It’s no coincidence that Sanjeev Agrawal, the co-founder and chief executive of Collegefeed, compares finding a job with dating. Finding The One (or at least The One That’s Good Enough) in both jobs and love is difficult under the best of circumstances, and it’s even harder if you don’t know where or how to start your search.
Collegefeed, a one-year-old start-up in Mountain View, Calif., is applying science and a bit of human matchmaking to the process of helping college students and recent graduates connect with employers looking for their particular skills. This week, the company plans to announce a broader rollout of its products for employers and is promoting the addition of prominent companies like eBay and Cisco Systems to its roster.
“Our goal is to make as many connections as possible between students and employers,” Mr. Agrawal said in an interview.
The service, which is free to job applicants and their universities, bears some resemblance to LinkedIn, the professional networking service that is widely used by established white-collar professionals. But Collegefeed is geared to the special needs of college students and graduates looking for internships or their first or second job and to companies, especially smaller ones, that are having trouble finding the right candidates for their entry-level positions.
Typically, young workers do not have much of a work history, so Collegefeed sets up their profiles to emphasize what they do have: accomplishments, samples or projects from classes or previous jobs that show off their skills, and personal statements. Students also indicate what companies and types of jobs they are most interested in. If the first drafts of their profiles aren’t very good, Collegefeed prompts them to make improvements before it will include them in its database.
Collegefeed also works with employers to refine exactly what qualities they are looking for in candidates for a particular job and if necessary, helps them polish their images to be more appealing to the millenials they want to hire. The company’s software then sifts through the profiles to do some preliminary matching, which is then looked over by a human being before a feed of the best matches is sent to the employer.
An important piece of the system is to present each side with options they might never have found on their own.
Most students have no conception of the vast number of companies that might actually value their skills and want to hire them, Mr. Agrawal said. A computer science graduate interested in Big Data analysis would certainly know that Google works in that area, but probably has no idea that a host of start-ups as well as retailers like Walmart and Safeway also need data specialists, he said.
“There is a huge information gap,” he said. “There are lots of companies looking for good writers that students at George Washington or even Stanford don’t know about.”
Mr. Agrawal, a top student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he graduated in 1991, said he ended up first working at McKinsey instead of his next employer, Cisco Systems, because he had not even known that Cisco existed and it was too small at that time to send recruiters to his college.
Employers, large or small, pay Collegefeed for a vetted list of candidates, tailored as precisely as they want by skill or geography or other criteria. “For the C.E.O. of a small start-up, we take out the hassle of having to elbow out people at the Stanford career fair,” Mr. Agrawal said.
Well, that’s his hope, at least.
Collegefeed is still pretty small. Mr. Agrawal said he has tens of thousands of students in the company’s database from around 400 colleges, like Stanford, Harvard, Claremont McKenna and Sarah Lawrence College. About 500 employers in the United States and internationally are using the service to find candidates for at least some jobs, including about 50 large companies like NBCUniversal, Google and Oracle.
Every day, Collegefeed matches a few dozen students with potential employers, and the company promises at least three matches to each student it accepts into the database.
To get more profiles and jobs in the system, Collegefeed is working with employers to run contests and informational online seminars for students. It is also developing specialized resources, like a data bank of interview notes from previous job applicants that can be shared anonymously with others who are preparing to run the gantlet at a particular company. And Collegefeed has begun to more aggressively reach out to college career offices to promote its service as another, free way for students to find a job or internship.
As you might imagine, a lot of the jobs are for computer engineers or other highly technical positions. But about half are in other fields like finance, marketing and communications. And Mr. Agrawal insisted that Collegefeed was not just for the top graduates of the best schools, who tend to be chased by multiple employers no matter what, but for a much wider range of students who might not know where else to look if they could not get a job at their top-choice companies.
Laura Chambers, the head of university programs at eBay, which has been working with Collegefeed since it began testing its system last year, said the approach had a lot of potential.
“The hardest thing about recruiting college students is they don’t have a lot of experience to differentiate themselves,” she said. “The résumés all look the same.” Collegefeed helps the applicants showcase their unique projects, and in the case of programmers, samples of their software code, which make it much easier for hiring managers to assess their skills.
But while eBay has found a couple of “gems” and made several other hires using Collegefeed, she said, it is just one tool in an industry that is crying out for significant innovation.
“In the college space, we don’t really use tools like LinkedIn or Monster,” she said. “There just aren’t a lot of students on there.” Instead, eBay relied heavily on paper résumés collected at career fairs and students who showed up at hackathons to fill about 800 internship spots and 500 or so entry-level jobs last year.
“The technology and solutions out there for recruiting are not particularly highly advanced,” she said.
Perhaps that’s a career for some enterprising college grads to consider: building their own job-search start-up.