How to Find a Job Without Looking for a Job
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The Fiscal Times
August 5, 2014

A new Seattle-based startup called Poachable wants to play matchmaker—not with your love life, but with your career.

Poachable’s online book of possible employee-employer matches may well change the way people engage with the often dreaded and largely outdated process of searching for a job. But it’s more of a flirtation with the idea of finding a new job than a mission to marry a new job as soon as possible. It’s the Tinder of the online job search, not Match.com.

Poachable cofounder Tom Leung, a former Microsoft and Google employee, may well have identified the new "sweet spot" in recruiting. As he sees it, there are two major problems with online recruiting today. 

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“If you are a recruiter, it’s really hard to identify and engage with candidates who are not actively looking, but might be open to opportunities,” Leung told The Fiscal Times. “On the other side of the coin, if you are a candidate and you are open to looking at new opportunities, there is a big fear of being discovered by your current employer.” 

Poachable specializes in what Leung calls “passive candidates”—those who are keeping an open mind versus those who are hitting the road with their resume. “Those who aren’t ready to move right now and aren’t desperate to change their job tend to be the most sought after and often the highest quality,” he said.

For Kevin Simon, LinkedIn’s Product Lead for Identity Products, that’s not exactly a surprise. He recently discussed the shifting landscape of online recruiting in LinkedIn’s Q&A series “Inside Story.”

Related: The Secret to LinkedIn’s Long-Term Success 

“It’s no longer just about finding the next ‘job,’” said Simon. “In today’s world, the best opportunities come to you, oftentimes when you’re not even looking for them.”

According to Simon, 80 percent of opportunities go to people when they weren’t actively looking for a new job. Simon says LinkedIn members shouldn’t just update their profile when they are seriously looking for a new job.

Instead, Simon says LinkedIn users should treat their profiles “like an always-on advertisement for your professional self.”

But Leung takes issue with the notion that all candidates want their name out there on the World Wide Web for anyone to see. On Poachable, discretion reigns king. The company stems from Leung’s belief that employees want to explore other opportunities without being detected. Put simply: All of your data is yours—at least until you say otherwise.

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Unlike LinkedIn, Leung’s company takes a candidate-centric approach. So imagine if you could say this to someone: “Yes, I’m open to moving, but only under these conditions. Here’s my background. You tell me if you see anything that meets my specific criteria. When you find it, give me the opportunity to tell you if I’m open to it or not. And if I am, go ahead and get some initial feedback from that employer without revealing my full identity. If they are interested, then I’ll decide if I really want to put myself out there.” Poachable wants to be that someone.

At the same time, employers can get a general sense of a candidate before they decide whether they want to talk to that person. “We are only going to bring recruiters warm leads”—meaning job descriptions will closely match qualities of the applicant.

“In a lot of ways,” said Leung, “we are doing what 3rd party recruiting agencies or headhunters do, but we are using technology to automate that process.”

Having launched in July, Poachable already has about 50 official companies on board, five of which are Fortune 100 companies, according to Leung. “We’ve been surprised by the traction we’ve gotten right out of the gate.” 

Related: 6 Ways to Kickstart Your Career Online

Similar to the way Netflix recommends movies based on users’ preferences, Leung predicts that over time, candidates will help to train Poachable’s matching algorithms. As a result, Poachable’s curated matchmaking process will help job seekers filter out the unwanted in-bound interest from recruiters. “We are only going to let [job opportunities] that really interests you come through,” said Leung. 

Poachable vows not to bombard job seekers with hundreds of jobs they might like. “When you get a match from us, we want it to be spot on,” said Leung.

But the competition is steep—and he knows it. 

“LinkedIn is the 800-pound gorilla in the market. But their model is very different. They make one billion dollars a year charging recruiters to contact whoever the recruiters want,” said Leung. 

Related: Millennials vs. Robots—Who Will Win the Jobs?

No doubt, that gorilla isn’t going down easily. "We don't look at the world competition-first,” said corporate communications manager Doug Madey in an email to The Fiscal Times. “We focus on creating the best products and experiences for our members—if we can make them more productive and successful in their careers, then we are doing our jobs.” 

With over 300 million users, LinkedIn may well be too big to fail. The question many are asking is this: Are they too big to innovate? 

Leung thinks so. “There hasn’t been a lot of innovation around how people find jobs for some time,” he said. Leung sees the major online giants like LinkedIn as the status quo—and believes the time is ripe to change the game.

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Reilly Dowd is a senior writer at The Fiscal Times. Based in Washington, D.C., she covers national politics, economic policy, technology, and elections. She has previously worked at Al Jazeera America, SnagFilms, ABC News, CNN and in the Obama White House.