The term “verticalization” has been increasingly on my radar. It refers to companies serving smaller niche audiences. Instead of searching for flights on Google, we go to Hipmunk, for example. Verticalization is prominent in the world of recruiting. Where we once went to the all-encompassing Monster.com to search for jobs, we now have a bevy of options tailored to specific industries.
Shiftgig is one that launched a year and half ago for the service industry. The Chicago-based company quickly expanded to nine cities and now has 350,000 job-hunters signed up. More than 10,000 businesses receive 100,000 applications each month for more than 20,000 jobs posted. In New York, 1400 employers use Shiftgig. The company is officially in nine cities but restaurants have posted job openings in all 50 states.
Shiftgig calls itself a “Match.com for the service industry.” Fair enough — the CEO of Match.com, Sam Yagan, sits on Shiftgig’s board of directors. Shiftgig’s CEO Eddie Lou spent 10 years investing in startups at OCA Ventures, leaving that to found Shiftgig in 2011.
The service industry is known for having a high turnover, and most of its employees don’t hang around on LinkedIn or Monster.com. The best option for hiring is basically Craigslist, or referrals. Neither of those are too helpful when your dishwasher walks off the job at midnight and you need someone to fill his shift by tomorrow afternoon. And on the job-hunting side, many service industry employees still hand out resumes door-to-door.
For those reasons it makes sense for restaurants, bars and hotels to have their own special vertical-specific staffing site. Shiftgig isn’t alone: a company called Easy Pairings, which went through the ERA accelerator in New York earlier this year, offers a similar service.
Part of Shiftgig’s appeal is that its site encourages applicants to reveal their personalities. That’s a big part of service jobs, particularly for customer-facing roles like a hostess or bartender. Beyond that, Shiftgig’s profiles emphasize reputation — users can get past employers and co-workers to vouch that they were on time and reliable through a rating system. The site’s job search function filters by role, shift times, the type of employment (full time, part time, seasonal, etc.) and by geography.
The company operates on a freemium model, allowing small restaurants to post their job openings for free and charging large chains to do so.
Lou says once the company penetrates all of its target markets, it’ll expand into other industries which employ large workforces at hourly wages, like construction or retail. But for now, he’s focused on service. “There are 950,000 restaurants, 1.2 million retailers and many, many hotels in the country,” Lou says. “It’s a huge industry as it is.”