By: Joe Petrucci, KeystoneEdge.com
While jobs might still be scarce in many corners of the country, there is no shortage of websites that promise to help the unemployed find them. For a fee, that is.
So when Gerard Durling and Kevin Barr were drilling down on their idea for a new site for jobseekers, it quickly became obvious how they could differentiate their site from the plethora of others promising connections to employers.
“We looked at all those other sites and most of them are looking to charge for certain aspects of their sites,” says Durling , a 24-year old student at Luzerne County Community College (LCCC) who founded rentsomeone.com with Barr late last year. “We decided it would be easier if it’s free for everyone and make money through advertising. It’s the freeconomy idea, giving something away for free might end up benefiting you in the end.”
So far it’s directly benefitted Scranton’s Lucia Peregrim, who just started her new job at CIGNA this week, and fellow Electric City resident Betty Jo Povilaitis was recently offered two jobs and a second interview. And rentsomeone is starting to build real momentum toward becoming a game-changer in the online jobhunting space.
Things started simply enough for Durling and Barr, co-workers at wirelessunits.com, a distributor of new and refurbished wireless internet equipment on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre. Barr was looking to hire a Spanish-speaking customer service representative, but it wasn’t easy. Monster sought to charge a fee in order to contact potential candidates, and Craigslist (which now charges $25 per job ad) wasn’t returning the right kind of candidate. Barr got to talking with Durling, who has designed websites since he was 15, and they realized they could provide a better solution on their own.
“We met a couple times to brainstorm and it just kind of came together,” says Durling, who still works at wirelessunits.com with Barr. “We saw this could actually work, and it was worth our time and effort. So we went and designed the site and got a developer to do the back end for us and it spiraled from there.”
Because it’s free, rentsomeone aims to be among the first stops for employers throughout the region looking to fill positions. Initially, the duo was going to target contract or part-time workers, as it went hand-in-hand with the startup’s name. But with the economy still sputtering, Durling and Barr decided it best to open the site up to all jobseekers. And they kept the name because “it’s kind of catchy.”
The company’s biggest concern was making the site search engine friendly, allowing people to enter their own profile title and it has achieved some favorable organic rankings. Durling’s profile for “web designer in Wilkes-Barre” is among the top results for that search. Jobseekers can enter personal information, attach their resume, and include a link to their homepage or work. They can also enter their availability (days of week and time of day) into a table, upload a photo and take advantage of an extra “About Me” section.
The site launched in February and now boasts more than 215 members, of which more than 150 are active. The company’s short-term goal is to reach 500 jobseekers in the next few months, when it plans on entering its second phase of programming, adding search and category functions. At that point, Durling says, rentosomeone may seek investors and/or replicate the idea nationally, but for right now, he and Barr are “just taking things as they are.”
“The results we’ve had in the last two months alone are better than I expected,” says Durling. “It was enough for us to continue. It’s just a matter of getting the word out to jobseekers, as everybody seems to be pretty positive about the site so far.”
About a month ago, rentsomeone attended a job fair at LCCC and received a healthy dose of validation. In addition to gaining a number of new users, the company was swarmed by print and broadcast outlets that ran stories in the heavily saturated Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton media market. The buzz, Durling and Barr hope, will soon turn into a roar.
Rentsomeone is doing its part to make it louder. It maintains a blog to track users’ success and pages on Facebook and Twitter. The company also owns three other domains related to jobs in Hazleton, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre that direct people to rentsomeone and also may be used for its own job boards. Perhaps rentsomeone’s most telling feature is its monthly “featured profile,” which spotlights one local jobseeker with a video shot by Durling and Barr. This month’s featured profile is of Bristol, TN, transplant William Keesee, new coach of the semi-pro NEPA Miners football team. “He’s qualified for pretty much anything,” Durling says.
Povilaitis, a computer-savvy 20-something, wasn’t interested in relocating for a new job, so Monster didn’t provide enough local leads and there were even fewer possibilities among local print classifieds.
That focus on jobseekers is what seems to have users excited. And in this economy, anything that’s free is worth a look. She posted her profile–”It literally takes 15 minutes,” she says–about 10 weeks ago and has received up to four emails per week from potential local employers like Metlife, Big Brothers Big Sisters, OJ Commerce, Postage Pros and Prudential. She has yet to make a decision on her future employer.
“There are two aspects that make this site standout, convenience and great tech support,” she says. “The website does all the work for you. Secondly, Gerry and Kevin are available 24/7 to assist anyone.”
Clearly, that focus on the jobseeker is the startup’s major differentiator and makes rentsomeone a formidable player on the crowded field of online jobhunting.
“A lot of the time people come up with ideas they think will be beneficial and it has legs to stand on, but the biggest problem is all they do is think about it and never put it into motion,” says Durling. “This idea was worth it to put into motion and I’m glad we did. It’s a lot of work, but I think it will end up paying off in the end.”Filed under: Media
Tags: hazleton jobs, Joe Petrucci, KeystoneEdge, KeystoneEdge.com, Kingston Jobs, NEPA Job Search, NEPA Job Website, nepa jobs, Scranton Jobs, Wilkes Barre Jobs
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