MOUNTAIN VIEW -- Sanjeev Agrawal thinks there's a better way for college grads to find a job. The former Google product marketing head and entrepreneur is CEO of Collegefeed, a year-old startup that helps students and recent graduates connect with employers online.
Collegefeed tries to make that happen in part by promoting the traits in each that are likely to interest the other: For students, that means creating online profiles to highlight skills and projects when their job history is limited. For employers, especially less-known companies, the service helps emphasize goals or features that talented millennials may find appealing.
With graduation season approaching, Collegefeed has also begun working with university career centers by hosting "virtual" job fairs and providing online tools including job and résumé data. It's a hot market: LinkedIn recently launched its own drive to sign up students and universities. Agrawal spoke about Collegefeed in this interview, edited for clarity and length.
Q You're sort of a cross between a social network and a job board. What does Collegefeed try to do?
A We've all heard that so many recent graduates are unemployed or underemployed. There are many systemic reasons but we believe the process of connecting students or young alumni to companies, and getting them in front of the right people, can be improved significantly.
Students can put their résumé on a (traditional) job board and nothing happens. And as a hiring manager, I used to post jobs and get 100 responses and I'd be lucky if five of them were qualified. So we view this as a matching problem.
Q What got you thinking about this idea?
A I graduated at the top of my class from MIT. I went to work for McKinsey, which was a great company. Five years later I started at Cisco (and met CEO John Chambers). John came up and said, "Aren't you that guy who graduated at the top of your class? We were looking for people like you back in 1992." I said, "John, I had no idea you existed." And he said, "We didn't know you existed, either."
How many of those missed connections are happening all the time? Most college students can only name the top (biggest) companies. They end up randomly applying to companies they may not be qualified for, when there are many other companies that potentially have jobs for them.
Q Your service is free to students and colleges. How do you make money?
A We make money from employers on a "freemium" model. Companies can sign up for (free) generic feeds, like "send me names of 10 software engineers a week." We charge for more customized feeds, with more specific criteria. We also charge for branding services, where companies can create (pages on the Collegefeed site) to tell their story and improve their image. We can give them a sense of how their brand is doing because we ask students which companies they want to work for.
Q When it comes to reviewing student profiles and finding a match, how much of your process involves subjective judgment by your staff and how much of it is automated?
A It started as 80-20 and now it's 20-80. Kathy Cardozo (who is Collegefeed's "head of client engagement") was my head of recruiting at Google. We're taking things like Kathy has done and putting it into software. We take a lot of signals from the (students') profiles, to get an idea of who the person is and how to describe their talents. We also sit down with employers and ask what they are looking for.
Q What's the market look like for college grads this year?
A The economy seems to be picking up. If you're a software engineer, chances are you have much less of a problem. But everybody else has to network really well. I do think the job market remains very hard. It's very competitive for new grads.
Q How about for us liberal-arts majors?
A Writers are in pretty hot demand. Tech companies realize that good design and writing is not always something you can just assign to an engineer. Finance, accounting -- those areas are doing better, too.
Q What's one thing that college grads don't realize they need to do to get a job?
A One thing is making sure that, whatever profile you use, you tell a story -- even if the story is, "I don't quite know what I want to do, but here are my skills and strengths." Be as specific as you can so it's easier for employers.
Q Does your service allow interaction between students on the site?
A There are ways to connect with another user who you may want to learn from, or work with. We share information, like interview notes from students (describing job interviews at different companies). But there are other sites where students can be social. We don't want this to be a dating site.
Job: CEO of Collegefeed
Education: Bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, MIT
Career: Consultant for McKinsey; senior director of business services group at Cisco; co-founder at Mainstay Partners marketing and strategy firm; head of product marketing for Google; vice president for products and marketing at TellMe; co-founder of TheStoreBook; CEO of Aloqua
Family: married, two daughters.
FIVE THINGS ABOUT SANJEEV AGRAWAL
1. He grew up in Kolkata, India, and came to the United States for college at age 17.
2. After studying English and history as a freshman at Yale, he transferred to MIT because he "realized I was better at math and physics."
3. He fondly recalls the first time he encountered an early version of email on the computer network at MIT.
4. Once an avid squash player, he still plays occasionally.
5. His favorite pastime these days is "doing writing and math with my 9-year-old; it's more fun than anything else I can do."