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Digital Jobs Board Protuo.com Puts the Internet to Work

Matching job seekers with employers is hardly an exact science, but a Web site co-founded by a San Diego woman hopes to make the process much easier for both parties.

Since the official launch of Protuo.com this year, the site is getting 60,000 hits daily, and registered 1,000 job hunters on its database, as well as 200 employers.

Among the features of the site is screening software that gives both employers and prospective employees clearer pictures of each other, and whether there is a good match. Protuo is a Latin word that means “to advance you,” said Jennifer Gerlach, chief operating officer and co-founder of Protuo.com.

“It’s like Monster meets eHarmony,” she said of her site, referring to one of the largest job search sites, and a leading dating Web site.

By answering questions posed in a survey, job seekers can see right away what their chances are of getting called for an interview. Likewise, human resources personnel are much better able to tell whether the candidate has the qualifications, background and proclivity to working at their company.

Gerlach said the technology incorporated into the site doesn’t guarantee that candidates receive a call for an interview, but provides a percentage of how closely their skills match what the employer is seeking.

Avoid Digital Videos

Protuo also provides job candidates with the ability to expand and enhance their resumes through the posting of digital portfolios and videos, though Gerlach advises most job hunters to avoid the latter.

“We suggest that people not post videos,” she said.

Employers could be opening themselves up to liability issues if they viewed videos, and most job seekers do not need to reveal so much about themselves when applying for a job, Gerlach said.

But employers are using the service to promote themselves and attract applicants. Home Depot has posted a video showing a typical day in the life of a salesperson.

Protuo also allows users to update job and resume postings on more than 370 job boards.

That’s something that appealed to BuzzLogic, a San Francisco software company that helps businesses be more effective in marketing.

By aggregating many job boards where the firm has its jobs posted, it can better manage the process, said Chief Executive Officer Rob Crumpler.

“It’s saving us time, and it’s saving us money, and it’s helping us grow the business in a way we set out to do,” Crumpler said. BuzzLogic was previously using Dice.com to advertise its job openings.

The job matching industry is dominated by such major Web sites as Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com and HotJobs.com. Gerlach said Protuo doesn’t compete with the sites, but complements them, offering different tools for the job seeker and employer.

In The Beginning

Gerlach, a veteran of the technology industry, primarily in market analysis and business development, was employed at Websense Inc., a San Diego-based maker of Internet filtering software, when she was contacted by Keenan Hogg. The two met six years ago at an electronics industry convention and kept in touch.

Two years ago, Hogg contacted her through the professional networking site LinkedIn, shared his idea for a new Internet business, and asked her to join him in the venture.

“I was completely intrigued, and did my due diligence, researched the space and talked to some friends in the HR world. The numbers were there, the interest for the product was there, and I just had a gut feeling that this was going to be a spectacular experience,” she said.

The two began working on the business in 2005 from their hometowns. Hogg, 42, works from a suburb of Atlanta; Gerlach, 30, remains in San Diego.

Getting the site’s plan and figuring out how it would function took a year, Gerlach said. In August, the first version of the site was unveiled for a beta testing period. This month, the company conducted an overhaul of the site, upgrading it to Web 2.0 capability, making it easier and faster to use.

Rather than seeking investors for their venture, Gerlach and Hogg capitalized the startup on their own, investing $300,000 to get it launched. The funds came from personal savings and a $50,000 Small Business Administration loan.

Last month, Protuo obtained a round of angel funding for less than $1 million from WCX Investments LLC, a Los Angeles investment firm. Gerlach said the partners relinquished 16 percent of the firm’s equity for the investment.

Ready To Grow

The two will use the funds to build out the site and expand the work force. It now has 20 employees and several consultants working in San Diego, New York, Dallas and the headquarters office of Woodstock, Ga., where Hogg lives.

Protuo has four job openings and more positions will open up now that the site is gearing up quickly as traffic and customers increase, Gerlach said. The business hired its entire current staff through its Web site, she said.

Perhaps in two years, the company could have more than 100 employees in Dallas because of its central national location and the advantageous tax regulations regarding corporations, she said.

Thanks in part to Protuo’s bootstrapping its financing in the early days, the business is on track to be cash flow positive this year, Gerlach said. For 2007, she anticipates gross revenue at $1.2 million; next year, she said it should be $3.8 million.

The company charges employers fees ranging from $50 to $295 per listing, depending on volume. Job applicants aren’t charged.

Although his posted resume didn’t result in landing his current job, Phoenix resident Spencer Griffith said he liked Protuo’s easy functionality and features.

“The nice part about it was that it was very easy for potential employers to see who I was and see if I was a good fit for them,” said Griffith, a software engineer for a small company.

Griffith, 30, said he took advantage of Protuo to build a personal Web site on which he posted his professional experience and photograph.

While many job search Web sites include videos posted by employers, it is a capability that job applicants should avoid, said Joe Cockrell, spokesman for Jobing.com, a job search site in Phoenix.

“You have to be very careful about how you’re presenting yourself. You could be limiting yourself if (the video) isn’t done well.”

While video resumes are acceptable for TV reporters, anchors and professional athletes, posting videos “opens the door to other issues,” Cockrell said.

“These are things that you want to communicate and demonstrate when you get a personal interview,” he said.


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