Fiona Smith Columnist

Fiona writes on workplace issues, including management, psychology, workplace design, human resources and recruitment. She is a former Work Space editor at The Australian Financial Review and has also covered property, technology, architecture and general news.

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A $20,000 bonus, just for taking the job

Published 06 November 2012 05:52, Updated 10 April 2013 07:40

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A $20,000 bonus, just for taking the job

18,000 candidates have signed up to job board Sofee, which regularly pays bonuses of $3000 to $8000 to successful job seekers. Photo: Jessica Shapiro

Talk about the two-speed economy. Many job-seekers are stuck in neutral, getting turned down for job after job, while others are being offered the price of a small car as an inducement just to sign on.

It all depends on whether your skills are in fashion.

As if those who are in demand are not lucky enough, lawyer Greg Henry has just started a website, Sofee, that is offering up to $20,000 as a sign-on bonus (this one for an experienced commercial lawyer).

The idea is that employers such as Henry, the principal at law form Turtons, are not satisfied with the candidates that are sent by recruiters and are inundated with applications when they try to recruit directly through job boards.

So, by paying an inducement to the candidates (generally less than the recruiters’ fee) through the website, they hope to increase the quality of applicants and avoid having to pay up to 25 per cent of the new hire’s salary to a recruiter.

“The thing that was frustrating me was that the value of the cheques I was writing were disproportionate to what I was getting in return,” Henry says of his dealings with recruiters.

He was paying recruiters about $30,000 for a job that pays $130,000 (which starts to make that $20,000 bonus look like a bargain).

This is a common complaint. Other employers have been beefing up their refer-a-friend employee programs, which use their own workers to source good quality people, often offering thousands of dollars to employees who help them source a successful candidate.

They are also using social media and their own internal recruiters to find people.

Sofee, by comparison, is free for candidates and employers only pay a $345 fee when they identify a candidate they want to interview. They are also able to use search functions to narrow down their search to avoid being overwhelmed.

Unlike job boards and recruiters, employers have to disclose their identity so that candidates know immediately who they are dealing with.

So far, 18,000 candidates have signed up on Sofee and the lowest bonus has been $500 for a relatively easy-to-fill position. Most of the bonuses are between $3000 and $8000, says Henry.

It would be interesting to see if the inducement of an up-front bonus skews the profiles of the people who are attracted to jobs on the site.

“Most of the people will be attracted by the idea of a bonus,” says Henry.

The company has been set up independent of Turtons, with former general manager of mobile strategy an innovation at Telstra Business, Paul Christy, as CEO. It has been backed by an investment from a group of entrepreneurs from Sydney and Melbourne.

You might think that recruiters would be slapping their foreheads at the entrance of yet another competitor, but retired director of Conari Partners and former managing director of recruitment company Hamilton James & Bruce (which still carries his name), Greg Hamilton, welcomes the advent of Sofee.

Hamilton, who has been in the industry almost 40 years - and has a personal connection with Henry - says executive search firms are unlikely to be affected but, if the website is successful, more general recruiters and job boards such as Seek may see an impact.

“I think a lot of employers are questioning the value add of traditional recruiters, charging relatively large fees for a questionable result. That is why employers are potentially attracted by [Sofee],” Hamilton says.

“I think the traditional recruitment model has been overtaken by web-based activity.”

Indeed, some in the industry are already starting to use Sofee themselves: S2M Digital is offering an $8000 to hire itself a new IT recruiter.

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