While Paul finishes up his entry about weblog best practices and reputation (Sorry, Mark!) I thought I would post a great interview I just conducted with Dave McClure, Director of Marketing at SimplyHired.com. In case you haven’t heard, Simply Hired is the hottest job search engine around and uses RSS and other smart goodies to blow past the competition. Here we go:
Business Logs: I hadn’t heard about Simply Hired until I saw how you were affiliated with LinkedIn. How did that partnership emerge, and how successful has it been for you?
Dave McClure: The partnership has been terrific for both companies, and it came together because we both saw an opportunity to integrate our respective features & functionality — LinkedIn has data on ~3M people with business social networking contacts, and Simply Hired has data on ~3.5M job listings and companies. The combined “mashup” of jobs & people data was great for each of us: LinkedIn dramatically increased the # of job listings they could display on their site, and Simply Hired got instant “Who Do I Know?™” lookups for any company with a job listing. (Ed. Read more about this at SiliconBeat.com)
The reason things happened so quickly was because the two companies shared a number of connections — I used to work with LinkedIn Founder/CEO Reid Hoffman when we were both at PayPal, and the companies shared an advisor in common that our respective founders both knew & trusted. In addition to Simply Hired being geographically close to LinkedIn (their office is just a mile up US-101), we were also already enthusiastic users of the LinkedIn service. All these factors added up to a great partnership that happened very naturally and progressed quickly to implementation.
BL: The press that you’re getting is just incredible. I just read the other day that SimplyHired was named Time Magazine’s “50 Coolest Websites for 2005″ and everywhere I look I see people singing the praises of your company. What really separates you guys from your competition?
Dave: Well, we like to think it’s because we’ve got a great website, but perhaps hacking Time Magazine’s servers had something to do with it ;)
Seriously though, we put a huge amount of emphasis on making things 1) simple, 2) useful, and 3) fun. These three guiding principles are really at the heart of our company, and are the foundation of our overall philosophy (see related post here). We’ve gotten ton of compliments on our user interface & site design, and on how we’ve managed to keep things clean & simple. Finally, we’ve made quirky error messages and a down-to-earth voice part of the personality of our site. So far, people seem to like it :)
There are other startups doing interesting things in job search, and we definitely compete with those folks aggressively to keep providing better data & functionality. We always aim to have the largest # of job listings on the web, but we also focus on the cool and simple stuff that makes it easier for people to find exactly the jobs they’re looking for. Beyond our LinkedIn integration, we also have Netflix-style JobRatings, a MyJobs area to save and track job listings across multiple job boards & services, our Simply Forums community message boards, and both email alerts & RSS for new job notifications… and of course our blog, Simply Blog.
Another way we’re generating PR and attracting new users is via our recently-launched sister site, SimplyFired.com. Although many people think it’s just a PR stunt, we think there’s some real long-term opportunity to generate an ongoing consumer content & community site for job seekers and can also be a source of crossover traffic to SimplyHired. So far the response has been terrific, and it’s getting written up and blogged about all over the place.
BL: The Simply Hired weblog is way funnier than the Indeed.com weblog and because of that and other factors, I stopped using Indeed and am now a total SimplyHired guy. The Indeed weblog is boring, has no pictures, and has no real voice. The SimplyHired weblog has some posts that have absolutely nothing to do with your company, and because of that it seems like you’re much more transparent than your competitors. Did you sit down with your partners and discuss what should and shouldn’t be written about on your weblog before it started? Are there any real guidelines, or do you just try and make your entries as interesting as possible?
Dave: To be honest, our blog is the result of a rather twisted Vulcan mindmeld of my own insanity and that of our product manager, Sachin Shah. Between the two of us, we’ve managed to produce something that I guess you can’t quite call corporate communication, nor would it qualify for traditional literary humor or entertainment… but again, people seem to like it. We also like to add a picture or photo of something to liven up the post, or give people a pretty picture to look at if the post is less than engaging.
One way to tell whether we’re being silly or serious (but still somewhat silly) is to checkout the category of our blogposts — we’ve created separate groups for our posts depending on whether they are about new product features (“shiny“), company announcements or PR (“brag“), or just some fun things we come across (“smile“). We also have “talk” for when we want to discuss industry issues, and even “oops” for when we have system downtime or some other problem. Transparency is important to us, and we always want to acknowledge the areas where we know we can improve.
The voice of our blog carries over from the voice of our site, and just goes one step further — one of my favorite posts was when we started running rotating taglines on our home page to introduce regional searches. We decided to use one-liners from famous songs and movies that referenced city names to help show people how to do regional searches. We also poked a little fun at both ourselves and friends up in the Great White North — those folks have been eagerly awaiting the inclusion of Canadian job listings on our site, and until we get our act together there we thought they’d enjoy the joke. Hope they didn’t take it the wrong way…
BL: You use RSS extensively within your search results, a feature that many of our readers have embraced. Search for a job, save the search as RSS, and then get updates when future job postings hit your query. To me, this is the killer feature for a job site since it’s something you’ll need to be up-to-date about. How has the user reaction been to RSS job feeds and their usefulness?
Dave: RSS is still pretty new, but it’s the direction the industry is heading. People who use RSS really love our job search RSS feeds. On the Simply Hired site, you can save your favorite searches as RSS, and then you’ll be notified automatically when new job listings appear that match your saved search criteria. Some of the more advanced examples we’ve seen include sites that use our job search RSS feeds to power & present job listings on their websites, such as these:
Eventually, the functionality in RSS readers and other new tools will be integrated directly into the OS and the browser, as they are already with hosted services like MyYahoo or BlogLines. In the meantime, while we believe RSS is a great service to offer our more advanced users, we also offer traditional weekly or daily email alerts to notify our regular users of new job listings. Lastly, we provide links to the last 10 searches anyone has conducted on our site so that they can run them again when they return.
BL: The Vertical Leap conference a few weeks back seemed to be a big hit with all the major players in the search game either speaking or attending. What kind of success did it bring to Simply Hired, and is another conference on the horizon?
Dave: The Vertical Leap conference we co-hosted with Yahoo and SDForum really helped put our company on the map. After attending the Search Engine Strategies conference in NYC this spring, I came up with the idea for a conference on vertical search. Along with my co-chair Jeff Clavier, we brought together the top companies and startups in the field who were doing great work in structured data metasearch (aka “vertical search”).
For one day, we gathered over 30 speakers on 8 panels to presented their company vision on vertical search. Speakers included Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, and over 2 dozen vertical search startups and several top-tier Silicon Valley venture capital firms, as well as a number of industry analysts who served as panel moderators. Our founder & CEO Gautam Godhwani was featured on the Jobs & Classifieds Search panel representing Simply Hired. As the conference emcee, I had the pleasure of organizing and introducing everyone, as well as presenting my own vision on vertical search titled (with apologies to Guy Kawasaki) “The Top 10 Rules for Vertical Revolutionaries” (PPT Link).
The conference was a huge success, and we had ~300 people attend to rave reviews. And yes, we hope to do a similar event next year and make it even bigger.
BL: And lastly, what’s up with all these hats I read about? Some kind of inside joke?
Dave: Well I’ve always been a Dr. Seuss fan, and the “500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins” was one of several favorites by the good doctor. However, beyond the childhood story reference, it also refers to all the hats entrepreneurs wear as we grow our startups from concept to prototype to product to revenue. It can be tough wearing all those hats at the same time, and the trick is to find great people to wear each hat as the company grows, gradually taking off hats and placing them on other people’s heads until you have a great company :) With luck, in a few years Simply Hired will have everyone wearing only the one hat that’s just right for them.
BL: My hat is off to you Dave, good luck!