Reduce unemployment by 10%: this was the rather ambitious aim of start-up Qapa, when it launched in 2011. How? By providing a better match between applicants’ skills and the jobs on offer using an algorithm that narrows down the selection of offers based on candidates’ preferences and interactions.
Digital for All, Now – a weapon of mass destruction against unemployment? We met Stéphanie Delestre, co-founder and CEO of Qapa.
You’ve worked with large corporations and start-ups. How has digital revolutionised the different sectors you’ve come across?
I come from a media background. Internet is an amazing medium: you can do anything with it, and it’s revolutionising the way we use and circulate information.
In 2002, I started working for Eurosport, which was a real turning point. I developed videos online and for mobiles, set up dedicated programmes and started a partnership with Yahoo. But it’s difficult to convince a group that makes several billion euros in revenue to change their model. As digital isn’t their core business, Eurosport was worried it would get taken over. Even today, a lot of large groups put off going digital for as long as possible, because they’re afraid of the risk.
CREATING A STARTUP AND REVOLUTIONISING A MARKET: “A BIT LIKE FELIX BAUMGARTNER JUMPING FROM THE STRATOSPHERE!”
How did you switch from such a large group to a start-up like Qype, before setting up your own recruitment startup, Qapa?
The real revolution happens with startups, because they’ve got nothing to lose. At the beginning, with Qype, there were five of us in a little office over a fast food restaurant in Hamburg. Within three years we became Europe’s number-one local review website: we really upset the Yellow Pages’ business! We were small but very agile, and we were in a huge but very traditional market. It’s a bit like Felix Baumgartner jumping from the stratosphere – including the adrenaline!
When Qype was bought out by Yelp, I decided to set up my own company. I wanted to offer solutions to address French people’s number-one concern: employment. When we started, we raised funds from 360 investors and we used the money to invest in and constantly perfect matching algorithms.
THE RECIPE FOR WORKING IN A CONSTANTLY-CHANGING MARKET: “INNOVATION, INNOVATION, INNOVATION!”
The employment market is constantly moving and being changed by digital technology: how do you keep up with this?
The recipe for working in a constantly-changing market: I would sum it up in three words: innovation, innovation, innovation! The job search market hasn’t changed in 15 years. Whether it’s on paper or online, the model is the same: you put an advertisement out and wait for the phone to ring. The arrival of Monster didn’t revolutionise the business: it just changed from a paper model to an online one.
Innovating in the job market means creating the best matches between potential employers and candidates. To revolutionise the market, you have to source candidates in real time and make looking for a job as easy as booking a holiday.
“WITH DIGITAL YOU CAN ADAPT THE TOOLS TO SUIT YOUR TARGET”
So what exactly is wrong with the traditional job-searching methods? What does digital bring to it?
The process needs to be made simpler: the whole phase before the search is very time-consuming and needs to be automated. On Qapa, applicants don’t have to post their CV: the website draws up a skills-based profile in real time, in just a few minutes.
Qapa is for everyone, from tradespeople to executives, from SMEs to multinationals, all over France. And that’s down to new technologies: with digital you can adapt the tools to suit your target. Our database has expanded considerably: we have over 200,000 new members and 13,000 jobs vacancies filled every month.
The real revolution is in terms of matching. All the information about an applicant is saved and analysed, but it doesn’t end there: we also collect and decipher the data about the way the candidates exchange, interact and browse on the site. We’re sort of the Amazon of the recruitment world: we record, analyse and refine users’ searches in terms of relevance and quality.
“THE ALGORITHMS HELP APPLICANTS FIND THE BEST JOB OFFERS AND RECRUITERS FIND THE BEST APPLICANTS”
What are the obstacles job seekers and recruiters come across and how can these be overcome?
The first obstacle is the lack of training for the industries that are recruiting: in France there are 900,000 vacancies that are hard to fill and nearly 10 million unemployed. For example, digital affects all industry sectors, and all companies are looking for IT specialists, but we’re not training enough of them.
The second problem is putting candidates and recruiters in touch. That’s where we come in: we want to make the job market more dynamic by ensuring faster employment rates. Pôle Emploi (France’s national employment agency, Ed) is job-oriented whereas we’re more skills-focused. The algorithms help applicants find the best job offers and recruiters find the best applicants.
The third major obstacle is the cost. Recruiting through the Pôle Emploi isn’t free, and the whole process is very long and complicated. On Monster, posting a job offer costs between €600 and €1,000. Qapa uses another business model: it’s free to sign up to the site and post job advertisements; recruiters then receive the applicants’ CVs sorted by order of relevance. They only pay to be put in touch with the candidates.
“STARTUPS TARGET MARKETS WHERE THERE’S A BIG GAP BETWEEN THE PRICE AND THE SERVICE OR PRODUCT YOU GET IN RETURN.”
What is “Digital for All, Now?” for you?
Everything is going digital now. No one can escape the revolution, not even “protected” industries such as luxury and healthcare. Startups target markets where there’s a big gap between the price and the service or product you get in return. What’s interesting about that is understanding what can be digitalised.
Photo credits: Resume – Glasses, photo by Flazingo Photos, licence CC BY 2.0