OFFERZEN RE­CRUIT­MENT IS A REAL SA de­vel­op­ers can com­pete with those in Sil­i­con Val­ley and OfferZen wanted to bring home the ef­fi­ciency of busi­nesses there in at­tract­ing tal­ented de­vel­op­ers

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Cape Town brothers Philip and Malan Jou­bert have har­nessed their Sil­i­con Val­ley ex­pe­ri­ence to dis­rupt lo­cal IT re­cruit­ment and move away from firms spam­ming pro­fes­sion­als on so­cial me­dia to at­tract scarce skills. Un­like other sec­tors where firms hand-pick the crème de la crème from a mass of un­em­ployed job­seek­ers, Philip (28) said the re­cruit­ment in­dus­try had such a poor rep­u­ta­tion among de­vel­op­ers for spam, due to the mas­sive skills short­age, that a re­design of tra­di­tional re­cruit­ment meth­ods was nec­es­sary.

En­ter OfferZen, the en­tre­pre­neur­ial brothers’ lat­est in­no­va­tion, an online re­cruit­ment ser­vice which al­lows firms to in­vite de­vel­op­ers to in­ter­views rather than de­vel­op­ers ap­ply­ing for jobs.

He said dur­ing their one-year stint work­ing in “the holy land of de­vel­op­ers”, Sil­i­con Val­ley, in 2014/15, they saw how re­spon­sive the in­dus­try was to mar­ket needs and they wanted to bring sim­i­lar in­no­va­tions home.

Both brothers grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Stel­len­bosch, where Philip ob­tained a de­gree in in­dus­trial en­gi­neer­ing and Malan (31) a de­gree in elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing.

Both went on to make their mark de­sign­ing soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tions to meet so­cioe­co­nomic needs.

Philip founded App­sA­gain­stEbola, a not-for-profit project which pro­vided data-gath­er­ing tech­nol­ogy to NGOs in west Africa dur­ing the Ebola cri­sis. The project re­ceived do­na­tions worth over $500 000 from com­pa­nies like Ama­zon and was recog­nised glob­ally by Forbes and CNN.

The brothers built an in­cu­ba­tor busi­ness, FireID, and Philip co-founded Jour­neyApps, a plat­form that al­lows com­pa­nies to eas­ily build turnkey mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tions.

He also founded so­cial-me­dia mar­ket­ing re­search firm Pon­der­ing Panda.

Malan was in­volved in the found­ing of start-ups, in­clud­ing Jour­neyApps; the mo­bile pay­ment ap­pli­ca­tion SnapS­can, which is used by Stan­dard Bank and around 34 000 mer­chants in South Africa; and BitX, a com­pany that fa­cil­i­tates Bit­coin stor­age.

Malan be­lieves South African de­vel­op­ers can eas­ily com­pete with those in Sil­i­con Val­ley and he wanted to bring home the ef­fi­ciency of busi­nesses there in at­tract­ing tal­ented de­vel­op­ers.

“Where we are not as strong is in get­ting de­vel­op­ers to work on worth­while pro­grammes. We have de­vel­op­ers work­ing in bor­ing jobs not do­ing some­thing in­ter­est­ing, and com­pa­nies that are solv­ing im­por­tant prob­lems but bat­tling to at­tract tal­ent,” he said.

Malan said ex­pe­ri­enced soft­ware de­vel­op­ers “have the keys to the king­dom” to the point that head-hunt­ing re­cruiters, un­aware of the dis­tinc­tions be­tween IT skills, were spam­ming them on LinkedIn.

“Re­cruit­ment is not a sexy in­dus­try and it has a very bad rep­u­ta­tion among soft­ware de­vel­op­ers,” he said. But with OfferZen the game has changed. The brothers em­ploy 14 staff, in­clud­ing de­vel­op­ers, hir­ing ad­vi­sors and tal­ent ad­vis­ers, who as­sist de­vel­op­ers to build pro­fes­sional pro­files, sim­i­lar to LinkedIn, but with­out the so­cial net­work­ing as­pect. They have also de­vel­oped a cod­ing test to ver­ify skills and as­sist di­a­monds in the rough who can code but don’t have qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

“We can iden­tify peo­ple who are be­ing ig­nored by re­cruiters and job boards and they now get treated the same as other ap­pli­cants,” he said.

Com­pa­nies can send a mes­sage invit­ing a de­vel­oper to an in­ter­view, which the re­cip­i­ent can, in Tin­der style, ac­cept or re­ject.

The ser­vice is free to de­vel­op­ers while com­pa­nies pay 12.5% of a suc­cess­ful can­di­date’s an­nual salary.

“We are like Airbnb for soft­ware de­vel­op­ers but, in­stead of trav­ellers and hosts, we have com­pa­nies and de­vel­op­ers. It is kind of dis­rup­tive. I think this model is go­ing to de­stroy tra­di­tional re­cruit­ment pro­cesses be­cause this is so much more ef­fi­cient for both par­ties,” he said.

Since the plat­form launched last Novem­ber, 277 com­pa­nies have signed up to source tal­ent and the num­ber of in­ter­view re­quests is grow­ing 40% month on month with more than one de­vel­oper placed daily.

OfferZen is now the brothers’ core busi­ness, but “it would be great” if copy­cats used the model to re­cruit scarce skills in other sec­tors.

“At the mo­ment we are work­ing with South African de­vel­op­ers or peo­ple who are phys­i­cally in South Africa. There is lots of room to ex­pand and we are at some point go­ing to build things on top of it, but only in the next cou­ple of years will we think about ex­pand­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally,” he said.

PLAY TIME Dis­rup­tive de­vel­op­ers brothers Philip and Malan Jou­bert have formed a for­mi­da­ble team to tackle the trou­bles soft­ware de­vel­op­ers face when seek­ing the per­fect job

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