LaborX startup helps firms recruit often-overlooked talent
Hiring managers typically spend approximately eight seconds looking at a resume before deciding on whether to move on to the next one. They spend even less time if a candidate does not have a college degree, said Yscaira Jimenez, who has worked closely with job seekers and employers for four years. She created the platform LaborX to connect previously dismissed talent with employers in the technology industry.
“They have the skills but not the network to get the job,” Jimenez said, referring to the candidates who have been pre-screened and aggregated on LaborX, but may not know “the right people” to get their foot in the door. As for the proliferation of workforce programs and companies in major cities across the country, “They’re trying to tackle the top students in the top 10 schools,” Jimenez said.
Most candidates using the LaborX platform do not have college degrees but are skilled in IT, cybersecurity, code, mobile and web development and data analysis. LaborX fights against the stigma that people without degrees are not smart or hardworking enough, and throws the spotlight on prospective employees who have sought out alternative education amidst sky-high tuition costs.
“I think education is changing very rapidly,” Jimenez said. “People can get skilled in short amounts of time. You can learn code in three months.”
Birth of a company
The 36-year-old CEO began working on LaborX as a graduate student at MIT. At first, it was a job training platform with training videos that helped candidates prepare for and obtain jobs. But through user feedback and some fine-tuning it developed into a job recruitment tool.
After graduating in 2014, Jimenez was awarded an Echoing Green fellowship by Echoing Green, a nonprofit founded in 1987 that provideds seed funding, leadership development and capacity-building support for social entrepreneurs. With $70,000 in seed funding, Jimenez was able to fund the company for the first 18 months, which enabled her to build a prototype of the platform. She officially launched LaborX in August 2015 and has the Boston Impact Initiative as a lead investor. She employs four contractors and a volunteer, all of whom provide expertise in areas such as coding and digital design.
LaborX has partnered with job training programs including Year Up, Stride Center, Oakland Private Industry Council and Per Scholas, as well as companies that work one-on-one with job seekers through coaching, training, and internship placement.
Eighty candidates from these programs were selected to be a part of LaborX’s talent pool and Jimenez plans to double that number in the next month. There currently are 300 users on the website, but only the designated 80 have active profiles.
“It’s important for us to let employers know that people are coming from trusted programs, and that the program can vouch for the training the person had,” Jimenez said.
One strategy that Jimenez uses to attract top employers to job seekers on LaborX involves the use of video resumes. Citing the eight-second time span that employers usually spend looking at a regular resume, Jimenez said that employers engage longer — up to three minutes — when candidates have both a portfolio of work and a video resume.
LaborX works with candidates to help them polish their presentation via professional headshots, along with developing video resumes through shooting, editing and scripting. “All the companies love video resumes. They said that’s the reason why they placed that person, because it jumped out at them and helped them learn more,” Jimenez said.
“We spent the first year building relationships with training programs and building the supply side of our market place,” she recalled. Now, the startup is focusing on getting employers onboard the platform by launching beta pilots with companies such as Lyft and Microsoft.
LaborX’s current job training partners are in the San Francisco Bay Area and Jimenez regularly travels from her home in Boston to San Francisco. She also is working on setting up partnerships and beta pilots with companies in Boston and New York, a process that has taken longer on the East Coast.
“Google was the first company to test this and Google is the biggest tech company in the world right now, but they didn’t care that they were the first and that it was an early platform with bugs,” Jimenez said.
She added that being in the Bay Area’s nexus of technology, a company like Google was willing to take a risk on something new, whereas on the East Coast, companies tend to approach with caution.
“People wanted to know who else is doing it, they didn’t want to be the first,” she said.
Nevertheless, Jimenez remains confident in the market’s need for bridging gaps in the workforce and in LaborX’s ability to get it done.
“I’m excited about putting candidates in front of companies,” she said, “and getting them hired.”