Google Hire: An ATS, and more?

15 May 2017

The following appeared in Classified Intelligence Report 18.08, distributed to AIM Group clients on April 27. For information on becoming an AIM Group / CIR client, click here.

 By Brian Blum

Google has continued its foray into recruitment, with its newly launched Google Hire product resembling a branded applicant tracking system (ATS) that aims for the backend. But it could also be much more.

Google Hire went live on April 13 with a URL generally used by Google for hosting experiments — see our earlier coverage here — so this is clearly

Cover art about Google Hire — from Classified Intelligence Report 18.08

very early for the company. And as with other Google projects, it’s never a sure bet that this will turn into a real product, or will be toyed with for a while, before Google shuts it down. (Think Google Wave or Google Base.)

Google Hire has a solid pedigree. The tool appears to be coming from the company’s enterprise cloud services division, which was kick-started by Google’s November 2015 acquisition of Bebop for $380 million. (That company’s CEO, Diane Greene, now heads the enterprise cloud services division at Google. She previously co-founded VMWare.)

If Google Hire is indeed the company’s entry into the ATS field, then Google has latched on to a huge opportunity. The ATS business includes major companies like Taleo (owned by Oracle); Kronos; Run, by ADP; ICIMS and others.

Many recruitment advertising sites have crossed into ATS functionality, either as part of their applicant management tools or as stand-alone businesses.

CareerBuilder’s shift from traditional job board to Saas provider reflects this move.

As an ATS, Google Hire might be a case of Google opening up its own internal recruitment system — which sites like CrunchBase praise as being one of the best in the business — to other companies.

The AIM Group asked Jerome Ternynck, founder and CEO of SmartRecruiters, one of the industry’s leading ATS vendors and a company that could be challenged if Google Hire catches on, what he thought of the new offering.

“Google Hire seems to be the first of a series of business applications that Google aims to release out of Diane Green’s group,” Ternynck told us. “Since recruiting is such a collaborative process, I have no doubt they will be successful, although I suspect the feature set will remain light both upstream in candidate marketing and downstream in depth of enterprise configurability (compliance, privacy, contracts, approvals, custom fields, etc.).”

Ternynck’s take is that Google Hire “will likely disrupt the lower end of the ATS market (companies with 500 employees or less) where vendors like Greenhouse, Workable or Lever play. For enterprise vendors (companies with 5,000-500,000 employees) such as Taleo, SAP’s SuccessFactors or SmartRecruiters, the impact will likely be limited.”

de facto job board?

Google Hire could quickly become more than an ATS, though. If enough outside companies send their vacancies through Hire — as they do to hundreds of other job-listing aggregators — Google could drive search traffic directly to those jobs and become a giant de facto job board or recruitment site, competing directly with other aggregators, such as Indeed.com.

After all, Google knows so much about us already, wouldn’t they be ideally situated to match search queries to the right people and jobs. Heck, they could even place the jobs directly in Gmail!

But that’s a big if. While, like other ATSs, Google will ultimately have a large collection of job listings, it’s unclear whether Google would want to go the job board route. Google still loves the aggregators — companies like Indeed, which rely on the search engine, are a big source of revenue.

Moreover, an enterprise recruitment tool is the more lucrative opportunity. Plus, by disrupting just the backend, Google would engender less criticism as the 800-pound gorilla stifling job board competition. (Not that Google necessarily cares.)

We’ve asked Google’s media relations team for comment; no response yet.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins, who writes about the recruitment classified business as the Job Board Doctor, thinks job board / aggregator Indeed ought to be worried.

Indeed, he says, “has its own light ATS, job posting and distribution system, resume bank, etc. But … they also live and die by their SEO. If the roll out of Google Hire … does anything negative to how Indeed is handled by the search engine – well, it could get ugly.”

Dickey-Chasins has advice for others as well. LinkedIn, he writes, is probably less worried and more annoyed, he says, because LinkedIn had its eyes on launching its own ATS.

Google Hire as ‘the new LinkedIn you actually use?’

Parker Wilhelm, writing on TechRadar.com, suggested Google Hire might be “the new LinkedIn you might actually use.” Mashable’s Emma Hinchliffe also called Hire “Google’s own version of LinkedIn.”

Legacy ATS vendors should be “seriously worried,” Dickey-Chasins continued, as they’re “already feeling pain from the new generation of cloud-based ATSs and recruitment marketing systems, and now Google is elbowing in!”

As for Facebook, he jokes, Mark Zuckerberg is probably thinking “Don’t steal our thunder! I mean geez, we just figured out this job posting thingy!” (Facebook launched its own enhanced job functionality in November.)

We tried to get into Google Hire, but the standard “Sign in with Google” link said our email “is not associated with an account.” CrunchBase had more success and shared a number of screenshots beyond the home page. There are job descriptions, an application form and a button to upload a resume and cover letter.

Only a few companies are participating so far, including Warner Brothers subsidiary DramaFever, Android development studio Touchlab and Chicago-based IT infrastructure provider SingleHop. Two smaller start-ups both associated with the tech accelerator Y Combinator – Medisas and Poynt – also list jobs on Google Hire.

A rumor spread around the internet several days after Google Hire went live that Gizmodo dubbed a “perfect storm of plausibility and heinousness.”

According to the fear-mongers, Google Hire would allow employers to see applicants’ Google search history and what YouTube channels they were subscribed to. Two British tabloids, the Russian website RT and Australia’s News.com all contributed to the frenzy. But the story turned out to be unfounded.

Google denies it would breach users’ privacy

According to the fear-mongers, Google Hire would allow employers to see applicants’ Google search history and what YouTube channels they were subscribed to. Two British tabloids, the Russian website RT and Australia’s News.com all contributed to the frenzy. But the story turned out to be unfounded.

A Google spokesperson responded that “only information that a candidate voluntarily provides would be passed to a prospective employer as part of their online application. Private information will not be shared.” The spokesperson added that “Google does not share private information such as search or viewing history. Only the information that applicants input into Google Hire will be shared — for example, first name, last name, email address, resume, cover letter, etc.”

Gizmodo added that the brief panic didn’t come as a shock. Especially after the U.S. Congress voted recently to repeal rules on broadband privacy, there are legitimate causes for concerns. “And Google has a lot of information about you, as does Facebook, and maybe Twitter and definitely your ISP. [So] it’s not surprising that a spooky horror story about internet privacy would pick up steam.”

The launch of Google Hire has been a long time coming. There have been persistent reports within the recruitment advertising community about Google’s ambitions to enter the field. We’ve reported on them at least twice in the Classified Intelligence Report, including a report in November on AIMGroup.com about Google Jobs API, a closed Alpha test with CareerBuilder, Dice and Jibe.

Google says the Jobs API “anticipates what job seekers are looking for, and surfaces targeted recommendations,” using machine-learning that “understand[s] how job titles and skills relate to one another, and what job content, location and seniority are the closest match for a job-seeker’s preferences.”

It’s essentially Google’s auto-suggest functionality — but for the recruitment classified industry.

At this point, we don’t know yet what Google aims to do with Hire, what it will cost, what the backend looks like, if Hire is derived from Google’s own internal ATS, what the business model will be, if it will be a limited ATS or if it has more ambitions.

It’s equally possible that Google doesn’t have an absolute plan either. When Google launched its Cloud Jobs API, we speculated that it might be the long-rumored Google job board. As it turns out, Google Hire looks a lot closer to that.

The above article appeared in Classified Intelligence Report 18.08, distributed to AIM Group clients on April 27, complete with links and graphics. For a sample of Classified Intelligence Report or information on becoming an AIM Group / CIR client, click here.

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Brian Blum

Brian Blum covers the U.S., Canada and Israel for Classified Intelligence Report, and contributes to our special reports and research projects. Originally from San Francisco and now based in Jerusalem, he has been with the AIM Group since 2004. He is the president of Blum Interactive Media, specializing in writing and multimedia content development for online, print, video and audio. His clients include newspapers, universities and non-profits. He is currently working on a book about the billion-dollar bankruptcy of a once high-flying Israeli startup.