Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Jobbook serves as alternative job-search destination

[media-credit name=’Photo courtesy of Dan Novick’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]jobbook[/media-credit]

The online career service Jobbook has emerged from controversial beginnings and arrived in Madison. Self-described as a “dating service” on its website, the Montreal-based company is distinct from other job search engines by its standardization of the job search process.

Jobbook inserts itself into what is typically a two party process between employer and applicant. The company assigns a sequence of characters, known as “jobcodes,” to every profession it contains in its database, known as the “jobdictionary.” Employers submit job openings, while applicants enter their information – including their degree level, extracurricular activities and employment preferences – into a CV builder. Employers screen applicants by using “pre-determined filters.” When enough of the pre-selected criteria are met between employer and applicant, Jobbook creates a match.


While the process appears straightforward, the company’s contentious history may be a cause for caution. On Feb. 4 of this year, news broke in The McGill Tribune that student body President Zach Newburgh had negotiated a deal with Jobbook’s founder and CEO, Jean de Brabant. The deal, forged under a writ of non-disclosure six months prior, stipulated that Newburgh would help Brabant promote Jobbook to other student presidents. As compensation, he would receive company shares. Newburgh insists he only agreed to this if McGill’s student government also received a cut.

Over the following two months, the Tribune and The McGill Daily chronicled the unfolding events, including Newburgh’s censure and possible violation of McGill’s Conflict of Interest Policy. Student critics argued that as student body president, Newburgh used the prestige of his office to help promote a private company in which he was financially invested. Two other McGill student officers disclosed similar compensation for their promotion of Jobbook, as did UCLA student officer Rustom Birdie. By the start of the fall semester, however, attention to Jobbook in these student newspapers had waned.

Thus far, Jobbook’s image has been shaped in part by its unsavory marketing strategies to student leaders, raising concerns over the company’s transparency. But the actual services offered by the Jobbook website have received little attention.

Now serving as Jobbook’s vice president of university relations, Newburgh’s primary responsibilities are to coordinate a team of student representatives spread across the top 50 universities of North America. In an interview, he presented a cheery picture of the company’s vision.

“We want to help people, and that is our one and only mission,” Newburgh said.

He pointed out some of Jobbook’s useful features: “A lot of the jobs that are available are for the workforce more generally, so it’s more difficult to find entry position jobs. Since we’re all trying to compile all the jobs available for students in one place, this is where you’ll find those [entry-level] jobs.” In addition, Newburgh pointed out Jobbook does not charge for this service.

Another selling point Newburgh highlighted is Jobbook’s ability to speed the job search process. It eliminates those jobs that job seekers are not qualified to apply for based upon preselected criteria before the job seeker sees the actual listing.

“Say goodbye to the hours wasted searching for posts, applying for jobs that you don’t have a chance to get … What we’re doing is we’re saying ‘You can tell us who you are and what you’re about and tell us what you’re interested in, and the employers will then have the opportunity to contact you,'” he said. “Matching is in every way an advantage for everyone involved, but especially for students because the onus is now on the company instead of on candidates.”

A representative from University of Wisconsin Career Services did not agree with Newburgh’s assessment.

“I would hesitate to use the word ‘match’ specifically because it’s not like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. Students have a variety of different experiences that are more than just a couple of fields you put data into,” the representative said.

In the online database UW currently uses, BuckyNet, students have access to employer contact information. A Career Services staff member explained that this gives students the option of contacting the employer if they felt they were qualified. “It really increases the opportunities for the student beyond what their major or graduation year may prescribe,” she said.

The way Jobbook currently operates, students cannot see job listings before they are subject to screening, nor can they see what jobs they are being screened for. The system can seem defeatist, a point that Newburgh acknowledged.

“We don’t want to be in the business of creating false hopes. And we’ve seen times where they’re applying for jobs or internships that they’re not going to get,” he said. “We want there to be a certain level of buy-in from both the student or recent graduate and the employers before we move to second base.” 

Ultimately, Newburgh said, Jobbook might help university career service programs shoulder the weight of student demand. He pointed out some of the competitive advantages offered by the company that he claims university career services cannot provide.

“I think there is also recognition that the services provided by colleges are oftentimes not sufficiently funded, oftentimes don’t have the resources available to make the connections that we do. … Unlike career services, we have direct partnerships with corporations,” he said.

Jobbook’s future seems up for grabs and ultimately will be decided by students and university graduates. But from Newburgh’s point of view, things look bright. 

“We’re not even fully launched, and hiring is already happening. That’s just how well the system is working,” he said. “Actually, McGill University is right now leading the charge of the most signups for individuals.”

Editor’s Note: Founding partner of Jobbook Antoine de Brabant disagreed with The Badger Herald’s description of the site’s function, which was based on our writer’s perusal of In order to present yet another perspective to this story, we quote him below:

“Students can actually see any job listings they want, even for CEO positions. When you choose job titles from the Jobdictionary, you get matched with job listings, no matter if you’re qualified or not. The point is for people to be able to see how they match with these jobs, and learn about what the job market is asking for. People can then align themselves accordingly: take the right degree, acquire skills, learn a new language. Our whole system is built to serve students and recent graduates; it’s 100 percent free, no advertisement, no upselling, no private data mining. It’s private and anonymous for job seekers, allowing you to explore and pursue job opportunities at your pace and in your control,” de Brabant said.

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