YC-Backed HigherMe Promises A Smarter Approach To Applying For Retail Jobs And Other Hourly Work

When you’re trying to find the right person for a job, résumés don’t always cut it.

I suspect that’s true for many jobs, but Rob Hunter, co-founder of HigherMe (part of the current batch of startups incubated at Y Combinator), told me that it’s particularly true in retail jobs and other hourly positions — location, availability, and personality can be more important than the jobs you have or haven’t held in the past.

That’s something Hunter himself saw when he owned multiple Marble Slab Creamery stores. He recalled hiring an early employee, Kendra, who — like most high schoolers — had an unimpressive résumé. After all, her experience on the soccer team and as a babysitter didn’t say much about her ice cream serving skills, and the typos didn’t help, either.

“If I’d just seen her résumé, I would not have given her the shifts,” Hunter told me. But he saw that she had “the brightest young personality that you could have imagined,” and perhaps even more importantly, she lived right by the store and was available for the shifts he needed.

Looking back, Hunter described hiring Kendra as a great decision, because she stuck around for years (before heading to college) and “made me a lot of money.” So along with his co-founders Jef Chedeville and Evan Lodge, Hunter built HigherMe to help employers find the Kendras of the world.

Here’s how it works when you’re applying for a job: You provide the information that the employer is most interested in. And yes, that includes past experience, but HigherMe leads with your location and available hours, as well as covering questions that the employer wants to ask. You can also create a “video cover letter,” which will (hopefully) do a better job of conveying your personality than a few written paragraphs.

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Then, instead of having to sift through a giant pile of résumés, the employer gets an email every time there’s a new application with a quick summary of the applicant, including a rating (out of 100 percent) that shows how good a fit they seem to be. The employer also gets a dashboard showing all applications, allowing them to reach out and schedule interviews.

Since launching earlier this year, Hunter said he’s focused on attracting businesses first, then bringing in job applicants, for example through geographically targeted ads. That strategy is theoretically repeatable in any location, so Hunter said the company isn’t limiting itself to any one city.

The service is free for applicants. For employers, pricing ranges from $50 to “several hundred dollars” per month per location. (Hunter said HigherMe is also being used by startups that are looking to hire hourly workers, though without brick-and-mortar stores, they require a more creative pricing plan.)

HigherMe isn’t the only company in the current YC class to tackle hiring — in fact, we just wrote about SmartHires, which is focused on tech talent.