MatchFWD Adding to Crop of Social Recruiting Startups

When it comes to jobs, most people abide by the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and increasingly it’s who you know online. According to two Jobvite studies conducted in 2010 and 2011, 73 percent of people ages 18-34 said an online social network led to their last job, and 89 percent of companies in the U.S. will use social networks for recruiting, with 58 percent of companies successfully hiring from a social network in 2010. A new crop of social recruiting startups (and some big existing players) are making the most of social media tools to connect candidates with the perfect job, and they focus on more than just providing a platform to post jobs and resumes.

There are niche tools that help candidates make themselves more attractive to employers, like startup that help job seekers create infographics based on the information in their LinkedIn profile, or online portfolio sites like Carbonmade. There are niche job board sites targeted to students, like YouTern, and to new grads, like TalentEgg. But the real power in social recruiting tools is allowing both candidates and hiring managers to leverage mutual connections, enabling job seekers to find an in with a potential employer, and helping employers find the best candidate for the job.

BranchOut was one of the earliest tools to do this, and it’s now one of the biggest startups targeting social recruiting. The professional networking tool launched in 2010 to help users tap into their Facebook friend network to find jobs and recruit talent, and it operates the largest job board on the platform, with three million jobs and 20,000 internships, and over 10 million registered users. Founder Rick Marini has raised $24 million in funding for the company, and the company has gone from one million monthly active users to 10 million monthly active users since the beginning of 2012, a stat they just announced today (they’ve almost doubled that number since TechCrunch reported it at 5.5 million on March 2).

Some entrepreneurs think that there’s still space to improve on the process though. Montreal-based startup matchFWD is launching its social recruiting platform on March 25, and co-founder Philippe Gauvin said the idea came from co-founder Céline Charron, who had an inbox full of requests to help companies find good candidates, and help job seekers find the perfect position. “She thought there had to be a better way,” Gauvin said in an interview. “She got in touch with me (through referrals obviously), and told me she wanted to build the first recommendation assistant for connectors.” He said the company wants to concentrate on one thing: helping users refer their contacts to people hiring or looking for jobs.

The platform, which the team calls a “word-of-mouth accelerator,” is built on Facebook and LinkedIn, and targets candidates, employers, and “networkers” who constantly find themselves making connections within their networks. The platform facilitates referrals via a job seeker’s social network, finding the “connectors” who can share job postings with their contacts and refer people. Instead of job posts, matchFWD offers hiring managers “campaigns,” which involve posting a job and then sharing it with employees, connectors and social networks. Gauvin said rather than getting direct traffic to their postings, most of their traffic comes from people re-sharing opportunities with friends and contacts. He recognizes that the competition is stiff, but says he believes that “they are rarely serving the three factors of employment equally” – the person hiring, the connector and the opportunity seeker.

matchFWD is free to use for job seekers and hiring managers, but they will be adding premium features down the line – ideas include pay-per-post, performance-based or subscription-based models. Similar to BranchOut, Gauvin said they built on top of Facebook and LinkedIn because that’s where people have their existing networks, but Gauvin said unlike other network-specific tools, matchFWD helps people bridge existing social networks. “My sister for example has only 40 LinkedIn contacts but over 600 Facebook contacts, many of them with LinkedIn profiles,” he said. “Using matchFWD she has access to their own LinkedIn contacts as they reshare who’s hiring.” He said the team is also working on a prototype for Twitter integration. The company is privately funded for now, but will be looking for additional funding post-launch.

BranchOut’s Marini says his company differs from competitors like matchFWD because it’s “the only place to find all of your inside connections on Facebook based on the social graph you’ve built for years.” He said they have a very focused approach to tailoring job openings to their users, and their algorithm helps connect job seekers to job openings based on their interests and work experience. “At BranchOut, we’re always trying to stay one step ahead of the game,” Marini said in an interview. “We’re a ‘network effect service,’ which means that BranchOut gets better with every additional user who’s added to the platform. None of our competitors have a user base as large as ours, and as a result, we’re able to help people leverage inside connections at companies where they want to work.”

And existing social networking powerhouses are trying to tap in to the power of social recruiting, and have been for years. LinkedIn has long catered to recruiters, and offered job search tools. They have over 9,000 companies using their hiring solutions worldwide, and customer Kobo said their cost per hire was 10 percent of what it was the previous year after they used the tools. “Over the years we have developed products to help employers position their employment brand, gain access to passive candidates within our network of over 150 million users and connect with potential candidates using relevant advertising on LinkedIn,” LinkedIn’s Manager of Corporate Communications (Brazil and Canada) Danielle Restivo said in an interview.

With established players like LinkedIn and BranchOut beefing up their social recruiting features, and new startups like matchFWD looking to improve on the process, social recruiting tools are likely to grow along with the prominence of social networks. Employers have long looked to a potential employee’s online presence for cues about their work ethic and cultural fit, and now employees and employers alike can leverage their social network connections to make sure hiring is a match made online.

Erin Bury

Erin Bury

Erin Bury is a Co-founder and CEO at Willful, an online estate planning platform. Also a former Managing Director at Eighty-Eight, a creative communications agency based in Toronto. She was formerly the Managing Editor at BetaKit. Follow her on Twitter at @erinbury.

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