Often the best way to find a new job is through a friend. Hoping to capitalize on that, two Boston University graduates have developed a new smartphone app to turn job hunting into a social experience.
With Coffee, job hunters share information about their expertise and personal interests, creating networks to make the quest more pleasant, and with any luck, quicker.
“The students who are coming out of school, they don’t have any network to begin with,” said Nathan Bernard, who cofounded Coffee with fellow BU graduate Sawyer Xie and Justin de Guzman, a computer science graduate of New York University. “We like to think of this as an easy way for younger professionals . . . to start making these connections.”
Bernard came up with an idea after encountering a young investment banker through the meetup app Tinder. The banker complained about how difficult it was to meet people of her own age with similar interests. Bernard realized that an app to solve this problem could also make an excellent career tool, because most people find jobs through friends, relatives, and colleagues.
“We saw a ton of our friends struggling to find employment, and even the ones who found employment weren’t really happy,” said Bernard. “They don’t really have an easy way to go out and meet people.”
The Coffee app is available only for Apple Inc. mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad. It helps people quickly build a social network. Users sign in and enter information about their educational attainments, experience, skills, and interests. The software automatically shows them other like-minded users. A messaging feature lets compatible users instantly contact one another. In addition, businesspeople can log on to the service and scour its membership ranks for likely hiring prospects. The would-be employer can contact a potential hire through Coffee for a casual chat, before bringing the candidate in for a job interview.
“You’ll learn a lot more about a company by seeing, connecting, and chatting with a real employee [or] hiring manager rather than just reading a boilerplate job posting,” said Bernard.
Bernard, Xie, and de Guzman began developing Coffee in New York City in February. Since the app was launched in July, about 5,000 people have signed up, mostly through word of mouth. “We went to a meetup event every single night for three months straight” to promote the app, Bernard said. Coffee also has attracted the attention of small businesses looking for a better way to hire.
“It’s been hard using traditional means to find the right candidate,” said Rob Soofian, chief executive of Specster, a startup company in New York that sells designer eyewear online. “I would get many different candidates that weren’t right for the job. With Coffee, it was easy to get people who were engrossed in the startup world.” Soofian said he’s now planning to hire a woman he discovered through the Coffee app.
Bernard said the company is developing a Web-based version of Coffee and an upgrade to the app. He has also hired a contractor to develop a version for devices running Google Inc.’s Android operating system.