Perhaps my most vivid post-college memory is of filling out my profile on Monster.com. I was working as a hostess at McCormick & Schmick's and my father's suggestion that I "get a real job" was starting to sound pretty reasonable. 

Trouble was, this was 2004 and finding a job wasn't that simple. Dad suggested I turn to the Web, but on the Internet there were countless listings to scroll through, and few, if any, looked reassuring. (Project Manager? Assistant Executive? What did these titles even mean?) 

Every time I clicked "Send" on an application, I envisioned my resume circling a trash bin. 

Flash forward 10 years later, and the Internet is a much different place. For most people, job searching is mobile, and there are at least 200,000 sites for specific careers, according to Indeed.com. But that doesn't mean the job search is any easier. The best positions are still found through networking, and no one wants to admit they're on the prowl for a new gig. And yes, you still have to browse countless listings. 

Fortunately a handful of startups are trying to make the process a little less painful. Some, like Poachable, aim to put the power in applicants' hands, sending jobs while they binge watch Scandal. Others like Hired.com hope to capitalize on the tech sector's shortage of talent by making companies practically bid for an applicant. Then there's Switch, the mobile app that bills itself as the Tinder of jobs. 

Should businesses turn to these tools or are they too good to be true? Here's a look at the next generation of job sites and what they might mean for your business. 

Poachable: Power to the People

Seattle-based Poachable has $500,000 in funding and a valiant mission: to shift power from the employer to the talent during the job hunt.

"In the old days, you'd apply to a job and maybe never hear back," says co-founder Tom Leung, an ex-Googler who launched the startup over the summer with engineers Ian Shafer and Sam Skjonsberg. "The tables have just turned completely. If you're an Android developer, the jobs literally will come to you. The problem is, there are so many jobs coming to you that it's becoming difficult to sort through them."

That's where Poachable comes in. Like a headhunter, the service works like "a shield for recruiters in a way," Leung says. "You tell us what your criteria are, and we'll only let those things get through the system." Applicants can rate and give feedback on listings, and if something catches their eye, Poachable can make an introduction while maintaining their anonymity. It might be the most passive approach to job hunting I've ever heard of, but Leung says it beats the alternative. 

"Before Poachable, you had two options: You could step out and broadcast that you're looking--which no one wants to do--or wait for some recruiter to email or call you, which is leaving a lot to fate." Leung also claims the model is better for hiring managers. Before it was, "You pay us for a 30-day listing or monthly subscription, and good luck to you," he says. With Poachable, managers only pay $50 when the company makes what is called "a revealed introduction."

"We don't want to show you 1,000 matches and have you rate them Tinder-style," Leung says of the service, adding it has "really invested" in its learning algorithm in order to make better matches. "We want you to hear from us five to six times a year because we only have spot-on matches for you." 

Hired.com's Auction for Talent  

Another startup giving power to talent is the San Francisco-based Hired.com, which lets tech talent auction themselves to prospective employers.

Formerly called DeveloperAuction, the two-year-old startup is a hub for in-demand engineers, especially in New York where finance players like CitiBank and JPMorgan are in an arms race for talent. "We can put them on an equal playing field as Facebook," Hired's head of new markets Andre Charoo boasted to Inc. writer Christine Lagorio-Chafkin back in April. 

With $15 million in funding from Crosslink Capital, Sierra Ventures, and SoftTech VC, Hired.com is eager to branch into others industries. The money is there, and so is demand. The company says it showcases candidates to 1,200 different companies over the course of a week

For talent, the barrier to entry is especially low because the process is free and job seekers can "go visible" and participate whenever they want. "It allows [applicants] to compare five or 15 job offers side-by-side and look at them meaningfully," says Kai Fortney, Hired's director of marketing. "If you decide not to pursue one, you decline, and that's the end of the congo. If you accept, the conversation gets started." 

Employers appreciate the transparency, Fortney adds. "LinkedIn provides a list of people, but it's kind of like buying a house with a phone book--you know where they live, but you don't know who's selling," he says. Here, the curation team uses an algorithm to ensure "a fresh pipeline of available candidates." Plus, "it gets candidates in quicker," since they're not sending in cover letters. 

If all goes well, an employer will pay Hired.com 15 percent of the employee's first year salary (as opposed to 20 to 25 percent, the typical headhunter fee, notes Fortney) or 1 percent of her salary for the first 24 months. So far, large corporations like Facebook and Twitter have signed on, as well as some startups in stealth mode. 

Why Hiring Takes People

Michael Morrell, an executive recruiter with Riviera Partners in San Francisco, which has helped place talent at venture-backed startups such as Shazam and zendesk, isn't convinced either model will replace the need for traditional recruiters. "There's a place for tech in recruiting, and there's a place for people in recruiting," he says. "There's an element of interaction and curation that I think is really important [when hiring a candidate]."

For starters, most companies want to know why someone wants to work with them. The real question, Morrell says, is "are you hiring for vision and purpose? Or are you hiring a mercenary?" With sites like Hired.com, it's hard to tell since employers must reveal their offers to applicants in order to grab their interest. "It's hard to understand how you're incentivizing a candidate by giving them the highest paying jobs," Morrell says. How does that get the best fit? At some point in the process, people will have to get more intimately involved. 

Fortney, for his part, disagrees with this thinking. On Hired.com, he says, "80 percent of people or more right now don't take the highest bid. It's usually about the product. If they get 10 offers and nine out of 10 aren't taking the highest offer," then what does that say? Besides, he adds, Hired.com offers "talent advocates" who can help explore offers and make sense of equity, among other benefits. 

At the end of the day, companies don't want passive applicants but candidates who are ready to make a move. And hiring managers need to go beyond listings to articulate what a company wants. "Every company has to look at its strategy and say there's a place for a lead-generation model," Morrell says. And even he admits that some automation may help streamline the recruiting process. 

What do you think: are anonymous matching algorithms and bidding auctions the future of hiring?

Published on: Oct 7, 2014