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About the author: Branislava Gajic is the co-owner and CEO of Infostud – Having started it with her brother and a friend as a garage project with very limited funding, they turned it into the leading .com company in Serbia, with 7 websites and 55 employees.  Within their portfolio, Infostud runs the market leading job board in Serbia.

“It’s better to look for some love on a bike, than to go to a job in a Mercedes“

This is a saying from a Serbian slang dictionary and although I mostly wouldn’t agree with it, I kind of like it :). It gives a picture on how a lot of people here think about their job.

On the other hand, there are a lot who disagree and who are very keen to get and keep a job, especially now in this time of economic crisis. An average of 150 job applications per vacancy on our jobsite poslovi.infostud.com is a reflection of the situation.

I won’t be talking only about the Serbian job market, but about all the Balkan countries. Let me familiarize you with some basic Internet / jobs market facts for the three neighboring Balkan countries, which have similar markets and use almost the same language. In fact, they used to be all one country when I was a teenager.

Job markets of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Serbia* Croatia B&H
Population** 7,3 million 4,4 million 4,6 million
Internet penetration*** 56% 50% 31%
GDP per capita in 2009. in USD **** 5,821 15.284 4.365
No1 job board Poslovi.infostud.com Mojposao.net Posao.ba
No of UV / visits in Nov ’10. 423.000/1,15 million
No of page views in Nov ’10. 7,5 million

* Figures for Serbia, without Kosovo and Metohija

**wikipedia.org

*** internetworldstats.com

****wikipedia.org

As you can see, the number of Internet users in all three countries has more room for growth, even though we’ve had quite fast growth in Internet penetration in last 3-5 years. At the same time we saw the knowledge of human resources increase among companies. For example, back in 2003, when we started our jobsite in Serbia, clients would ask us when their Internet ads or banners were going to be printed. And another strange thing – our Internet company got ADSL no earlier than the beginning of 2007. Also, to be honest, in year 2000 I personally had no idea what HR was, and unfortunately a lot of SMEs in Serbia still don’t know much about it.

Therefore, a lot of SMEs are still using their personal network of friends and family for recruiting or simply putting something like an A4 paper job ad in their office window.

On the other hand, over the last few years, several HR agencies opened offices and triggered a more professional HR approach. But recruitment agencies still don’t play a major role in the three countries; direct employers (companies) account for more than 90% clients. A personal approach and good professional relationships are the key ingredient for success with these hirers.

And just what we needed – economic crisis… Damn. So what is the current state?

Well, so far all of the three jobsites mentioned above have around 90% of the online job market share in their own countries, and generally it has been like that since the early days of these job boards. Not bad, right? J

I would agree, but on the other hand, I will be happy to see some of our competitors reviving again because that would be an indication of a growing market. There is no doubt in my mind that competition is healthy and it requires us to be more proactive.

Also, there’s the other side of looking at percentages. Unfortunately, the world economic crisis just added to the already existing internal economic crisis. For example, in Serbia it cut the number of job vacancies to half compared to 2008. Fortunately, we’re seeing recovery this year, even though it’s very slow. For example, our website offered 1470 job ads in October 2008, 730 in October 2009, and 760 in October 2010.

On the other hand, a higher unemployment rate led to higher competition between job seekers. So some of our clients receive several hundreds or even more than 1.000 applications for one job position. Our online tools for candidate selection come in quite handy.

Unfortunately, due to lay-offs and cut down in job vacancies, job seekers are not satisfied with the fact that there are just not enough jobs on the market for everyone. When we add the fact that most of the companies in Serbia unfortunately don’t even reply to candidates, giving no feedback on their application, it just adds to the negative state of mind and people start losing faith that some employer will ever pay attention to them.

In these circumstances our focus is shifting towards candidates and helping them keep on searching, and making it easier for them until they get hired. Tough job, but challenges make us stronger.

And where’s the potential? So that this time some next year we will all be millionaires J

Ok, so we can’t change the macroeconomic situation and we have to swim through these waters, but that’s just the reality. This shouldn’t stop us from spreading and improving our activities, as well as catching up with new trends in recruitment and on the internet.

This does not differ much from trends in western countries, but it just comes some years later to Balkans. That means mostly empowering the social basis of our job sites and adding social recruitment, as well as the changes that mobile will bring into the behavior and needs of our users.

So far only around 1% of visits to Infostud are coming from mobile users, but step by step it will grow over the next few years, especially when our mobile operators start offering discount packages for iPhones and make them more accessible to people.

Also, in the Balkans, we still have space to grow the Internet infrastructure, Internet speed and some 40-70% higher Internet penetration – there is indeed potential to be explored and nurtured…

One thing is for sure – I was always and will continue to be a believer 🙂

Anyway, crisis time is the time when we should make important business moves because a lot of the companies don’t do that, which leaves room for others to show what they’re made of.  Simply – this is the time when we buy a ticket for the bus which will be leaving in a couple of years’ time.

So…  That’s all folks. Hopefully I got you interested enough to read this far, and now you’re free – unless you feel like leaving comments, which I would really like :). And if you just skipped paragraphs to get here – well, shame on me 🙂 Bye, bye…

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