Jobaline Brings Technology to Overlooked Hourly Job-Seekers, Employers

4/30/13Follow @bromano

Seattle-area startup Jobaline is out to solve some big problems for workers and employers in the huge, underserved world of hourly labor.

The company’s technology platform is meant to match job applicants—many of whom lack regular Internet access—with employers struggling with constant turnover, high ratios of applicants to openings, and inefficient hiring processes.

After a month of beta testing, the company is formally introducing its service in Seattle and Miami this week, and it has the domain of traditional temporary employment agencies in its crosshairs.

Low-wage, hourly jobs typically have very high turnover—from 60 to 100 percent a year. Employers of hourly workers are almost always recruiting and hiring. It’s often a costly, time-sucking process, with a typical small or midsized firm racking up $3,600 per hire in staff time, company Web sites, job listings, and related costs, according to a 2011 study by Bersin & Associates, now a unit of Deloitte, cited by Jobaline.

Jobaline co-founder and CEO Luis Salazar says today’s online job search engines are very good at creating awareness of a given job. But this creates a deluge of hundreds of applications that a hiring manager must sift through before beginning interviews.

“The average job posted has 100 people apply for that job,” Salazar says. “The volume is overwhelming… We help with the next step.”

Jobaline—which is partnering with job search engines Indeed, Job.com, and Simply Hired to distribute its platform—aims to pre-screen applicants, speeding the early phases of the hiring process.

Employers create a job listing in Jobaline or on one of the partner platforms. After it is posted, they are presented with a list of applicants that can be ranked by Jobaline. The employer can review applicants’ answers to pre-screening interview questions and view endorsements.

Jobaline charges for the contact information of pre-screened applicants that the employer wants to interview further. The cost is $6.95 for one contact, $4.95 for two to four, and $2.95 for five or more.

“So far, the average transaction has been around 10,” Salazar says, noting that hourly jobs are often generic with employers making multiple hires at one time.

Employers continue to have access to an applicants’ contact information via Jobaline, which also shows if an individual is still available for work. This could help employers quickly fill a position in the event of an unplanned absence. Salazar says Jobaline acts in this regard as “a virtual temp agency.”

For the 74 million hourly workers in the U.S., Jobaline is trying to streamline the job application process, while being cognizant of the digital divide, Salazar says.

Half of U.S. hourly workers don’t have regular access to the Internet, posing a challenge for online job-search tools, he says, adding: “How do you build technology for people without access to technology?”

Salazar

The Jobaline application process can be done on a feature phone (or a smart phone, Web browser, or tablet) with automated interviews conducted via text messaging and voice calls, in either English or Spanish.

More than 20 percent of hourly workers are Hispanic, Salazar says. The entire Jobaline platform is bilingual, and any participant can switch between English and Spanish at any time. (The decision to launch in Miami was in large part to test this capability.)

By applying for a specific job, the job seeker creates a “mini virtual resume” on Jobaline that is reused to apply for other positions. “We match you for similar jobs nearby,” Salazar says.

This resume includes contact information, answers to basic employment questions, and endorsements from previous employers and co-workers. A unique code for each application allows recommendations to be made by SMS or Facebook.

The service is free for job applicants. Salazar is also steering away from advertising business models, boasting that job seekers are “not exposed to a single ad” on Jobaline.

“We’re not trying to make money out of them by selling them as advertising leads,” he says, while acknowledging that this would be a difficult model. “The advertising industry doesn’t care much about them because they’re not making much money…. That’s one reason why the [hourly jobs] segment was abandoned.”

By building technology specifically for this category of workers, Salazar hopes to connect employers to a new pool of potential applicants and perhaps chip away at the high turnover rate in hourly employment.

“My romantic hope is we’re going to make a change for good in that churn, and the life of so many people who live out of temporary jobs,” he says.

Jobaline raised $1.5 million in November from Madrona Venture Group and angel investors in Seattle, New York, and the San Francisco Bay Area. The seven-person company, based in Kirkland, WA, is starting to see revenue, Salazar says.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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