Introducing: The Daily Cast
An experiment in recruiting, one job at a time
Every so often I plan to use this newsletter to share some key plans, decisions and challenges that we are working on in developing Hearty. I believe such transparency will both earn trust with and unearth ideas from you, dear reader. Plus, it’s just fun to share a peek behind the curtain…
Today we’re taking the wraps off a new initiative we call The Daily Cast. It’s an email subscription featuring one new and exciting job opening in the Cincinnati market every weekday. Our goal is to test a big feature that we’re working on while growing our audience and providing real value to companies and individuals. It could be a massive success or a quiet failure. Either way we’re going to learn a lot and enjoy the journey.
Method Behind the Madness
Our overall thesis with Hearty is that the world needs an easier way for great people to find each other for business opportunities. In order to achieve this we’ve spent months researching, testing and building a new tool for people to create what we call a Recommendation Network. It’s a digital version of the list of go-to, A-players that we’ve loved working with—and a lot different than the weak connections that tend to dominate LinkedIn. You can check out our very basic start by signing up here, and create and share your list of trusted co-workers.
Through testing with a small group of individuals and pilot companies, we’ve seen a lot of positives. People are willing to build and share their recommendations, and we’ve already helped a few companies make great hires. However in some recent discussions, these early users finished making their lists and said, “Ok, now what do I do?”
It’s funny how comments like this quickly focus your attention—if you keep your mind open and mouth closed…
This feedback led to a long team discussion two weeks ago. We agreed that our testers had unearthed a problem: If we really wanted to create a network, we needed to breathe life into it. Networks have energy and communication. People need to be actively engaged in something that feels more like a multi-player game than a solo, one-time chore.
It didn’t take us long to pull out our phones and talk about the social media and mobile games that do this really well. They win our attention by bringing fresh information and entertainment, usually curated and commented-upon by people we know and trust.
We thought about what what kind of socially-inspired, product-related value we could create at regular pace. And we collectively looked back at our thesis and slapped our heads with recognition—we’re about delivering business opportunities, i.e. JOBS! Recommendation lists are only useful if people are using them to help each other discover jobs. Each job posted is a moment of truth, breathing action into our network and sparking conversation, sharing, and interest.
This led us to conclude that our app should follow the lead of other successful social platforms and use a feed as the central focus of serving up new, active job posts. We sketched out what our feed would look like and how we might encourage group cooperation in finding great talent across their recommendation networks.
Birth of an MVP
We left the meeting excited by our new direction, but deflated that it would take our very small team several weeks to build. Later that afternoon Ryan triggered a new conversation on Slack with words to the effect of: “Maybe we should try a simple version of this before we spend too much time on it.”
Damn, I wish I had thought of that first. Ryan’s suggestion was straight out of the Lean Startup playbook that we’ve all heard—but often ignore, to our peril. The core idea is that a team should build a most basic version of a product—a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)—and test that with customers in order to learn quickly and cheaply. No matter how ugly and embarrassing the MVP is, as long as it delivers on the core benefit, you can learn whether people want your product, and apply improvements much earlier in the process. We actually created a basic MVP of our Hearty recommendation tool months ago by having people review their LinkedIn connections in an excel sheet.
So we began thinking about how to quickly and cheaply test a job opportunity feed, ideally without asking for any help from our tiny product team. We considered creating a group on Facebook or LinkedIn, which would serve as an existing social platform to test on. However we’ve already seen how groups work on them, and know that updates get lost in their feeds. We love Slack, and all are part of multiple Slack workspaces. We considered spinning up a Cincinnati Jobs Slack group. However there are lots of people who are not as “Slacktive” as we are, and we didn’t want to push people to create an account there, then move them over to our app later.
That’s when an idea hit: How about email? It’s universally used, offers creative freedom, and email is even still used by Facebook and others to drive traffic to their feeds. Inspired by “daily deal” emails I’ve subscribed to over the years—from Woot! to Wine Spies—I suggested that we could do a “job of the day” email. Within minutes we aligned and started planning. We came up with a name, The Daily Cast, to cleverly communicate our idea, with “Cast” alluding both to casting for actors in a play and fishing (gotta keep up our pirate story).
Burning the Ship with Video
Our discussion went to what the creative wrapper would be. We agreed it would have to be like a typical social feed: Short, sweet, visual and 10x better than the typical LinkedIn post with a title and link to those awful job application sites. Then Ryan started telling us about TikTok…again.
The guy is obsessed with TikTok, but he finally convinced us to download the app, and…it’s really, really interesting. I’ve spent much of my career analyzing and advising giant companies on social media, and while I’ve wanted to chalk this next new thing up as a fad, I’m increasingly convinced that TikTok is onto something remarkable. If you want to go deep on how it’s different, check out what Eugene Wei has to say. This new platform is guiding our thinking in a few ways:
All or nothing on video - TikTok is nothing but (vertical) video, in fairly short bites. There’s no photos, no links to articles, no random hot takes. You know what you’re getting and ready for an immediate video hit when you open the app.
Reward the creative - Video takes more work to take off, so your feed is prioritized based on the quality of creative, not who you personally know. While this sets a high bar for creation, potentially keeping many people on the sidelines, it offers much higher rewards to those who put in the effort to entertain us.
Encourage engagement - While it’s video heavy, there’s also a high priority on getting you to signal your approval, follow, comment and share with others. These options are right there on top of the videos themselves. Engagement adds energy to the party and helps TikTok create a better personalized algorithm based on your preferences.
So we cautiously asked ourselves, “What if we did a video job feed?” On the upside, video offers a 100x better experience than a static job description. It gives applicants the chance to see and hear from the hiring manager and other company staff. It’s a medium that this rising generation was born using. And most of us are on Zoom all day long anyway!
On the other hand, video can take a little more work and might scare some job posters off. That’s why The Daily Cast will be hosted by Ryan and I, podcast talk-up style, with some tools we’ve found to make it easy for hiring managers to record a few words. And we’ll do a some other things to bring creative polish. I can’t promise TikTok level, but I guarantee we’ll blow away what you currently find on LinkedIn, Indeed and Glassdoor.
Through the process we’ve also learned that Ryan, who spent his formative years in the accounting profession, is a master with video editing, among other creative arts. One of the fun things about building a startup at the earliest stage is that you are forced out of your comfort zone, and left to figure stuff out and build new skills. Ryan is dropping in sound effects and I’m writing scripts. If we can do it, you can do it.
Lots of Learning to Come
So starting Monday, November 30th, we’ll be sharing a daily job opportunity via email and video. Of course we’ll also cross-post on Twitter, LinkedIn, and some Facebook and Slack groups. Oh, and Ryan is responsible for our TikTok account.
With a minimal amount of effort and time we’ll be able to gauge progress in signups, shares, and hopefully quickly-filled jobs. And everything we learn will go right into the product we’re developing in parallel.
I write the above, dear reader, in full realization that this could turn out to be a giant flop. I have to admit that I felt a bit silly recording my Dad jokes with cheesy props and sound effects. But they say if you’re not embarrassed by your first MVP you’ve waited too long to launch. What keeps me going is the fact that we’re building something that’s all about helping the great people we know and trust find amazing opportunities. I would crawl through glass to do that. And I specifically want to repay the friends that have agreed to play along in our early posts.
Please do us all a favor and sign up for The Daily Cast. Take a look at the short, fun videos we’ll post each day, and forward the emails to people you know that might be interested—and those who know people who might be interested. AND if you or your company is hiring in Cincinnati—including for remote jobs—we’d love to feature your positions.
Success in life is best spent shared. Ahoy for now.