5 Minutes With Carey Eaton, Product Director (SEEK)

Founded in 1997, SEEK is the number one online employment and training market place in Australia and New Zealand. SEEK enjoys a formidable lead over its nearest competitor, hosting about two thirds of all Australian employment advertisements and attracting more than 2.2 million unique browsers to its website – more than twice the number of individual visitors received by its nearest competitor. This success is also measured in financial terms: in FY07, the company generated revenues of $157 million and EBITDA of $80.3 million, an increase of 47.8% and 63.9% respectively compared to the previous year.

SEEK is also definied by its very strong consumer brand and its reputation as a workplace in its own right. For the past three years the company has received special commendation awards in the Best Employers to Work for in Australia survey conducted by Hewitt Associates. SEEK is pursuing growth opportunities by growing advertising volumes, growing advertising yield , developing new and improved products and targeting further expansion in the learning and international markets.

Describe Product Management

The Product team’s focus at SEEKis all about understanding, meeting and balancing the needs of jobseekers, employment advertisers and ultimately our shareholders. There are two themes of activities we are engaged in, broadly described in terms of Product Management and Product Development. Historically, the Product function here formed part of the Marketing department, which made sense in the early days of the company. The Marketing department researched and understood the needs of jobseekers and advertisers, and translated those needs into a strong brand and a strong website that met those needs and helped migrate the employment advertising market from print to online.

As we grow and as the marketplace for jobseekers and advertisers moves online, the sophistication of our customers increases, as does the ability for us to understand their needs to greater and greater degrees. The output of this is more sophisticated products coming to market, and ultimately for us, greater customer satisfaction.

What are your Product Managers responsible for at SEEK?

On the Product Managementside, the focus is all about continuously reviewing and improving the performance of our existing products, and supporting our sales, marketing and customer service teams with the information they need to drive adoption and customer satisfaction from the use of our products. Product Development on the other hand is all about researching and understanding the needs of our customers in a rapidly changing environment. There are a lot of internal and external factors we take into consideration in this area, suffice to say that there are many opportunities to bring useful and usable features, functions and products to the market.

What challenges do you and your Product Managers face?

SEEK is operating in a fascinating environmentwhere three rapidly changing contexts offer opportunity but also challenge. There are very large changes occuring in the fields of work, recruitment and media.

Firstly, we are faced witha changing Australian labour market where a strong economy is driving skills shortages in a number of areas. The demographics of jobseekers and employers are also changing – much has been said about the job seeking and work habits of Baby Boomers, GenX and GenY, but clearly SEEK has to meet the different needs of these cascading generations of jobseekers. These challenges are compounded by changing concepts of ‘work’ and ‘career’ in today’s society.

Secondly, there are huge changes occuring in the recruitment industry itself. Recruitment is becoming a highly sophisticated service industry with large changes torecruitment models, sourcing methodologies, commercial labour supply arrangements, and disaggregated recruitment service offerings. We’re also seeing rapid evolution in the way technology can drive opportunities and changes to practice for both the HR and Recruitment sectors around the world.

Thirdly, there is a rapidly changing media landscape, with multiple trends emerging.We are clearly in the middle of a global trend to migrate the marketplace for employment advertising from print to online. Within the online space itself, the environment is also rapidly changing with the emergence of what is widely referred to as Web 2.0, and particular opportunities that might arise from the commoditisation of social networking. As well as rapid changes to consumer use of online media, there are also technological opportunities for us to consider: video formats, mobile distribution, more powerful search, more targeted advertising and matching capabilities.

All of these changes are occurring on a global basis where recruitment, job search and recruitment advertising used to be a strictly local affair. All of this means that there are many opportunities but also many challenges for our Product Managers as we continuously develop and refine our Product Roadmap.