is a niche social network where candidates can discuss careers with employers and recruiters.

It was launched by Tony Restell, who co-founded in 2000, a careers site later sold to Jobsite and the Daily Mail General Trust. 

I’ve been asking Tony about the new business, how the site was launched and his plans for future growth. 

In one sentence, what is Social-Hire?

A social network where candidates can discreetly discuss careers with the world’s leading employers and recruiters – for free.

What problems does Social-Hire solve?

Social-Hire addresses two key issues for candidates. Firstly it gives candidates the ability to contact recruiters instantly and freely, and secondly it gives candidates control over privacy and what of their social media data is shared with recruiters,which has become a real hot potato in recent months.

Regarding the first problem, using existing social media to find a job can be quite costly.

To be able to directly contact every recruiter you’re interested in engaging in discussion, a candidate either has to invest a lot of time building up an extensive personal network – or buy subscriptions so as to be able to reach out to new recruiter contacts directly.

The Social-Hire model allows every candidate member to privately contact every recruiter member, and vice versa. So if you want to privately discuss career options with a recruiter at Twitter, you can do so within minutes of setting up your profile and at no cost.

The second point is that we give candidates control over privacy. In a recent Econsultancy post you highlighted the concerns around employers looking at candidates’ Facebook profiles as part of the hiring process.

The issue is more far reaching than this and Social-Hire tackles it head on. A candidate may want to be actively speaking with potential employers, without this being apparent to anyone else.

They may want to approach recruiters using a pseudonym. They may want their CV / resume to be considered for a vacancy without the recruiter having access to their email address and being able to search through their other social media profiles.

Social-Hire gives candidates this control – and conversely affords recruiters the protection that they have only assessed a candidate’s suitability based on information that the candidate voluntarily submitted to the recruiter.

From the recruiter side, there’s the additional appeal that no budget is required to start interacting with candidates on Social-Hire. So hiring results are purely a reflection of how attractive the recruiter and their roles are, rather than being a function of available budget.

In a market where recruiters need to achieve more with shrinking budgets, this is certainly appealing.

When and why did you launch it?

I first had the idea for Social-Hire in 2011. It struck me that existing social media had all bolted recruitment on as an afterthought and so were not offering the user experience that candidates and recruiters would ideally want.

I was also struck by the fact that major job boards all have business models that would be undermined by offering candidates and recruiters the ability to interact for free – and so this wasn’t an approach they would be able to adopt either.

It seemed like a disruptive move that would serve both candidates and recruiters better than existing services.

In terms of site launch, a beta version of the site was rolled out early this year. We wanted to test whether there would be enthusiastic take-up by recruiters – and whether members would use the site in the ways we’d envisaged. This proved a great success.

Early adopters include recruiters from Twitter and a host of other leading employers such as Accenture, Argos, Audi, Avanade, Betfair, Britvic, Columbia Sportswear, CSC, Deloitte, General Motors, McAfee, Philips Healthcare, Volkswagen and Wipro.

The site came out of beta testing on 16 April 2012 and readers do not need an invitation to be able to join. 

Who is your target audience?

The target audience for Social-Hire comprises of business executives and professionals anywhere in the English-speaking world, and of course recruiters and employers looking to hire such talent.

What are your immediate goals?

The immediate goal is to drive up member numbers through referrals and recommendations. We want to reach out to quality candidates who are contemplating a career change.

We want to attract recruiters and employers who put a lot of emphasis on the candidate experience and who pride themselves on their professional dealings with candidates.

More than anything though we want to help candidates make great career moves. If we have made it possible for discreet career discussions to take place – and those have led to successful career moves – then word of mouth recommendations will naturally follow. 

What were the biggest challenges involved in building Social-Hire?

The thing that’s really caught me by surprise has been the need to overcome people’s perceptions. I’ve been a figurehead for Top-Consultant for so long that people assume Social-Hire is focused predominantly on the UK market and is somehow consulting-oriented.

So a lot more time than I’d expected has been devoted to ensuring people know the site is global and covers all the main sectors where business people and professionals would want to pursue a career. 

How will the company make money?

The site as it currently stands is completely free to use. Instant messaging and video calling between recruiters and candidates will also be rolled out at no cost to members.

It’s an important principle for us that we don’t ever want money or budgets to stand in the way of candidates being able to talk to the recruiters who are best placed to help them. So these core offerings will remain free indefinitely.

As growing numbers of recruiters become active on the site, we plan for employers and recruitment businesses to be able to create corporate pages that will draw together the activities of their individual recruiters and convey the corporate brand message to our candidate members.

This will be a paid service and will complement other premium advertising options on the site. The core though will remain free, meaning any recruiter or candidate anywhere in the world can use the core service without cost.

Where would you like to be in one, three and five years?

In a year’s time we’d like to have recruiters from all the world’s leading employment brands using the site. Candidates will then have a route into any employer they might want to join.

We’d like to see candidate and recruiter feedback showing they’re bowled over by the Social-Hire concept. We’ll then know the remaining challenge is scaling the business.

Three years from now we’d like take-up at those employers to have spread across their recruitment teams so that candidates are directly in contact with the recruiter at each organisation who is most able to discuss their particular career aspirations. 

In five years we’d like smaller employers and recruitment agencies to all be on board, so that the natural place for any career conversation to be kicked off is