If there’s a jobs startup within 2000 miles of NYC, I will see it. Everyone sends me startups in this space because of my experience with Path 101 and my passion for helping people with their careers.
I feel terrible, because I hate these meetings and couldn’t be less interested in this space. I love helping entrepreneurs and want to add value, but I just can’t help but say the equivalent of “RUN!! SAVE YOURSELF!!” After a recent talent acquisition in the mobile space, a friend of mine said, “That’s what you get for building in a good neighborhood.” Mobile, local, etc… these are good places to play because even if you fail, someone will be interested in what you’re doing. This is where the most innovative companies are playing, and so if you’ve formed a good team around it, that has value to someone.
The jobs and recruiting space, on the other hand, is a pretty bad neighborhood. LinkedIn has fared ok, but even than it’s a far cry from how useful it *could* be, because it gets bogged down with being a recruiter tool versus a place that I want to spend time as a business professional. LinkedIn has clearly made the former a priority and they have a nice business to speak of because of it.
Here’s why I generally have a tough time with the space:
1) Candidates: People looking for jobs are, in my experience, unwilling to do the work it takes to really find something unless it has immediate, short term ROI. They spend way too much time mashing their resume against a bunch of job posts until something sticks. Relationship building, building their professional brand, picking up new skills—all things that clearly work over the long term—they just don’t have a lot of time for that. Sometimes, it’s because they’re desperate to get a job because they need to pay their rent. I feel for those people, but don’t have an easy answer. Other times, they’re just impatient, because those things don’t seem like they have immediate payoff, even though they’re amazingly effective. Candidates often optimize for the wrong things, too—not looking for jobs they actually want to do versus looking for the jobs that pay the most money or appear the safest. This might work if they had a better shot at these jobs, but they don’t realize that the easiest job to get is the job you’re most passionate about.
2) Recruiters: They just don’t like to do anything different… ever. These will be the last people on the face of the earth using phones for voice—way after we get the mindreading chips implanted in our heads. They’re not a particularly innovative bunch when it comes to using the latest technologies, and its never fun to sell into a group that doesn’t like to push the envelope.
3) The myth of the resume and job post: The whole system is built on resumes and job posts—and this is just a terrible way to match people up. Resumes are an awful representation of what a candidate can do for you if you hire them and job posts do little to explain what you’re actually going to be doing, what skills are required, and where you can go from here—let alone your chances of getting that job. Most of the technology in the space is built to attempt to fix this broken platform—or at least use process tools to make the whole thing easier to swallow. In reality, it needs to be blown up and started from scratch.
4) To make money, you have to try a 1.0 business model. Don’t get me wrong—there are undoubtedly ways to innovate in this space—but don’t expect to make money on them anytime soon. Most companies trying to innovate in this space wind up, to pay the bills in the short term, falling back into the rut of paid placement or selling access to databases of resumes. There’s nothing more demoralizing to try and change the face of human capital to have to sell a job post when you know it doesn’t work.
5) Exits: Who buys you? Monster? Yeah, that worked like ten years ago. Post IPO, I’m sure LinkedIn will do some tuck in acquisitions here and there, but the reality is that the whole space is hemorrhaging cash for the most part. People are getting rid of their jobs businesses (Hotjobs) and not really looking to get into new ones. Are there niches were you can create a cashflow? I’m sure… but if you’re looking to exit into a market where the players are flush with acquisitive cash, this isn’t it. It’s like asking for extra water in the desert.