FARMINGTON — With LinkedIn, recruiting.com, the recruiterslounge.com, and a zillion other places to get job hunting and career advice, is there room for Recruiter.com to survive and grow?
The traffic numbers suggest the answer is yes. According to Miles Jennings, a former recruiter who now is CEO of the company — also called Recruiter.com — that owns the site, said that when co-founder Ashley Saddul bought the domain in 2010, the site was attracting 5,000 visitors a month.
By 2012, they reached 2 million unique visitors for the full year, almost five times the traffic of 2011, when they relaunched with better content.
For the first year, before they hired the editor in Atlanta who manages the content, the founders were juggling all the duties — finding freelancers, selling ads, redesigning the site and more.
"I actually did write a lot for the site. Thankfully, I don't anymore," Jennings said. "My sister wrote for the site. An old friend of mine wrote for the site. Contractors wrote for the site."
"In 2011, we were just sort of trying to scrape by," said Jennings, who said it occurred to him it would have been a lot less scary to found a start-up while he was in college. He's now 36. "I have four kids. My wife doesn't work outside the home. It wasn't an option to have it not work, and it still isn't."
There were months when neither partner could pay themselves anything. "It was tricky," Saddul said.
In 2012, the site earned about $333,000, and Jennings said the company is on track to hit $1 million in revenues this year. They say they've just reached the break-even point in recent months.
He's no longer the only one selling ads, as a sales person and an operations associate, who does customer support and marketing, work alongside him in Farmington.
Saddul lives in Providence and has failed to persuade Jennings to move the company there.
Half the company's 10 employees work in Mauritius, an island 1,200 miles off the coast of Africa, east of Madagascar. That's where Saddul grew up, and he said programmers there cost 40 percent as much as a U.S. hire would. Still, there are disadvantages. Saddul will go there for a month to work with them, a long time to be away from his wife, and his children, ages 9 and 3.
Two of the five developers are recent hires because recruiter.com is expanding with what they're calling Recruiter.com Direct, which launched last week. If the expanded site takes off, the company will hire more customer service and sales people in Connecticut, and a software developer in Rhode Island.
The idea behind it is that recruiters and job seekers (and potentially, businesses that want to hire a recruiter) will be able to easily find each other.
LinkedIn already provides a forum like this, of course, but Miles believes their messaging set up will be simpler and cheaper.
For fewer than 20 messages a week, it's completely free to message anyone, they don't have to be in your network, as they do in LinkedIn.
"It's not a free trial, it's just free, and I think that's important," Jennings said.
"That's your key differentiator from LinkedIn," Saddul said.
For recruiters, there are two levels of paid subscriptions, $19 a month for 80 messages a month and $29 a month for 120 messages.
Currently, their readers are 70 percent U.S., 10 percent Canada, 8 percent United Kingdom and the rest scattered among India, Australia, Germany and South America.
But they imagine the rollout for Recruiter.com Direct as much more regionally focused. They'll advertise on billboards and in newspapers around Hartford and Providence, and use them as a test market.
They don't know how it will be received. Jennings said, "If it isn't useful for people it won't matter very much."
While they think earning $3 million next year isn't a pipe dream, they aren't assuming any subscription income from the new messaging system.
Christina Santacroce, a former coworker of Jennings' and a beta tester of Recruiter.com Direct, thinks it will be useful.
She said LinkedIn often requires you to ask someone to make an introduction to someone before you can email them, which she said "is really awkward."
"I think it will just simplify it a lot," she said.
Even before Recruiter.com Direct, she said, one of the things she liked best about the site was the way it opened up dialogue between candidates and recruiters who weren't in the midst of trying to make a match.
She said recruiters have "a negative reputation with a lot of people," and when she read comments from job seekers about what their sore spots with recruiters were, she found it instructive.
From the candidate's perspective, too, the site can be eye-opening. For instance, they can read how recruiters think about salary negotiations: http://www.recruiter.com/i/7-tips-to-getting-your-candidates-the-salary-they-want
"The candidates are really what your product is," Santacroce said. "If you're doing everything they hate, your market share is going to be terrible."