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Five Years Ago
(February 29, 2000) In the end, it's all about results. Electronic Recruiting systems and services that don't produce candidates are short-term plays. Systems that have no embedded way to guarantee candidate production fall into one of three categories: the middlemen (who we think will survive), the back office and the ASPs (who need to complete their offerings).
The middlemen include companies like Best Internet Recruiter, IIRC and RecruitUSA. In a different time, they might have been called advertising agencies (or media placement specialists). These companies take individual advertisements (job postings) and distribute them to a variety of pre-selected targets. Logical improvements for these firms will inevitably involve the management of advertising creation, unified billing systems and consolidation of results. By providing customers with a single "belly button", they reduce (or have the potential to reduce) the complexity of a universe that is going to continue to be extremely chaotic.
Interestingly (and importantly) Careersite (Currently - Nowhiring.com) has entered this market by offering a free Recruiter's desktop. The tools allow free posting on Careersite and lots of free targeted job boards and Newsgroups. By giving away access to the universe of free services from a single point, Careersite has finessed a number of the competitors who will have to respond with similar offerings. (We'll look at the Careersite strategy next week).
An ASP (Application Service Provider) is a technical company that rents the use of its technology and hosts the 'application' on its servers. Boxwood Technologies and Hire.com are the early entrants to this emerging field. It will be very crowded very soon. Essentially, the firms rent a technical process that manages the resumes and profiles that naturally accrue to an employment section of a website.
So, if you are a big company, you might want to consider using hire.com's service as a way of managing and understanding the traffic to the jobs component of your website. Boxwood, on the other hand, clearly specializes in media outlets and professional associations. The theory behind both operations is that the renter has the responsibility for sales and marketing; the landlord simply provides technology. It's closer to the truth for associations and media outlets (the Boxwood play) than it is for companies that want to actually hire people (hire.com's view).
The problem for companies that want to use Hire.com's service is simple. Unless you have a widely recognized name brand, there is no traffic to your employment section. Without traffic, the ability to process it is less than useful.
For Boxwood, the problem is more subtle (and easier to solve). By focusing on associations and media outlets, they solve the traffic problem. But, to make their cash-flow model work, they have to motivate a channel of resellers. All in all, building a reseller network is a simpler chore than customized traffic development. Ultimately, hire.com's success will depend on either building or buying an in-house advertising agency. Boxwood simply has to solve a time honored problem and is making intelligent progress.
Both companies will have to endure an insane volume of new entrants into their spaces over the next 6 months. Their well established market leadership will be heavily challenged between now and the early summer. Since Boxwood's success is so entangled with their customers, they are much more likely to survive.
Finally, the back office market is a cluttered mess in need of an organizing principle. All of the companies we describe in this article offer some sort of applicant tracking capacity. The once robust $250M market for administrative management of resumes is rapidly becoming a giveaway component of larger offerings that produce candidates. Once seen as the heart of the Recruiting software business, these systems and their functions are rapidly becoming as cheap and plentiful as promotional tee shirts.
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