• Job vertical is fastest growing by revenue in the U.K.
  • Success based on stable management and traditional values
  • Focus on ATS integration, corporates and marketing to expand further

There are few examples internationally where the No. 4 recruitment marketplace can claim to be running a successful and competitive business. Yet that is the case in the U.K., where CV- Library Group continues to see stable growth and profitability.

CV-Library is No. 4 in the U.K. both by revenue (see chart) and traffic. The company is able to sustain a healthy business despite being outside of the Top 3 recruitment marketplaces due, in part, to the fragmented nature of the local job market. With scaled general recruitment marketplaces, niche job sites and aggregators all vying for market share, there are significant opportunities even for non-leading businesses.

Revenue growth leader

Since 2012, CV-Library has seen faster growth in revenue than any other major recruitment marketplace in the country.

Revenue increased x5 over the 2012-2019 period, reaching £37 million ($47.2 million U.S.) in FY2019. According to the company, revenue for the year to June 2020 will be almost £40 million. The company also produces high profit margins — £13 million, or 35% profit after tax in FY2019. By contrast, local rival Reed Online had a profit margin of 0.2% in FY2019.

How has it achieved these strong fundamentals?

According to Matthew Moore, MD at the company, it’s done so through traditional business values of good customer service, strong client retention and attention to detail. Of course, the core ingredient is delivering high-quality candidates so clients get a good return on investment.

Consistency in the senior team over the last 10 years, with a few key additions, has helped to build an excellent reputation and an ability to plough through economic crises.

“Our growth started as we came out of the last global recession in 2009-2010,” Moore told the AIM Group. “Volumes were down but our flexibility and how we looked after our customers was key.”

This mentality has transferred over to the present day. “If you post a vacancy on CV-Library and it’s not performing, I’d expect you to get a call from our client response team. Recruiters have a long memory,” said Moore.

Someone who knows the business well is John Salt, former MD at CV-Library as well as the former sales and marketing director at StepStone-owned TotalJobs.

“One of the things that stands out with CV- Library is the ratio of sales to customer service. At Reed Online or TotalJobs, that ratio is 2:1 or 3:1. At CV-Library it’s 1:1 — that makes a massive difference as the client knows who they’re dealing with. It’s a personal service,” Salt told the AIM Group.

According to Salt, the company has a strong company culture that’s very hard to replicate. “The business doesn’t get weighed down by bureaucracy or committees. It’s entrepreneurial and decisions are made by a management team that have been together for a long time. They can make quick decisions around integration, partnerships and product development,” he said.

Salt points out the major difference in profit margins as an example of CV-Library’s efficiency.

“Both Reed and StepStone U.K. are operating on close to zero margins. These are the things that make the difference,” he told us.

The Covid-19 response

Crisis-management skills have certainly played a role in helping to bring the business through the recessionary climate of the pandemic.

Usage has been down over the last 12 months as recruiters furloughed staff and needed fewer licenses, but CV-Library’s attention to customers has continued. The focus on giving clients a pro-active and flexible service has meant “keeping dialogue open” to quickly meet ever-changing needs.

Moore said demand has “steadily improved every month since July.” The volume of accounts lost between March and May 2020 — during the U.K.’s first full lockdown — has not only returned but “we are well beyond pre-pandemic levels, with record account numbers in recent weeks.”

It’s an old-fashioned technique based on engagement and a personal touch, combined with good delivery, which means when spend increases and job volumes return “they’ll come to us first.”

“We have to flex our response to customers and not take a hard approach when their contract comes up for renewal, or you won’t keep that customer,” Moore told us. “Most recruiters and larger corporates use more than one recruitment service. They go through periods when they cut. We want to make sure we are not the one they cut.”

Room for improvement?

Of course, CV-Library’s goal is to become an established Top 3 player in U.K. recruitment. It’s trying to do this in multiple ways.

One priority is to deliver a more seamless candidate journey, something that‘s being pursued by all the major job verticals in the country.

Moore thinks that the ability to build an overall package, including vetting, candidate ranking and drawing in more data from external sources to enhance candidate matching is one successful strategy. CV-Library is looking to have closer integrations with ATSs to deliver on this front.

“Integration is key because the journey is now fragmented for the job-seeker. It needs to be smoother. I think change will come in that area, through AI, chatbots and so on, but currently there is no one platform that can do all of it,” Moore told the AIM Group.

Moore also thinks the company can be much more involved with corporate clients. At present, CV-Library is much stronger with recruitment agencies, which play a bigger role in the U.K. recruitment ecosystem than in other countries.

Marketing is another key strategic pillar: “CV-Library is continuously working on its brand strategy. It remains a key focus area and we’re always looking at ways to improve,” Moore told us.

The company’s closest competitor is privately owned Reed Online, the No. 3 recruitment marketplace in the U.K., with £50 million in revenue in FY2020 and a slight lead on total monthly visits (according Reed’s wider business model is different — “as it also incorporates their high-street agencies,” Moore told us.

Nonetheless, with Reed’s annual revenue stalling in recent years and considering the marginal traffic differential between the two, becoming the stable No. 3 is a realistic prospect for CV-Library.

Market revenue leader StepStone (TotalJobs / JobSite) and traffic leader Indeed.co.uk are too far ahead at present.

Ambitions in the U.S.

CV-Library also has a small presence in the U.S., via sister site Resume-Library.com. It’s a different business altogether, launched in 2013 and with only 360,000 total monthly visits in April.

The project is being headed up by CV- Library founder and CEO, Lee Biggins, and Moore admits that it’s a “huge challenge.”

“In the U.S., we have a different approach. We’re using alliances, where other companies with a smaller database link to our platform to monetize their own database,” Moore told us.

Revenue from U.S. operations is low but growing, and a different market does offer the company experience of diverse business models and ecosystems — something CV- Library can carry to the U.K.

The CV-Library case study demonstrates that traditional values can be more important than an army of developers working on intricate recruitment technology. Effective, personal, client relations are hard to sustain as a company grows and can really help smaller businesses thrive in the face of market consolidation elsewhere and the big cyclical crunches that come from time-to-time in recruitment.

“They are just smart at what they do,” Salt told the AIM Group.

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