Imagine that you've got a hot online profile -- so hot, in fact, that hundreds, maybe thousands, are vying for your attention.
For lovelorn online daters, that may sound like a dream come true, but for employers using Internet job boards to fill spots during an economic downturn, the idea is decidedly less romantic: As exciting as it may be to have a huge applicant pool at your fingertips, taking the time to sort the studs from the duds can be daunting.
Enter job matchmaking sites. Sites like the five-year-old Jobfox.com and new company Bintro.com, say that, much like the dating site eHarmony.com, they match their clients -- in this case, job candidates and employers instead of singles looking for love -- based on information gleaned from online profiles and questionnaires. The result? Only qualified candidates, the Web sites claim, make the cut.
It's unclear whether sites like Jobfox and Bintro have a chance at supplanting more traditional job boards. But some say that at a time when nearly one out of 10 Americans are unemployed and many are applying to job postings for anything and everything, such sites are especially valuable. They act as gatekeepers.
"It's just nice to not have to wade through tons of resumes," said Rachel Corwin, a recruiter and employment coordinator for Washington Athletic Club, a fitness center and hotel in Seattle that employs some 350 people. The club has been a Jobfox customer for just over a year and has hired two employees through the Web site.
The site, Corwin said, is free of the "serial applicant" -- the type who "apply for a bunch of positions but don't meet the qualifications."
"There's not a lot of wasted time processing connections that aren't relevant," said Shane Hankins, the executive director of the non-for-profit Grassroots.org and a Bintro customer.
In online dating terms, it may be the equivalent of a service that steers you clear of, say, promiscuous daters and highlights those who really think they have what it takes to make a relationship work.
Breaking the Ice on a Job Search
The online dating comparisons don't end there. While the majority of questions included in Jobfox and Bintro applications relate directly to a person's professional background, personal preference also plays a role. Bintro, a site that launched in May and counts among its execs a former eHarmony engineer, asks job applicants to fill out a questionnaire that asks them to list their hobbies and passions.
"Any extra information that users give us in any category helps to create increasingly accurate and compatible matches," Bintro.com CEO Richard Stanton said in an e-mail to ABCNews.com. "Categories such as passions and hobbies happen to have the added benefit of helping users 'break the ice' after they have been matched."
Having a common interest in wine, for example, could serve as an icebreaker in an interview between a candidate and a matched employer, he said.
The Jobfox questionnaire asks candidates to write out what's important to them in a company and note what they prefer in terms of company dress code -- suits vs. jeans.
Benefits for Job Hunters?
Job candidates benefit from job matching sites, the sites say, because they can use the services to find the postings that fit them best. Jobfox creates a ranking of potential employers -- those at the top of the list are considered the best matches for the applicant. Bintro sends candidates e-mails whenever a "relevant" match is found. Both services are free for job seekers. (Bintro is also free for employers, while Jobfox charges a maximum of $349 per job posting.)
But if you're unemployed and hard up for paying work, do you really want a job site weeding out options for you?
That answer could be "yes," said Lisa Rowan, a director of human resources and talent research at the research and consulting firm IDC. After all, if you don't have a chance of getting the job, why spend time applying?
"It is beneficial as a candidate out on the market to know with some certainty what positions would be a good match for you so you're not wasting your time," she said.
Getting the Interview
Still, while employers like Corwin and Hankins are happy to testify about the benefits of job matchmaking sites, job candidates can find mixed results.
A Wall Street Journal review of Jobfox, Bintro and two of their competitors -- Trovix.com, which is owned by Monster.com, and a job matchmaking tool from CareerBuilder.com -- found that neither of the two job seekers testing the sites "fell in love with any of the jobs recommended" and weren't enthusiastic about applying to them.
Steve Park has a better, albeit imperfect, experience to share. Jobfox -- which, like Bintro, is free for job seekers -- found him at least two openings worth applying to, he told ABCNews.com.
There was one hitch: When Park, 49, of California, tried contacting the employers through Jobfox, he didn't hear back. When he applied to the companies directly though their own Web sites, he had better luck -- both said they'd be interested in scheduling an interview with Park.
Jobfox spokesman Steven Tool said he was unsure why Park didn't hear back from the companies through Jobfox, but added that when a job-seeker does find a potential employer through the service, there's "certainly nothing stopping a candidate from picking up the phone and calling" the company directly.
Park, for his part, said he's just happy that he got information about the job ads in the first place.
"Any information," he said, "is good information."