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A Tech Vet's Hire Calling

By Jay Greene A week after one former Microsoft (MSFT) chief financial officer joined one of the software giant's archrivals, another has opted for a far less controversial job with a startup. Unlike Greg Maffei, who recently became Oracle's (ORCL) CFO, John Connors won't make as many waves with his move to join the board of tiny Seattle-based outfit Jobster (see BW Online, 6/30/05, "Larry Ellison's Roving Eye").

Connors, who replaced Maffei in January, 2000, left Microsoft in March, 2005, to work for Ignition Partners, a Seattle-area venture-capital firm. Jobster is one of the investments in Ignition's portfolio.

THE SHOE FITS. Connors plans to do more than show up for board meetings at the job-recruitment company. He expects to lend a hand in developing long-term strategy and will hit the road to speak on Jobster's behalf at industry events. He's already mining his contact list to give Jobster some sales leads, recently sending out e-mails to CFOs at some of the world's largest companies, including General Electric (GE) and Intel (INTC).

Already, one of his contacts has paid off. Connors, who also sits on the Nike (NKE) board, sent an e-mail two weeks ago inviting it to try Jobster, which had earlier approached the sneaker titan. Connors' e-mail helped seal the deal, with Nike signing on as a customer last week.

Part of the appeal of the board position, Connors says, is Jobster's approach to the recruiting business. Unlike giant job-posting sites, such as (MNST) and HotJobs, Jobster helps recruiters advertise vacancies to a select group of only the most qualified candidates. It does so using so-called social networking tools, made popular by sites such as Friendster.

RATED RELIABLE. In Jobster's case, employers tap their own workforces and other potential contacts to find candidates who might be interested. "Instead of waiting for people to come to us, we go out to them," says Jobster CEO Jason Goldberg. Often, the best candidate isn't actively looking to change jobs -- the reason Jobster is building a network of qualified candidates that their customers can browse.

Jobster is creating a technical infrastructure to do what Connors often did at Microsoft when looking for top talent. He asked his colleagues and contacts at other companies for referrals. Jobster, he says, "can make the recruitment process much more efficient."

Here's how it works: If a company is looking for an accountant familiar with the disclosure-compliance intricacies of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, it would use Jobster to contact qualified candidates who have expressed an interest in that type of position. Jobster has developed technology that rates the quality of referrals from the executive who has placed the candidate on the list, which discourages folks from referring workplace duds. That way, execs with bad track records for referrals get low ratings, much like a seller's review on the eBay (EBAY) auction site.

FIRST TO MARKET. Though still young, year-old Jobster is beginning to find a niche. Roughly 150 companies, including Microsoft, Boeing (BA), and Starbucks (SBUX), use the service, which launched Mar. 31. And unlike rivals -- giants such as Monster and smaller companies such as LinkedIn -- Jobster was built from the ground up to use social networking to find job candidates.

"They offer a very viable and useful implementation that other folks have been tinkering around with," says Kevin Wheeler, president of Global Learning Resources, a staffing and development consultant in Fremont, Calif. "This is head-hunting for the masses."

Jobster's challenge is building a business before others copy its model. "What we'll have to be good at is acquiring customers early," Connors says. "We'll have to keep moving really fast." With Connors' experience and his contact list, Jobster figures it has kicked the business up another gear. Greene is BusinessWeek's Seattle bureau manager

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