While serving as the marketing manager at Chempoint.com, Michael Scholl quickly learned that a resume can only show so much about a potential new worker after he experienced countless employee mismatches. The issue was particularly rampant with college grads, who often had trouble demonstrating their soft skills.
“I realized that strong soft skills in the workplace are a significantly more accurate indication of a person’s potential to succeed long term in a company than their hard skills are,” Scholl said.
That’s why he decided to start My Foot In The Door, a Bellevue-based hiring platform founded in September 2012. The 11-person startup, which is partnered with Microsoft under their Ed-Vantage program, helps people land jobs by employing strategies that more accurately reflect the true potential they have. The company offers free services like career consultants, career management tools, peer resume evaluations, soft skills assessments and university reports.
“Inspiration hit us when we realized the potential that our vision has in changing the way people are hired today,” Scholl said.
We caught up with Scholl for this installment of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: My Foot In The Door is a one-stop career site where you can search and apply for jobs while our career consultants help identify and market your soft skills.
Inspiration hit us when: Inspiration hit us when we realized the potential that our vision has in changing the way people are hired today. Back when we were testing out our idea, we worked with a bright young man, Jacob, who after getting a BA in Communications from a the University of Central Florida, spent the last two years working at Men’s Warehouse.
While shopping for shirts, Michael was immediately impressed with Jacob’s selling skills and ability to connect with customers. Michael decided to have Jacob enter a profile, answer personality/originality tests on My Foot In The Door, and work with our free career consultants. Three weeks later, our career consultant helped Jacob land an interview at an IT company in Seattle. A phone interview and in-person interview later (a process that our career consultant coached him on), Jacob landed the job, tripling his paycheck. Ongoing reports from those who hired Jacob consistently say that he is one of their strongest employees.
We never doubted Jacob’s intelligence and potential to succeed — that’s not where inspiration hit us. Inspiration hit us when we realized that after checking off “hard skills requirements,” Fortune 500 employers are more than happy to bring on board applicants who may not have an Ivy League degree as long as they are assured of the applicant’s soft skills. Having the security (prior to the interview) in knowing that the applicant before you will always deliver projects on time, get along with your team and has a positive attitude would make hiring decisions much easier than they are today.
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: We are currently bootstrapping, and are actively looking for funding from angels and VCs. We are at a place where we need the capital to provide career consultant services to the thousands of users who are on our site already.
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: Our secret sauce is that we put our candidates first and foremost — always. Implementing our secret sauce comes in three layers:
- Our candidates will have a higher chance of being placed in a company that matches their soft skills and personality.
- Employers will increase retention levels, job satisfaction rates, time saved, and lowered recruitment costs.
- Universities who partner with us will have unique insight into where their alumni go, how much they make, how long they stay in their respective roles. This will allow universities to better understand what’s working and/or not working in the programs they offer.
The smartest move we’ve made so far: The smartest move we’ve made so far is in partnering with Microsoft under their Ed-Vantage program based in India. While we’re continuing to grow and develop in the United States (our main target market), our partnership with Microsoft has opened tremendous opportunities, giving us the confidence that the solution we offer answers a global need.
We also recently joined the Venture Development Center, a top-tier startup incubator in Boston, which we believe will help us greatly in getting in front of the right customers and investors while learning from the best.
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: This may sound a little bit clichéd, but we don’t see “mistakes” as mistakes, and rather as opportunities for growth and development. An initial mistake we made was in assuming that all universities would be happy to hear from us, as what we offer is both free and widely resourceful. Realizing this has helped us be more mindful in our approach when speaking to them.
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: Naturally, we would rather have Gates in our corner, as we would love to expand our Microsoft reach from India through to the United States and beyond.
Our world domination strategy starts when: It has already started ;). Every capitalist country in the world wants to see unemployment rates drop and their companies succeed while every person of working age wants the opportunity to work for a place that keeps them happy.
Rivals should fear us because: Rivals should fear us because we don’t take a lazy approach to the hiring process. We live and breathe placing the candidate first — it keeps us up at night. We’re forever drumming up new ways to ensure that our candidates are properly coached in placing their best and strongest foot forward when applying and interviewing for jobs. Our platform also encourages candidates to network with and help others out, tools that we see our candidates using on a daily basis. Rivals may say they place their candidate first also, but they have to ask themselves if they’re willing to provide all of the resources we do for free. Finally, rivals should fear us because we will not stop until we become the go-to place for all things hiring.
We are truly unique because: We are truly unique because our business model is fully ingrained into every action and decision we make. What we encourage our candidates, employer partnerships and career consultants to do is exactly what we do when identifying and hiring members of our own leadership team and employees. In many ways, we are a My Foot In The Door candidate ourselves — we want the world to know why we are the right solution for the hiring industry. With our candidates, we ask that they make the most of the resources we offer, which all work toward helping them not only understand themselves, but strengthen their applications.
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome and continue to deal with is the waiting game. As a startup, the burden of proof is much higher when pitching to universities, companies and potential users. Just as job candidates are faced with the dilemma of, “you can’t get a job without experience, but you need a job to get experience,” we face the challenge of convincing universities, companies and users that our solution is the best and risk-free. We are nonetheless slowly and surely overcoming this hurdle, as the 48 universities who’ve already partnered with us through Microsoft’s Ed-Vantage program have given us very positive feedback regarding the services we offer.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: If you’re in the tech industry, get involved in the tech startup community you live in. You want to talk to other founders who have been there and done that, and will most likely also vouch for you to the audience you want if you offer a compelling solution. Tech startup communities are also great places to network with angel investors, VCs, organizations and community leaders.
In the meantime, be sure to surround yourself with people smarter than you are and who share in your vision.