Ok, I get that you are trying to make money, but $500 a week for an employer to use your careers tool. Come On! How on earth can a startup possibly use this. Maybe I could justify this if you had results in the 1000s in Boston, but as a new service, these prices are crazy.

How about a startup rate where we can apply and you verify our size? I am willing to pay but $500 a week is far too much for us.

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    Just out of curiosity... Why on earth do you want thousands of results? Surely you don't plan on slogging through that many CVs? – Shog9 Dec 3 '09 at 1:20
  • Thousands of people in an area the size of Boston implies a lot fewer people with the skillset that the OP is looking for. – womble Dec 3 '09 at 6:25
  • $500 is far cheaper than advertising in the papers or using a headhunter. Also note that there is a money back guarantee. $500 is CHEAP for finding the right few candidates. Really cheap. If you don't realize that then you haven't been in the recruiting or hiring business more than a few days... – tim Dec 3 '09 at 14:43

What can I say; the price is pretty much in line with what other similar services offer.

The one week plan ($500) is pretty much designed to let you find and hire one person. People who do more hiring than that will probably pay by the year, and get a substantial discount... it's not $500 a week, it comes to about $100 a week for heavy users.

I think if you're a startup thinking of hiring someone, and you're worried about the $500, it doesn't sound like you're in a position to be hiring quite yet... maybe you should be looking for cofounders or people who will work for equity.

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    That's fine, but only once there's a massive number of candidates available when you first sign up as an employer. At the moment, you're far more likely to have to wait a while for the right person to get around to signing up -- and you're burning $500/week waiting for them to arrive. – womble Dec 3 '09 at 1:08
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    How long does an ad stay up on the Joel boards? – cletus Dec 3 '09 at 1:09
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    21 days. And womble, if you don't find someone, you ask us, and you get your money back. I don't think anyone is going to be burning $500 a week waiting for someone to arrive. If they do, they deserve their money back. – Joel Spolsky Dec 3 '09 at 2:25
  • The time period goes to comparison. $300-500 (?) for an ad on your board lasting 21 days that could fill multiple positions vs $1000 for a similar time frame on Careers SO where the candidates also are paying. Good business for you guys if it pans out. I have to wonder if it represents value to users however. – cletus Dec 3 '09 at 5:56
  • Oh and just out of curiosity: what "similar services" are you referring to? – cletus Dec 3 '09 at 6:31
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    Hot Jobs, The Ladders, Monster, Career Builder are all in that ballpark. They have more resumes (numerically) but all the good programmers I've ever met are afraid to post their resumes up there because of the monumental amount of crap it generates, so I don't honestly think they have any GOOD resumes. And of course all they have is resumes, not StackOverflow CVs (TM) – Joel Spolsky Dec 3 '09 at 7:12
  • I post my resume on those sites because it results in leads (as well as a lot of crap). I live in the US, but the FogCreek/StackOverflow sites don't seem to work in my ~14th ranked metro market as there is zero volume that is relevant on either side. So, New York, Boston, California have some coverage for good programmers and good employers, but so far it doesn't seem to scale down to smaller markets. I want these sites to succeed in smaller markets, but I'm doubtful it will happen. – Michael Maddox Dec 3 '09 at 14:56

I commented on this also, although not from the point of view of startups.

I know little about the US recruitment market but in Europe and Australia, traditional recruitment agencies work like this:

  • For casual/contract work, the agency will earn 10-20% (or more, but that's borderline criminal) on top of what the contractor does; or
  • For permanent/salaried work, the agency will earn typically 10-15% of the annual salary of the recruit. Usually there is a part-payment on hiring and full payment after a probation period (typically 3 months) or if the employee leaves before three months there can be a partial refund.

Now as much as I hate recruitment agents (95% of them are utterly useless and actually impede getting the right person) they do do something: they filter candidates (often badly but still...), act as an umbrella (for insurance purposes and payroll) for contractors and the like.

It seems SO Careers has positioned itself more at this end of the market than the "job board" end, which (imho) is all that it really is. And what does an ad on a job board cost? A few hundred for a popular one?

Something like this lives or dies by reaching critical mass of job seekers using and employers use it. With SO Careers making money on both ends, one wonder if it will reach this.

Consider the Joel on Software job board, where you pay ~$350 for an ad and nothing as a candidate. Will the market on SO Careers be sufficiently bigger or better? I have my doubts. After all, what does SO Careers offer really? A link to your profile? I can put that on my CV in any case.

All up, it's all just a little odd.

Edit: just to add a few points (and hopefully bring it back a little to the topic of startups):

  1. Recruitment agencies are expensive in part because the risk is borne by the agent not the employer. If no one suitable is found, there is no or little outlay so they're getting paid for results;
  2. Advertising is cheaper both because it involves less work and the risk is borne by the employer;
  3. Advertising costs scale based on the implied conversion rate, which is a factor of both the size and the quality of the audience. In it's hey day, the West Wing may have had under 10 million viewers but they were a particularly lucrative set of viewers (eg higher socioeconomic status, more disposable income).

Point (3) is worth exploring. Size SO (Careers) obviously doesn't have (yet), both in terms of candidates and employers. The candidate cost is nominal but you have to compare it with most other options being free (for candidates), including dealing with recruitment agents. In fact, depending on your jurisdiction it can be illegal to charge candidates (I wonder if anyone has thought about this yet?).

Obviously Jeff and Joel think they've got a fairly lucrative audience (for employers) with tie-ins to the already successful Joel job boards. I think they may be overvaluing the association with SO because ultimately that association is simply a URL to your profile. I haven't seen the employer's search but if it also includes searches that use your contributions against different tags as some kind of criteria then obviously that isn't something easily reproducible elsewhere.

Lastly: startups. Not an area I'm particularly familiar with but if HN is to be believed, it works to a much greater degree on word-of-mouth than traditional recruitment. That being said, I kind of agree that if you're going to spend $100k+ (including on-costs) on employing someone for a year, spending even $5k to find the right person is cheap. But I guess cash flow can be an issue too.

Personally I signed up in the beta just because if it flops I'm only out $30, which is about the cost of 2 trips to Nando's for lunch.

I do have to question the strategy of pricing on the basis of having an audience and a conversion rate that you don't have (or can't prove) yet.

One last thing about job ads: you can often get more than one job filled from one ad. You might put an ad up that says you're looking for X, Y and Z. An agent once told me that at least 90% of the CVs he receives can be thrown out. A certain other number are possible candidates that just aren't right for that job. Perhaps they have too little or too much experience or not quite the right experience. But it happens where the company thinks you might be right for a different position.

Also, companies tend to keep CVs for people who have applied to them. With the ability to search on SO Careers, what's to stop a company basically harvesting CVs in the time they have access?

  • Oddly enough I just upvoted this, not because it even remotely answers the question, but because I agree with what you have to say here. Funny, when you are not bashing Ruby-on-Rails I tend to agree with you – waffles Dec 3 '09 at 1:13
  • I wasn't aware I bashed Ruby on Rails... much. :) – cletus Dec 3 '09 at 1:15
  • +1 Nando's... Um... how I miss thee... – beggs Dec 3 '09 at 2:05
  • Theres no Nandos in Singapore? They're all over KL... – cletus Dec 3 '09 at 2:16
  • Cletus, did you get any bites with CVs yet. Id imagine there are somewhere between 0 and negative 1 employers waiting to hire people in Perth on careers. I got no bites in Sydney and only 3 search hits. I know its early days. – waffles Dec 3 '09 at 2:23
  • @waffles: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/31649/… to answer your question. I'm impressed you got 3 in Sydney! – cletus Dec 3 '09 at 2:45

If you're not prepared to spend $1-2K on recruiting a new employee, how on earth do you expect to be able to afford anyone even remotely competent?

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    it is true, recruitment is ridiculously expensive -- anyone who's actually done it should know. – Jeff Atwood Dec 3 '09 at 6:24
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    Some startups have more time than money. Time spent networking can lead to cheap/free recruitment opportunities. I would argue that the amount of money spent on recruiting does not correspond to an employer's competence. – Michael Maddox Dec 3 '09 at 15:15
  • You are using a farcical scenario. Do you really know of successful startups that advertised or broadcast to the world that they were not going to pay, but had equity to give and met a match with a person they never met before? There is no trust or history there. The example case you make is one in a million. – tim Dec 3 '09 at 17:56
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    @Michael Maddox: If you have more time than money then as Joel said, you need a cofounder, not an employee. – Tamas Czinege Dec 3 '09 at 20:22

I might be showing my ignorance by saying this, but... That doesn't strike me as being particularly high. If you use the search tool before paying, you should already have at least a rough idea of how many results you'll be getting - if you aren't comfortable with the number of CVs you'll get to look through, then don't pay for access to them.

But even if it is a bit rich for your budget, I - as a job-searcher - don't care. I'm paying to post my CV because I don't want to work for a cheap / underfunded employer. Let's face it - there are plenty of options out there if i want to compete for the bargain-basement coding jobs. Heck, it was Atwood's promise that employer access would be priced far above that for job-seeker access that convinced me it was worth trying out in the first place!

...So, if your suggestion was implemented, I'd want a corresponding checkbox that let me opt-out of "startup-rate" employer searches.

  • It's not this black and white in reality. Among other things, startups have interesting financial constraints and many companies do offer startups different pricing. Also, pricing good employers out of the market reduces the number of employers in the system which is generally a bad thing. – Michael Maddox Dec 3 '09 at 15:01
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    $500 is pricing out of the market? In that case I hardly would use the term "good employer" to characterize them... – tim Dec 3 '09 at 17:55

The only situation I think this might be nice is if CVs had an "interested in startups" and "Equity and non-cash payments considered" checkbox. Then let startups search ONLY for employees that have BOTH of those boxes checked for a much lower rate.

This allows for the fact that some startups won't be paying a full wage, and thus may not also have the ability to pay a full employment search fee, but many people on SO might be interested in such positions.

And it segments the market so Careers.Stackoverflow can extract more money from the job search market without lowering the costs for their main clients.

It's a win-win-win solution.

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    There are a lot of sites that are dedicated to startups, like startuply.com. – Joel Spolsky Dec 3 '09 at 7:14
  • That's true, and if Careers is intentionally meant to have a limited focus, then limiting it to post-funding companies is reasonable. However it bears consideration - would this resource have been useful to Fog Creek in its early days? – Adam Davis Dec 3 '09 at 14:24
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    Excellent idea Adam. As to Joel's comment, sites like startuply.com don't have the traffic or reach of StackOverflow and therefore have the normal problems associated with small volumes and no critical mass. – Michael Maddox Dec 3 '09 at 15:10

$500 out of your own Average Joe pocket is a decent amount of money.

$500 to a growing business looking for top quality employees is nothing.

I think the rates are pretty low. I was actually shocked to see how low they were after hearing Jeff say there would be a high barrier to entry based on price. If a company can't afford to invest in proper recruitment, how on earth are they going to afford to pay you a reasonable salary?


I've been vocal about the business model and critical of the fee to job seekers, but I agree with Jeff, Joel and the others that $500 is actually a pretty good bargain. If you think that is expensive then you have not been a hiring manager or HR person for more than, oh, about 4 hours.

Given the "money back" policy it is pretty low risk. If you're in a position to hire it seems like this is a service that is well worth it.

(I still have criticisms about the fee for seekers though)

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    This answer doesn't really address the question and how it relates to startups that have different financial constraints. – Michael Maddox Dec 3 '09 at 15:11
  • @Michael - It answers it by effectively saying "if you can't afford $500 for the search fee you have no business hiring - even as a startup". ESPECIALLY given the no risk money back policy. – tim Dec 3 '09 at 16:16
  • I don't see the issue for startups. If you are ready to take on an employee at a loaded cost of $100k, then $500 is a drop in the bucket. – tim Dec 3 '09 at 16:19
  • Startups often offer equity in place of at least some of the salary. Sometimes it is all equity and no salary, effectively becoming part-owner/partner. I'm saying that startups have different financial constraints and charging one fee for any given company type/setup is simple, but it may not work well in reality, especially when everyone benefits when there are more employers using the system. Personally, I'm uncomfortable taking advantage of the money back guarantee in many of the scenarios it's intended for, but I understand that is good enough for many people. – Michael Maddox Dec 3 '09 at 17:34
  • In a similar vain, charging a single fee for an employer hiring someone in New York City vs. an employer hiring someone in Paris does not help employers get maximum value out of the system given that the volume of candidates and employers in those markets are massively different. – Michael Maddox Dec 3 '09 at 17:36
  • RE: volume of candidates - one would expect that perhaps the ratio of employer to employees in any location is somewhat the same. Higher populations means more employees AND more employers. There are of course geographic differences, but are you suggesting that they price it differently based on some metrics that could change over time? Surely that is an unreasonable expectation. IMO in ANY location the value appears to be there. – tim Dec 3 '09 at 17:50
  • Are you suggesting that early-stage startups are using monster, stack overflow and other means to find co-founders and employee number 1? That violates everything I have seen and heard about startups. In general the first few people at startups know each other and have worked before or were roommates or took classes together. I know of NO case where the job posting for, say, 1/4 salary and the rest in equity was ever used and I think that is a straw-man example. Startups just don;t work like that - the first few people are known quantities, then you hire outsiders when you have cash. – tim Dec 3 '09 at 17:54
  • @tim: You live in a different world than I do. There is obviously very little overlap in our experiences. I am doing exactly what you say is unheard of. Even if I personally fail, that doesn't mean the concepts are unworkable. To each their own. – Michael Maddox Dec 4 '09 at 16:43
  • @Michael I have worked for startups before and I am int he middle of a startup along with a day job. So you are saying that you want to bring someone in as a cofounder or equity member but you've never met them before? God help you. If you are looking for people interested in startups and are willing to take no money then perhaps SO careers is not your answer - try fairsoftware.net – tim Dec 4 '09 at 18:56

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