I don't know how many of you have had a look at VisualCV.com yet? In a word: cute. Great idea, great networking capability, great future. We're all creating VisualCVs over the next couple of weeks, and will post them here. Thanks Scott and Alex for organising this.

Everyone knows the internet has changed how people look for work. Recruiters have had to adapt (and will have to continue to adapt) their businesses for this. Want a new job? Time to visit Google and see all the different options - recruitment consultancies, employer careers sections, referral sites... List seems to be limitless these days. A new technique/ tactic seems to pop up regularly with varying degrees of success.

The one part of the cycle that really hasn't changed is the good old CV. No matter how our info reaches a prospective employer, it’s still pretty much the same format. Hasn’t really changed has it?

Well one company is looking to change all that. VisualCV.

I was intrigued so thought who better to talk to than Scott Herman, VP for Product Management at VisualCV. You can see Scott’s own Visual CV at www.visualcv.com/scottherman

CARVE: Scott, the mission statement on your website states your goal is to reinvent the CV for the internet age. That’s a bold objective. How did the business get started?

Scott H: Our cofounders, Clint Heiden (www.VisualCV.com/clintheiden) and Phillip Merrick ( www.VisualCV.com/phillipmerrick ) have been executives, entrepreneurs, and job seekers themselves and together they have recruited thousands of professionals. Like all people and companies who recruit, they found the whole process very inefficient and frustrating for their companies and for the candidates and professionals they interviewed. Clint even founded his own recruiting company to try and solve these frustrations. Turns out that what he discovered from this venture was that the resume was an essential but broken tool. So, Clint got together with his friend and technologist, Phillip, to talk about how they could apply technology to the resume and make it more applicable to today's professionals. The two spent the next few months meeting with human resource managers, recruiters, and professionals to find the points of frustration and dream up a product that could ease the frustration for companies and professionals. After the research and planning phase, they went out to find the start-up team that could help bring the concept to fruition. Many of the current VisualCV.com team worked with Clint and Phillip in the past (myself included).
The world didn’t need another job board or applicant tracking system. It didn’t need yet another social network. In fact, job boards, corporate recruiting websites, and social networks are often the source of the frustration with job searching and professional networking! We wanted to focus on the common “personal” element – the resume or CV. Thus the product focuses on making it easy for people to create CVs for the Internet age – VisualCVs. Development of the production version of VisualCV.com started last Fall and we launched our public beta in February of this year.

CARVE: Given your own CV is online, you clearly believe this is a great way to advertise your firm. Are other firms outside of VisualCV using this product to promote their services or are most of your customers using VisualCV to differentiate themselves during a job search?

SH: VisualCVs are great for job searching. Not only do they allow people to represent themselves in a whole new way, but creating multiple tailored versions, controlling who gets access to a particular VisualCV, and tracking who views your VisualCV are killer features for job seekers.

But we see a significant percentage of our members who are using their VisualCVs for business development, self-promotion, or personal brand management. They’re not looking for their next job but they want something that helps them stand out from the crowd in their daily business dealings. Their VisualCV becomes an extension of their business card; they build a VisualCV that highlights their experience or their current offering and they use our privacy settings to make the VisualCV “public”. A public VisualCV has a friendly web address and can be seen by anyone on the Internet, including the various search engines. We also see companies creating VisualCVs for themselves – an organizational VisualCV that highlights what the company is about, often with links to the individual VisualCVs of their key personnel. A great example of this is Weeman Entertainment, a recording industry firm you can find at http://www.visualcv.com/premier/weeman. This is clearly not a job-seeking VisualCV but a great way to promote their company!
I use my own VisualCV for many purposes other than job searching. You’ll find links to my “public” VisualCV (I have many different versions with varying privacy levels) in my email signature, in my blog posts, printed on both sides of my business card, etc.

CARVE: Again, looking at your site, there’s a number of high profile firms that have already signed up to use and accept VisualCVs. In terms of implementation, what sort of process changes do these companies go through to start using your service?

SH: We see companies using VisualCV.com in a number of ways. At the simplest level, companies can create their own VisualCV, perhaps highlighting why job searchers might want to work there. They can then list themselves (for free) in our Company Directory where our members can find and research them. Members can share their own VisualCVs with the company through a simple “one-click” interface. A job searcher can express interest in 10 companies with as many clicks, rather than wading through 10 different online application forms on 10 different corporate websites. And the company benefits by getting the higher-quality VisualCVs vs. Old-school paper resumes. As of July, we have over 600 companies in our Company Directory where our members can check them out.

At the mid-level, a company can buy a “private-label” version of VisualCV.com that allows them to maintain their own branded community of VisualCVs. A company can control who gets access to create VisualCVs, what the visibility of the community is, how the user experience looks – they even get their own private domain name. We continue to host their gated community as a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering similar to SalesForce.com. This is a great option for corporate recruiting, mid-large size recruiting firms, associations, and professional networking communities. One example of this “private-label” model is The China Business Network http://www.thechinabusinessnetwork.com/ ), which is launching their own “private” VisualCV community this Fall.
At the highest-level, we offer companies the ability to have their own private-label community of VisualCVs that is tightly integrated with their own applications and business workflows. The company can customize the VisualCV user experience and incorporate company-specific features into the service. This is what we’re doing with Heidrick & Struggles.

CARVE: Arguably the highest profile VisualCV has had in the UK so far has been the deal you have concluded with Heidrick & Struggles. What can you tell us about this? What were Heidricks looking for and how will the VisualCV service change how they go about their business?

SH: Heidrick & Struggles is one of the top executive search firms in the world. They operate up in the stratosphere, often placing C-level candidates in Fortune 50 companies. So obviously anything that would allow them to better feature and promote their very senior candidates would get their attention. Imagine presenting a virtual binder of CEO-level interactive VisualCVs to an exclusive client, rather than a stack of “wall of text” paper. It totally changes the “short list” selection process.
Heidrick & Struggles got involved with us very early on, when we first started shopping around the concept and looking for feedback. They’re not just a customer for us, they’re an early-stage investor as well. We’re building a highly customized “private-label” version of VisualCV.com for them that will be integrated into their internal business processes. Our privacy and security features are a big draw since confidentiality is at the heart of an executive search.

CARVE: If I as an individual want to use a VisualCV, either for a job search or to promote my own service, how would I go about doing this, and how much would it cost me?

SH: VisualCV.com is free for individual members. Getting started is as simple as visiting our website at http://www.visualcv.com/ and clicking on the “Sign Up” link. Once you’ve signed up, you can use our user-friendly editor to create your first VisualCV. We support cut-n-paste, drag-n-drop, and other interface concepts that people are familiar with from their desktop applications. You don’t need “web skillz” to build a VisualCV – we’ve specifically designed it so that a non-technical person can build a VisualCV. We also have over 100 real-world example VisualCVs available (after you log in) so that you can see what other people are doing to make their VisualCVs stand out from the pack. Lots of very creative ideas; we’re often surprised by how often our members take their VisualCVs in a direction we had never even anticipated.

CARVE: A free service for individuals sounds good to me! In that case, what is your revenue model?

SH: Admittedly, our revenue model seems strange at first. We don’t charge individual members. We don’t put advertising on VisualCVs (it’s your personal brand, not ours!). We allow companies to join our Company Directory for free. So how do we make money? We often joke that since we’re Web 2.0, everything is free. But there are a few different ways that VisualCV.com generates revenue.

Most important is our “private-label” offering. Our free public site shows what’s possible with a VisualCV. But companies and organizations usually want more control over brand, access, privacy settings, member communications, etc. Depending on the level of customization and integration required, these private-label versions of VisualCV.com can generate significant revenue for us.

We’re also rolling out a Partner Marketplace this summer. Companies or individuals will be able to buy listing space in a Marketplace area of our website where they can draw attention to their own VisualCV and the services they provide, like boutique recruiting, career counselling, and resume writing, The key to the Marketplace is that it offers services that will be focused on job searchers. No Viagra ads or “dancing aliens” mortgage ads. The Marketplace will be a professional directory of (hopefully) very relevant services for our members.

Also keep in mind that we’re young. We want to think carefully about how we introduce revenue-generating services to the site. We’re more interested in helping VisualCVs become popular and widely used at this point. When VisualCVs are common currency, more revenue opportunities will present themselves. We get a lot of advice from our user community, including many great ideas for future revenue. We’re VC-funded at this point and have major investors like Heidrick & Struggles behind us. We have a backlog of those private-label opportunities. We don’t have to scramble for every dime at this point like many startups.

CARVE: In terms of a target market for your community building service, what types of firms do you believe would benefit most from this?

SH: I think there’s two major reasons why an organization would want to create their own VisualCV-based community. They may be a professional association or alumni group where they want to combine VisualCVs with social/professional network features. They don’t want to simply use our public site because they want to control access to their community and not just let anyone join. They may also want to integrate the functions of VisualCV.com with their own website.
The other type of organization that might want to create a private community based on VisualCVs is the recruiters. VisualCV.com is really tailor-made for recruiting firms. It’s a very competitive environment and the recruiter that can find good candidates and then present them to clients as VisualCVs is going to win out over competing recruiters doing things the old-fashioned way. Those recruiters are going to want to keep those candidates private and confidential, so they want all of the VisualCV.com features around confidentiality, security, and the role of a recruiter within the system. For example, a recruiter wants to easily search the entire population of their community to find potential candidates with matching skills. So search capability within a very private website is a big deal for recruiter-based communities.

CARVE: For as long as there have been job seekers there have been CVs. For as long as there have been CVs, people have been offering advice on presentation etc. What sort of advice would you give an individual on how they can make the most of their VisualCV, from both the perspective of a job seeker and as someone looking to promote their services?

SH: The key to a successful VisualCV is Portfolio Items. A VisualCV is made up of classic resume sections like work history, education, certifications, and skills. But it’s the portfolio items that turn a boring old text-based resume into an interactive, multimedia VisualCV. Portfolio items like work samples, images, audio, even video can really add personality and make your VisualCV stand out from paper-based resumes. And everyone has portfolio items – you don’t have to come from a visual or creative profession (like entertainment or architecture) to have good portfolio items. Check out our Examples Directory online to see how people from all walks of life are creating killer VisualCVs.

A special note on video – a VisualCV can contain video clips, but doesn’t have to. Most don’t. But even when VisualCVs contain a video, it’s rarely a “talking head” staring into a webcam saying “I’d like a job, please”. Instead, some of the best VisualCVs contain a video of the member giving a keynote address at a conference or demonstrating a product. Maybe the local news covered a project you worked on. Maybe there’s a YouTube video that provides a general background understanding of your particular skill set.

CARVE: Given how close profiles on networking sites liked LinkedIn resemble traditional CVs, do you view these sites as competitors?

SH: LinkedIn and VisualCVs go great together, like peanut butter and jelly. I love LinkedIn and have been a power user for many years. LinkedIn is a great network for finding people. But once you find them, their profiles are dull, shallow, and essentially the same-old text-based stuff you might find in a resume. Instead, we see our members putting their VisualCV *into* their LinkedIn profile. So they can be found via LinkedIn but then their VisualCV takes over. Take a look at my own LinkedIn profile to see an example of how I reference my VisualCV – http://www.linkedin.com/in/scottherman”
VisualCV is not another social network. It makes your existing social networks better by giving you a much richer profile that you can insert into LinkedIn, FaceBook, or wherever you hang out online. And VisualCV is all about a “professional” presence. Nobody can alter your VisualCV by adding drunken pictures from the party last Saturday night. Nobody throws pies or bananas, plays Scrabble, or whatever. There’s two people you never want to meet on Facebook, your mom and your next boss. VisualCV.com gives you total control over your online presence, whether you want to remain invisible, or tightly control who sees you, or broadcast to the entire web.

CARVE: The recruitment market globally has been changing at a rapid pace over the course of the last few years. In my opinion, periods of economic slowdown accelerate this change. Again in my opinion, the US is a little further ahead of the UK in terms of web usage per head and widespread adoption of the net as a tool for recruiting. What do you think have been the biggest changes in the online recruitment market in the US over the last couple of years and what do you foresee as being the next steps in the evolution of the market?

SH: There’s been one big trend in the last 5 years that I’m focused on, and it’s not a good trend. With the increasing automation of the recruiting process, people have become simply data processing objects passed around huge job boards and corporate application tracking systems. Job seekers are basically a big pile of keywords desperately trying to be harvested by the corporate search engine. It’s extremely hard to differentiate yourself when you know that your resume is parsed to shreds and then disappears into some central data bank. Why spend time creatively describing your skills when it’s all about keyword searching by overworked recruiters and hiring managers? It’s one of the reasons that “who you know” is still so much a part of the job search process.
Philosophically, that’s a major reason we are developing VisualCV.com. To allow people to have more control over their own personal brand. To bring personality and creativity back to the job search. To help hiring managers make better short-list and final hiring decisions. And to let people define how, when, and where they want to be seen online.

Clearly there's quite a bit more to VisualCV than may first meet the eye. They're not finished yet either mind you. Anyone connected to Scott on LinkedIn will know he's been working on version 1.8. What's on the way? Quite a bit actually....From new member home pages with tips for new users, bespoke privacy settings and connecting functionality with other VisualCV users - not dissimilar to the "friends" function on social media. For organisations - "gated" communities allowing VisualCV clients to vet registrations and monetize their membership.

So what do you think? Will we end up seeing VisualCVs becoming the norm? Clever product, that's for sure but will you be using it to promote your business or as part of your next job search? My view? Well put it this way, don't be surprised to see a VisualCV on my Linkedin profile soon...

A big thank you to Scott Herman for his time and input into this post, and to Alex Strang for organising this.

Carve Consulting: Social Media, Recruitment 2.0

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