Company Believes It Has Cracked the Code on Millennials Job-Seeking Habits

By Michelle Rafter

Jul. 1, 2010

If Millennials are different from the rest of the working class, should companies use different tactics to recruit them?

The founders of Koda think the answer is yes.

Koda is a year-old service pairing recent college graduates with companies of all sizes looking for entry-level help.

Part job board and part social network, Koda is built on the premise that Millennials are Internet-savvy social animals who’d rather bookmark one online destination for scanning open positions and swapping job-hunting stories than troll individual company career centers or, God forbid, use Facebook for anything but hanging out.

The need’s there, says Jeff Berger, who dreamed up the company in 2007 with his roommate while still at Tulane University in New Orleans. LinkedIn caters to people who are already working.

Like other social networks, it’s more focused on the conversation than on the jobs, Berger says. Job boards such as Monster and CareerBuilder are so big they’re overwhelming, Berger says.

At Koda, “Our pool of jobs is very specific to the niche we’re focusing on,” he says. “We nail it down, have a platform so you can show yourself in the right professional format, and have a community to have that jobs discussion.”

Berger wouldn’t disclose how many Millennials have signed up for the service, which launched in May 2009. However, he says traffic to the San Francisco startup’s website has grown to 100,000 unique visitors a month. The company is doing more recruiting through university career centers, honor societies and alumni associations.

Partnerships include Starbucks, Hyatt Hotels
Koda has also partnered with 500 companies, including Starbucks, Hyatt Hotels Corp., Bechtel, Adidas and New York Life Insurance. Koda scrapes job-openings data from its partners’ online career sites to repost on its own, collecting an undisclosed finder’s fee whenever a member clicks through. The company recently hired a COO who previously worked at JobFox and CareerBuilder to provide the industry experience its young founders lack.

In addition to click-based revenue, Koda has raised $4.5 million in two rounds of angel financing to fund operations.

But industry experts say the enterprise has to yet to gain a substantial toehold. They question whether there’s room for niche communities such as Koda when many companies already rely on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for recruiting.

On top of that, established job boards such as Monster and job search engines such as SimplyHired are adding features to be more attractive to 18- to 25-year-olds who want a little community thrown in with their job hunt.

As for the its financial backers, although Berger would not confirm it, sources close to the company say Koda’s angel is company president and co-founder Tony York’s family—business tycoons who own the San Francisco 49ers.

Showing a warm body behind job listings
When it comes to their careers, Gen Y’ers are different from older generations, recruiting industry experts say. For one thing, they care about a company’s corporate culture and want to see evidence of it in recruiting efforts, says Andrew Chen, a senior product manager at SimplyHired.

“You have to reach out to them in ways that are meaningful to them, such as having a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and a blog that shows your company’s personality so they get the sense that there’s a warm body behind the listings,” Chen says.

Millennials also care about more than salary and benefits; they want to know about a company’s extracurricular activities and what community service programs they offer, Chen says. “The highest salary doesn’t always win,” he says.

To make its service attractive to Millennials, SimplyHired struck a deal to include Koda jobs in its search results. In April, SimplyHired also added a new-graduate filter to its jobs search engine so novice job seekers could weed out everything but entry-level positions. The initial reaction to the service has been strong, Chen says. “Usage numbers are pretty good,” he says.

Penelope Trunk, whose Brazen Careerist website and blog blazed the trail for Gen Y communities online, doesn’t see Koda as competition either. Koda’s focus is job listings, while Careerist’s is conversation, she says. Even so, Koda’s model has limitations, she says. Companies want to recruit top performers, but if someone is that good, the jobs will come to them and they don’t need a job board to find work, she says.

Dan Finnigan, a job board industry veteran who once ran Yahoo HotJobs, almost started a Gen Y job search service before becoming CEO of recruiting software maker Jobvite in 2008. The opportunity is there because the Facebook generation doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable in the same online space as the LinkedIn generation, he says.

In the end, Finnigan sees Facebook adding features to accommodate Millennials’ job searches.

“The job searches that matter, the ones based on who you know, that’s going to take place on the network where they have relationships—and that’s Facebook,” he says. “I guarantee you, the work and experience section of Facebook will become very important over time. Everyone will have access to your professional profile on Facebook. Facebook will evolve to be where that generation navigates their relationships and work.”

Workforce Management Online, July 2010Register Now!

Michelle Rafter is a Workforce contributing editor.

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