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Job Sites: The "Second Generation"

Five years after selling his brainchild, Web site, for $200 million, Rob McGovern is making another foray into the online job-search market. He says his site, launched in July, does a better job matching employers with qualified candidates than the current leaders, including Monster (MNST) and even CareerBuilder, which he sold to media conglomerates Tribune (TRB) and Knight Ridder (KRI) in 2000 (see BW Online, 9/7/05, "The Job of Challenging Monster").

His hope: That mkt10 will transform online recruiting the way Google (GOOG) revolutionized Internet search, a field once dominated by engines such as Excite and Lycos.

MAKE ME A MATCH. Created by the same 20-person core that built the CareerBuilder site, Mkt10 is funded by McGovern and New Enterprise Associates (the $6 billion venture-capital firm that launched CareerBuilder). But the outfit's approach to pairing employers and applicants couldn't be more different, says McGovern, who left his former company in 2002.

CareerBuilder has become an "an electronic unemployment office," so crammed with ill-qualified applicants that many corporate users are considering moving recruitment back offline or onto their own sites, McGovern says.

Mkt10 is more akin to the online dating service eHarmony than traditional Web-based job boards, he says. Applicants are required to complete extensive questionnaires on job preferences, requirements, and qualifications. For their part, employers answer questions on what they seek. The site does the matching and provides companies with a list of top candidates.

RÉSUMÉ OVERLOAD. Mkt10 has shown early promise. After a two-month trial in Washington, D.C., it's being used by 125 employers, including telecom giant Verizon Communications (VZ) and the American Red Cross. It has attracted 25,000 applicants, mainly by word of mouth.

"The results in Washington are surpassing our optimistic expectations," says McGovern, who plans to take the site nationwide within months. "That tells us that employers are looking for a new solution, and the candidates are looking for a new way" to search for jobs, he says.

Many employers feel overwhelmed by the volume of résumés posted via the Web, McGovern says. Sites like could so drastically alter the online job-search market that within a few years résumé postings may disappear altogether, he says. McGovern spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Olga Kharif on Aug. 25. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow.

Why did you decide to create another job site, after the success of

It's a sickness (laughs). After I left in 2002, one of my frustrations was, the acquirers of my company hadn't had the same drive for innovation that I was used to. And I thought this was just the first inning of a nine-inning game. It was too soon for innovation to slow. So I wanted to come back with what I think is a superior product.

What are the big job sites not doing?

The online job boards have really evolved to be an electronic unemployment office. It's a place where people who lose a job, or who can't keep a job, go to spam résumés to employers. It's a place where employers go to be disappointed.

Today, an employer gets between 300 and 500 résumés per job per month. The vast majority, if not all of them, are of poor quality. And so, as a marketplace, online job boards are not very efficient: Job seekers can embellish their résumés to game the system. The employer is getting increasingly frustrated, overwhelmed with volume.

Are you seeing employers going offline?

I don't see them going offline, but I think the biggest question on the minds of the major employers of this country is: Are they going to continue to use the job boards? Is it strategic or not? And I think many of them are concluding it's not. It costs a lot of money to be connected to what they call "the poor résumé fire hose."

How is better?

There are four things that make it different. One is: We've focused on top performers. and can have all the unemployed workers. We're going to focus on gainfully employed, top-performing people.

Two, we decided to move away from a searching to a matching model, where we match people to jobs, and we match jobs to people.

Three, we decided we needed to make huge strides in confidentiality. The problem with the job boards is, they ask you to commit an unnatural act of giving them your résumé so it could be put in a database where everyone can see you. The next person who might see your résumé is your [current] employer. So we've put all confidentiality controls in the hands of the candidates, where they can selectively disclose their identity on a request-only basis.

Lastly, we've improved feedback, to tell the candidates where they stand and what the most realistic outcome is. So we might say something like: "You are a 70% fit for this job. There are already 10 people with 90% fit that have applied, too. But here are the three jobs where you'd be a 90% fit." So we guide people to the most realistic outcome.

How do you do the matching?

It's a profile-based system, where the candidates spend 15 to 20 minutes answering questions about their career, education, and what-not. They spend time quantifying their skills and capabilities. The employers spend 15 to 30 minutes telling what they're looking for. And by getting this much-higher-quality data, we can make very good matches.

Why is this better than simply posting résumés? Wouldn't it be just as easy for people to embellish qualifications?

Today, applicants know they need to add all these keywords to their résumés because the employers are using filters [when using job boards]. So every résumé says the same thing now. They put in every keyword that's ever been invented by man about their expertise. As an employer, you can't get a technology to filter them, they all have the same words.

We ask applicants to tell us which skills they have and to rate them, from the strongest to the weakest. You can apply percentages. All applicants can't say they're equally great in everything. What ends up happening is, the candidates see that they don't need to embellish, that matching works anyway.

What's your success rate?

Let's just say it's dramatically better than the success rate of traditional job sites. It's in the double digits vs. single digits.

So, in a few years, where do you see this site?

I don't need or to lose for us to win. We think there's a huge market out there, and customers are going to be looking at multiple sources. And we'll be very happy if we become one of their selected sources.

We're catalyzing the second generation of online job searching. And the similarities to what Google did to general searching are real. Back in the early days of Google, everybody was saying, "Does the world need another search engine?" We were using Lycos, InfoSeek, Excite. Then came Google with a better model. I think you're going to see the same thing happen here. I don't think we'll be talking about job boards [simply posting résumés] 5 or 10 years from now.

So, in 10 years, will we completely do away with résumés?

We might. Right now, our data shows that only about 6% of hires are made through the Internet [job boards]. If you compare that to airline tickets, 30% to 40% of airline tickets are sold over the Internet.

With new technology being used, with matching-based systems, you'll see the Internet penetration go much higher. And I think there's a tipping point where employers say, "I don't want to receive hundreds of résumés per month anymore." I think you're looking at the dawn of a new era.

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