Collegefeed Goes After Students, Employers in Crowded Career Sector
After graduation, Collegefeed CEO and founder Sanjeev Agarwal was in an enviable position: He was a great student with a degree from MIT and membership in a bunch of honor societies. But even for him, the 1991 job scene was a tough one. “Back then there wasn’t much online activity,” he says. “But even now, one of the biggest issues that students have is this idea that, ‘If I don’t have a huge professional network, and if my family’s not well connected, I tend to be limited to companies that come to campus.’”
Though LinkedIn and other job sites allow recent grads to post their resumes and connect with people in the working world, those sites “don’t take responsibility to connect you to employers,” he says.
Agarwal, Google’s first global head of product marketing and a founder and CEO of two other startups, wanted to build something that would make it easier for the next generation to make the leap from college to career. After all, he says, colleges teach you plenty of marketable skills, but they don’t teach you how to network, and while they invest plenty of money into marketing themselves to students, they don’t put many of their resources into career development. Now a father of two children, ages 4 and 9, he wants to make sure the transition is easier by the time they graduate. “Almost everyone at Collegefeed remembers how hard it was, or is now in a situation where they’re looking at the next generation, going, ‘Boy I hope there’s a better way to go through this process.’”
It’s a problem that students, universities, and companies are all trying to solve. Employers are looking for the best in the millennial talent pool, but recruiting campus by campus requires a lot of investment, and smaller companies don’t have a lot of name recognition. Colleges are under pressure to show that their programs pay off in terms of good jobs and productive grads—particularly as tuition and loans have skyrocketed. And students, the most tech-savvy of all, often find the job-hunting process frustrating in an era when connecting online is supposed to be easy.
So, in October 2012, Agarwal founded Collegefeed, building out a site that would connect employers with potential job applicants. Students could create detailed profiles with work samples, which the company would feed directly to employers. As of last week, a new partnership with Direct Employers Association, which helps more than 700 Fortune 1500 companies recruit new members, is adding a whole new set of employers to the mix.
Here’s how it works: After they sign up, students have 48 hours to fill out detailed information, uploading items like pieces of writing, sample code, and portfolios. If they can’t complete it in 48 hours, they get put on a waitlist, which allows them to still use resources like the company’s resume help and sample interview questions, and gives them access to networking events, but doesn’t connect them directly to potential employers. The limited timeframe helps Collegefeed see how serious students are about their job search. “We make it a bit of a challenge for you,” Agarwal says. “If you want to be accepted into our network, you have to complete it beyond a certain level of quality, where we would be comfortable introducing you to an employer.”
Once profiles are done and approved by Collegefeed—they’re mostly vetted by software, but about 10 percent of the time they require human intervention—the company files them into buckets. English majors, for example, would be put into a bucket that’s shown to companies seeking to fill positions in journalism, public relations, and other positions that need good writers. Students with design skills go in one bucket, engineers in yet another.
Those subsets of qualified students are then fed to employers in different ways, depending on what product the companies choose. With the premium search product, employers can search through Collegefeed’s resume books based on factors like major, year of graduation, school, key words, and degrees received. After a free trial, employers pay a subscription fee depending on their needs. Companies that only recruit during one quarter of the year can subscribe for just that. Year-round recruiters can pay for an annual subscription.
Or, companies can opt for custom feeds, getting e-mails of 10, 20, or 30 candidates fed to their inboxes, much like the e-mails dating sites put out to their users. Recruiters can specify qualities they’re looking for, like C++ engineers living in New York. Companies not ready to pay for the product can opt for generic feeds, for example, a list of software engineers.
Beyond sourcing potential candidates, Collegefeed also offers companies marketing help. In the U.S. today, there are 500,000 companies that bring in more than $10 million dollars a year. But when Collegefeed polled students, it found they couldn’t name a single company outside of the top 100. It was a problem that Agarwal had as a student, too. After a first job at McKinsey, he moved on to Cisco. When Agarwal met with CEO John Chambers over breakfast, Chambers asked him why he hadn’t come to work for the tech giant five years before. “I didn’t know you existed,” Agarwal said.
To help fix the problem, Collegefeed helps companies tell their stories through multimedia “in a way this generation understands.” That means highly designed branding pages that can catch students’ attention, with writing contests and hackathons to attract top talent. “As a company, you can start creating interest in you,” Agarwal says. “You can showcase alumni.” Companies can also segment their messages, so that a female engineering student in Minnesota might see a different message than a male writer from Berkeley. To Agarwal, the site is a good way to keep interns engaged with a company once they’ve headed back to school. “You can create this little community that’s private to your company,” he says.
Like the search product, the branding capabilities have two tiers of pricing, depending on the needs of the company; those with smaller recruiting needs might pay $1,500 for a single quarter, while larger companies might pay $3,000 a quarter for the entire year. “Are you looking to hire two kids in the next three months, or are you hiring a lot and looking to expand that core of your business?” he says.
Agarwal can’t say how many students have gotten jobs through Collegefeed—that is a process that happens outside of the platform, but the company’s non-scientific surveys have found it’s about one in five or one in eight users.
Meanwhile, the startup’s own staff has grown to 15. Though initially bootstrapped, to date Collegefeed has raised just north of $2 million from investors including Accel Partners and angels.
At first, the hardest part was getting students on board. “A year ago, we couldn’t pay them to join,” Agarwal says. Literally—they tried. But about six months later, students started seeing the value in the free service, and stopped seeing it as just another profile to fill out. Now the site has about 300,000 active student profiles, and more than 1,000 employers on board.
With the uptake Agarwal has seen so far, he’s not so worried about competition from the other sites out there, like JobDash, MyEdu (recently acquired by Blackboard), or even LinkedIn. “I haven’t seen someone bridge that gap between an employer and a student as systematically as we do,” he says.