Google Hire Is Fired

By Sarah Fister Gale

Sep. 24, 2019

Applicant tracking systems providers breathed a small sigh of relief in September when Google announced it was officially shutting down Google Hire, the cloud-based applicant tracking system that the search-engine giant launched barely two years ago.

It’s a fitting end to a product that was never a good fit for Google’s portfolio of solutions, said Othamar Gama Filho, CEO of recruitment marketing automation platform Talentify. “I was more surprised when they launched it than when they ended it.”

Google Hire promised to simplify the hiring process for recruiters. By utilizing Google’s powerful search capabilities, open API environment and G Suite tools, including Gmail and Google Calendar, recruiters would be able to more easily find and communicate with candidates, and schedule interviews. At least that was the pitch.

But in reality it didn’t offer a lot to make it stand out in an already crowded market. “The global ATS market is small compared to what Google is used to,” Gama Filho said. It’s projected to be a $2.34 billion by 2026, which may be exciting for a burgeoning tech startup, but is hardly worth the attention of a company that generates billions of dollars in revenues every year.

Google also never explained how the global platform would accommodate the unique data privacy regulations in every country where it was offered. Gama Filho noted that Google is already facing antitrust investigations in the European Commission for its Google for Jobs app, which could have chilled its interest in the recruiting space all together.

The real truth is Google Hire never found it customer base. “A lot of ATS platforms integrate with G-Suite, so there was not a lot to differentiate the offering,” he said.

It also wasn’t a good fit for Google’s business model, said Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst for Constellation Research. “Google never does anything in business apps. They can make a lot more money attracting the HCM SaaS vendors to their platform than competing with them.”

Mueller also points to Google Hire’s origin story as a potential harbinger of its early demise.

Google Hire was originally developed at Bebop, a startup tech firm led by Diane Greene, which Google acquired for $380 million in 2015. As part of that acquisition, Greene was brought in to head up Google’s cloud business.

Greene was lauded as a veteran of the enterprise software marketplace, and Google leaders believed she could help them compete with the likes of Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

They were right. During her four-year tenure (she left earlier this year), Google Cloud increased its revenues to $1 billion per quarter. While it is still third in the public cloud marketplace, it’s closing fast on Amazon and Microsoft.

What does that have to do with Google Hire? Many believe buying Bebop was just Google’s way to get Greene onboard. “But they still had to show stakeholders that they didn’t waste the acquisition,” Mueller said. So they kept it on the books for a few years, used it to showcase how their technology could help recruiters. “But never really did anything with it.”

For customers of Google Hire, the good news is that it won’t be officially shut down until September 2020, giving them almost a full year to find a replacement. Google has also generously agreed to keep it running for no additional fees.

The lesson to be learned from the rapid rise and fall of Google Hire is that nothing lasts forever, Mueller said. “Especially when comes in the cloud.”

Sarah Fister Gale is a writer in Chicago.

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