Israeli start-up ‘Woos’ Americans with ‘disruptive’ job search platform

Company sees a broken hiring process model, says its alternative provides much better results

The Woo team in their new San Francisco offices (Courtesy)
The Woo team in their new San Francisco offices (Courtesy)

It’s a job to find a job – and once most Americans get one, they wish they had a different one, polls show. More than half of workers are unhappy with their jobs, according to a Conference Board Job Satisfaction survey (considered the gold standard for that metric).

There are many reasons for this, according to Liran Kotzer of Israeli job-matching start-up Woo. But work people must, and Woo’s mission is to match the right people with the right job via an anonymous employment platform that provides tailor-made offers for each user based on their needs and wants.

Until recently operating only in Israel, Woo has now expanded to the US with a new sales office in San Francisco (the R&D team is still in Israel) that helps workers in New York City and Silicon Valley connect with employer offers. It also has raised $2.35 million to extend its mission. Investors in the round include Vigil and Fritz Lanman of Acequia Capital, David Alliance, and Moshe Lichtman of Israel Growth Partners.

“There’s a lot of job dissatisfaction out there,” said Kotzker. According to the Conference Board poll, only 47.7% of workers said they were satisfied, well below the level of 61.1% percent in 1987 (and not much better than 2010’s 42.6%, the lowest satisfaction level ever).

The reasons, according to the poll, are many – from boring work to nasty co-workers to oppressive workspace to long commutes. For many workers, the only solution is to move on. However, Woo’s figures show, approximately 75%-80% of employed workers are “passive candidates,” meaning that they are open to opportunities, but are not actively seeking them.

And few turn into active candidates. For good workers, said Kotzer, the opportunities are out there – but because the job finding process in the Internet age is so challenging, with job-seekers often competing against 1,000 other candidates who sent in their resumés in response to an online ad, most who want to move on just don’t bother trying. Meanwhile, companies are spending more than ever – $124 billion in 2014 alone – as they search for qualified talent, a clear indication that they are not finding what they are looking for.

Which indicates that the job search and hiring process is “broken,” said Kotzer. “Companies today cannot engage efficiently with passive candidates that they want to reach because prevailing approaches fall short or, at best, yield single digit response rates. Employers know that 99% of the resumes – and maybe even more – that are posted on their sites in response to a job offer are not relevant to the position. There are many job-seekers who spam these offers with their resumes, thinking that if they have skills that are close to what is being sought – or if their resume is impressive – they might get someone’s attention.

“But the truth is that many of the qualified candidates – the ones who can really do the job – are very unlikely to respond,” added Kotzer. “Chances are they are working already, and according to studies we’ve done, 80% of people working in the tech industry are open to new offers. But they know that posting a resume on a job site is a waste of time, because the employers basically ignore them, because so many are irrelevant.”

Even vaunted platforms like LinkedIn have a very poor response rate – the number of actual matches made between employers and new employees. Qualified candidates whose LinkedIn profile indicates that they have the skills needed to do the job get numerous offers a week – most of them irrelevant to what they are interested in doing.

“We know many people who don’t even look at their LinkedIn inbox, because they just don’t want to waste their time on irrelevant offers.” Thus the very low number of people who respond to LinkedIn job offers – no more than 6%, said Kotzer.

Because finding a new job is such a hassle, many qualified candidates stay put – even though they are unhappy where they are. But Woo, promises Kotzer, will be able to help any worker engage with the opportunities that will enable them to enjoy their job. “That’s good for not only the worker, but also the employer – since a happy worker is a more productive worker,” he said.

Woo does its best to satisfy both employers and employees, using big data to match workers and offers and doing it anonymously so that no one gets embarrassed or hurt during the process. Our platform matches workers with jobs that they are actually interested in taking, and as a result our response rate – the number of people who take jobs based on offers we secure them – is ten times those of other online job platforms, like LinkedIn,” said Kotzer.

Candidates sign up with Woo if they are interested in new opportunities, “but we do not offer them specific jobs at that point,” Kotzer said. “They are not responding to a job ad but rather filling out a survey – actually more like a self-actualization exercise – in which they clarify for themselves, and for potential employers, what they would like to be doing.”

Those questions could include information on salary levels, how much independence a worker wants, or where they see themselves in five years, as well as defining and homing in on their specific skills.

That information is then presented to employers who sign up with Woo. Candidate’s names are not revealed to the company – just their skills, experience, qualifications, interests, and anything else the company finds relevant. “Many people don’t want it to be known that they are actively looking for a job, since their current employer or co-workers might take offense, and employers are happy with anonymity as well, as it prevents them from being inundated with irrelevant resumés.

Employers who find a profile they like can send an offer to the candidate – and if the candidate is interested, the site will put the two parties in touch and hope for the best. The result: A response rate of 78%, with nearly 4 out 5 potential hires responding to a job offer in its Israel-only incarnation.

Kotzer believes that the company will do just as well in the US – bringing a real disruption to the employment process.

“We started a closed beta in the San Francisco area a few months ago, and we are already seeing similar results to what we have seen in Israel,” said Kotzer. “In the US, many tech people have realized what we are realizing about the employment process, but until now no one has cracked the code and connected the dots between worker satisfaction, anonymity, employer needs, and bona fide job offers. This process not only puts employees in the driver’s seat – providing them with a process that employers are motivated to pay attention to.

“There are of course other solutions, but for employers the bottom line is the response rate – and based on that, the employers who pay us a fee for the service (it’s free for employees) realize they are much more likely to get results for their recruitment dollar,” added Kotzer.

Investors are on board. “We were impressed with Woo’s team, technology and vision to introduce a new approach to the broken recruiting model,” said Hank Vigil, General Partner, Acequia Capital. “Woo’s matching technology is an impressive innovation, which we believe will redefine the recruitment platform marketplace.”

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