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Posted by: Douglas MacMillan on September 25
Editor’s note: In this new review series, BusinessWeek.com staff writer Doug MacMillan will try out the latest tools designed to help you stand from the pack in today’s cutthroat job market. Check in every three weeks for a thorough test-run of a different job hunting tool, from high-tech applications – like job search engines and resume builders – to books and blogs written by top career gurus. If you know of a great job hunting tool Doug should check out, let him know. First up: JibberJobber, a daily planner on steroids.
Easy to import Outlook and LinkedIn contacts; tools for building the quality of relationships; job-application planning
Unique features are only for paying subscribers; unfriendly design; aggregates only certain job boards
THE BOTTOM LINE
Despite poor design and high cost, a useful daily planner for the undermotivated job seeker
Most of us are not aggressive networkers by nature. It’s easy to forget to chase down that friend-of-a-friend for an informational interview, or to send a thank you note to that hiring manager who showed signs of interest. For the not-so-power-networker, JibberJobber is an online tool that can help you stop cutting corners in your job search.
Created by Salt Lake City resident Jason Alba after he was laid off from his job managing a software company in early 2006, JibberJobber bills itself as a “career toolset.” Alba designed the site to help the typical jobseeker manage their day-to-day activities – keeping a daily planner, visiting job boards like Monster and social networks like LinkedIn, preparing for interviews and seeking advice – all in one place. These essential features are available to anyone who signs up for a free account, but paying $9.95 per month for a premium account unlocks some of the site’s bells and whistles, like importing Outlook contacts, having reminders sent to your e-mail inbox, and more space for uploading documents like your resume.
Given that JibberJobber is still relatively new and some of the kinks have yet to be worked out -- especially the dreary design, which looks more like a corporate CRM tool than a hip new web app -- it's hard to justify this cost. Yet, the key features that set it apart are for paying subscribers only.
Though JibberJobber should not be mistaken for a social networking site – when you sign up, all your info remains private – the goal is not all that different: Build your network of contacts. On the landing page, a Quickview Stats box keeps tally of your network contacts, target companies, and jobs you’ve applied to. It’s easy to pump up these numbers at first by entering all of your existing contacts (listings from Outlook can be easily imported, but only if you're a subscriber). The idea is that when the same number begins to stare you in the face for weeks, it’s time to get out and start shaking hands.
For each contact, you're prompted to qualify how well you know that person on a scale of 0 to 5 stars. Then, in the Relationship Goals tool (again, only for subscribers) you set a benchmark for improving those relationships through friendly notes, coffee, dinner dates, and the like. For example, you might vow to “Upgrade 85% of my contacts that have at least two stars by Sep. 1,” and JibberJobber will remind you of your progress each time you log in. It may seem tedious – even crass – to evaluate your every interaction on a sliding scale, but strengthening the quality of a few key relationships can often open more doors than just connecting with as many people as possible.
Of course, networking is only the vehicle – the destination is the job. Each time you apply for a job, JibberJobber lets you create a new entry on the Job List Panel. From there, you chart your progress towards attaining that job, like taking notes on how well the interview went and setting reminders to send a thank you note to your would-be employer. Such tasks are no big deal for someone applying to one or two jobs, but when a jobseeker shoots their resume to dozens of companies it can be difficult to remember where they left it with each one.
“That’s one of the things I wasn’t doing before – keeping track of my job search,” says Brandon Wright, who began using JibberJobber in February of 2007 as he was looking for a job in public policy. For four months, Wright sent out at least three resumes and cover letters a week – logging those which he thought “would bite” into his Job List Panel. Three employers did bite, calling him in for an interview, and two even gave him a second interview. In early June, his diligence paid off: he was offered a job as manager of communications for Arlington (Va.)-based Petroleum Marketers Association of America, an industry association for gas station owners, petroleum transporters and the like.
But JibberJobber failed to deliver on one crucial part of Wright’s search: the job listing. Rather than tapping the site’s job feed tool, which allows you to aggregate custom searches from Monster , Yahoo! HotJobs, Google Base, or Indeed – or import any RSS feed – he spent time perusing listings on RollCall, a Washington, D.C. newspaper that hosts its own classifieds site for jobs in government and public policy. With the option to aggregate from more specialized job boards like this, JibberJobber users could spend less time on other sites and more time applying for jobs and networking.
JibberJobber creator Alba won’t share how many users have signed up since it was launched, but admits that adoption has been slower than expected. “I thought within three months I would have to buy new servers,” he says, admitting “That wasn’t the case.” Still more than 10,000 people have now joined, and the signup rate has more than doubled over the past two years.
In the future, he would like make JibberJobber more welcoming to happily-employed people who just want to keep their professional network thriving. Because in theory, the tool is “for anyone who’s not retired,” he says.
For now, it works best for the jobless and under-motivated.
Next up in the Job Hunter’s Toolbox, on Thursday, October 16th: using a favorite tool of online advertisers to get exposure for your resume.