StartWire Makes the Black Hole Less Dark

With upward of 60 percent of job applicants saying they never hear from the companies to which they apply, you’d think some enterprising recruiter would use that to their branding advantage.

Just how hard is it to have the ATS send an auto-response at least acknowledging the application. (Answer: Not hard. No ATS? Set up an auto-response via your email program.)

I don’t hear from a lot of job seekers, but when I do, it is almost always about the application black hole.

No wonder then, that the seeker-centric startup StartWire introduced today an application update feature as the centerpiece of its first update since launching in January.

For more than 1,700 employers, applicants will be able to find out, at a minimum, whether or not they got the job. For some employers, those who have turned on the applicant self-service features of their ATS, StartWire will offer more detailed status updates.

“The one thing we will absolutely be able to get is that they didn’t get the job,” says Christian Forman, CEO and founder. “That should be some improvement.”

For sure it is. And it won’t hurt that StartWire flags the jobs where updates are provided. Two comparable jobs. One has the update icon. The other does not. To which do you apply first?

Gerry Crispin, who has been making the candidate experience a cause celebre for the industry, gave the StartWire application update kudos in a blog post today. He also cited some of the other StartWire v.2 features, such as how it enables users to create multiple communities for job search networking.

If you tinkered with the initial version, you might not even notice some of the updates. Forman kidded about the “peas and Jello” improvements to StartWire, a reference to how he used to hide peas in the dessert to get his kids to eat their vegetables.

In version 2, Forman and his partner Tim McKegney, both of them alums from AIRS, rejiggered the page configuration to bring jobs to forefront. The “Ask the Expert” feature is now tied directly to jobs, with suggestions on the kinds of questions an applicant might consider asking.

(Ask the Expert is a Q&A feature that gives users customized, individualized responses from professional recruiters.)

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A less-subtle change is that users can create multiple networks, talking to individuals one-to-one without public status updates. Or, of course, they can choose to go the public route. But in all cases, only the friends and contacts job seekers designate get to participate.

Forman walked me through the changes last week, and as he did so, it was pretty clear how much thought and research he and McKegney put into the changes they made. Remarkable at least to me was the Forman had conversations (email or otherwise) with 300 or so users, asking them all sorts of questions about how they use StartWire and what they wanted out of it.

Networking is important, Forman agreed, so StartWire tells a user who in their network works at an employer they’re interested in. “They decide if they want to contact that person and how they want to make that contact,” said Forman. “That’s peas in the Jello.”

Monster and CareerBuilder have tried to address the issue of the applicant black hole and to increase the transparency into the whole application process.

Apply through them to one of their advertisers and you can at least learn your application was delivered. A few years back, Monster began offering an expanded “Apply History” that tracks an application’s status — when possible, of course. Applicants can also compare their qualifications to others who applied using a Monster resume.

CareerBuilder has an even more extensive service. hireINSIDER gives applicants a fair amount of information about the numbers and qualifications of other applicants.

Despite their efforts, here we are in 2011, still arguing over whether even acknowledging a resume is a good idea. It has taken a Presidential order for the government to do that. So it’s refreshing to see StartWire make an effort to snatch some light back from the black hole.

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of 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.


7 Comments on “StartWire Makes the Black Hole Less Dark

  1. It’s a very good idea that candidates are treated with more respect. But this solution still misses the key: what does the job really require and how can I know it’s best for me (if I am the jobseeker) or that the jobseeker will be the best employee (if I am the employer)? Resumes and job posts simply don’t include the information required to determine the essentials of on-the-job performance. Networking more fully or effectively on that basis won’t help much, even if candidates feel better treated. The science of performance prediction is known, proven and used by the best companies.

  2. Great that they implemented this, but it’s not exactly a new feature in the ATS market. We use Peopleclick and candidate experience is very important to us. The system has built in capability for candidates to check on their own status in the hiring process – which can be customized on our end (as far as what it tells them at what stages). Additionally, a few configurable triggers I set up ensure that candidates are notified by e-mail at all critical steps in the process, including when they are not selected. We finish it off with a trigger that automatically sends a survey invitation to get feedback on their experience for any candidates we interview but don’t hire.

  3. I like (actually LOVE) the idea…but the reality is that most hiring managers and recruiters don’t update the Candidate’s Application Status in their ATS and in the few cases where this happens the updates are not meaningful and can’t build a relationship with both parties, therfeore the black hole still exists. Getting most companies to depend on 1 vendor to provide this info. independent of the ATS like solution is not likely anytime soon because of the corporate culture of Corporate Recruiting.


  4. Sounds like an awesome idea – I am curious to what the legal aspects of avoiding the black hole will be. Meaning, most hiring managers and recruiters I know do not give feedback because they are afraid of any legal ramifications from someone who did not get the job.

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