Service Targets In-Demand Tech Pros Who Are Open to Being Poached

Don Tennant
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The Seven Most Common Negotiating Mistakes

If you’re a tech professional who already has a good job, but who wants to keep the door open to other opportunities that might crop up, you’re probably thinking that the last thing you want to do is post a resume on a public job site where everyone, including your boss, can see it. It turns out, you don’t have to. There’s a better way to let the world know that you’re open to being poached.

Enter Tom Leung, a Harvard Business School graduate and former Google product manager who cofounded Poachable, a Seattle-based online recruitment service that enables you to take a passive approach to job-switching. I spoke earlier this week with Leung, who now serves as Poachable’s CEO, and I opened the conversation by asking him how the idea for Poachable came about. He said it was kind of serendipitous:

We had a product that preceded Poachable, called Jobb.Ly, that was designed to enable people to have these virtual interview loops. The idea was, rather than going from a phone screen to having someone come into the office and meet with six or seven people, you could do this asynchronously over the Web, using text as well as video. We built that out quite a bit, and it was quite a huge failure. We asked the recruiters why they weren’t using it, and they said interviewing people wasn’t a big pain point for them. Almost all of them said getting more leads to fill their roles was a big, big problem—specifically, accessing the passive candidate market. These are people who might be open to making a change, but aren’t hitting the job boards every day, and checking their LinkedIn email every day. Those are some of the toughest people to find, but they often are the most valuable, because they’re happily employed and rewarded, and generally, they’re probably performing pretty well. We interviewed some candidates who had recently changed jobs, as part of the Jobb.Ly research, and they said interviewing could be easier, but a bigger problem for them is looking for a job when you’re already in a job, without being exposed to your manager—because generally, these industries are pretty small, and everybody knows everybody. And this whole idea of uploading a cover letter and a resume is like doing their taxes for some people.

Leung said the third data point was having seen a lot of activity in the dating space, with startups like Tinder, which generally involve some sort of double-matching process:

We kind of put all three of those ideas together and thought, wouldn’t it be great if you could go to a place as a job candidate, and tell us exactly what you’re looking for, and what you’d be open to. And we’ll screen all of the job opportunities for you, so you don’t get spammed by LinkedIn recruiters who go more for quantity than quality in terms of their outreach. Then, you can tell us if you’re open to it or not. If you are, we’ll kind of get a temperature read from the employer. If they’re open to it, then we’ll come back to you and let you know that there’s a potential match there. Then you can reveal your full identity if you’re comfortable doing that. That seemed like a much better way to be able to find a job. When we talked to recruiters, they were all really jazzed about the idea, because they’re finding that people aren’t responding to their unsolicited mail as much as they used to, when the economy was worse—they’re getting pickier. So when a member gets a mail from Poachable, they know that we have already screened it, and we’re not showing them stuff that’s way off-track for them. That’s how it emerged—it wasn’t some sort of master plan. It was more of a classic discovery process, where you start connecting dots that you didn’t know were there.

I asked Leung about the revenue model, and he explained that it’s pay-per-lead:

That’s another reason why our approach is a little different. If you’re an employer, and you have a role, we’ll match the role with members who have a background consistent with that job description. If the member confirms that he also thinks he’s a fit, and he’s interested in learning more, the employer gets an anonymous [brief description of the candidate’s qualifications]. At that point, the employer can say he’s not interested. But if he wants an introduction, and to see the full profile, it’s only at that point that the employer actually pays Poachable. So the revenue model is really attractive for the employer, because it’s a pay-for-performance approach, which hasn’t really been done a whole lot in recruiting, with the exception of contingency relationships with headhunting agencies. They generally charge almost 30 percent of a candidate’s base salary. So if someone makes $100,000, that’s a $30,000 check they have to write, vs. for us, currently our introductory pricing is $50 per lead.

That, Leung confirmed, means the candidates don’t pay anything:

We thought about charging candidates for premium services, but we’re not going to do that for the foreseeable future. Part of the reason is that in a way, the candidates that we are focusing on are highly sought after, and they know they don’t have to pay anyone to find a new job. We wanted to make it really easy for our members to join. And for employers, they’ll pay, but they only pay when they get results.

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