Is Singapore National Jobs Bank living up to the hype? (And 6 ways to fix it)

February 23, 201512:31 pm489 views

According to Today Online, the Singapore National Jobs Bank has 70,000 live vacancies as of late December 2014. This is almost double the 38,000 applications made through the portal. More than 15,000 employers were registered with 68,000 active job seekers.

If we look at the job seekers first, 68,000 represents 1.8 percent of the employment population (which is 3.42 million as of Dec 2014). Assuming the 38,000 applications are unique, that percent drops to slightly more than 1 percent.

And this was when the Jobs Bank has 70,000 live vacancies. If we look at it today (23rd Feb 2014), there are only 44,990 jobs left. Applying the same ratio, we can expect 24,423 applications – a sad 0.7 percent of the employment population.

Of course the number of vacancies or applicants are insignificant. This is about the number of successful job applicants which Workforce Development Agency (WDA) was unable to reveal.

On the macro front it faces competition from 4 private general job boards (and other niche boards), a professional social media site that boasts of 2.5 million Singapore visitors and a low unemployment rate of 2%.

With all these factors, does it support the ‘white elephant’ label that was opined by many when it was first announced?

I certainly think so.

At the same time I also need to declare that I participated in a Singapore Conversation and was one of the many that mooted and suggested this idea. I believed it was a noble idea and still believe so. However the ambition in the face of “not wanting to compete with private job boards”, “trying to be a generalist job board” and declining active job applicant market are just too much for a statutory board that had zero job board experience to be successful.

The last one is the ultimate killer. I’m certain if this job board is created for Spain, you would have 1000x the traffic (albeit no vacancies to speak of).

To turn it into a success story (and even role model for the region), the Jobs Bank would really need a tactical rethink. Here are 6 ways that I believe they should begin with:

  1. Streamline the registration process – not only was SingPass a key bottle neck (if you don’t have one setup), the entire registration process was just painful. There are too many tabs and too many fields. Some of them just pull-down menu with really confusing or obsolete naming conventions. Many job sites are already allowing new applicant to apply with LinkedIN and Indeed. Why not integrate this into the system and potentially halve the draggy registration process?
  2. Mobile-friendly website – Based on a study by Google, Singapore has the highest smartphone penetration in the world at 85%. And you have Jobs Bank that isn’t responsive on mobile devices. With people spending more time on their phone than their computers, going responsive makes perfect sense and encourage the usage of the website.
  3. Have a native app – Or even better. Come up with a phone app that provide instant notification to individuals. That along will drive up engagement level significantly.
  4. A keyword search engine – The current search engine is overly reliant on pre-populated keywords that one is forced to select from the drop-down menu. Keywords search remain the best option and there are engines intelligent enough to even display interchangeable terms.
  5. Reduce competition – Instead of becoming a competitor to the 4 established generalist job boards, why not just cater to the niche that this whole idea was probably meant for? I would reckon that to the mid-career Singapore PMEs.
  6. Leverage on your available data – When the idea was mooted during the focus group, one idea was to create a bank of data that would show (e.g.) how many civil engineers there are from a specific age group, or what are the average salaries of accountants with 4 years of experience, etc. These are readily available statistics that WDA could easily pull from CPF and other statutory boards/ministries. This will make the job board useful for employers to understand if there are such supply of talents and whether they are paying sufficiently to attract.

By putting the focus on individuals and making it actually useful for them would be the key to getting rid of the ‘white elephant’ label for good.

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