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Scout: Trade Me’s Latest Play in Battle with SEEK

By March 5, 2019No Comments

If you’re working in New Zealand’s recruitment and talent acquisition industry then you’ve no doubt heard about Trade Me Jobs’ new proactive talent finder platform Scout.  Actually, let me rephrase that: If you work in those sectors and actually have any interest in trying to explore new ways of doing your job better, then you’ll have heard of it.

Admittedly that rules out half the industry here (a trend reflected globally I imagine) but for those keen to learn about useful developments and innovations in our market then READ ON…

Trade Me recently announced their half year trading results and things are looking rosy, particularly on the Classifieds and Property side.  NBR reported on 27th February that:

Trade Me Jobs also had a good half, with a 7.0% increase in revenue year-on-year as it improves its offering to recruitment clients. Over the past six months, the section released an Application Tracking System to help the hiring process of small business customers.

“We’ve also continued to develop our candidate database product. This helps our clients find job seekers who aren’t actively searching and allows our job seekers to have suitable roles come to them,”

  • Jon MacDonald, CEO

The powers that be at Trade Me Jobs kindly granted me access to this nascent “candidate database” after a particularly well-lubricated pre-Christmas catch-up.  It made sense.  We’re a pretty good test case for a product like this, having seasoned (and highly opinionated) recruiters on the Rice Consulting side, and a broad community of time-poor but experience-heavy freelance recruiters on the JOYN side, all frantically searching for hidden gems out there.

Scout roadshow

The notion of recruiters being able to proactively search for candidates suitable for their client’s requirements was, until recent years, surprisingly absent in New Zealand.  I still vividly remember a bolshy UK recruiter (no, not me) recently arrived in New Zealand attending a SEEK focus group back in 2011.  Back then Monster had already set the tone for UK recruiters to directly search for, and access, candidate CV’s based on entering certain search parameters and keywords.  It was anathema to recruiters schooled in that environment, to come to a place like New Zealand, and passively post a job advert before sitting back and hoping the right candidate might happen across it.

Solutions such as constantly refreshing a job advert to keep it at the top of the page were about as sophisticated as the sourcing strategies got back then.  Well, that and getting your client to pay for a dual-branded advert in the Herald too, of course.  Whilst understandably taken aback at the impassioned case made for proactive talent searching, something this chap said clearly struck a nerve at SEEK and, after a few hit-and-miss product releases, eventually landed on the current incarnation of Premium Talent Search.

Trade Me Jobs have been playing catch up on this front, but with the beta release of Scout, have done a great job getting a viable product to market and it keeps things interesting in the NZ recruitment world.  And so, onto the feedback:

On the plus side

  • The first thing that strikes you is how clean, simple and intuitive the platform is.  Trade Me are known for their Kiwi-as approach to simple and effective solutions and this product fits nicely into that mould.
  • There are good instructions on how Boolean Search works and how to apply it to the Search bar, so it’s easy to progress from plodding recruiter to sourcing whizzkid in no time.
  • Trade Me have made a nod towards the growing disquiet around Unconscious Bias in the recruitment process by displaying only the initials of the candidate profile the first time you look at it on the main home page.  The thinking here is to encourage recruiters to click into a candidate’s profile based upon the skills and experience displayed, rather than the familiarity of their surname, which should be a given but sadly isn’t always.
  • The expanded candidate page is again clean, simple and no-frills.  The header tells you how active the candidate is, which is useful, plus there is the option to preview or download the CV or have it emailed to your inbox.
  • One of our JOYN Consultants found a couple of relevant candidates for a Sales & Marketing position he was working on, who were also keen to engage in the recruitment process (which helps).
  • Scout looks good and is easy to use on mobile, which is essential these days.

Scout mobile

It’s worth remembering this is version one for Trade Me Jobs with their new platform, so new iterations and improvements lie ahead, but some things that should be top of their roadmap are:

On the down side

  • Actually getting into the platform is quite a convoluted process and made unnecessarily complicated by being tied into the main Classifieds site rather than a standalone product.  Trade Me enables the main account holder within the recruitment firm to create new accounts for their team using their work email address, or invite them to set up a Trade Me account if they don’t currently have one.  Whilst they’re continuing to work at improving this user experience, a comment from Natasha at Rice Consulting highlights the potential issue:

“You can’t be logged in separately under your personal Trade Me account and work-related Scout email, which is weird and frustrating. The two ought to be separate platforms.  I discovered this as I was, it turns out, already logged into Trade Me so every time I clicked through to Scout, it logged me in as Natasha Foster but said I didn’t have permission to search for candidates. Took me a while to realise that was because Scout thought I was Natasha Foster, consumer, and not Natasha Foster, recruiter.”

  • The search results that Scout produces are high in number but a bit lower on relevancy than that of their main competitor’s.  There is the ability to easily whittle down the numbers with filters but it is still quite hard to improve relevancy even while doing this. Trade Me have informed me that they have already started work on improvements to both the relevancy and recency of results.  They’ve also started on a number of UX improvements such as highlighting key words from the search within the profile and CV to provide an understanding about why those candidates were returned, auto returning candidates every time the search is updated, and displaying a count on the number of profiles for each search.  Trade Me believe that these improvements will improve transparency and usability for recruiters, which will be essential if they want to truly compete on this front.
  • The candidate location options are a bit too broad on Trade Me.  Someone might be willing to travel to anywhere in “Waikato” to pick up something they bought off the Classifieds site, but will probably want to be more certain of exactly what part of Waikato they are planning on commuting to every day for a job.

To summarise, this new candidate platform works fine, and I think Trade Me have done well getting a product to this point and just about ready to release more widely.  It will provide competition to SEEK’s PTS product and I’m sure will in time be another essential part of a recruiter’s sourcing channel strategy.  They just need to get the UX up to speed with the UI, make logging in much simpler, and make the results relevancy and filterability (that’s actually a word?!) more refined.


Some product info from Trade Me:

  • Trade Me have been building candidate profiles for over 12 months and as of today there are 134,861 visible candidate profiles on the platform (and over 200k in total).  Because these profiles are tied to a Trade Me membership, they are unique candidates, therefore Scout isn’t flooded with multiple profiles for the same candidate.
  • Scout initially launched with a multi-channel above the line campaign encouraging job hunters to create a profile. Users have typically been really engaged with their Job Profile and there has been a steady number of job hunters creating profiles from launch to-date. Since their initial promotion Trade Me have had an ‘always on’ campaign to encourage further creation and engagement, this includes; social channels, dynamic banners, Out of Home, radio and email.
  • Scout access is currently available as part of Volume Plan subscriptions whilst the platform is in beta. There are “reasonable use limits” in place.  They say they are working through various pricing options as well as identifying the appetite to offer this product to their other customer groups, but their overriding comment is:

“Our product principals are: make things simple, intuitive and delightful to use, and we’ll apply this to pricing as well. So, expect our pricing options to leave you with fewer things to think about when using Scout so you can get on with finding great candidates.”


Have you tried out Scout for yourself yet?  I’d be interested in the feedback from you other recruiters out there.

As for the bolshy UK recruiter I encountered back in 2011, that was Sean Walters, now my business partner at Rice Consulting and co-founder of JOYN.  I don’t need his feedback on this as I’m sure he will be delighted, but we will probably hear it anyway.

Jonathan Rice

Director of New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice & Co, co-founder of freelance recruiter platform JOYN, and people-centric technology firm superHUMAN Software. Recruitment innovator, agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.