Q & A With Careerleaf CEO Afifa Siddiqui

How did Careerleaf get started?

The idea we had was to help the average job seeker find their place in the world of work. At the time, I was running my company, TeamCronos, a niche recruiting firm, where we place specialized engineers at the top of their fields. While working with the top 5% of my industry, folks who didn’t necessarily need help finding work, I was also seeing most job seekers we came in contact with struggle to do a job search. The majority of the population doesn’t get much help with landing their ideal careers. And interestingly, many job seekers are doing things that are not necessarily in their best interests. I saw a problem to solve.

So Careerleaf was launched with the notion of helping the job seeker, and putting them at the centre of their job search, in the driver’s seat. The idea was to provide leading edge tools to be more efficient in searching for roles, to track job applications and career related communications, while also coaching them along the way. We wanted to help educate job seekers and employers into good habits and to get them to drop bad habits like blasting out fifty or a hundred resumes a day. Those resumes end up clogging up the employer’s applicant systems.

There are all these problems that are still out there, and we want to give every user a great experience during the job search, while educating them on how to search with better results.

What does Careerleaf sell as a product now?

We’ve wrapped a great, highly innovative job board platform around the candidate experience. So what we’ve done is taken our original idea, and packaged it so that we can private-label for all our our job board customers.

You have all these yucky-looking sites that are stuck in their old tech, and suddenly we’ve given them the ability to revitalize themselves, to treat their candidate universe better, and actually get back to the business of providing value, both to the employer and the job seeker.

What problems are job seekers having right now?
I think there are more problems now than ever before for job seekers. I mean, people are still using old fashioned resumes, and while there are more and more tools, job seekers are still having a hard time getting in the door. I think for young people especially, even getting to the place where they can network and meet people face-to-face is a big challenge. And knowing how to network for a job is not taught to our young people. Knowing what to ask and how to ask it is also part of the learning curve. Our technology has that education baked right into the user flow. We help educate people through the use of our intuitive tools to get them comfortable with their job search..

On the other side of the hiring process, what difficulties do employers and recruiters face?
The hiring challenges for companies depends on the nature of the organization, the size of their hiring needs, and how they go about hiring. The problems are numerous: sometimes a company’s HR staff may not understand what the hiring manager is actually looking for, or what the role is actually supposed to accomplish in the organization, so the challenge is making sure the right applicants get interviewed. I’ve seen instances where the right person has actually applied, and they’ve been screened out by the backend system. So unless that applicant actually calls or knows someone, they may not even get through.

The employer has it really tough in other ways, too. They’ll post a job ad and 90% of the applicants they get are irrelevant to them, just because of where and how the job was posted. I think Careerleaf has the ability to step in and help solve some of these types of problems for employers. That’s where we’re headed.

How does Careerleaf help employers with their corporate branding and candidate experience?
We built everything around the candidate experience. Our original premise has actually been threaded through everything we do, and it’s all about the job seeker. You treat them well, they will keep coming back to your company. The value you create for job seekers actually ripples straight through to the employers. You create a community of highly engaged, valuable talent, which the employer then sees and has access to, and then they have high level, high value interactions between them. That’s a great candidate experience, and it’s also a great employer experience.

Would you say recruiting is an art or a science?
Yes. [laughs] It’s an art and a science. It’s more of an art, but I think recruiters also have a tough job because they may have short-listed people, and sometimes the person who has all the right skills, may not be the right fit, culturally. That can be a bad hire.

There’s a saying–and I myself hire like this–I hire for attitude, and train for skill. And I think a lot of companies can see success this way, because fitting in with company culture is actually harder to screen for.

How does Careerleaf respond to the idea that “job boards” are outdated?
I would argue with the word “outdated”. I would argue that whether you call it a job board or a career hub or community, people have to go somewhere to find out who’s hiring and research careers. Providing these kind of sites online is still a necessity.

How does Careerleaf aim to help job boards compete in a market with big players like Monster, LinkedIn, and Indeed?
That’s a great question. We give our clients the tools to compete with the big guys.

All candidates out there, they’re on ten, fifteen different sites–how great would it be if we could give a job board owner the ability to have their job seekers come back to them, and use their tools, on other sites and on their competitor’s sites. These “sticky” tools give our clients the ability to compete directly with the big guys.

Finally, what do you think is awesome about the Careerleaf Platform?
Our design philosophy: for everything that we build, we build a fantastic user interface that leads to an exceptional user experience. For us, the user experience is not just about the job seeker; our platform is built to provide a great experience for the employer and the job board owner. Our technology is beautiful to look at, it’s easy to use, and it’s built with an eye towards providing an excellent user experience for everyone who comes into contact with our software.

I’m really excited about what we’ve managed to do and we are making things happen. We’re a force to contend with, and I think people will know that very soon.