There are signs of revolution in the job recruiting business. Smaller, better-focused players are nipping at the gains once enjoyed by the Big Three online job sites: Monster, Yahoo HotJobs and CareerBuilder.
Just ask John West. At 53, West is an experienced hand at finding ways to help businesses recruit and design more efficient ways to find the best people to hire. In 1987, he founded and ran the technology staffing business System One in Tampa. After growing it to 17 offices nationwide and $120 million in sales, West sold System One to Monster/TMP Worldwide, where he became group president. He formed Lion Investments, which invested in business services. He also served as CEO of Acclaris, where he is now chairman.
From an office building in Tampa with a stunning view of Tampa Bay and the Howard Frankland Bridge, West says he now is focused, with CEO Valeri Marks, 51, and a small team, on building 5-year-old Hire Velocity because mid-sized and smaller businesses need more cost-effective ways to find good talent and manage the hiring process.
West and Marks spoke to Times business writer Robert Trigaux last week at the Hire Velocity office. Here are some highlights:
So what makes Hire Velocity different from the more familiar names in job recruiting?
West: The largest companies have figured out how to recruit at lower cost, but mid- and smaller-sized businesses lack the tools. They use online services like Yahoo HotJobs, Monster and CareerBuilder, but there is a lot of noise and they still lack an efficient process.
We act as a CPA or law firm would in helping clients manage job recruiting. One company in Los Angeles we worked with was so confused, they started hiring search firms for every hire. So here was a mid-sized company spending $500,000 a year. Search firms are okay for "C" level (executive) job searches, but for bread-and-butter people?
So how does Hire Velocity work?
West: When a company advertises job openings on its Web site, if someone clicks on it, they are actually linked to our Web site. We manage the process. How many people apply for jobs these days only to say later they "Never heard anything" from their efforts? We make the process more professional. We also help winnow the number of applicants down to the best five or, more typically, three candidates to help the client's HR (human resource) manager.
And you use technology to help find those best people?
West: Our tech tools go out online to 200 job boards. Monster has millions of job seekers. And we also go to free sites. We scrape the Internet (cull job candidates by specific criteria) for our clients. Other businesses do this, but mid-sized businesses do not. We bring that to the table.
Marks: It makes for a competitive edge for our clients.
These days, that's all the more critical, I assume?
West: The number of candidates per job has shot up. We often hear stories of a new company coming to town and having to deal with thousands of applicants. How do you find the best ones? We can start by doing key-word searches of resumes to find appropriate skills.
Marks: Many companies still pass paper resumes around. … It becomes a management issue to keep track.
So how's business?
West: We had revenues of about $2 million last year. We have about 40 employees. And we had close to 2,000 job placements last year.
How's the economy affecting you now?
Marks: We see a lot of companies in holding patterns. Sure, some are in cutback mode to save their businesses. We also see some gains in technology or health care. When we're out talking to executives, we hear both negative and positive outlooks.
So why are there opportunities out there now?
West: Some companies need to improve their talent. Now is the time to do it … when so much talent is available. In periods of flux, there is great opportunity to attract great people.
Business stories talk about concerns that Monster.com has become too big and about the social networks as key sources of job recruiting. True?
West: I share those concerns. Facebook, LinkedIn are examples of social network sites that will change how people find jobs in the future. … Everybody's looking for the Holy Grail of artificial intelligence and technology to make hiring easier.
We still have rising unemployment. Once this crests, do you anticipate a hiring boom?
West: I do see us coming out of this. I see national unemployment eventually topping 10 percent, but then it will reverse back to some normal level. Hopefully even back to 5 percent or so. Now going from 10-plus percent down to 5 percent? That's a lot of hiring. We will be positioned to help companies get it done in the most cost efficient way.