One of the problems with finding a new job — if you already have one — has always been trying to keep your boss from knowing that you're looking. At one time, that simply meant keeping a loudmouth recruiter from spreading gossip, or making sure you didn't schedule a job interview that required donning a suit on a casual-dress Friday.
But now that corporate software can track a worker's every online move, and with LinkedIn such a powerful and important tool for the job hunt, sneaking around has become more complicated. Accept a LinkedIn invite from a competitor without changing your settings, and it could be broadcast to your boss. Spend a few hours on your work computer on Monster.com and, at some companies, the boss will find out.
A few startup software tools launched in recent months are trying to help people get around those concerns. They're particularly designed to help "passive candidates," who are already employed and just want to covertly scan what else is out there. They also claim to do a better job at making matches than the traditional job boards do.
Switch, which launched in July, is a little like Tinder (the popular dating app) for careers. Users get an anonymous profile, either through creating one themselves or by importing their LinkedIn resume, which is disguised and abbreviated. Then, the app suggests jobs that are a match, but doesn't reveal the candidate's identity to the employer.
As with Tinder, job seekers swipe right if they're attracted to the job, and left if they're not. Only when both parties are interested in the other does it reveal contact information and put the two in touch. The app also doesn't show a candidate's profile, even anonymously, to hiring managers who work at the same company.
The platform is designed to "learn" over time the kind of job you would be interested in by analyzing which jobs you swipe right or left. "We call it data-driven job matching," says founder Yarden Tadmor. "We look at the actual selections you're making and build a pattern of your preferences." He said the idea for the app came partially from his own experience recruiting people at past startups where he worked, and the difficulty of trying to covertly hire people. People "feel like they're cheating," he says. "They're hiding the fact that you're meeting."
Another new tool, aptly named Poacht, plays off similar concerns. It too obfuscates the candidate's name, photo and contact info imported from their LinkedIn profile, which can be edited to be even more anonymous. Rather than match people and companies with Tinder-like swiping, though, it narrows the field by asking people five questions — including how much money it would take to uproot them, how serious they are about changing jobs and where they'd be willing to move.
Co-founder Maisie Devine, in her initial research for the startup, saw that almost 70 percent of people in the United States were already using their mobile phones to look for jobs — in part to avoid corporate tracking software, she presumed. Her research also found that they wanted a tool that helped them avoid external recruiters. With Poacht, she says, "you know that when you get reached out to, it’s from somebody at the company itself."
Poacht and Switch are hardly the only new software tools trying to reinvent a recruiting process that remains unwieldy, time-consuming and not very discreet. Many see the opportunity to further disrupt an industry valued between $80 billion and $120 billion, at a time when the job market is finally improving.
Each startup in the space is a little different: Jobr, which launched in May, doesn't do anonymous profiles, though it does prevent recruiters and candidates from the same company from seeing each other's profile. It also uses the Tinder approach of learning over time which jobs users favor.
Meanwhile, Poachable, a desktop tool started by former Google and Amazon employees, goes deep and gathers 100 pieces of data from users about their experience and what they're seeking as well their preferences about different jobs, in order to try to make better matches. It also keeps candidates' profiles anonymous until both sides confirm interest.
If this all sounds a little like online matchmaking, that's because it draws on many of the same principles — so much so that online dating service eHarmony has said it will launch a careers platform in December.
Right now, most of the new apps and software tools are populated with high-demand jobs in industries such as tech, digital media and finance. They also focus on cities, unsurprisingly, where there's a tight labor market. Jobr says it reaches across the United States, with a concentration in major cities. Most of the others have limited geographic coverage, such as New York and San Francisco.
If they do succeed in expanding, it will be in part because a more discreet job search — and better-matched job postings — are long overdue. Says Tom Leung, Poachable's CEO and co-founder: "Many people are still looking for jobs the same way they did 20 years ago."