Shara Senderoff has it in for your resume. And if her new venture is successful, existing online recruiting platforms may be put on notice, too.
Building on the success of her first effort, Intern Sushi, Senderoff—one of Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business— is taking the next step along the professional arc and launching Career Sushi. The online marketplace is a natural outgrowth of its sibling—it's aimed at Millennials and Generation Z job seekers looking to get into creative fields like film and fashion, and the companies that want to employ them.
For the applicants, the platform’s video and interactive graphics offer an opportunity to showcase their skills in eye-popping visuals instead of uploading a PDF of a resume. For employers, there’s a branding opportunity that goes beyond slapping a corporate logo atop a job listing.
"The traditional resume never really could show what the person’s purpose is or whether or not they fit with [a certain company’s] culture," Senderoff tells Fast Company. "We also turn to the companies to present visually as well," she explains, to let the job applicant get a peek behind the corporate curtain. In this way jobseekers "can hold the company to the same standards they hold you," Senderoff says. "When you come across a company you don’t know, you can look into who they are and are able to see a job opportunity in a different way."
The timing of Career Sushi’s debut isn’t a coincidence. Some 1.5 million college graduates are poised to enter an employment landscape still fraught with challenges. For the Class of 2014, an unemployment rate that’s still above the national average (10.6% vs. 6.3%) means they’re at the mercy of an economic crisis they didn’t create. Senderoff wants to give each of them a way to beat the odds and land their dream job—particularly in traditionally tough to crack industries.
It’s an audacious goal, but Senderoff’s been working at for a while. She was only a sophomore in college when she wrote the original business plan for her first startup and successfully pitched it to her former boss, motion picture and television producer Mark Gordon.
The idea, which grew out of her own frustration with the inability of a resume to present a three-dimensional story of her previous experience, was successful almost immediately. Guiding students through the entire process of applying for and tracking internships and building a digital profile quickly amassed a base of 10,000 companies and placed 4,000 interns in the two years since it launched. Senderoff's network in the entertainment industry helped, but she maintains that companies like Interscope Records, which partnered with Intern Sushi to promote the Divergent soundtrack, have found them through word of mouth about the creative talent that's populating the platform. The most lauded part of the startup, according to a panel at SXSW, was its monetization model. Though employers and applicants could post for free, Intern Sushi offered a paid service for interns to get a jump on the competition and apply earlier for specific openings.
Senderoff plans to build on this model. Intern Sushi will fold into Career Sushi and all its profiles will be migrated over to the new site. The new platform will be free to applicants to set up a profile, but there will be a $10 per month fee to track their applications and see who opened it—something Senderoff notes is a critical part of the process since many companies no longer even send out a boilerplate acknowledgement that they received a candidate’s resume. There will be a charge for companies to post full-time jobs, send messages to candidates, and tap into an analytics dashboard to track how their postings are doing. Remarkably, notes Senderoff, "We’ve never been able to digitally track a resume before."
This kind of transparency isn’t available on sites like Monster or CareerBuilder, the grandaddies of the job seeking platforms. The user experience at each is completely utilitarian, with only an opportunity to check boxes, upload a resume, and hope it lands in front of human eyes. Companies, too, are constrained to a single page listing jog requirements supplemented by a paragraph of corporate-speak on the company. Neither approach is very inspired, a fact that’s chipping away at their marketshare, which is falling just as LinkedIn grows.
Senderoff says Career Sushi allows companies to discover and connect with talent who don’t often get on recruiter’s radar, given their lack of experience. Career Sushi is also billing itself as a balm for concerned parents. A statement by the company claims: "As the platform moves young professionals forward in their careers, it allows parents to refocus priorities and finances toward their retirement and savings."
That’s a nice thought, but may be a little more difficult to pull off, much less track. For now, Senderoff says she’s increasing her company's use of big data to help both sides navigate what can be a uniquely tricky process.