Recruiting’s First Job-seeker Incubator Launches

When Chris Forman left AIRS earlier this year he told friends he intended to kick back for a while, tend to his New Hampshire farm, enjoy sugaring season, and watch the maples leaf.

Few of them thought that plan would last, joked Forman, who sold AIRS to The RightThing in 2008, staying on to run AIRS and serve as chief development officer at The RightThing. So it was no surprise to anyone that barely two months after “retiring” that Forman was scribbling ideas on a whiteboard. Not much after that he teamed up again with Tim McKegney. The two spent a dozen years together building AIRS; Forman as CEO and McKegney as EVP.

Now they have launched StartDate Labs in Lebanon, New Hampshire, not far from where AIRS is headquartered. Today is the official coming out for what is likely recruiting’s first job search technology incubator.

The company has $750,000 in seed money from an investor group led by Terry Terhark , CEO of The RightThing, and Steve Pogorzelski, former president of Monster.com and current CEO of Clickfuel. Both serve on StartDate’s board of directors.

“We have a passion for talent acquisition,” Forman told me last week. “And at the same time, we were looking for a challenge. But we wanted to do something different.”

He had always had his eye on the problems job seekers have with the traditional search and apply process. Although every survey and plenty of anecdotal experience shows that referrals are the most common way people get jobs, most everyone still searches job boards — commercial or corporate — and sends a resume down the rabbit hole. Sometimes there’s a reponse. Most of the time, there isn’t.

Leveraging your online social network is an improvement, but it also has complications, not the least of which is how do you use it effectively — and confidentially?

So it was natural for the self-described “start-up guy” to turn his attention to addressing the job-seeker issue.

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“It was a problem that needed to be solved,” Forman says. “We still had this itch (to be involved in talent acquisition), and the way to do a start-up is to look at the problems and come up with a solution.”

From that came the idea to launch an incubator focused on addressing talent acquisition from the job-seeker side. Plenty of companies already provide technology for employers. But aside from efforts by both Monster and CareerBuilder to make the resume black hole a little less dark, job seekers have mostly been left on their own.

The first product of StartDate Labs is already in private beta testing. It will go public in a few weeks, and from what Forman described, it’s going to be a winner. StartWire, as it is called, helps with the black hole problem, while also offering job seekers detailed help about resume posting and referrals. It also  addresses one of the most glaring problems of using a social network for job searching, which is sharing private information with our Facebook “friends” and LinkedIn “connections” with whom we have varying degrees of intimacy.

I can’t say more about StartWire because Forman asked me not to just yet, and because he didn’t show it to me. But considering that he previously lead a company that added “x-raying,” “flipping,” and “peeling-back,” among other terms, to the recruiting lexicon, I have no doubt that the site will be even better than he described.

John Zappe is the editor of TLNT.com and a contributing editor of ERE.net. John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.

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