Jobsfreeforall Aims to Upend the Online Employment Market

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In Honolulu, a quiet jobs revolution launched nine months ago with the emergence of Jobsfreeforall.com. One of the more radical dot-com startups is 2,500 miles from Silicon Valley. In Honolulu, a quiet jobs revolution started nine months ago with the birth of Jobsfreeforall.com. The site aims to take a sledgehammer to Monster.com, CareerBuilder and other major job boards in a market with annual revenues of more than $6 billion.

And Jobsfreeforall aims to use the most Internet of weapons -- giving it away.

Now just a few days ago, I wrote about the decline of online freebies after social network operator Ning terminated its free offering. But one type of "free" actually continues to work quite well online, and that's when "free" is a loss-leader to drive business to an existing and already profitable business line.

Only Good Jobs Need Apply

Headed by former Microsoft exec Mark Dawson, the Hawaii startup is owned by staffing firm Altres. Jobsfreeforall offers free resume uploads to applicants and free job listings, applicant tracking and other goodies. Those are all things that employers and staffing agencies currently pay for when using job boards such as Monster.com or CareerBuilder. The upstart also refuses to post what it deems to be subpar job listings. It even goes as far as to require every job lister to provide a federal tax ID, something that the legions of scammy work-from-home multilevel marketing schemes are loath to provide.

Most surprising of all -- and most refreshing for job-seekers -- job-posters must reveal the detailed contents of the offered benefits package and state an hourly or annual salary range.

"Job boards make money from the job-poster and not from the job applicant, so they have little incentive to treat the job applicant well," explains Dawson. "For us, we need lots of applicants to make this work, because we make our money selling services to job-listers that only happen if you get a lot of applicants for their jobs."

Selling $5 Services

And there's the rub. Jobsfreeforall is selling additional services to employers who have listed jobs. These offerings include providing online exams, performing psychological profiling and conducting reference checks -- all services that the parent company, Altres, already has the capability to do. The offerings will expand in the future, says Dawson.

"We want to make a lot of $5 transactions rather than charge a lot up front for the job listing," says Dawson, who is rapidly expanding the service outside of Hawaii, where it already has 20% of job listings. The usual way of doing things "screens out lots of smaller companies and makes it impossible to post entry-level jobs unless you're a huge national company," he says.

That expansion on the U.S. mainland has come with zero advertising budget (all advertising has been done in Hawaii). That hasn't hindered marketing efforts.

"We already have nearly 300 staffing agencies signed up on the mainland," says Dawson, who hopes to make money on the mainland by licensing regions to reputable staffing firms and allowing them to perform the value-added services that Altres performs for Jobsfreeforall in Honolulu.

Classic Lean Startup

One thing is for sure, Jobsfreeforall doesn't have to worry much about its burn rate: The company is a classic lean startup.

"We're built entirely on an open-source stack. We do new code releases every 14 days," says Dawson, who used only two highly productive programmers to build the entire site.

With spending probably well below $50,000 a month, Jobsfreeforall, if it goes viral, could be a classic "freemium" play in a market that has thus far proved somewhat resistant to the freemium model. Yes, lots of services offer free job listings, but most have a very poor quality of free offering and try to make their money by upselling to listings with more bells and whistles. In contrast, Jobsfreeforall gives you the bells and whistles and hopes employers enjoy them.

"We hope to make a lot of nickels and dimes off added services rather than charge a lot of money upfront for ads that don't really work," says Dawson. Aside from the listings, the job board also gives parent company Altres an inside track on which companies are hiring and what skill sets are in high demand or trending upwards.

Naturally, jobs posted on Jobsfreeforall are made available to the job board search engines and aggregators such as Indeed.com. This gives a job-poster national and international distribution for that same great price -- free.

With Craigslist and LinkedIn gnawing at traditional job boards from one side and sites like Jobsfreeforall chomping away at the other, the market certainly looks less friendly for the big incumbents. After all, which would you choose -- hundreds of dollars, or free?
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