Most of us have a dream employer. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 list of companies where Americans want to work, Google, Facebook, and Amazon were the most popular choices. But no matter where you’d like to be employed, would you pay for help landing the gig?
Kevin Wu hopes you say yes. He started the career accelerator Pathrise out of his belief that the job search should be measured and tactical, similar to sales. Wu has grown his own career, which includes jobs at Yelp and Salesforce, as well as the launch of a gaming company, through strategic “shenanigans” that he and his team will teach you—for 9% of your first year’s salary.
“A lot of student are motivated, but if you don’t know how to do the outreach or you don’t know the right things to say, you can be held back,” says Wu. “It has nothing to do with your actual capacity to perform the job; it’s the nature of the job search.”
Pathrise provides a formal eight-week job-coaching program that teaches you how to optimize your personal content, networking pipeline, and interview skills. The final module is negotiation tactics. “We’re getting a 5% to 20% gain when students follow the script,” says Wu. “Negotiation earns candidates more respect while getting that additional boost in compensation. Many gain benefits beyond their base salary, such as a signing bonus or equity.”
Wu provides industry-specific advice for candidates based on their dream employer and position as well as a one-on-one personal adviser. He says he’s successfully placed 300 students in jobs. Currently, Pathrise focuses on the tech industry, but Wu plans to expand into data and marketing. The services are free and unlimited until you get placed.
“We make true on our promise of getting you a job,” says Wu. “We’ve gotten people into companies from top-tier startups to Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google. The average salary is above six figures, and the maximum we helped achieve was a $500,000 total compensation offer.”
For a six-figure salary, a student’s payment to Pathrise could be hefty, but Wu believes he’s providing more than that in value. “We are data driven,” he says. “We get students a response rate of two to four times the average. Our promise and the whole design of the program is to trade less immediate money for more future money.”
Is it worth it?
While she admits Pathrise’s model is interesting, Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer for the HR software provider iCIMS, cautions that it conflicts with labor market trends: “Headlines are reporting record-low unemployment rates,” she says. “There’s no shortage of opportunities available to job seekers across a variety of industries. The power has shifted to job seekers, and employers are in fierce competition for the best talent for their organizations.”
Business attorney Richard Trimber is even more skeptical: “Very frankly, I could not think of a worse idea for a candidate to consider,” says Trimber, who works with HR directors and senior-level executives in negotiations of compensation and employment agreements.
Job candidates often fall into one of three buckets, Trimber says. They’re sought-after and don’t need this type of service; they’re in serious need of a job, in which case the economics of this arrangement could bring challenges; or they’re seeking a career change, in which he says a better arrangement might involve hiring a coach for a set fee.
Vitale would recommend trying things on your own first. “Since job candidates have the upper hand, it may not make sense to pay for a job coach right now,” she says. “In fact, now is the best time for job seekers to negotiate with employers, as they’re under serious pressure to fill roles.”
But Wu defends his program, calling it a flip of the traditional recruiting model where a company pays a recruiter to find a good candidate. “If a recruiter gets paid when a job is filled, they’re working for the company,” he says. “It doesn’t matter who they place. If they refer 10 people, the recruiter has zero incentive to care about the nine other people who didn’t get the job.”
Wu compares Pathrise to entertainment or sports agents. “The front office of a basketball team is going to have different motivation than the agent working on behalf of player,” he says. “It’s a terrible decision to assume the front office has the player’s best interest in mind. I’m acting like an agent on behalf of a job seeker.”
Conor Livingston credits Pathrise for helping him land his dream job as a software engineer at Google. “The thing that I found at Pathrise that I felt like I couldn’t get on my own was a mentor who knew exactly what I was going through,” he says. “He was an ex-Facebook software engineer so he knew exactly what it takes to successfully break in to software engineering roles in big tech companies.”
Wu believes in his approach so much, Pathrise offers free insider guides with hiring tips for dozens of employers, including Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
“We want to improve the job search for everyone,” says Wu. “If people look at the guides and get value, it may be the first step in understanding why Pathrise can be valuable to them. We want to be upfront. We want to say, ‘This is how we can help with job search.'”