Hire a CEO with experience working at a much larger business?
Offer features that blend seamlessly with the social networks your customers’ employees and business partners can’t get enough of?
Target small and midsize companies, more of which are signing up for recruiting software all the time?
If you’re Jobvite, you do all three.
The San Francisco company shot up the attention meter in July when ex-Yahoo HotJobs head Dan Finnigan signed on as CEO. Hiring Finnigan was the first of several steps Jobvite is taking to increase its visibility and customer base in the sizzling market for Web-based recruiting and applicant tracking for small and midsize companies.
Since Finnigan came on board in early July, he’s tapped two old buddies from Yahoo to join the management team, former Yahoo engineering senior director Adam Hyder to be chief technology officer, and ex-Yahoo spot marketing head Tim Lambert as chief revenue officer. He has also scheduled dates for new features to be released, tweaked prices and acted as the company’s biggest cheerleader.
"Personally, I think there’s no other company in our space that’s as easy to use," he says.
It remains to be seen whether Finnigan’s efforts will be enough to make Jobvite stand out in the crowd of Web-based recruiting vendors, which includes more well-established players like ADP, HRSmart, SilkRoad, iCIMS and Taleo—some of which already have hundreds or thousands of small and midsize customers.
There’s no question that small businesses are buying what Jobvite and its competitors are selling. The U.S. market for Web-based recruiting has mushroomed to $522 million and is predicted to grow at a pace of 8 percent a year, according to a report released this year by Forrester Research, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based technology researcher.
"The large ERP vendors are duking it out at the high end, so the market opportunity is much more wide open at the small and midsize business end," says Christa Degnan Manning, research director at AMR Research, a Boston technology researcher.
Jobvite offers a Web-based service customers use to create and broadcast job invitations, or "jobvites," to employees, business associates, candidates or on social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn. The software works with common workplace software like Microsoft Outlook and Word, making it easy to integrate Jobvite functions with programs that in-house recruiters and hiring managers use to set up job interviews or circulate candidate evaluation forms.
The 5-year-old company first came into the spotlight in December 2007, when it raised $7.2 million in a premiere round of venture funding led by CMEA Ventures. Since Finnigan started in early July, Jobvite has added about 10 employees, bringing its headcount to 30.
Finnigan won’t share current customer numbers. But in an interview last spring, Jobvite founder and current chief product officer Jesper Schultz put the tally at 40.
One loyal customer is Katie Tierney, a recruiting manager at nGenera, an Austin, Texas, vendor of Web-based business software. NGenera started using Jobvite after an acquisition doubled its size to 537 people, half of whom work from home. When Tierney has openings to fill she sends invitations to all those employees and they forward them to their contacts. Because employees earn bonuses for referrals, it’s important that the service is easy to use, she says.
Jobvite’s employee referral tracking system is its most interesting service because nobody else has it, Manning says.
"One of the biggest frustrations in employee referral recruiting is being able to track and reward the referrals that employees make. It’s virtually nonexistent," she says.
Jobvite has the potential to be the Facebook of talent acquisition because of the way the company leverages its employees’ social networks inside and outside of work, according to Jason Averbook, head of Knowledge Infusion, a Minneapolis HR consulting firm.
By contrast, skeptics and competitors point out that Jobvite isn’t the only Web-based recruiting service counting on social network features to succeed. Taleo’s small and midsize business recruiting product also lets companies post job openings on Facebook and blogs.
Recruiting and applicant tracking vendors have been in a prolonged race to add features, and social networking is the newest fad, says Adam Feigenbaum, sales director at iCIMS, a private New Jersey company whose own Web-based recruiting platform has about 600 small-business customers. Ultimately, back-end technology that’s fast and easy to use as well as reliable customer service are more important than the latest bells and whistles, Feigenbaum says.
Critics also point to the similarities between Jobvite and Jobster, another online recruiting platform that played up its social networking and employee referral tracking abilities. By summer 2007, Jobster had raised close to $50 million in venture funding and acquired a smaller company, but couldn’t find the right business model and only months later cut employees and switched CEOs.
Finnigan isn’t fazed by the critics. Social networks aren’t a fad and will only get stronger as Generation Y enters the workplace, he says. Jobvite offers companies a way to use those networks to put job offers in front of them "that’s not seen as advertising or spam, but a favor or new opportunity," he says.
Today, fast-growing companies with 200 to 600 employees are the most avid Jobvite users, although Finnigan says he’ll announce some much larger customers soon.
"I suspect when more prospects see the data behind what you can do when all employees are involved, they’re going to want to adapt this too," he says.