How SA’s One Degree is changing the way companies hire tech employees

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South African recruitment platform One Degree says it is changing the way employers hire tech contractors, removing intermediaries and unconscious bias to make the hiring process more fairer and more efficient.

Formed in 2022, and launched earlier this year, One Degree provides employers with access to a diverse pool of experienced, independent tech contractors. Contractors create profiles, and set availability and rates, and can then be identified and hired by companies.

“We aim to connect individuals who possess adequate expertise and a proven track record in their respective fields and so our minimum requirement is that candidates have at least three years consecutive commercial experience,” Lindsay Cowan, One Degree’s CEO, told Disrupt Africa.

He said One Degree was transforming the way tech contractors and employers connected, and indeed was on a “mission” to completely revolutionise the hiring process. 

“In response to the demands of the emerging gig economy, remote work trends, and the evolving job market, we’ve purposefully created One Degree to disrupt the digital hiring space to prioritise fairness, efficiency and global access,” Cowan said.

For employers, One Degree offers a cost-effective and precise hiring solution to find the perfect match, removing the need for tedious searches through endless CVs and email submissions. 

“Our sophisticated algorithm takes centre stage, doing the heavy lifting to save you time and significant costs,” said Cowan.

“But we go beyond efficiency – we champion diversity. One Degree ensures that every employer has access to a wide range of talented professionals, fostering a more inclusive workforce. It’s not just about finding the right person for the job; it’s about reshaping the way we build teams.”

The self-funded One Degree has built a large pool of contractors, but so far has only released the platform to a select number of companies to trial before it actively launches to the wider employer market. Nonetheless, Cowan said it was confident it would fill some key gaps in the hiring market.

“What has become clear over the years is a general disdain from employers and candidates when working with recruitment agencies. Whether it be cost or poor quality for the former, or misrepresentation for the latter, we saw a definitive need for a platform that connected experienced tech professionals directly with global employers, without any intermediary,” he said.

“Contracting is the preferred way to work for many people. This was apparent pre-COVID but became prolific post-COVID – for employees, full-time employment was no longer regarded as the safe option with people becoming disenfranchised with the work they do and the people they do it for. Instead, they wanted a better work-life balance where they could control their careers and lifestyles, on their terms. Similarly, the strong trend away from full-time employment towards independent contracting was becoming more and more appealing to employers – seen as a cost effective and viable way for organisations to create high performing teams, the benefits of parachuting in skilled workers as and when required have become huge.”

Having worked in recruitment for decades, Cowan and his co-founder Gary Silbermann had worked with every online job board and recruitment platform. 

“In all cases, we saw that there wasn’t one that actually did what we asked it to do. Put simply, some have become social media platforms, others have focused on becoming the biggest possible job board, compromising heavily on quality. At One Degree, we pride ourselves on sticking firmly to our roots – a high quality platform that does exactly what it says on the tin, uncompromising in quality and absolutely no white noise,” Cowan said.

The startup has offices in both South Africa and Australia, but decided to launch in South Africa first due the founders’ knowledge of the IT recruitment market there. 

“That said, we have tech professionals registering from all over the world, so the word is spreading quickly, without any marketing efforts overseas,” Cowan said.

“We have proven the concept and demonstrated a firm need for something new and fresh. As a result, we plan to roll this out globally as that is the very reason One Degree has been created – to enable first degree connections around the world.”

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