The Better Way to Look for a Job

I love listing sites that are designed with slick interfaces using Google Maps. So, even though I'm not currently in the job market, I was really impressed with, a new Toronto-based site that helps people find jobs in the retail, food services and hospitality industries.

Chris Nguyen, one of the founders of the site - which launched on Monday- recently answered a bunch of questions I shot his way.

Q. What is is an innovative job board that specializes in retail, food services and hospitality. Its four founders are recent graduates of Ryerson's Information Technology Management program. Our development team (of 2) has been building over the past few months. With industry experience at companies such as Google and NVIDIA, we had the technical foundation to realize an ambitious goal. Not bad at the age of 23.

Q. Why did you decide to launch the site? What is different about than some of the other job boards like Monster or Workopolis?

The original idea came about when I was at the mall one day. I noticed a group of friends with a stack of resumes, handing them out to every store in sight, with "now hiring" signs in the front window. I thought to myself, there must be an easier way.

We submitted a business plan to Ryerson University's business plan competition. Long story short, we did not win. However, it was the motivation we needed to push ourselves to move on to where we are today.

What makes us different?

We are all internet junkies, so we always have our eyes peeled for the newest trends in popular web technologies and design. We took a page out of the books of Google, Amazon, and Flickr to name a few, and incorporated various new technologies and techniques, such as AJAX, tagging, Google Maps and RSS into our unique job site. This is something that many HR giants like Monster and Workopolis are forgetting; the new generation of job seekers are all about the "wow factor". However, technology itself is not the silver bullet; it's knowing when and how to best utilize it, is what counts. Here are some other ways why we're different:

* Many large job boards have a legacy, old school design that intimidate users with pagefull after pagefull of links or dropdown search criteria
* We incorporate many Web 2.0 usability and design principles that help lower the learning curve so that people can find the information they need, easier and faster
* AJAX, a new web technology seen in web applications such as Gmail and Google Maps powers our job search system. It allows us to combine and link together traditional job listings and a mapping system side-by-side on a single page.
* Along with Google maps, "tagging" job postings and SMS, we have some cool stuff lined up for the future
* We're industry specific for retail, food service and hospitality.
* Our industries are distance sensitive, so job seekers do not want to travel far to get to work. Our Google maps-powered job search system also provides our client companies with higher quality candidates with higher retention, when they find work closer to home.
* Job seekers can browse jobs by specific malls (our original motivation for the project)
* User Interface is an important aspect of; our goal is to keep everything clean, fresh and simple

Q. You seem to have a lot of well known brands like The Second Cup, Best Buy and HMV posting jobs through Was it difficult signing them up? Do they pay you to list their jobs?

Brand recognition is a key element to our initial success. When a job seeker sees familiar and large brands like Second Cup, Best Buy, HMV and Enterprise-Rent-a-Car, it reflects the quality of

All of our launch partners loved that fact that we were different from every other job board out there. HR managers normally get tons of calls, everyday from various job boards offering free service, but at the end of the day, it takes a combination of innovation and business strategy to win them over.

As of now, our launch partners are able to post unlimited jobs during our 2 month testing period. We also offer them a customized company profile page with the ability to upload corporate videos, and branding links on the homepage.

This 2 month period allows us to fix the bugs in the system and perform any changes to our website based upon user feedback. It also lets us prove to employers that we can bring in valuable candidates.

Q. The site is still in beta. What's next for the site? It seems this model could work for other industries, beyond retail, food services and hospitality. Any plans to expand?

With, we want to continuously roll out new features. Our next roll out is to SMS notify job seekers. Job seekers can "opt in" and be notified when new job opportunities are made available by our client companies.

We have plans to rollout several major ideas in the upcoming months that no other job site currently has, which add value for our job seekers and employers.

We can easily apply our intellectual property and use it for other industries, but our initial goal is to have a firm foothold in the Retail, Food Services and Hospitality industries in Canada. We would definitely like to take to the US and UK market.

Q. What's been your experience starting up a business in Toronto? Have you found much support or financing from the business community, the government, Ryerson or other organizations?

If they told me what I know now about starting a business straight out of university, chances are I would probably be working at some IT company. Luckily, Toronto has a huge market for retail, food service and hospitality. To pull in 12-14 hour days can be mentally and physically exhausting, but having strong support from family and friends is what gets us through the day.

The most difficult part was to secure funding. We gave over 15+ pitches for investment and the end result was that they didn't want to invest in internet businesses because they were "too risky". In the end, I received seed money through family and secured a loan from a government program called CYBF (Canadian Youth Business Foundation) that gives loans for entrepreneurs like myself.

We are thankful that we have great people watching over our shoulders. James Norrie is the director of Ryerson's Information Technology Management program, and since day one, has been our mentor/advisor throughout the ups and downs. With the CYBF program, we were partnered with a mentor that is there for guidance when I need help. My mentor, Rod Graham works for a great government organization called the Innovation Synergy Centre in Markham where their primary goal is to help innovative businesses like succeed. We owe a great deal of gratitude to the CEO of Absolute Recruitment (Carrie Rowan) who saw the potential in us and has provided guidance and housing for our business.

I'd say the best support comes from our actual launch partners. Everyone loves the underdog story and for them to believe in 4 new Ryerson grads and take us seriously gives us reassurance that we are definitely on the right path to success.

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