Thoughts for recruitment tech start-ups…

I seem to have spent a significant amount of this last year back in the field of something that occupied my working life some 13 years ago – recruitment technology.  More specifically, new technology in the form of start ups and new entrants which is always more interesting.  However, as those with way more experience of the start up arena will tell you, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you come across something really interesting. And recruitment tech is no different. So, given there are a lot of new solutions emerging in this sector I thought I’d share some of the most common themes from my many conversations over the proverbial latte.  So, in no particular order:

Don’t try and reinvent the CV – no seriously, don’t go there. My thoughts on the CV are well documented and ultimately I’m not a huge fan. However, I won’t be banking my money on a ‘new’ format that perhaps includes video snapshots and a whizzy looking new template. No. I get a lot of approaches about this subject, mostly from people outside of the industry who have had this ‘great idea’ about replacing the existing CV format. That’s not to say there isn’t room for innovation beyond the existing CV and application vehicle, especially in these increasingly mobile times, but enough already – do your homework and you will see there are plenty of players already having a go.

Focus on the candidate experience – most recruitment technology is client focussed – feature sets designed to make the life of the recruiter easier and more efficient/effective.  Very few solutions, if any, improve the experience for the candidate. Hence the term “the black hole” is often used to describe where candidates end up once they have applied for a job. If your solution doesn’t improve the experience for the candidate then my advice is to go back to the drawing board as I think strategically, this is going to be a very important competitive factor in the resourcing technology market. The candidate experience is a phrase on everyones lips and has gone from hardly a mention on twitter to a ready stream of tweets and links in less than 6 months.

Understand the industry – You don’t have to come from the industry to put a great recruitment tech play together – having a fresh brain and pair of eyes on the subject can result in some pretty innovative solutions – Check out as an example.  Disclaimer alert as I’m working with them, but the founders’ story is a great example of this nonetheless.  However, at some point along the development journey you should bring in some expertise with an appreciation of the market. A caveat though, beware recruiters bearing money!  There are a lot of ex recruitment consultancy business leaders who bailed at the right time and now want to speculate in recruitment tech.  Unfortunately, many just don’t have the right approach, experience or level of understanding required to develop a solution that will stand-out in a direct resourcing oriented future.

Kiss – keep it simple.  The enterprise technology market is changing  – simplicity now rules over complexity and small, agile newcomers are making huge gains over established players, despite not having a feature set as long as your arm.  This dynamic applies to the resourcing tech market in just the same way.

Don’t wait until you have the finished article – 12 years ago I was charged, along with my colleague, with selling an innovative web recruitment product that in reality, was nowhere near ready.  However, the CEO insisted we present it as ‘finished’.  Big mistake – as soon as we started to make our claims, it was the green flag for potential customers to start pulling holes in it.  “Come back when you have something that works” they cried as we left each meeting with our tale between our legs.  2 weeks later at a software show and ignoring orders from ‘above’, we decided to change tack, and as people approached the stand we made a big deal about how it wasn’t ready and how they couldn’t have it yet.  Cue a stampede of forgiving customers eager to sign up to beta.  So stop polishing and get it in front of customers (users) and if appropriate, investors, as soon as is practical.

Make it compelling – it’s a crowded market out there with a lot of wannabe products.  So much so that competing on features and functions won’t be enough – you will have to set your product apart from the rest.  Obviously it’s hard to create an authentic story as a point of difference if you don’t have one, so I guess what I’m saying here is that those products that are born out of something less ordinary, from fresh thinking or from a real passion to change the market will have a distinct advantage.  As long as they work of course. 😉

Overall, if you have a compelling proposition and you focus on the experience, this will make marketing so much easier.  Whilst I would never recommend a marketing strategy based solely on social, there is no doubt that the social arena provides a huge opportunity to amplify your message if you have something compelling.  If you get it right, you will find that instead of having to ‘push’ your message out there which can be hard work and a long game, you can find your solution being ‘pulled’ out as your message gets picked up across the inter web in the form of blog reviews and twitter chatter.  Integration is the key of course, but having the market influencers pick up on your product or solution proactively can be hugely beneficial and save you a lot of effort.


  1. Gareth, as one of the founders of (thanks for the mention – and no we did not pay for this), it is great to see such succinct thoughts put down in words. Yes, Marc and I built based on being very much part of the real world of jobseekers and have learnt some hard lessons in bringing our baby to market. Being outside the box, full of enthusiasm and with a healthy does of naivety thrown in does have its challenges, but we are learning everyday – most importantly “not to sweat the small things”, but to look at the bigger picture. Exciting times ahead – and so the journey begins. Thanks for the ongoing words of wisdom (and the occasional wake-up call).


    1. Hey OraRuth! Thanks for the comment and the nice words! It is certainly a journey but one that will be worth it. Its always difficult when you are treading a new path!


  2. Great post Gareth! I agree some of the most interesting innovation to come will be on the candidate experience side of things. When web users in general are getting so much innovation and such a personalized experience from so many places they go (social networks, shopping sites, news sites) – their expectations when they hit recruitment sites and career sites will naturally tend towards a similar style of experience. At very least, you will be ever more likely to lose a few due to the kinds of awkward, recruiter focused processes that abound so much at the moment. At 4MAT ( we’re all about improving this experience – I look forward to taking you through some of these innovations in person soon!


    1. Indeed true Louis – I’ve spent most of my working life so far trying to get technologies working together better within the recruitment industry in order to improve experiences, but also to improve efficiency and also simply to make better use of the data out there, much of which is just lost through lack of integration between systems. End to end analytics is a key case in point.

      I try hard to find ways for individual providers’ commercial interests to not get in the way of improving the overall service delivery to both candidate and client, it’s often a very tough process. A shame when by putting heads together, so many amazing things could be achieved.


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