Advice for Employers and Recruiters

How did job board HBCU Connect build the largest community of students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities?

Shelby Konkel AvatarShelby Konkel
January 12, 2023


Create, manage, and work with Job Boards and Recruitment Marketplaces.

Each week, Steven Rothberg, Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of College Recruiter, and Peter M. Zollman, Founder of the AIM Group, along with guests from the world’s leading job sites, analyze news about general, niche, and aggregator job board and recruitment marketplace sites.

Today’s guest is Will Moss, CEO and Founder of HBCU CONNECT, a platform for networking, professional and educational opportunities, and facilitating connections between savvy organizations looking to hire from, or brand themselves with a tight-knit HBCU community.

HBCU Connect was originally created to be used as a social network for those who’ve attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities. After repeated requests from recruiters, Will, who also happens to be a former software engineer, added the job board component to the site. Will refers to the website as an ‘opportunity engine’. There are internship opportunities for college students, job opportunities for recent grads, and other job-related opportunities for those looking to change their careers. HBCU Connect is perfect for those hiring companies that realize the more diverse their workforce is, the better they will be able to serve their customers.

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TRANSCRIPT

Steven (00:09):

Welcome to the Inside Job Boards and Recruitment Marketplaces podcast. I’m Steven Rothberg, the founder of College Recruiter Job search site at College Recruiter. We believe that every student in recent grad deserves a great

Peter (00:23):

Career. And I’m Peter Zollman, founding Principal of the AIM Group, the leading global business intelligence service for marketplaces and classified advertising companies. We consult with recruitment marketplaces, companies and publish AIM group, recruitment intelligence, and a free weekly digest. We also host the annual Global Rebus Conference.

Steven (00:44):

This is the podcast for you to learn more about how to create, manage, and work with general niche and aggregator job boards and recruitment marketplaces. Hey, Peter, it is great to be with you again today. Welcome to the Inside Job Boards and Recruitment Marketplaces podcast. Could we have picked a longer title for that?

Peter (01:05):

Yeah, we could have, but then they wouldn’t have been able to fit it on that square box that they use as the cover art for the podcast. We just, you wanted job boards? I wanted recruitment marketplaces because there’s a difference. And so we settled for the ridiculous title.

Steven (01:23):

Yeah, it’s kind of like what, what they say when, when you get a committee designing an animal, it becomes a camel. Right. It’s just a little bit of this and a little bit of

Peter (01:32):

That, something like that. So it feels like it’s been a week since we last got together, which is very strange.

Steven (01:43):

It, it, it always, when, when, when you and I get together, it always seems like a much longer time for me than it does for

Peter (01:50):

You and to me, it goes like an instant. It goes like an instant. I’m so glad to be back with you. Exactly. It’s just, it’s

Steven (01:58):

Just such, such pleasure. Oh,

Peter (02:00):

God. So,

Steven (02:00):

Hey, what I, I hear through an unnamed source whose name is spelled exactly the same as yours. That AIM group has an exciting announcement to deal doing. Something to do with with, with my birth month, April.

Peter (02:16):

Yeah. We are doing Rec Buzz in Berlin in April. We’ve done a couple of conferences in Berlin. It’s a fascinating city to me. I love going to Berlin, standing there, looking at where the Berlin Wall was, and realizing that it just fell not very long ago. And I was having a conversation about a guy with a guy who grew up in Berlin divided and how he could never go around a lake. And once the wall fell, he, he swam across the lake and didn’t get shot at. Hmm. it was a, the lake was on the dividing line. So it’s a wonderful city. As you know, rec Bus is just a fabulous conference. Ceos, sea level executives from recruitment marketplaces and job boards from all around the world. We already told Will that if he’s a real rockstar on this podcast we might have to invite him to speak there. But it’s just, well, you know, I don’t need to pitch it because you’ve been known to say good things about it once or twice before.

Steven (03:40):

Yeah, absolutely. Anybody has any questions about what it’s like to attend an an AIM group event? And I don’t, you know, work for AIM group? I don’t get paid for this or anything like that, just like, just a happy attendee. I was fortunate to go to the Barcelona one and then also the one at Amsterdam or in September of 2022. And both just phenomenal great vibe you don’t feel like you’re getting pitched to. There is definitely an opportunity to meet with vendors, but it’s, it’s much more of a collegial learning. And the thing that I think really distinguishes your events from a lot of the other ones is just how truly global they are. You’re gonna be sitting there and on one side of you is gonna be somebody from Denmark. And on the other side of you, there’s gonna be somebody from Nigeria and their business models are gonna be different, and you’re gonna learn from them and they’re gonna learn from you. Just, it’s really fantastic. And

Peter (04:38):

We’re not pitching, but I will say super early. Bird registration lasts for another few weeks at least. And you can find out all about it at Repa conference, R E C B U Z Z conference.com. And I’ll see you there in April, Mr. Rothberg. And if I’m lucky, maybe Mr. Moss too. And that’s your cue, Steven, to introduce Will, whom we’ve been talking about behind his back in front of him, so to speak. <Laugh>. Yeah, he’s

Steven (05:09):

Gonna, he’s, he’s gotta be wondering, am I ever gonna get to chime in here? So, will is the, he’s the C e O of H B C U Connect. For those of the listers who don’t know what that acronym is, historically Black Colleges and Universities in the US it is a longstanding, very important group of schools that have overcome adversity and educated millions and millions of, of some of the, the best contributors to society. And I’m gonna let will kind of describe a little bit more about that. But will, why don’t you tell the listeners like a, a little bit about you, a little bit about Will and a little bit about H B C U Connect.

Will (05:53):

First of all, thank you all for having me. Appreciate the opportunity to be here. A little bit about myself of course, yes. I’m the C E O of H B C U Connect the founder of the company. My background, you know, by trade, I’m a software engineer. So, you know, the whole conversation about, you know, having H B C U connect and, and, and H B U Connect, having a job board. You know, I wrote most of the code for the, for the job board because at the time that I launched a site and launched a job board with the site. There were not a lot of examples out there or, you know, white label solutions or anything like that. So I had to kind of roll up my sleeves and, and, and get involved. So I’m a software engineer by trade but H B C U Connect was a passion project for me.

(06:45):

Having gone to one of the HBCUs, I went to Hampton University in Virginia, didn’t know what HBCUs were, you know, before I, before I went to school. But once I was there, you know, part of your, you know, indoctrination and, you know, as a freshman is you take the university 1 0 1 class and they, and they explain the history of the school, they explain, you know Hampton University is an H B C U one of roughly 105 HBCUs out there. I said, oh, that’s interesting. But the passion came because I was picked up as a scholarship recipient by at and t Bell Labs as a part of their diversity recruitment strategy. And they paid for me to go to school starting halfway through my junior year in college. So that’s where the idea came from for H B C U Connect. Once I came out and started working in a workforce, I wanted to give back. And so my way of giving back was creating the website.

Peter (07:43):

That seems like a fabulous approach. When I was in Louisiana, we always were very impressed with Grambling, which of course had a great football team and the marching 100 band, which turned out to be about 400 people. But nevertheless, it was stellar. More important though HBCUs are often the only place people who need an education are able to get one and afford it and get support. They need came from a rough background or a difficult background. Not everybody, of course, but HBCUs are known for their remarkable support of the students at the schools they attend. I’m gonna switch to the job board and recruitment side of the house for a minute. D e i is this incredibly important topic in the recruitment world these days, right up there with worker shortages, layoffs, and quiet quitting. Give us your view of D E I and how you guys play a role in it.

Will (09:02):

Sure. So my view on d e I, so first of all just my background as a software engineer, I didn’t come from the HR space or really the d and i space except for the fact that I was a benefactor of it, right? So that created a passion. You know, that was a, became a passion thing for me because of how I felt, you know, at and t’s program changed my life. But from what I’ve, you know, experienced and, you know, and, and now being sort of a pioneer in the space, you know, we got, we kind of got involved, at least in the online and job board, you know, domain got in, got involved very early. So the, I think the thing is, there’s two ways, you know, you can look at it, right? There’s, there’s d n I from the perspective of you know, the government being involved and saying certain industries need to consider diversity and they need to recruit from diverse populations and have a diverse workforce.

(10:05):

But then more recently there’s smart companies and organizations that are hiring and they’re realizing that the more diverse their workforce is, the more they are better able to serve their customers who are likely going to be diverse. So the, so now you know the conversation around diversity, you know, equity and inclusion is more around it being a business strategy and a business imperative that, you know, the, the, the workforce and their employee base mimics their customer base so that they can come up with solutions that meet the needs of their customers. But then also that diversity of thought, diversity of background you know, helps to produce solutions and products that that give them a competitive advantage.

Steven (11:01):

We’ll be back right after this break. Welcome back to the inside job boards and Recruitment marketplaces podcast.

(11:18):

I’ve heard customer after customer of, of ours at college recruiter talk about how just, just the same way you did will, where it, it’s not only sort of the right thing to do, and years ago it was more about compliance for some of these organizations. But it makes business sense that they find that the more diverse their workforce is, the more productive that workforce is. And H B C U Connect is, is definitely an avenue that they, that they should be pursuing. So if I can, I’d like to dig into a little bit of the, the past of, of H B C U Connect, cuz I think the listeners who are running their own job boards or recruitment marketplaces will find it to be instructive. And, and also interesting, when I look at the site I do not see a traditional job board, like a college recruiter. You come and there’s like, you know, keyword search in the homepage and locations, and you see a list of jobs and you click and you apply to them. What I see is much more of a community site that happens to have that a job board component is did it start out that way? Was that part of the plan? Was it just an accident? How did you get

Will (12:33):

There? So H B C U Connect started out initially as a social network. We didn’t even have a job board as a part of our platform. But you know, interestingly, interestingly enough, you know like I said earlier, I was a software engineer, built out the website. So I still had my day job, nine to five at at and t and I started getting these interesting phone calls from some savvy recruiters that said, Hey we noticed that you have this site, you’ve got all of these students on the site, you’ve got all these graduates on the site, you know, we go off to the universities and, and you know, we can only reach five of them and we know there’s over over a hundred. Can we post our jobs on your website? Can we, can we recruit? Can you collect resumes from your members? And so originally it was one phone call. Then was, you know, a few weeks later there was another phone call. And as the internet got more and more or, you know, the users of the internet got, got more and more savvy about online recruitment, the more I started to get these phone calls. So until, you know, finally I took my Christmas break <laugh> off, and I looked at the, the leaders in the space at the time, which were like monster and Career Builder. And I said, you know what? I,

Steven (13:47):

Oh, you’re dating yourself

Will (13:49):

<Laugh>. Yeah. This is like late nineties, you know, early 2000. We launched our, we launched our, our job board in 2002. So, so I mean, yeah, we were definitely kind of like pioneers in this space. And, and so to your point, we, we have a community. So you can kind of think of us as sort of like a LinkedIn, right? Where we have a community of users that come to our site for different reasons, but as a part of them staying connected to, to us and to each other, like through our site, we want to be an opportunity engine for them. So whether that opportunity is an internship when they’re in college, right, or a scholarship when they’re in college, or when they’re getting ready to graduate and they need a job, we want to have opportunities for them. And then when they’re out there in the workforce and they’re thinking about changing their you know, career or looking for a better opportunity, we want to be there for them to provide opportunities. But the way we got into, into the space was completely organic, completely. That,

Peter (14:50):

That’s fantastic. And it’s worth noting that we have, we at the AIM group have often said, if you are just a job board, you’re gonna be done. You have to be a community and do so much more. How do you build community? You’ve got a great base of people who attended historically black colleges and universities. Do they come back year after year? Are there things for them that make them want to come in addition to the job board? Obviously there are tell us a little bit more about building community.

Will (15:28):

Back in the early days, it was easy, right? You could cr you could come, you could create unique content. You could create unique functionality through the website that you know, would, would keep folks coming back. So, for example, the ability to post a picture and a profile was a new concept. <Laugh>, when, when we, when we started our website, so I always used to say, Hey, you know, when you’re building community, let the community be the content. You know, where, whereas, you know, lots of sites come out and, and they, they say, oh, we’ve gotta come up with content. And they’re thinking about articles and content that people would be interested in. But for us, we’ve tried to let our community, you know, is the concept of user generated content, right? We let, we try to let our community be part of the content and create the content for us.

(16:22):

So for example every time we, we, we do a magazine twice a year for students and twice a year for alumni. And we ask for the members of our site to highlight themselves to be featured in the magazine. And part of that is uploading their resume, building out their profile, you know, putting their picture up and basically, you know highlighting or showing off their accomplishments to the community. So it’s, it’s a matter to answer the question, I think it’s been a matter of allowing our members to participate in, you know, that content development and, and generation of content and sharing their accomplishments with each other through our site.

Peter (17:05):

There are a lot of diversity job boards out there. How do companies work with H B C U Connect? Is it a pay per application? Is it a monthly, is it a individual job postings? What’s your job board business model? Because those are evolving, but what, what’s the job board business model you use now?

Will (17:30):

Sure. great question. So we started off with the base, the basics, right? Job postings, resume database access, and a company profile on our site. And all of the typical online recruitment activities. Then we kind of, and there, there were sort of a la carte, then we kind of gradually got into you know, companies saying, Hey, can we just do a, an annual package with you, right? Where we have access to post all of our jobs.

Peter (17:59):

Don’t you just hate it when that happens? <Laugh>, we wanna spend money with you for the long term. Don’t bother us with this, this, this small stuff. Just take a lot of our money all at once. Please.

Steven (18:11):

Oh, my, those checks with all those zeros, it’s, they’re so annoying.

Will (18:16):

<Laugh>. Yeah. So we, you know, we, like I said, we organically got into this and that, and that’s what happened. We started getting these requests for, Hey, can we do, you know, packing? And we started kind of looking around at the landscape, and a lot of this was new, you know there were a couple of really big job boards out there, but there weren’t that many small job boards out there, like, like ourselves as a niche job board. But so we got into, you know, doing some packages. And, you know, my advice to the other job board owners out there is that you let your, your customers, you know, you consult with them and they’ll, they’ll give you, they’ll ask you for what they need. So, you know, we had a really big partner of ours that was using all of our online recruitment activity, and they got us into doing virtual events.

(19:03):

You know, they, they said hey this is a challenge we’re having, right? You’re sending us diverse candidates and we wanna make sure it’s a priority, but when they’re channeled through, you know, the job postings, we’re afraid they’re gonna get lost. You know, you guys solved the problem. And so we kind of said, okay, how can we make sure? And they said, we want, you know, your candidates to meet our, our hiring managers and our recruiters. And so we said, we’ll do just that. And we’ll just, we’ll, we’ll, instead of funneling them into a job posting, we’ll funnel them into a, a registration list for an event. And we started doing virtual events. And that’s been like a huge, huge revenue stream for us and business opportunity beyond just the job postings and the resume database and, and that kind of thing. So it’s just an example of us listening to our clients and, and coming up with solutions that we think will help meet Denise or the challenges that they have.

Peter (19:58):

What a concept. Listen to customers, <laugh>, you know, what a

Peter (20:01):

Concept. <Laugh>. That’s it.

Steven (20:05):

Yeah. I think we have time for one more. Quick question Will, if, if you don’t mind, and, and that is you just sort of building off of the listening to customers. Are you, are you getting requests for programmatic feeds, cost per click or, or your customers still really happy with say, like a traditional duration based advertising?

Will (20:25):

I think from a customer standpoint, they’ve, they’ve been happy with the traditional they lean on us in, in our recommendation. But then in, there’s a lot of you know, partners out there that we work with and organizations that have proposed that we do. Like, there’s a lot of agencies, right, that have proposed like the cost per click or cost per application and that kind of thing. But for us, in our model and cause of our niche and in the fact that we’re not dealing with, you know, millions and millions of applicants, we have we have kind of kept our model a little bit flexible and more traditional, you know, around you know, packages pricing for access.

Steven (21:12):

Well, well thank you so much for joining us today. This, this was fun, even though Peter was part of it, <laugh> <laugh>. And for listeners who wanna learn more about you personally or H B C U Connect how should they do that?

Will (21:28):

Sure, sure. So to learn a little bit more about H B C U Connect, feel free to jump on our website, which is hcu connect.com. And for me personally, probably the easiest thing will be to just link up with me on LinkedIn Will Moss.

Steven (21:43):

Well, thank you so much, Peter. Any closing words? Just

Peter (21:47):

Enjoyed it immensely and I look forward to meeting

Will (21:51):

You. Likewise, likewise. Because

Peter (21:53):

We’ve met virtually, now we gotta do it in

Will (21:55):

Person. Likewise, appreciate the opportunity. Thank you both for what you do.

Steven (21:58):

Awesome. Will thank you.

Peter (22:01):

Inside job boards and recruitment marketplaces is a co-production of Evergreen Podcasts College Recruiter and the AIM Group.

Steven (22:10):

Please subscribe for free on your favorite app. Review it five stars are always nice, and recommend it to a couple of people you know who wanna learn more about job boards and recruitment marketplaces.

Peter (22:21):

Special thanks to our producer and engineer, Ian Douglas. I’m your host Peters Ulman of the AIM Group, the leading global consultancy in the field of marketplaces and classified advertising. Find out more about our reports on recruitment marketplaces, job boards and classifieds, including our new recruitment marketplaces annual at aim group.com/reports.

Steven (22:46):

I’m your host, Stephen Rothberg of job search site college recruiter. Each year we help more than 12 million candidates find great new jobs. Our customers are primarily Fortune 1000 companies, government agencies, and other employers who hire at scale and advertise their jobs with us. You can reach me at stephen@collegerecruiter.com.

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