca helps people find work, but can’t help itself with one very important job — fixing the company website.

The 10-year-old online job board runs job listings by employers looking for everyone from insurance agents, to massage therapists, to software architects.

Organizations can create a profile, post job ads and browse more than 110,000 résumés. And, in addition to selling hundreds of employment listings every month, TorontoJobs.ca also offers customized recruitment services and holds employment fairs and events.

But current owner Marc Belaiche, an accountant who bought the company in 2005 from two software programmers, is concerned about the site’s functionality, sales performance and innovativeness. He has more than 400 improvements he’d like to make, but with no in-house tech expert among his eight staff, and with no free time because of constant day-to-day business demands, he hasn’t made much progress. The company faces stiff competition from established job boards and stalled revenues since the global recession, and Belaiche is worried about the business’ future.

“If we keep pushing these little fires to the side, we’ll have a big fire and need to do something right away,” says Belaiche.

One flame up involves inefficiencies and missed sales opportunities at the point of purchase. When customers buy a job ad, the transaction is not processed automatically — an e-mail is sent to the team, and someone verifies the buyer and credit card, places the payment and confirms the order. This process takes up to 10 minutes —  a long wait for busy recruiters used to smoother ecommerce transactions, and a productivity-sapping exercise for the company’s staff.

“I think we’re leaving money on the table,” says Belaiche, adding that the process also prevents his company from automatically promoting specials, package deals and upgrades, and that making it more effective could potentially net the company another $10,000 in annual revenue.

Plus, says Tim Richardson, an e-commerce professor at the University of Toronto, inadequate upselling can create additional expenses for TorontoJobs if they seek out new customers to make up for insufficient sales.

About 65% of the company’s sales come from repeat business, and maintaining and boosting that number is critical in the competitive online recruitment sector. In addition to established sites such as workopolis.com, monster.ca and torontojobshop.ca, the arena sees new sites crop up each month. Belaiche is also aware of the growing competition from LinkedIn, now the world’s largest professional network with 161 million members worldwide.

TorontoJobs staff regularly hash out these and other issues at the company’s ground-floor office in one of Mississauga’s many commercial areas. But while there’s a lot of talk, there’s little action. Everyone’s simply too busy managing the site and the company’s two job fairs and yearly entrepreneurship conference — events that generate a full 65 per cent of revenues.

That diversity of offerings is good for business, but TorontoJobs has taken a lasting hit from the global recession. Revenues, which had quintupled from 2006 to 2008, dropped by a third in 2009, and haven’t yet rebounded.

“This stall in revenue is related to our website problems. We’ve got to keep changing with technology or we’ll be left in the dust,” says Rachel Mitchell, the company’s business development manager.

And lots of changes are needed. Job seekers can’t store past applications on the site, and they have to copy-and-paste résumés, which destroys custom formatting. On the other side, employers can’t search for candidates by location, and can only post ads in packs of one, two, five or ten.

Even worse, 20 per cent of the site’s traffic comes from users on wireless devices, but the business is still lacking an app or mobile version. Plus, says Belaiche, with small font, blue and underlined hypertext and scant images, TorontoJobs simply looks dated. He’d like all of its 1,500 pages to look more like the homepage, which was redesigned about 18 months ago to look cleaner, bolder and less text-heavy.

Still, despite the issues, TorontoJobs enjoys reasonably steady revenues, a variety of income streams and plenty of customers — more than 6,000 different companies over the last six years, with a 4 per cent growth in the number of businesses signing up over the last 12 months.

And Belaiche is considering options to fix the site’s issues: hiring a web contractor or agency, using an off-the-shelf box solution, or rebuilding from scratch. Unfortunately, no one at the company has the expertise to pick the best one, so a decision has yet to be made. And, the site has already cost Belaiche about $150,000 of company funds, so he’s wary of increasing expenses further, although he says he’ll shell out another $25,000 if the cash can effectively end his web headaches.

Richardson says that amount would probably be more than enough to clean up the website, but says Belaiche must be clear on the specific improvements he wants, “or else it will cost extra for someone else to figure those things out.”

Either way, he’d better make a decision swiftly, Richardson says.

“They have to be proactive before a big crisis happens,” he says. “Otherwise they may not be able to recover.”


As Interviewed by: Tom Henheffer

TorontoJobs’ business hinges on their website, so they should really address some of their top issues now, to the extent of funds they have available. Automating the ecommerce functionality might be a great place to start — this will improve customer experience, free up time for their staff to concentrate on other tasks and potentially provide an opportunity to sell more services to their existing clients. A third-party resource, such as Moneris Solutions, may have a turn-key product that will help automate their payments and fit within their $25,000 budget. But the company also needs to develop a plan for addressing their needs long-term. This doesn’t have to be expensive or overly time consuming — they might be able to partner with a university to make themselves a project for an IT or business group, whether it be undergrad or MBA. It’s no cost to them, and could help guide the company in the right direction. It all comes down to providing the right user experience. In a world where the competition is only a click away, TorontoJobs needs to make sure they provide the functionality employers and job seekers demand.

by Mike Feaver

TorontoJobs has an edge because of their focus — their niche and regional expertise separates them from the competition. But they face a big challenge, and it stems from a lack of IT resources. It's a classic problem for small businesses — they want to focus on their core business, but their team is also trying fulfill other roles outside their skill set, leading both areas to experience setbacks. So, to ensure the company continues attracting the quality job postings and applicants they need, TorontoJobs shouldn't be afraid to outsource. They need to partner with a firm to automate their ecommerce functionality, ensure they're being found with the right Search Engine Optimization, and keep their brand strong by making sure the website looks modern. Customers simply won't tolerate or trust buggy or outdated sites anymore. Also, the company needs to start transitioning their site to a mobile-friendly version. A full 20 per cent of traffic is already coming from handhelds, and that's only going to increase — at least it should, so long as they provide the functionality their customers demand.

by Tisha Rattos

Like many companies, TorontoJobs has to be careful to not underestimate the importance of its web presence. Expectations are getting higher and higher, and tolerance for poorly designed sites is getting lower and lower. Plus, users also want to interact with the web on a variety of devices, which makes a company's mobile offering more important than ever. So the question is, what's the best route for TorontoJobs to improve their web presence and move into the mobile arena? In my experience, outsourcing works best for small and medium sized businesses. This will probably involve starting with an out-of-the-box solution, and then customizing on top of it. But the most important aspect of the build will be finding a real partner, not just a vendor they're paying, who understands the company's long term goals and what they want out of their web presence. Finally, I understand that they’re busy, but the company needs to move on this now. They've acknowledged their website is out of date — fixing it, and doing so soon, will be critical for the business' continued success.

by Gary Isaacs