whyhire.me was created in December 2008 by Andy & Patti Church. Andy is a marketing & sales executive, Patti is an instructor at Ottawa’s Algonquin College. The team is rounded out by technical product engineer Rob Saric. This startup currently has 1400 users at several Ontario and east coast institutions and hopes to reach more Canadian and US schools, and online institutions as well.

This bootstrapped company got started when Patti’s college course ‘Transition to Marketing Professional’ got a curriculum update. The husband-and-wife team initially thought students could build profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook & Myspace, but these ‘walled garden’ sites expect visitors to first register, deterring many employment recruiters from ever seeing student profiles. As well, while sites like LinkedIn have the potential to help people promote themselves, few students had enough experience to fill in LinkedIn’s work profile. They also knew that today’s students use social media constantly, but that didn’t mean they know how to use it to promote themselves in a business setting.andy_church

Andy & Patti decided that to give students something whose usefulness would extend beyond their college days. They needed to create an online place where students could profile and brand themselves. A few weeks later, they launched the alpha version of whyhire.me as a working pilot at Algonquin College.

Building a brand with social media, without leaving the safety of the classroom

whyhire.me eases students into the practice of documenting their abilities and building portfolios that become their online resume which they can use as they start their careers. Their profile can incorporate photos, videos, school assignments, blogs and links to related information on social networking sites. It also helps them highlight things that actually enhance their hiring potential.

whyhire.me makes each student’s personal URL open to the web. A nice offshoot of this is that their work is automatically readable by search-engines. One student entered her profile information into whyhire.me to such a degree that Google ranked it #1 when anyone searched on her name. It also helps students consider the career implications of what they put online. Another female student confessed that prior to the whyhire.me program, she didn’t realize that Google was indexing all her online activities on social networks, including entries that could negatively impact her as a job candidate.

By building a personal brand and telling a focused story about himself/herself on whyhire.me, the student gains a leg up in the workforce. The more they add to whyhire.me – say a blog post about an issue facing their chosen industry – the more career-minded and committed they appear to others in the profession.

Unlike ‘walled gardens,’ whyhire.me profiles are open to anyone. The profile is structured in a way that plays up the the student’s professionalism, while still showing outside interests, leaving the overall impression of a well-rounded job candidate.

A win for instructors as well as students

whyhire.me’s founders also knew that their college couldn’t be the only one struggling with this problem. Schools state that their programs help students reach the long-term goal of finding a job, but they offer little in the way of concrete tools students can use to profile their scholastic achievements. whyhire.me wisely offers an ROI for both the buyer (institutions) and the user (students). They’ve managed to treat the two groups separately…and it’s working for them.

They have done this by gearing the solution to academics’ needs, by offering 8 hours of blended learning, rubric, a 70-page eBook and instructional reporting. The instructor uses the learning modules to teach personal branding, with assignments that lead students through the process of creating their online profile. As students bring their knowledge of social media to their whyhire.me sites, the instructors also gain knowledge on today’s tools.

Sold as content, not technology

Now that it has been in place for a year, a ‘pull’ phenomenon is starting to be seen in these institutions. In some cases, friends of students who took the whyhire.me course have enrolled so they can use the product; in other cases, the students and instructors have started to ask the school to buy more licenses and make those available to a larger number of students. I believe that as students go through the program and some snag awesome workplace gigs, even more students will ‘pull’ whyhire.me through the institutional channels.

Watch for more exciting things to come from whyhire.me