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(September 27, 2005) First of all, we apologize for allowing the vendors to determine the language. Many of these tools are not really referral tools. They are very often early stage Recruiting CRM tools.

Take Jobster, for example. For all of the breathy hype, Jobster is really an attempt to build a business by engaging customers in a game of "trust me". The firm's message is "we don't exactly know where we're going but, trust us, we'll get there." The firm's products and pricing evolve so fast that well earned praise or criticism can't be incorporated. (Our recent article on Jobster cited a per posting pricing model. It turns out that Jobster abandoned that approach about 60 days ago.)

We really, really like the freshness of the pure partnership pitch. It seems like the right way to build relationships. We'd be a little antsy investing that kind of money (Jobster customers spend more on Jobster than they do on Monster according to the CEO). As the CRM players enter our market, functionality will become clear and the process of developing a commodity will begin in earnest. Meanwhile, a full, published, redeemable post-investment-money-disappearance money-back-guarantee would be appropriate at the very high price points.

Like it or not (and "trust me" has a well-earned stink in this industry), Jobster is selling the way you have to when an approach to doing business is just emerging. Before a technology can become a commodity (like ATS systems are), they go through a phase like this. At $99/month, HireNet would be a cheaper experiment.

Target Customer   Fee*
(or Sales Contact)
Incentive Tracking*
a.  CyberDivan Candidate Part of Biz Model N/C   N/A
b.  Employment     Referral Marketing Employer Contact   No
c.  ForumJobs Employer sales@forumjobs.com   No
d.  G2Bay Both 50-50 split w/ jobseeker   N/A
e.  H3 Employer 10% Complete Taxes/1099
f.   HeadlessHunter Employer info@headlesshunter.com   Partial
g.  HireBound Both Contact   Partial
h.  HireNet Employer $99/month   No
i.   HodesIQ Employer  Contact   Partial
j.   Jobster Both Variable Monthly Fee   None
k.  JobReferrals.com Employer  Per Posting   Partial
l.   JobThread Employers Free til Mar '06   Partial
m.  LinkedIn Employers Per posting to your network +   N/A
n.   KarmaOne Employers 10%   Partial
o.   Simply Hired Candidate None So Far   No
p.   Visible Path Employer Pre-referral screening   N/A
q.   Yorz Employer Free   N/A

* The business models change very rapidly in this space and the public accountability that comes from published prices is not a standard.

Every company that makes the leap to automated referral systems with real relationship development tools is going to have to navigate three hurdles:

  • change in the internal culture,
  • bringing competitive attitudes and metrics to the referrals process, and,
  • grappling with tools that are being designed while you use them.

CyberDivan presents the most confusing offering. They work in a very specific setting and offer a "Candidate's Bill of Rights". (worth emulating) If there were a spectrum that ranged from "Standalone tool" to "integrated into business model", they would be on the "integrated" end of things with Jobster and HodesIQ.

*incentive tracking means following the referral network and smoothly distributing success-fees across it. It includes tax paperwork/1099 development and all of the book-keeping required. None means that the company does not offer the service at the time of this article. N/A means that there's something about the business model that precludes Incentive tracking.

John Sullivan weighs in on world class referral systems.

Don't forget to check out the blogs on bert.

- John Sumser

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