Life after a Virtual Career Fair


We hosted our first virtual career fair last Wednesday. It was a pretty hectic day. As soon as the clock struck 4 pm everybody at the office clapped, and instantaneously opened a cold beer. Much deserved, we all agreed.

The entire Graduateland team has been looking forward to launching the virtual career fair for many months, and the concept resonates exceptionally well with our vision of creating touch points between university talent and employers.

Many major industries have seen disruption the last years, and the rest will be seeing it soon. The biggest innovations in recruitment, however, have been to 1) take the ‘We’re hiring’ sign in the shop window and put it into a newspaper ad, and then 2) take that job ad and put it on an online job board.

When sex is the driver you’ll see innovation spark! Dating apps are using ‘Super Likes’, ‘Swipe Ups’, geolocation, ephemeral selfies and other means to interact for the sole purpose of setting up connections, getting people to engage with each other, and hopefully creating meaningful matches.

Fundamentally, recruitment evolves around the same principles. But recruitment and employer branding are yet to leverage the many ways that interaction can happen. And considering how the demographic segment of students and graduates is brought up with smartphones and the associated constant online presence, there definitely are some low hanging fruits to pick.

So… put on your fruit picking hat, we’re going into the apple orchard!

Thanks to all the first movers!

The online career fair that we executed yesterday had almost 20 participating companies. The support and enthusiasm from these companies have been a major validation that real-time online interaction and communication (some use the short term ‘chat’) is part of the future of recruitment.

And first of all – a huge tip of the hat to you for taking a chance with this initiative and jumping on the first mover wagon. I know that a powerful employer brand is a delicate thing and sometimes requires that you treat it like a Chinese vase. And that means not trying too many crazy things. So I genuinely think it’s fantastic that you wanted to be part of this first event.

Many complex elements can be added to the ideal virtual career fair experience, but according to startup principles, you must not build a rocket ship before you test the market. Consequently, we teamed up with a third-party provider of said online career fair software, and thus the creative wiggle room was somewhat limited.

Evaluating the Career Fair

Okay, I’ll say it – yes, we did experience some technical issues and connecting several autonomous systems via custom API’s can prove to be challenging. We’re following up on everybody that participated and hearing your feedback.

We had done a pinky swear to the corporate participants that we’d make sure that we could get the right candidates to visit their online career booth. Post-career fair I feel that I can reveal that we were quite unsure about exactly how many candidates should attend the fair for it to be a success. It’s a fine balance between too few and too many, and since there are no candy bowls and free pens the candidates either find a vacant recruiter to converse with, or move on to the next booth.

Like anybody hosting anything, it’s always a nail-biting experience to see if anybody actually shows up. Well, in this case, they did. Big time. The career fair opened at 11 am, and already then +1.000 students and graduates were ready.

I imagine that the recruiters, who were sitting all across Europe, were surprised as well – from 0 to 50 conversations as the clock struck 11. Almost too much of the good stuff.

As the career fair went on the activity hit a more reasonable level, and in hindsight, we can see that our activity level resembles that of physical career fairs; extremely busy when the doors open, perfect ratio of candidates to recruiters in the middle, and a slightly calmer ambience towards the end of the day.

Digging into the numbers

Shakira claims that hips don’t lie – in our case, numbers don’t lie. Almost 2.000 unique students and graduates visited the career fair, from an impressive number of countries. That said, the vast majority (70%) were from Scandinavia, convenient for the many Scandinavian recruiters.

According to our principles of Permission Recruitment we should only facilitate a connection between candidates and companies if both parties live up to the preferences of the other. This worked in theory, but a few technicalities resulted in the filtering being a bit inhibited. And the convenient hole in the system where you could bypass the criteria from the companies, by accessing the chats from the front page, and not via the company booth.

Well, move fast and break things, as they say at Facebook, and I agree in the sense that if we were to develop the ideal career fair system ourselves for this version 1 we’d still be developing, and there’d be months of hard work ahead. We’ve learnt so much from this career fair yesterday, and we’re already looking forward to the next round.

Our overall experience is definitely great, and the users we’ve heard from had a valuable experience. At the end of the day, that’s the key element for us. Visitors spent an average of +26 minutes on the career fair, and our first surveys show that 50% of users prefer to meet companies online, as opposed to physically, in the future. Definitely interesting.

We keep on pushing the scope of how to make university talent and employers interact in order to kickstart great careers.

Career fair: checkmark. Next month: Graduateland Insights, quantifying your employer brand!

Inputs from outside the bubble


Intercom – a US-based tech company – once wrote on their blog that in order to build great products the product manager should say NO to most ideas. A humorous and insightful blog post that lists a multitude of scenarios of product prioritization gone wrong. Of course this is only half of the truth, but if you want your blog to be read you gotta be a little black/white. Reading their blog post you’d think that a product manager should never listen to anyone.

That is of course not the right way to build products.

At Graduateland we consider ourselves pretty good at maintaining a well-planned product roadmap and fortunately it’s rare that we design and build features that have not been prioritised and planned.

This in sharp contrast to the first years of the startup where lack of experience resulted in quick decisions, a fogged product vision, and consequently a lot of wasted time spent building random stuff.

However, having three substantially different stakeholders in our online universe (job seekers, employers, and university staff) we gotta keep on our toes in order to build features that are useful and will be used.

The most recent features that we did end up implementing due to a suggestion from a university partner was the possibility to add video material to your My Profile page. For candidates within the creative areas it will be a great means to showcase visual portfolios, enabling them to showcase themselves in line with the skills that they actually have.

For students within the remaining academic areas the video functionality opens up the possibility to add a video CV, giving them an edge in the battle for attention from employers.

my profile video

As we touch upon in our article about video CVs the average recruiter spends very little time scanning each individual CV, so everything you can do to stand out should be considered.

The classical CV as we know it may soon be dying. It’s about tapping into the digital possibilities that are at our finger tips, and a video presentation builds up a candidate’s employee brand, in the same way as a corporate video does a much better job at selling a future employer as opposed to just blocks of text.

Ultimately, we work towards improving the matchmaking process between university talent and great employers. If a video functionality helps this process, then there will be resources to build it.

New Benelux partnership – new opportunities

We are very happy to present the most recent addition to the ever-growing Graduateland Network: As of May 2016, the Vlerick Business School is one of our official university partners. This new university partnership opens up more opportunities  for students and graduates as well as employers in the Benelux    


With an already existing network of 25 universities and business schools across Europe, our new partnership with the Vlerick Business School confirms the increasing presence of Graduateland in the Benelux. These 3 countries are interesting to a career network in our niche for numerous reasons: Located at the heart of Europe, the Benelux attract students and graduates with culturally diverse and multilingual backgrounds. On the employers’ side, they serve as hubs for European institutions, multinational companies as well as quirky startups – all of which are on the lookout for young talent to join their ranks. Naturally, we feel right at home there.  

Naturally, we feel right at home there.  

A powerhouse for international business students

Located in Belgium, Vlerick is a leading school consistently ranked amongst the top business schools in Europe and the world. With campuses in Leuven, Brussels, Ghent and St. Petersburg that attract students from many countries around the world, the business school’s international character becomes apparent.

Vlerick’s renowned and highly accredited Global MBA programmes offered in Europe as well as in China only add to that picture.

The business school’s several management programmes (General Management, International Management, Marketing and Finance – to name just a few) are described as “action-oriented” education and are designed to prepare Vlerick’s student and graduates for the opportunities and challenges of an international labour market.

For students and alumni, the partnership with Graduateland means immediate and easy access to both international and local career opportunities. For companies, it opens a new door to a relevant audience of university talent on the hunt for internships, graduate programmes and other ways to kickstart their careers!

Graduateland’s new look

You may notice something slightly different about Graduateland when visiting our website these days…


Yes, it’s a completely new logo – and, more importantly, it’s our very first logo after having stuck with the good old  graduateland_logo_OLD -lettering pretty much from the very beginning.

The old lettering has served us well for years. And, of course, we know all those sayings:

“Never change a winning team.”

“If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.”

We just don’t entirely agree with them.   


So why the change? Well…

…because it’s about time.

Let’s start with the most obvious reason: the practicality of a logo that needs to work in a digital world. What we needed was a significant visual brand that could work in all the different digital channels that we have. Approximately 13% of our website traffic is already coming from mobile devices and every trend study about online recruitment will tell you that the ratio is going to tip further in that direction. That’s even more pointed when we’re talking about the youngest generation of job-seekers. We want to give these users and customers something to look at – an icon that is easily recognisable on any screen size.

Having taken a couple of detours during the development process that covered different shapes, colours and sizes, we have now landed with a simple, but distinctively sharp icon (plus new logo font) that responds to different formats.

…because it’s about branding.

We are very outspoken about our belief that recruitment and marketing are becoming more and more intertwined, building the case that a strong employer brand will ultimately result in attracting the best university talent. Therefore, it only makes sense for us to follow our own mantra.    

Our UX Designer, Nik, set out to create a visual that our users could automatically identify with Graduateland. Repositioning the G & L letters to create a graduation hat was one of those ‘eureka’ moments during our research and development phase.


A sketch from before the ‘eureka’-moment

If you do something, you might as well do it properly, so we didn’t stop at the colours either: away we went from the traditional blue to a new green tone. Users and customers may recognise the colour from the major actions and buttons that take them around our platform, for example, when sending an application or posting a job. We like the green because it’s a starting signal, a “go ’n’ get them”-colour, that represents the kind of interactive recruitment that we want to facilitate on the Graduateland Network.


A sneak peek into the colour debate



…because we’re only just getting started.

Speaking of which, the Graduateland product team has been gearing up to make changes as well – a lot of them you are already seeing, and more are still in the pipeline.

The logo is really only a fraction of the transition that our product and service has been through in just a couple of months – a process that is still ongoing:

We want to fundamentally improve and change the traditional way of recruitment by making it more interactive, relevant and clever.

Below, our Product & Marketing Manager Jonas has chosen to highlight 3 product improvements coming up, that we have great expectations for. We plan to:

  • Accommodate instant messaging between recruiters and candidates,
  • Create talent pools, enabling employer branding managers to build up talent pipelines in order to communicate and interact with separate target groups,
  • Leverage candidate data (of preferences and behaviour) in more intelligent ways to help recruiters make better decisions in their recruitment strategy.

And that’s just a small excerpt of the roadmap until the end of the year.


So, going back to those famous sayings about change…

…here’s our take:

Over the course of the past year we have totally redesigned our platform, defined our strategy for making digital recruitment as interactive as we possibly can, and – most recently – bought our biggest competitor. Of course, we change our logo.

How do you like it?


Graduateland acquires its Spanish competitor Tyba

Graduateland acquires its Spanish competitor Tyba

I’m excited to share the happy news that as of a few days ago, became part of the Graduateland Network.

Yes, we bought the Madrid-based job platform, which includes both and the job boards on a couple of handful of tech blogs, including and Startup Explore. You know, like we have partnered up with universities to get a broader reach, Tyba found other partners that fit their niche.

This acquisition makes a lot of sense for Graduateland. And why is this? Because it sets the scene to further improve the service we provide for you, awesome users and awesome recruiting companies – and here’s how:


More jobs from an attractive employer segment

Graduateland and Tyba launched their respective services roughly around the same time about 5 years ago.

Where we have built our product from the perspective of the users – students and graduates – Tyba’s point of departure stems from the other side of the job interview table. The focus of the Tyba network has been startups and tech companies, and over the course of the last years many thousand of said companies have recruited and presented their companies via their platforms.

Startups and tech companies are part of an attractive segment of employers – I am of course strongly biased, since I see Graduateland as part of both one and the other.  

Anybody who has been involved in the startup community knows that these young companies are also a nurturing ground for future talent, as they often use internships as a way to groom candidates for subsequent junior and entry level positions.

Additionally, startups and tech companies are very likely to have an international mindset, most likely also have English as a main language at the office, making them truly relevant for all you international users, who are looking to kickstart your careers in an international and fast-paced environment.

I’m positive that all these extra job positions and employers will ensure that match-making in the Graduateland universe will boom! Imagine a dating app that grows its user base: more ladies and more gentlemen equal more kissing on park benches.


More content equals efficient employer branding

A highly relevant value the acquisition of Tyba brings into the Graduateland Network is the abundance of super quality content that their team has spent creating over the better part of 5 years. Creating beautiful employer profiles has been part of the Tyba strategy, and they have been travelling across the European continent to interview, film, and photograph founders, startup staff, and office spaces in order to provide users with a glimpse into the world of their prospective employers.

Leveraging this high-quality content on the Graduateland portals supports our current strategy of increasing our focus on employer branding. I have outlined our thoughts on this in a separate blog post.

Employer branding is the initial step of efficient recruitment, and showcasing their work environment enables companies to distinguish themselves, attract unique talent, while at the same time making career exploration easier for job seekers. If this is not in tune with what we at Graduateland want to work on, then I don’t know what is.

Let’s tune back to our dating analogy. Better content about employers is like being able to dig into a multitude of photos, gain insights into hobbies and cooking skills, so narrowing down your target isn’t just superficial left and right swiping.


Keep your friends close

Tyba has been on our radar for several years.  As an ambitious entrepreneur you, of course, know your competition, and in Tyba’s case I’ve known them personally for a few years. Since they have received VC funding from a Danish VC fund they have visited Copenhagen several times, and often that has resulted in a coffee and a quick touch-base about what both our companies were up to, and if anybody pivoted since our last coffee.

Naturally a few cards were held close to the chest but the dialogues were always interesting, and as a company founder you truly enjoy discussing trends and frustrations with someone who also spends 18 hours a day navigating the same industry.

Alongside the periodic meetups we have always kept an eye on the Tyba site. We have always considered them way ahead of us with their sleek design and mighty content team that travelled the continent and met with all the cool startups. To some extend they were like the mechanical rabbit on the dog track that gets you to push on a little bit harder.

Finally, the Tyba guys have been the ones that have claimed the fame in the international tech press where Graduateland has mostly been like the annoying little brother that tags along when the big boys want to go out to play. So whenever Tyba has raised venture funding “the much smaller Graduateland” got mentioned, but never really as a serious threat. Well, we got our TechCrunch backlinks, so we were happy.


The original Tyba founders will continue with another recruitment venture, source{d}, which they launched roughly a year ago. Godspeed, guys, I’m sure you have come across a fruitful business idea.

Rounding off, I hope that you’ll get as much (or more) out of this new constellation as I think you will, whether you’re a job-seeker or a recruiter. At the end of the day, we’re doing it all for you guys.

Want to take a look at our press release? Here you go

And the winner is… Most popular jobs of 2015 & How to get on the list

most viewed jobs

Graduateland has users from all over the world. We also have jobs in every country. It’s all very international. That said, we have some great partnerships with universities across Europe, and most candidates are located in Scandinavia. Consequently, there may be a little bias towards local jobs searching from our Scandinavian users.

Anyways, it’s pretty interesting to see how many countries are represented on the Top 15 – and the very top of the list is quite a surprise!

Let’s take a look at the most popular jobs of 2015 (based on the number of views – not applications).

top 15 most viewed jobs

Congratulations to everybody on the list!

What we normally see as the key traffic drivers are the following elements:

The company logo

There is simply more reaction to job posts, all other things equal, when the brand and logo are recognized in a split second. The candidate already has prejudices about the company, either as an employer, or because the product or service may appeal positively to him/her. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise to recruiters and employer branding officers, and some of you find it fairly easy to get people to interact with you.

Straight-to-the-point job title

When candidates skim down the list of open vacancies they see the logo (that speaks to the heart) and they see the job title (that speaks to the brain). The job title is supposed to get candidates to quickly determine whether clicking on the on the title, and continuing to the job description, is worth their time. As a consequence, jobs that have titles that reveal exactly what the role is, as opposed to an entire sentence (a la We are looking for a profile for our… bla bla bla) will win this battle.
It’s like with online dating apps – if you see a person whose first profile picture is a group of four people, you are not going to bother to click on and try to figure out who it is – you swipe left, and continue to the next opportunity.

Some level of exposure

Naturally there is a certain correlation between getting traffic to your job post, and purchasing added exposure. I’m not going to spend many words on that (since I’d rather avoid making too obvious advertisement for our services) but since job posts that are added via the free solution don’t get to show the company logo in the job search, the first point on this list is taken out of play. And secondly, these free jobs are posted below the paid ones, thus it requires a lot more scrolling from the user to find them.
HOWEVER, we have a mechanism across the Graduateland Network, where the most popular jobs, in regions where we don’t have that many customers, are highlighted automatically. This is simply done in order to improve the user experience for the candidate because we want to show how many great jobs we have online. But don’t count on this happening to your jobs, if you’re recruiting in Europe.

And the final point…

… which doesn’t actually have anything to do with getting jobs views, but more with how to get full value from the visitors that you do get. Now we’re entering 2016, we’re talking about when we should allow self-driving cars on the roads, and we can ride on skateboards that fly. And we are STILL uploading job descriptions in PDF!?! Of course, the functionality is available when uploading a job, but please keep in mind how much job browsing is done via a mobile phone, where PDF files are like that piece of pesto that gets stuck in your teeth before you go to the night club. Everybody sees it, nobody says anything, and you keep dancing around with a shiny green piece of basil in your braces.

Well now I’m saying it: The concept of job descriptions in PDF is broken. It can’t model itself according to the devices its viewed on, and rarely it’s possible to search for the content via site-wide search functionalities. Lastly, the designs and fonts that are used in the PDF (in order to make it consistent with the company brand design) stick out like a sore thumb on every well-designed site, and works contrary to the point. So please use plain text – then I promise you’ll get a better recruitment result.

Happy recruitment in 2016!

The year that passed. Hail 2016!

The year that passed - Hail 2016!

The end of the year is nearing. That always calls for reflections on the year that just passed, and like any Jason Statham movie it has been been action packed and with a narrative containing equal amounts of nail biting challenges, and triumphs that make you wanna punch holes in the air.

If you have 7 minutes, please read on.


Bumpy ride ahead

A few key employees had their last days at Graduateland this year, and naturally as a small and well-knit team this posed some challenges – how to not lose momentum, how to transfer their insights and competencies to the existing team, how to not let the organisation suffer from bad morale, and ultimately how to find replacements.

Also changes in management on the very top level (new CEO, from one co-founder to another, and new CTO, from co-founder to first employee) were events in 2015 that had to be coped with, and we yet again had to ensure that momentum was not lost, and that the organisation (and investors) perceived it as positive things.

Events like these naturally make the cold sweat run down every company founder’s back. It’s impossible to predict how the organisation will be able to absorb the news, and it’s impossible to predict how quickly you can regain previous strength. Of course you can chose to view it as the glass half full, but to safeguard against risk you have to consider the worst.

But events like these also pose the opportunity to break with old habits, and challenge what was the de facto way of doing things. If you want to jump a curve on your company’s trajectory it may be just what you need.


The helicopter view

Realising that you have come to a crossroad forces you to rise to your helicopter view, concretize your visions, and make decisions. And the decisions you make on a vision level make the tasks of identifying strategies more straightforward. You figure out what to do, and you can prioritise accordingly.

At Graduateland we now have three fundamental pillars, which support our overall vision of building a successful career network that kickstarts great careers; the Product Pillar, the Distribution Pillar, and the Business Pillar. These would have made sense to have had the last five years but they have just now been made explicit in the organisation because we found ourselves at one the aforementioned crossroads.

We use these pillars to group the key activities we do, and we can therefore easier get an overview of our overall performance. For the Graduateland team members it has also become obvious how everyone’s roles depend on each other. Creating a nice product is only satisfying if we distribute it efficiently, generating a healthy revenue is only possible if the product delivers value to its users, we can only spend money on paid marketing (and on salaries) if the product converts visitors to paying customers, or if the sales team fine tune their pitches, and build sound customer relationships and so on.

In conclusion, the last 12 months have thrown many obstacles in our direction, but we have managed to dodge and duck, and come out on the other side stronger than ever. And not just that – we have actually redesigned and rebuilt our entire product (not only for users, but also for employers and universities), we have initiated a structured SEO strategy, which drives traffic from all over the world, and our business side has hit all the sales targets that had been set up.

All this with a team where the average seniority is just over a year. No bumps in the road what so ever.

I have to admit it’s pretty awesome being the captain of such a crew. All sails are set, and the wind is in our back. There is nothing but blue ocean ahead.



Blue ocean, you say… isn’t that when your company is operating in a space with low competition? (Read the book Blue Ocean Strategy for more info about this concept).

Yes, that’s what blue ocean means. But notice the ‘ahead’. That allows me to consult my crystal ball, and imagine what will happen in the upcoming year. That’s also something the end of the year encourages you to do.

Therefore – let me paint the picture of Graduateland anno 2016, and take you by the hand for a stroll into the blue ocean of permission recruitment.


Graduateland’s Permission Recruitment

As described in a previous blog post, permission recruitment is the communication between candidate and company that both parties appreciate, anticipate, find relevant and personal. Like with traditional marketing, that to a large extent has moved from communication that interrupts the audience (popups, spam mail, print ads in magazines) to more targeted and often relevant content (influencer marketing, targeted Facebook ads, content marketing) we want to transfer those concepts to recruitment.

Recruitment should not be pushed from employer to candidate unless it satisfies certain criteria; it should be relevant for the respective recipient, and the candidate should welcome it (relevant + anticipated = appreciated) And then we’ll enable the personal stuff via our product.

We spent 2015 building the skeleton, the next to-do’s on the product roadmap are the flesh and intestines (okay, a bit gross metaphor), and the permission recruitment will be the stuff that floats through the veins. This will be the pulse that is the blue ocean of online recruitment.

Engagement in the Graduateland universe will undergo some substantial upgrades. In no way neglecting what we currently have – it’s a beautifully designed job portal with great content in the shape of jobs, employer profiles, and articles – but what jumps curves in recruitment is the interaction with the opposing party.

Bridging the gap between company and job seeker (and by vice versa) will challenge the conventional way of recruitment. As it is now, recruitment of students and graduates is channeled through the traditional job post. The company writes a job description, the candidate applies with a cover letter and a CV, and rarely any other communication happens. There is one shot, and this determines whether the candidate is invited for an interview.

There is definitely room for improvement. If you want to date someone you don’t just send your proposal, and lean back and wait, do you? No, you try and build a relationship, try to uncover whether there is a mutual interest, and then you make your move.


Let’s imagine for a moment…

At Graduateland we want to enable job seekers to communicate directly with the company of their dreams. We want to let candidates know about the company via enthusiastic blog posts written by current employees, and we want candidates to be able to know whether the company can live up to the expectations of the ambitious youth that we have today.

At the same time, employers should be able to build relationships with an audience of university talent, on a more personal level than merely sending out their job posts with a request to apply.

I imagine the Graduateland of 2016 will facilitate these types of communication.

I imagine that employers will be able to build talent pipelines with candidates that are relevant, and that the dialogue will be initiated prior to the upload of the specific job that the user ultimately will be considered for.
These talent pools will be set up so that employers can define who should be in what group (imagine your well-organised folders in your Dropbox), enabling them to communicate according to target group.

When communication will be targeted it will be relevant and appreciated. When communication can only happen if it fits with the candidate’s preferences it will be anticipated.

This is permission recruitment and if employers chose to take it serious it will be personal and meaningful.

This will be the most efficient recruitment I can imagine.


Building bridges

When job seekers browse prospective employers they might chose to interact with a number of them, either follow them, show their interest, request to become part of a talent pool, or submit an unsolicited application. This will notify the employer about a potential candidate, and a dialogue can be initiated.

The touch points should be much more than just the application of a job. Imagine you have employers on one side of a river, and candidates on the other side, and that there is only one bridge – the job application.

Graduateland is in the business of building bridges – we’ll build bridges that enable dialogue via something as oldschool as an internal inbox system, invitations to career events, company presentations, or case competitions, questions and answers on the employer’s company page, and just the general possibility to stay updated on either the company or the candidate.

Increasing transparency will enable everybody to make better choices, which will result in more relevant and efficient recruitment. Everybody wins.

So why is this blue ocean? Because as far as I’m concerned nobody does this. There are throngs of online recruitment services out there, but truly bringing the two main parties together is a nut that still has not been cracked. There are no services that have the pulse that we’re aiming at. 

I’m truly excited about what 2016 will bring, and as any business owner the holidays are a paradoxical time when you both have to enjoy some much needed time off, but also accept that the pace of your business goes down a notch.

However, it’s also a time to gather your thoughts and put pen to paper. Therefore the time to finally write this blog post.

I’m looking forward to invite you into the future of recruitment.

See you on Graduateland.