Friday, July 31, 2009

A new way to recruit for (and find) startup jobs

In my work, I come across a lot of great startups. A common question I get asked is "do you know someone amazing that we can hire?" Similarly, I get pinged by many colleagues, friends, and fans who are looking to find a job with a startup. I do my best to play matchmaker, but as those of you who have ever tried to fill a job in a startup know, the most important and elusive quality for a startup hire is fit. Unfortunately, as any good recruiter will tell you, this is not an easy thing to assess as an outsider.

So I used to wind up spending a lot of fruitless hours trying to play matchmaker, and generally having a hard time. Part of the problem is that I couldn't post a public link. Most of the jobs I come across are not listed in any directory, and most of the candidates are not officially looking - many don't even have a resume. Great startups are always hiring, if the fit is right. They may not have an open req for a specific job, but if the right amazing person walks in the door, they will always find something productive for them to do.

To solve this problem, I asked a friend to collaborate with me in building a new tool. It's incredibly simple, and it's called Think of it as a for jobs. Using it to recruit takes less than a minute. lets you post a description of a job without having to reveal the name of the company who is offering it, or the contact information of the hiring manager. Who wants that stuff posted on the internet? Instead, each joblink has a form that allows anyone who's interested to contact the poster. The actual exchange of information occurs in private, in email.

The same process works for job candidates. Know someone who'd make a great engineer at a startup? Just write a few words about them, set their email address as the private recipient, and tweet about it. They can turn off these contacts at any time.

To see a list of the jobs that I've posted on so far, take a look at my joblink profile. also supports oauth, so you can log in with your twitter credentials. If you do, you can have your joblinks broadcast on the joblinktw twitter account. For updates about or to see joblinks that others have posted, follow on twitter.

So far, this tool has saved me countless hours, and made quite a few interesting connections. That means it's accomplished all of my goals for it. If anyone else finds it useful, too, that will prove a huge plus. And if anyone has feedback, please feel free to use our integrated uservoice forum or just post a comment on this post. I'd be happy to make it better (regular readers will recognize joblink as a minimum viable product).
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  1. I'm having some difficulty wrapping my head around this as an example of a MVP. I understand that this takes care of your (the matchmaker's) problems but how does it solve either the recruiting company's or the candidate's problems?

    It seems, at first glance anyway, to add an extra layer of indirection without commensurate benefit. How is this different from you sending off an email to someone who you think would fit the job, with the exact same infomation you'd put into joblink?

  2. Ravi, the fact that I have such a hard time explaining what it does is a pretty good sign that it's an MVP. I have a vision in my head that is turning out to be hard to communicate in real life.

    That said, this is pretty different from an email. The difference is the broadcast nature of it. I can post a link to twitter/facebook and almost every startup-type person I know can see it. That's a lot less intrusive than if I send out a huge spam email, and a lot less work than if I try to target the email appropriately.

    Now, it may seem that targeting the email would be better, if I wasn't so lazy. But actually my experience so far is that this kind of targeting is incredibly hard to do right. Before using joblink, I had an almost 0% hit rate on my targeted emails. Even worse, I'd often hear later from someone "why didn't you tell me about so-and-so?" They felt left out, but to me it wasn't obvious that they'd be a good fit. That's because fit is so hard to assess from the outside.

    Since using joblink I have already helped real people get real jobs. So I'm confident it adds value - at least for me.

  3. Eric,

    "So I'm confident it adds value - at least for me"

    fair enough :-) . If you notice, I framed the comment as "I can't get my head around ... " not "there isn't any value".

    I'll keep an eye on joblink and see how it evolves.

  4. Ravi, thanks again. I didn't mean to suggest you were saying that. I'm really just trying to figure out how to explain what this thing does.

  5. Does this scale in any way? It seems like it will be useful for a week, then too big a firehose...

    Maybe location-specific "channels"? Function-specific?

  6. I actually think the broadcast element of it is the least useful part. I hope people will use this to recruit and share jobs/candidates in their own networks, letting retweets etc. carry the word out wider. The world doesn't need another job directory.

  7. I think I get it. Joblink creates a particular balance between getting the word out and maintaining privacy.
    I can see using it for opportunities posted to my B School alumni lists (where I may not personally know the poster). And probably many other circumstances as well.

  8. Hi, sounds like an interesting idea as often connecting up start-ups to people is a very difficult thing to do - actually even knowing what startups are out there is a tricky one too.

    I'm a technology hacker in exactly the searching situation you mention; having just come to the end of the setup of my current venture and looking for the next challenge.

    The problem I have with the site is that its too anonymous - I can't figure out how local the listings are.

    I don't want to waste too much time if they're not suitable from a location point-of-view. Looks like they're all in the US (I'm from UK, but now in NZ)

    Still, good work though.

  9. I think there are some people who are naturally connectors (and Gladwell would have us believe this as well). These are not people who are better or worse than non-connectors but it's certainly much more in their nature to be in a position to link two points together simply because of the people they meet and interact with.

    I find myself in this situation all the time and instantly felt the pain Eric describes here. I'm finding many people coming to me with jobs, not to offer to me necessarily, but to say, "hey do you know any good designer/engineer/product person looking for a new opportunity?" and on the flip side, there's all these friends and acquaintances of mine who are looking for work. This has picked up recently and I find myself quickly overwhelmed with trying to connect these dots properly.

    Much like Eric, my success rate has been low. I only can think of one successful referral and in that instance, I thought it was a long shot.

    The broadcast nature of joblink doesn't seem necessary/useful to me but I can see how the rest are useful. I've been copy pasting large chunks of my reference emails. I'll definitely try this out. My only hesitance is putting someone else's email address into any form.

  10. Kevin, glad to hear you feel the pain (and maybe we can alleviate it). As for the email, we have that concern too. Obviously we never sell (or even access) those addresses. Most important, the recipient can disable the posting with one click at any time. After that, we will never contact them again.

  11. One additional thought. People will still ping me to ask who I know looking for position X and vice versa. There's something impersonal about sending a link to them so I may end up needing to copy and paste emails anyways. Alternatively, a link makes more sense if it's to say, "here, check this link to see the people I know who are looking and my take on them".

  12. Need to build a good reputation system to rate both the startups and candidates, and then a matching engine that can make the matching.

    This is a machine learning problem and it can be solved as long as some relevant signals can be captured in the reputation rating.

  13. I just checked out the site and it is not clear to me whether the tweet is going out from my username or a joblink username. If I am currently employed, then I don't want anything going out from my twitter account that my employer might interpret as me looking for another job.

    Am I misreading the form?

  14. Greg, nothing gets posted to twitter automatically - you have to click another link to make it happen (just like I agree the messaging is not very clear.

    Thanks for the feedback,