DATA FOR HIRE

Google’s new jobs product could benefit from everything else Google knows about you

Google wants to help you search for jobs, and its biggest advantage may be that you use its products to search for everything else.

The company has quietly launched a new jobs product, called Google Hire, that is part of its suite of software applications for businesses. According to Hire’s landing page it “helps you manage your company’s recruiting process,” which a spokesperson says includes tools for candidates to submit applications. The company has also tested a search feature for jobs.

Google’s advantage in the jobs space, says Helen Poitevin, a research director at Gartner who focuses on human capital management technology, is simple: “Data.”

Traditional job boards keep tabs on user behavior within their products, which helps them recommend jobs that might be of interest. But their observations are restricted to their own websites–for instance, to which jobs a user searches for and which links she clicks on. Google, in contrast, has products that collect data about what people search across the internet, who they email, where they go, and what they buy. Though Google has not released details about Hire or its jobs search feature, the variety of Google’s data and products could potentially allow the company to better target potential job candidates.

Aside from a landing page, Hire isn’t publicly accessible yet, but links on the career sites of a handful of technology companies, including Medias, Poynt, DramaFever, SingleHop, and CoreOS, lead to job postings hosted on the hire.withgoogle.com domain. Hire appears to be a job applicant management system similar to others, such as Greenhouse and Lever, which would fit into Google’s recent efforts to expand its enterprise cloud-services business. The jobs search feature, which was spotted by search-engine optimization consultant Dan Shure, linked to job listings hosted on sites such as Catholic Jobs Online and Glassdoor.

Google has already built a job-search tool for recruiters to use in their own websites and products. In November, it introduced an early version of a new API for company career pages and job boards that can understand, for instance, when a candidate searches for a job title that the company classifies using different terminology or when a candidate may be qualified for a job that he or she has not searched for by name.

Hire and Google’s job search feature would likely use this technology, but, in theory, it would also be possible for Google to factor information from its other products into these job recommendations. It might know from your search history, for instance, that you’re interested in a specific type of programming language. Or it might see from your maps location data that you live near a particular office and factor that into the jobs it surfaces. “This [would be] exciting for hiring companies,” says Rebecca Henderson, the CEO at talent solutions provider Randstad Sourceright, speaking about the potential for a Google Hire jobs board. “Let’s say you [are a coffee shop that] would usually have trouble recruiting a mobile developer, and through all of this you found a person who loves coffee and stops at your store every day to pick up coffee. You will really get a fit there.”

According to a statement from Google, “Only information that a candidate voluntarily provides would be passed to a prospective employer as part of their online application. Private information will not be shared.” A spokesperson declined to comment on whether Google would use data collected through other products in order to recommend jobs to candidates and personalize career sites.

Startups that focus on collecting data about job seekers demonstrate other ways that tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook could use their diverse data to aid recruiters.

A company called Joberate tracks individual job search activity across public social networks to assign scores of how likely he or she is to be looking for a job. Another company, called Phenom People, sells software with a feature that allows companies to see candidate profiles on every person that’s visited the company’s career site, not just those who have applied. It also personalizes the career site based on users’ past behavior, like what positions they’ve viewed on previous visits, much as an ecommerce company does for product recommendations.

Executives at established job boards argue that Google doesn’t necessarily have a built-in advantage, questioning the relevance of data such as search history to people’s job preferences. “The most important thing in any business is, what is your primary focus?” said Indeed.com president Chris Hyams. “We have no competing interests here around other businesses, advertising revenue, not other products.”

But few companies have more data, or a team that is more experienced with using it, than Google.

Poitevin says her biggest concern is that Google could used data from search and other products to recommend not only jobs to candidates, but to recommend candidates to employers. The danger, she says, would be recommending not only people who may be interested in a particular job, but also candidates who are likely to be a good at that job. “Whatever data set you’re using, and whatever bias is in that dataset,” she says, “You can only expect it will be replicated in whatever models you build,” she says.

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