Talent Sprocket Tweaks E-Recruiting For Better Results, Tampa Bay

How do you identify the best candidate for the job -- someone who has the right skills, is a good fit for the organization and will stay long enough to recoup the company's investment in training? That's one of the most challenging decisions an employer can face. 
In the past, a lot of people relied on gut feelings and intuition to make the right hiring decision -- the idea that, "I'll know the best candidate when I see him or her,'' says Tony Duda, a Tampa Bay entrepreneur with a business startup called Talent Sprocket.
Before 1995, the majority of hiring was done through referrals, word-of-mouth and business networks, Duda says. Then Internet-based job boards came along.

"Today companies are spending millions of dollars on job boards and candidates are spending chunks of their lives filling out applications,'' says Duda. The online process was supposed to improve the system by helping employers make better choices faster and easier, while allowing employees to apply online quickly and efficiently. But it's not working, says Duda.
"Ninety percent of all that work is for naught,'' he says. "There are a lot of broken pieces. No one has confidence in the process or that the people applying for the jobs are the right fit. The talent matching process continues to be highly subjective and guided largely by opinion.''
There are a whole host of reasons why, he says. 

For example, the employer or hiring manager may not be able to accurately communicate to the recruiter the type of candidate they're seeking. They may not fully understand the requirements of the position or know how to determine which candidate is best.
Resumes are also a problem, says Duda. The job candidate may or may not do a good job of writing a resume. And software that looks for key words in a resume can be flawed.

"If you're not putting yourself squarely in the right box it isn't happening,'' says Duda. "Besides, there are all sorts of ways to game the system.''

Instead, Talent Sprocket uses an automated scientific matching process that hones in on the most desirable characteristics of a company's top performers -- the traits that are the most predictive of success -- and identifies candidates that match those attributes. Duda calls the approach, "cloning your best talent.''

Solving The Right Problem
"It's a "totally different framework for hiring candidates,'' he says. "It's repeatable, objective and allows factual data to drive the process. The more data Talent Sprocket is exposed to, the better it gets at matching candidates to a company's best employees.''
A former investment banker and then executive recruiter, Duda, 35, spent most of 2010 developing the technology and writing the software his new company. 

In 2011, he launched the product in beta stage and took it to about 20 mid-sized companies to get feedback. Within a short time, though, he realized that while the technology was sound, the product wasn't working the way he had intended.
"It took me a while to figure out that we were solving the wrong problem,'' says Duda. "The platform we've developed is about selection, not recruitment. We help companies better understand the position that needs to be filled and how to find the right job applicant for it.''
In July, he re-launched the product, this time targeting national and international job sites. That's where Talent Sprocket can be most useful, he says. "We don’t have to develop a sales team and go company to company selling our program as a solution to their recruiting problem. Instead, we're integrating our product as an add-on to some of the big job sites.''

Gaining Exposure, Creating Buzz
A major coup came in August during the Republican National Convention in Tampa when Talent Sprocket was asked to participate in a showcase of entrepreneurs sponsored by Startup America, Startup Florida and the Huffington Post.

"It was a very competitive process to get selected,'' says Duda. "There were about 20 companies represented at the event. It was a pretty cool honor and a lot of fun.''
A graduate of the University of North Carolina Charlotte with a degree in economics, Duda moved to Tampa Bay in 2006 with his wife Jennifer, who is a teacher at Dixie Hollins High School and getting her master's degree at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. They had been living in Vermont and wanted to move somewhere warm and sunny. They came to Tampa Bay for a visit and liked what they found.
Talent Sprocket has been entirely self-funded with the help of family and friends and no outside capital, says Duda. The six-person team of people helping him includes primarily individuals with technical expertise in math, statistics and software development. 
What's the next step? "We're currently in negotiations with several organizations with whom we've signed confidentiality agreements,'' says Duda. "We hope to make an announcement by year end.''

Janan Talafer is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about interesting businesses, communities and individuals that showcase the creativity, talent and diversity of Tampa Bay. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Janan Talafer.

Janan Talafer enjoys writing for a diverse group of clients, including print and online publications, nonprofit organizations and public relations agencies. One of the highlights of her writing career was flying with the 91st Air Refueling Squadron out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa FL for a feature about this elite military team. A journalism graduate of Bowling Green State University (OH), Janan’s early career was in health care marketing and public relations for hospitals in Connecticut and Tampa Bay. She is an avid gardener, loves East Coast swing dance and enjoys touring around St. Petersburg on the back of her husband’s scooter.
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