Steven Miller had quit his job as the New York-based brand director of Dynomighty, a retail company, to be a stay-at-home dad. Now, he needed to find work again. But instead of sending out dozens of emails with his resume attached, Miller used Shapr, a networking app a friend had introduced him to, which connects professionals like him. Unlike LinkedIn, Miller says, Shapr was easier to use and the interface was exactly like that of a dating app: swipe right, swipe left. Soon, he was an office-going dad once again.
It was an experience that eventually led Miller to his current role as head of business development at Shapr, which was founded in Paris but is now headquartered in New York. The firm is among a growing number of emerging job search startups inspired by Tinder that are relying on artificial intelligence, machine learning, and crucially, the recognition that HR managers typically either like or dislike candidates in a few seconds. They’re trying to reinvent an industry that for decades has relied on formal resumes, questionnaires and memos before you even land an interview — promising to make job hunting and recruiting easier and more fun for both companies and applicants.
There’s Jobr, Blonk, Switch and Weave — along with Shapr — in the US, Workruit is in India, and SelfieJobs is in Sweden. None of these firms existed before 2014. They cover diverse geographies and each has its own strategy. Yet they share commonalities. Unlike LinkedIn, which recommends connections of those you already follow, these services directly use AI-based statistical models to suggest matches that best suit the requirements sought by the HR manager or applicant. And their interface is more dating app and less job search portal. You open the app, swipe right on someone you like. Swipe left on the one you don’t think would be a good match. Once you have a match, you start chatting. The conversation soon is taken offline and you might land the job of your dreams.
These young companies are demonstrating early success that’s making bigger firms in the job recruitment industry sit up and take note. From Uber and Deloitte to digital payment firm Paytm, Workruit already has 2,500 companies that are registered users of its services and 80,000 downloads from potential job applicants. SelfieJobs has emerged as the largest job portal in Sweden for the 16-29 age group. Jobr was bought by the $700 million job recruitment giant Monster.com in 2016. And Shapr has a total of 700,000 downloads, with 2,500 new users joining each day on average.
“You can swipe while you are waiting for the subway, or waiting for your meeting, or anytime you have a free minute,” says Miller.
Dating apps also recognise the potential their interface offers for professional connections. In 2017, the dating app Bumble launched the ‘Bizz’ feature on its US, Canadian, UK, French and German markets to help women form professional connections in between finding dates. And while there’s no hard research on it, anecdotally, some Tinder users too have reported finding jobs through the app. Tinder itself has effectively acknowledged that even while scouring their options for dates, people do prefer potential partners with certain jobs more than others. It now releases data on the professions that get the most right swipes: In 2018, male interior designers and female nurses topped the charts.
The job-searching apps that rely on a Tinder-like interface don’t see dating apps as threats: Their algorithms are fundamentally different, aimed at connecting applicants to formal recruiters — who aren’t posting job openings on dating apps. But the similar interface and the emphasis on making the process simple risks weakening the professional qualities that applicants have traditionally honed through rigorous job searches, whether it’s carefully crafted emails or smartly designed resumes.
Ashley Martis, who used Shapr to recruit his team and employees for a small business consulting firm called StartupFuel, says that it does take a little bit of effort to start a conversation [as on dating apps], yet you also need to be careful about how you come across to a recruiter or senior official hiring for their company. However, he says, “I believe the informal setting of the app made chatting with others very simple. I also have spoken to my team members who agree the casual nature of conversations allow connections to get to know each other on a human and a professional level. This is vital as the new generation values human connection over professional gain.” To combat this anxiety, Shapr provides prebuilt opening statements that one could use to break the ice, Martis says.
Manikanth Challa, the 26-year-old founder of Workruit, concedes that the interface of such apps is also ideally suited for a demographic that is comfortable with dating apps. But increasingly, he says, senior executives and HR representatives have also found their way to the app — as is evident from the companies they’ve got on board. “It is the easiest way to meet the right kind of people for your career,” says Challa. Priyanka Tadipatri from Hyderabad in India used Workruit to find the right match for her company. She works for a lean startup and “finding the right candidate was definitely one of the most challenging tasks” for her firm. But “[Workruit] made hiring simple and straightforward,” she told them in her feedback.
As the number of such firms grows, and competition among them intensifies, these startups are trying to differentiate themselves. Monster, as the owner of Jobr, also provides career advice besides just letting users connect with each other, says Jonathan Beamer, chief marketing officer, Monster Worldwide. The “career advice” the company offers ranges from salary negotiations and career management to resume services. “We’ve developed a reputation for being experts in career advice and the job search process, which has helped us develop a strong relationship not only with job seekers but with employers,” says Beamer.
For many job applicants though, the biggest benefits are simpler: You don’t need to worry about ignored emails and cold-calling. “It makes the process of job hunting a little less daunting,” says Martis.
This article was originally published on OZY. OZY and The Wire partner to bring you premium global features.