Facebook, Google Muscle Their Way Into HR Tech

The two technology giants are rolling out products intended to grab shares of the job board and talent management market. But success isn’t a given.
HR tech

Since the beginning of the year, Facebook rolled out a job board and Google started testing a recruiting platform called Google Hire.

What better indicators that HR tech is having a moment than two of the country’s biggest tech firms jumping into the market?

Dipping a toe into already teeming HR tech waters is one thing. Succeeding is another. Sure, each firm is big and has cash to burn. But competition among HR tech players abounds. Agile startups backed by cash-rich venture capital firms are outgunning established vendors in many specialty niches. Leading job boards have been sold, including Monster Worldwide and LinkedIn, to name a few. Others are on the market, including CareerBuilder and Dice, because of changing industry dynamics and aggregators like Indeed that are putting a squeeze on the bottom line.

Translation: there’s no guarantee the size and power Facebook or Google bring to the table will matter. In its present form, Facebook’s Jobs service is a barebones alternative to a traditional job board. Meantime, we’re still waiting to see what Google Hire is all about. Both firms have enough resources to introduce something in a new product category, see if it sticks, and leave if it doesn’t.

It’s So Easy Being Free

Until that plays out, it’s easy to see what small businesses might initially like about Facebook Jobs — it’s free. Small businesses can add jobs to their Facebook page, and Facebook users who live within a certain geographic area (40 miles is the default) see the postings in their news feed. Facebook members also can see jobs in their area listed under a new jobs tab on the social network’s left-hand column along with Groups, Events, Photos, Games and Pokes — just look for the jaunty briefcase logo. Anyone interested in a position hits an “Apply Now” button on the job ad and a pop-up window appears that’s pre-populated with relevant information from their existing Facebook profile.

Free was good enough for Express Employment Professionals Tualatin to try the service. In the past few months, the Tualatin, Oregon-based staffing agency franchise hired three of 12 people who applied for positions through Facebook Jobs. Other job candidates called after seeing the job listings, according to Katherine Vickers, a recruiting specialist at the agency.

With Oregon’s jobless rate below the national average, anything that elevates an employer above the competition is worth trying, and Facebook falls into that category, Vickers said. Express Employment Professionals also advertises jobs on CareerBuilder, a local job board called WorkSource Oregon and with the occasional Craigslist ad. The agency is also working on a contract with Indeed and has done a trial run with ZipRecruiter, Vickers said.

“We need to get more creative in the ways we reach out to people looking for work and make it easier for them to find our positions,” Vickers said. Since Facebook Jobs is free it doesn’t hurt to try it, and because people only use it if they’re job-hunting it’s not an invasion of privacy, Vickers said.

While a free service might make Facebook Jobs more appetizing to small businesses, the service in its current form lacks many typical job-board features. Among complaints small business owners expressed in comments on a February 15 post announcing the service: Once posted, job listings can’t be edited. Facebook sends job applications as messages through its Messenger app, and the information can’t be automatically integrated into a user’s applicant tracking system, or ATS. Only people with administrative-level access to a company’s Facebook Page can create job listings, but not all businesses give HR personnel that access.

These limitations don’t bother Vickers. Express Employment Professionals ads that appear on Facebook Jobs generally consist of a link to a job posting on the company’s website, so typos aren’t a problem. The company has applicants who come in through Facebook fill out a longer application that’s connected to their ATS.

Facebook Jobs was phased in gradually and is now available across the United States and Canada, according to a Facebook spokeswoman. She declined to share the total number of jobs posted. Company representatives previously responded to businesses’ concerns by suggesting they use a Facebook feedback page to submit ideas for improvements.

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Google Hire Still in Stealth Mode

Google hasn’t shared anything about Google Hire beyond putting up a placeholder splash page to collect potential customers’ email addresses. Early reports from industry insiders who’ve seen the service and from the odd Google Hire job posting that people have stumbled upon say it combines features of a job board with services offered by popular ATS platforms from HR tech vendors such as Greenhouse and Lever. Companies including Medisas, Poynt, DramaFever, SingleHop and CoreOS are using or testing the service, according to Axios.

There’s speculation that Google Hire is being built on technology acquired with its 2015 purchase of a productivity and business tools startup called Bebop, primarily because Bebop’s founder now runs Google’s enterprise and cloud division, according to Axios. In 2016, Google tested an application-programming interface called Cloud Jobs API that’s now in a closed alpha stage but prominently features a testimonial from CareerBuilder, adding to speculation about what the company is up to.

Microsoft chose a different route into the HR tech business. Rather than building something from scratch, the company spent $26.2 billion to buy LinkedIn. Since then, Microsoft has been working to integrate LinkedIn’s networking features into its Office offering and other business productivity and collaboration services. Since the deal, LinkedIn also overhauled its user interface, though not all users are happy with the update.

While the jury’s still out on how beneficial the new ownership will be for LinkedIn, it appears to have been a good move for Microsoft. In the first quarter since closing the deal, LinkedIn accounted for 11 percent of 15 percent growth in gross margins for Microsoft’s productivity and business process group. It also added $975 million in revenue.

It’s too soon to tell whether the Facebook or Google brands will be enough to disrupt established HR tech firms’ footholds on the market. Anyone who’s been involved recruiting for some time may remember earlier attempts to use Facebook as a job board, including BeKnown and BranchOut, apps from Monster and RecruiterConnect, respectively.

Both of them failed to gain footholds — and quietly disappeared before anyone noticed.

Michelle V. Rafter is a business journalist in Portland, Oregon, reporting on workforce and technology for Talent Economy and other publications. If you have a comment or column idea, email editor@talenteconomy.io.