Lauer currently heads Everjobs in Uganda, an Africa Internet Group (AIG) company that was launched this year and is gradually expanding across Africa with plan to be in 20 African countries. In this interview, Lauer shares the Everjobs story, the company’s growth plans, the jobs market in Africa and other related matters.
What led to the launch of everjobs?
The launch of everjobs started in 2015 with a simple truth: young professionals in Africa struggle with finding a job in the formal sector. This is caused by several factors, like structural ones, as there is a huge amount of jobs in the informal sector across Africa. But there is also an information gap, as many job young job seekers do not have information about vacancies offered by top employers in the country. Therefore it is the main goal of everjobs to make these vacancies easily accessible to job seekers to give equal opportunities to everyone. At the start of our journey, we noticed that no pan-African career portal enabling Africans to easily access career opportunities in other African countries exists. As African markets are getting more and more integrated our team thought it would make sense to make all career opportunities available across Africa.
Why do you believe in everjobs?
Three of my main passions brought me to everjobs: Africa, Digital and Public sector.
Before I joined everjobs, I was a management consultant for the world leading consulting firm McKinsey, where I had some engagements across Africa. They were mostly in French-speaking Africa and I was really excited by this experience. There wear many challenges but even more opportunities, fueled by an economic boom and a population driving for a better life. So I really wanted to participate in the African success story.
Further I am really passionate about digital and the digitalization of traditional economies. The re-shaping of sectors, like banking or tourism, through the digital revolution fascinated me- and I have participated in various digitalization projects in my previous career for large multinational corporations. And the recruitment industry is also part of this huge change.
Lastly, I was since my high school time highly interested in public sectors issues, especially economic and social policies and politics. In Africa unemployment is a huge issue and social unrest, and I am pretty sure that we as everjobs can make a change for good in Africa.
So by adding my three passions with a bit of risk-taking taking or foolishness you automatically arrive at everjobs, the pan-African job portal.
So Eric you have told us a lot about the development of everjobs, where are you currently?
The development has been full of adrenaline so far but there are still a lot of things to do. But actually I am really impressed by the fast speed of our growth – I have launched on average one new everjobs country office every month. Currently we are already operation in West and East Africa. In West Africa we are operating in Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Senegal. East Africa was our second step with starting here in Uganda (www.everjobs.ug). Just recently we have opened our offices in Tanzania and Ethiopia.
So what is your plan for the future?
Our plan is to run business in around 20 African countries by end of 2016. My vision is also our hardest challenge: getting everjobs accessible to African SMEs. They need to have access to the best talents to expand and they now mostly recruit by word of mouth, which limits them tremendously. I’m sure that everjobs can bring a revolution to the human capital of SMEs and small family business in Uganda and entire Africa. In the many meetings I have with Heads of Human Resources is own issue always brought up: the huge gap between the skills on the CV and the actual skills on the job. So I also aim for everjobs to have a big impact on employability and close this gap. We’re working hard to reach out to leading education facilities like universities, to put online quality content from our partners in many industries and career advice to reduce this gap. Downsizing this employability gap will make this talent revolution actual.
As a career portal you are not just improving recruitment, you are also employing a lot of people. What is the human side of everjobs?
Our staff size is also growing very quickly. Taking together central and country teams we are employing around 100 people and this number will grow up to 300 people in 2016. Just take Uganda as an example, we started this year with one person in the office and now we already have a team of five. The team is still growing, planning to open up some internship opportunities soon.
The country teams are having the chance to meet hundreds of enthusiastic Heads of Human Resources who want to be part of this great project and are currently actively using everjobs for their recruitment. I’m very grateful to them. They are also taking care of all applicants by providing them with good feedback to increase their employability. We at everjobs care for people and aim at giving equal opportunities to all clients. The contact with our user base is very interesting, as they give a lot of feedback to make our service better. So we are improving on a daily basis. However, sometimes it is also very challenging.
You at everjobs did not invent this segment, so there are a lot of competitors in the market, what sets you apart from them?
Firstly, our intention is to have a true pan-African footprint, which makes a lot of sense both on supply side of the job market for employers and demand side for professionals. As we had a lot discussions with Heads of Human Resources of large multinationals we gained the insight that they aim at sourcing talents on a regional basis, be it all of East Africa, all of West & Central Africa or sometimes even at the African continent level.
There is increasing mobility of talents across Africa, so we’re able to offer them opportunities outside their local labor market. Professionals also experience everjobs different. Our service is 100% free for professionals and we will never charge someone for linking them with job opportunities. Further, we directly link job seekers with the Heads of HR unlike aggregators that combine job openings from companies’ career portals so applicants never know where their application is going. We guarantee that their application lands directly with the Heads of HR.
Even more significant, candidates are always informed when their application is read by recruiters. This aims reducing the kind of anxiety you face when waiting for an interview!
Another main distinction is on the product for our clients. We’re working hard to give as many functionalities as possible to Heads of HR. With our standardized CVs, they can use many filters on the search. The filters are based on the relevancy for the position offered. We’re also giving them the opportunity to head hunt directly in our CV database so that they have a glimpse of the talents available in the country. In the last step, we also offer background checks of applicants after they’ve been short-listed candidates to verify the references of an applicant
Any success stories you would like to share?
Yes and we’ve had a lot across Africa. The ones that are the most moving for me are when we get testimonials of professionals who found a job through everjobs and thank us by telling that they are really grateful. An example is Solomon who is working now for AAR Health in Uganda. He called our country manager Julian and told him: “Thanks a lot for your advice and insights, I got a job with AAR through your job portal. It’s a terrific experience, no payment no bribes!”
Why did you start the East African expansion in Uganda?
Uganda has several advantages that made us to come here as starting point of our East Africa Expansion. Firstly, we already have a big hub here with our sister companies (HelloFood, Kaymu, Jovago, Jumia and Lamudi). Secondly we have seen that Uganda needs us. High unemployment rates and a traditional recruitment system that needs improvements. Thirdly, Uganda is booming and politically stable. And lastly, we find here a highly skilled workforce that is willing to make the next step.
What do you see as challenges for Everjobs in Uganda?
We also see a gap between applicants’ abilities and their applications. Highly skilled people apply for low-skilled positions and vice versa. Further employability is a problem, so people lack of essential skills. This is not only our experience but also stated by the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), who say that over 63% of youth in Uganda lack employability skills, technical know-how and basic work-related capabilities. Also the World Bank reported that over 70% of an approximated 400,000 fresh graduates in Uganda were deemed unemployable.
Applicants are also not used to online applications at all. To overcome these weaknesses our team here is giving feedback to all applicants. We are also aiming at doing offline training sessions in the future to meet our main goal: bring together the best employers with the best talent. As the opportunities in Uganda are way higher than the challenges, we are sure that we have create many success stories of people finding a new job and changing their life with everjobs.
What’s your advice for university students entering the labor market soon?
You should go for every opportunity that gives you work experience. You can do a company project or competition at university? Do it! You can get an internship? Go for it! And you should never wait for the opportunities coming to you – you should be proactive and get in touch with decision makers at companies. Also associations are a good opportunity to already get to know experienced managers and experts in the area of interest.
Lastly, be always curious and ask questions. Always follow the Chinese proverb: He who asks a question remains a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask remains a fool forever.
What of unemployed people in Uganda?
Firstly you should be proactive. Finding a job takes some time and efforts, but the perfect job will hardly come to you without any work.
Secondly job seekers should also use their time to get additional training. Learn new skills, e.g. computer skills or a new language. This does not have to be expensive. You can start with books or online courses. We have also some tips in our job journal on how to improve your skills and abilities.
Further you should always keep your CV and your application documents up-to-date and accurate, but never lie – as lies don’t travel far.
Lastly you should use a platform like everjobs. This will connect you always with the best employers and the best job opportunities. Further everjobs provides you with a lot of useful tips and hints. And the best thing about everjobs: it is and will ever be free of charge for applicants.
Do you have a motto?
There is a lot of truth in this quote by Lionel Messi: You have to fight to reach your dream. You have to sacrifice and work hard for it.