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eHarmony to Help Employers Find that Special Someone

Danielle Kurtzleben

We've come a long way since SWFs sought N/S SWMs, 24-35, for LTRs.

Online dating company eHarmony, which claims that it has helped to create over half a million marriages, says it is ready to venture into new territory: the job market. The company plans to launch a new product that will match jobseekers and employers, allowing them to create lasting, meaningful (working) relationships with each other.

"We know that it's between 50 and 75 percent of all people say they're not really happy with the jobs they currently have," says Neil Clark Warren, the founder and CEO of eHarmony. "We're trying to bring to bear some of the algorithms that we've already understood from all of the work we've done on matching people for marriage."

Warren says that the company hopes to launch the job-matching site in June.

Though creating a new job search tool from scratch is a daunting task, the idea is to leverage the company's existing matching expertise by moving it into new territory. The job site is one of nine other "relational issues" that the company believes it can address in addition to romance, says Warren, and is one of the first it is tackling. By using existing matching tools and doing something that no other job search site does--pairing workers with companies--eHarmony believes it can create a popular new product.

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The plan is to set up the site in much the same way as the company's dating service: allow both workers and companies to explain what they're seeking and what they have to offer an employer or a new worker. Then, eHarmony would deliver "matches" to firms and jobseekers.

To ensure that the two new acquaintances get to know each other, they would go through an online courtship process, answering questions before finally getting the opportunity to meet, just as eHarmony's 20 million registered users do.

All of which means that the site will only bear a passing resemblance to competitor job search sites like Monster.com or Indeed.com. Instead of allowing jobseekers to look through a massive pool of job openings and employers to dig through resumes, eHarmony's job service would do all of the sifting. That legwork would also come with a cost. Unlike many popular online job search tools where the employers pay a fee to feature jobs, both companies and potential employees may have to pay for accounts on the site. However, eHarmony has not yet worked out the details of payment.

That is, if it even works. Warren is confident that his company can create happy workers, but only if companies create honest and detailed profiles of what kind of "matches" they are.

"We have to woo them into giving us a whole lot more information about both the culture of the company and about the individuals that a particular person will be working under, or with," says Warren. Matching workers not only with companies but with bosses, he says, will make for happier, more lasting working experiences.

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In his mind, it makes more sense this way, and it's fairer as well. He explains using an analogy from the early days of eHarmony, when the company did not allow users to put up photos of themselves. Just as potential dates were apprehensive about meeting someone they may not be attracted to, he says, a potential worker can understandably be reluctant to move into a firm that has not shown its true face.

EHarmony's aim to pair workers not only with companies but with supervisors makes sense, says one job search expert.

"At the end of the day, someone's experience is always within a context of who they are around each and every day," says Doug Schade, a principal consultant at WinterWyman, a recruiting firm based in Boston. "Their mentor and their boss is probably the most critical part of it all."

Yet Schade agrees that it could be difficult to get detailed information from employers. While smaller tech startups, for example, can often easily express who they are and describe their culture, other companies--particularly larger companies--may find it more difficult. For his part, Warren says that with larger companies, eHarmony could gather information on individual departments and offices.

In addition, says Schade, getting any company to provide more information than what it already voluntarily provides to applicants could be a tricky business.

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"I'd be interested to see most of all what [eHarmony] can do that is innovative or different from what's out there," he says.

There's also the problem of how companies will portray themselves so as to not scare away potential employees. Employers may not like answering the dreaded "What's your worst quality?" question that is typically asked in job interviews (especially since "I'm too much of a perfectionist" doesn't work for a corporation the way it does for an interviewee).

Warren, however, believes that evidence of results, backed up by his well-known brand, could convince companies to be more forthcoming. He explains how he would pitch it to a reluctant firm: "If you could be fed people who are really great matches for the job you have, and their productivity was provenly higher because the match was so good, would that make it worth your while to give us a significantly more personal, private information about your culture and the people within your culture?"

Proving that its job-search system can create higher productivity is a lofty goal for eHarmony, and it will be hard work. But marriage is hard work, too, and the company believes that a successful track record in the romantic realm can translate to the labor market.

"We would like to be able to help people in jobs at the end of five years, seven years, 10 years, or 20 years, to be able to say, 'This was a perfect match of a job for me,' " Warren says.

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