October 22, 2013

Need a Job? Service Helps You Find One via Text

While the web makes it easier for professionals to find jobs, technology has left behind millions of hourly workers who don’t have regular access to the Internet.

A Seattle startup called Jobaline wants to change that by tapping into one of the most basic communication technologies out there: texting. This allows hourly employees, who made up about 59% of the U.S. workforce in 2012, to easily access the online employment service without the need of a computer or smartphone.

Consider the construction worker riding the bus home from his project that will end in a few weeks. An ad on the wall across from him displays a number to text if he wants to apply for a job. He opts in and receives a few questions in response, such as are you available to work nights and weekends?” and what about this job interests you?” It’s the equivalent of a prescreening for the employer.

He may also answer queries that are more important than listing previous employers, such as whether he can lift 47 pounds without assistance. If the applicant’s prescreening answers are sufficient, he’ll get an automated call that asks him questions chosen by the employer. He’ll go in for an in-person interview at the end of the process if all goes well. More than 162,000 job applications have been filed on Jobaline, which is less than a year old. About 17% of its users texted to apply and 35% accessed the company’s website on a smartphone. This mobile-first approach has potential in emerging markets such as Latin America and Asia where consumers have largely skipped over PCs and instead choose to access the web using tablets and smartphones.

Jobaline CEO Luis Salazar also sees a big market among those using features phones. While sales of smartphones surpassed feature phones globally for the first time in the second quarter, flip phones and the like still made up 48% of mobile phones worldwide, according to Gartner. Salazar is looking to expand next year in Mexico and Brazil, which have sizable feature phone populations.

For now, Jobaline is focused on rapidly” growing in the U.S., where it offers its service in Seattle, Miami and the San Francisco Bay Area, with New York and San Diego next on the list. The company charges employers a fee based on the number of job applicants.

One in five adults in the U.S. doesn’t use the Internet, according to the Pew Research Center, and Spanish-speakers without a high school education and living in households earning less than $30,000 a year are the least likely to have online access. That makes Hispanics a big focus for the company, which can text and automate calls to applicants in Spanish.

Need a Job? Service Helps You Find One via Text

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