Trapeze — Shifting the focus on a broken recruitment industry

The growth of enterprise HR SaaS

The past few years have seen an explosion in the tech startup space for companies trying to crack an incredibly lucrative cloud-based software market.

In 2016, Josh Bersin of Deloitte estimated that the HR software market was worth in excess of $14 billion dollars, of which application tracking and talent management platforms made up a significant portion.

Understanding the marketplace

To understand the market in greater depth, we undertook a piece of competitive benchmarking, looking at both applicant tracking software (ATS) platforms in greater depth as well as applying to multiple jobs at the companies using these systems.

Looking at providers including: Recruitee, Jobvite, Homerun, Greenhouse, Workable, and Breezy, we found a crowded market place in which differentiators rarely ventured beyond pricing models in order to compete.

From an applicant point of view, the experience was equally generic and unfulfilling. From 12 applications, only two companies provided any form of response, with adventure camera manufacturer, GoPro, highlighted for their swift rejection email. More Samurai sword than dull axe but appreciated none-the-less.

It seems that in the race for market share, software providers are embroiled in a ‘red ocean’ mentality where they are focusing too heavily on each other and not enough on creating differentiators that work for each party in their multi-sided market.

For companies, even those using paid-for services were still struggling to create a cohesive experience for applicants, one which can make or break a company’s employer brand reputation in one fell swoop.

The many applicant tracking system (ATS) contenders. Who will be the undisputed champion?

The many applicant tracking system (ATS) contenders. Who will be the undisputed champion?

Validating assumptions

Having formed our own findings, we needed to validate them within the professional community and see how their experiences differed from our early assumptions.

We designed an in-depth survey asking respondents to detail their experiences of searching, preparing an application, and applying for new roles.

Great insights that only primary research can give

Key findings

  • Most respondents are always actively looking for new opportunities
  • Their greatest challenge was translating role expectations and requirements which are often generic and bloated, into a concise and focused application free of ambiguity
  • Concerns around confidentiality when applying weren’t being adequately addressed by hiring companies or software providers
  • Time poor candidates were frustrated by the level of customisation required when applying to each new role as well as the number of stages required in the end-to-end hiring process
  • Most respondents who had applied for a new role within the past 12 months required a CV/resume when applying
  • Communication was cited as the greatest challenge when applying for a new role. This was particularly apparent for roles involving recruiting companies whose consultants didn’t understand the technicalities of the role or how the applicant would fit into the hiring company
  • Respondents cited skills and work history as the most important factors when finding a new role

Missing opportunities

From this research we found that existing competitors largely concentrate on personal users from the point of sourcing / applying and end their service once onboarding is complete.

We believe there is a holistic benefit to providing a service that helps users to track their skills and experience in the long term, not only when they are preparing for a new challenge.

Early ideas focused on creating a Dropbox-style repository where users could store and augment content which would then be ready for populating into the ATS platforms at will, however a data-centric platform provided little appetite during further research.

This second shift brought us closer towards the idea of what would eventually become Trapeze.

Early wireframe concepts

The skill tracking app for everyone

Trapeze is a skill tracking and management platform that helps people build great careers and companies.

It helps personal users track their skills and experience so they can respond to new opportunities with greater speed and confidence; while Trapeze Business helps high-flying companies improve diversity, retain great people and reduce recruitment overheads.

Value proposition — Personal users

  • Respond to new opportunities with confidence and speed
  • Access and manage supporting files from any device
  • Track and manage skills to spot gaps and build on strengths

Value proposition — Business users

  • Free up vital resources and lower demands on busy HR teams
  • Improve diversity and inclusion as standard
  • Make better data-led decisions by tracking company and industry-wide KPIs
Setting the proposition and tone of voice

Building the UI

Sketching early prototypes on paper, we relied on the integration between UI design tool, Sketch and its integration with cloud prototyping service, Invision for interactive prototypes that we could test both in-person and remotely with users.

The final UI ready for usability testing via Skype and Invision

Creating value

Even in a limited-resource study such as this we highlighted how beneficial it is to use a mix-methods research approach, one in which market intelligence coupled with both qualitative and quantitative user research proved invaluable in finding new angles to see the same problem which literally dozens of companies were focusing on.


Thank you for taking the time to time to view my work. If you have any comments or questions please get in touch.

Jamie Hylands is a Designer and owner of Manaseven, a UX strategy and design company based in Scotland.