Job seeking is taking a page from online dating, adapting the kinds of web tools typically associated with creating love connections and using them for building careers instead.
Among the crop of new, swiping interface apps, Switch, for example, allows candidates to thumb through job listings they may or may not find intriguing, much like Tinder does with prospective romantic partners’ Facebook pages.
Switch users flick left if uninterested; they flick right to flag potential work pairings.
"Today's generation is used to connecting with people, not ads," Switch founder Yarden Tadmor said. "They want to have immediacy and instant gratification, and ask questions and vet the opportunity."
Canadians are the second-largest user base of Jobr, another mobile service that employs the swipe-if-you-like-it experience.
TJ Nahigian, the founder and CEO of Jobr, doesn’t shy away from the Tinder comparisons either. The popular dating app's founders even serve as Jobr advisers and investors.
"We think of Jobr like Tinder plus Pandora, but for jobs," he said, Pandora referring to the music-streaming station thta tailors song choices to a user’s historical tastes.
Rather than showing a user’s Facebook profile photo, Jobr pulls up information from LinkedIn or shows a company’s logo with contact details.
"We recommend jobs to you that you might find interesting. Or you can switch into ‘recruiter mode’ and post jobs and have the same experience with candidates," Nahigian said.
Mutually interested parties — both applicant and employer — could then engage one another.
"Swipe, match and chat," Nahigian said.
Jobr has submitted more than 100,000 job applications a month since it launched in May 2014, and the company estimates that 10 per cent of its users are Canadians.
Dating mechanics to 'reduce the noise'
The success of these apps hardly surprises Alan Kearns, founder of the Toronto leadership coaching company CareerJoy.
"All these tools are coming to this space and meeting a need because the classic model of here’s the job title, here’s the job description — that’s broken," he said.
"And so because of that, we have these apps for passive job seekers, who can set up a profile and show they’re approachable, they’re looking. This really disrupts the classical job search."
Last year, the online retailer Zappos scrapped all job postings in favour of a new site inviting prospects to engage with employers in what it called a "talent community."
Part of the problem with job boards, says Kearns, is that "it’s never been easier" to fire off hundreds of resumés in a matter of minutes.
But when you think about it, courting careers is much like chasing romance, and the dating game has certainly evolved, says Alex Deve, CEO and founder of the job-hunting app Whitetruffle.
"If you go on a site where companies post their jobs publicly and apply for all of them, that results in piles of resumés. It’s spam," he says. "Using dating mechanics allows us to reduce the noise."
Whitetruffle also employs a swiping system for approval and rejection to try to establish "the most relevant" matches.
Being lumped in with Tinder doesn’t sit so well with Deve, however. For philosophical reasons, he prefers comparisons to eHarmony, which pushes long-term relationships.
"Finding a job is a big deal. With Tinder, it’s a date, maybe dinner," Deve says. "Finding a job is more like marriage. You’re only going to buy a few houses, hopefully get married once, and maybe have 10 or 15 jobs in your lifetime."
There is a discreet twist to how Whitetruffle works, too. The system never matches job seekers with their existing or past employers. Identities are also protected.
Seeking a more human touch
The smartphone platform Poacht works in a similarly hush-hush way, and has drawn comparisons to Ashley Madison, the online dating service whose tagline implores people already in relationships to "have an affair."
The dating analogy works, Anita Bruzzese argues, because careers are about advancing relationships.
"If you want millennials, you have to notice they do everything on their phones. They look for jobs on their phones, make connections on their phones, so you do need to have an app they can use," said Bruzzese, author of 45 Things You Do That Drive your Boss Crazy.
Bruzzese noticed job seekers catching on to an apparent shift away from traditional job boards around the time of the 2008 financial collapse.
"Everybody was scrambling to find a job, and someone told me, ‘The last time I looked for a job, I picked up the New York Times.’ Another man had sent out 500 applications to the big job boards and never heard back," she said.
"I think recruiters who use those old-fashioned methods aren’t going to survive long."
Increasingly, Bruzzese said, companies are engaging potential employees via social media before calling them in for an interview. Now that the economy has bounced back, she believes an emboldened workforce will more actively look for new career opportunities.
"You’re going to see companies behave like Match.com does, where it’s like, tell us what you’re looking for, and we’re going to use those criteria to find that person," she said.
As Jon Lazar found out, though, apps can only take a candidate so far.
The 40-year-old New York web designer downloaded Switch and tried using it to make professional connections, hoping to leverage that into a full-time gig. The lack of response was disheartening.
Much like critics of the increasingly web-centric dating culture, Lazar prefers a more human touch.
"I’m willing to give anything a chance, but I feel like some of this stuff might be more gimmick over substance," he said. "In the end, I feel like human interaction is the best."