End of Hire by Google spells opportunity for competitors

Google’s recent announcement that it would shut down its popular Hire by Google applicant-tracking system came as a surprise to many–however, according to one analyst, there were some red flags.

“I was really surprised when their product lead [Google Vice President Bogomil Balkansky] left to go on some sort of sabbatical earlier this year,” says Madeline Laurano, founder of Aptitude Research Partners. “That’s a little unusual when a product is getting so much momentum–it seemed a little strange. And when Diane Greene left in November, that was also surprising.”

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, acquired Greene’s firm, Bebop Technologies, in 2015 for $380 million. Greene and Balkansky both joined Google from Bebop, Greene to run Google’s cloud business (of which Hire was part) and Balkansky to oversee recruiting products. Much of Hire is based on technology Google acquired with the Bebop acquisition.

Hire will officially shut down on Sept. 1, 2020, Google announced. Hire customers will continue to receive support until that date, the company said.

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Hire was popular among small-to-midsize companies, and its impending shutdown has triggered “crazy competition” among vendors for its business, says Laurano.

“In the ATS market, there’s been this drive among vendors to move up-market and serve enterprise customers, so there was all this opportunity among SMBs that Google was able to take advantage of,” she says. “Now that Google’s killed Hire, there’s this feeding frenzy in the SMB market where the competition is getting really intense.”

Vendors such as Workable, Lever and HireHive are among those going after Hire’s SMB clients “pretty aggressively,” says Laurano, adding that she expects LinkedIn to make a concerted effort to woo them as well.

Hire was popular with small and mid-size companies.

Hire’s appeal extended beyond the SMB market, she says. “There was also a lot of interest among large companies,” says Laurano. “Hire by Google was integrated with the Google Suite and does a nice job with interview scheduling and candidate profiles. Although it was aimed at SMB companies, the writing was on the wall that it could potentially be an enterprise solution, so big companies were asking about it.”

Others were less surprised by Google’s announcement.

“I always expected Hire by Google to end up in the Google graveyard at some point,” says Dwaine Maltais, co-founder and CEO of talent management vendor Talentegy. “It felt like hybrid of various Google business apps pulled together into a weird Frankenstein solution.”

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With Hire, there was no fit with Google’s core ad business, he says. Google may also have underestimated the complexities of core ATS functions like workflows, change tracking, communications and compliance, he adds.

“Getting out now before it made any further inroads into the enterprise was a good choice, in my opinion,” says Maltais.

Hire’s demise reflects the competitiveness within the ATS market, especially in the SMB segment, says Smashfly’s chief marketing officer, Josh Zywien.

“I was surprised to see Google surrender so quickly on a product it put a decent amount of effort into, but I think it says a lot about how competitive that market is … and how willing Google is to abandon products that aren’t closely tied to their core competency,” he says. “It likely frees up resources on Google’s side to double down on Google Cloud Talent Solutions, which … has real potential to be the dominant player in job search.”

Ankit Somani, co-founder of talent-acquisition vendor AllyO and a former Google product manager, agrees that the move lets Google devote more resources to its cloud business.

“I anticipate [those] resources to be re-allocated to Google Cloud, their answer to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure,” he says.

Google has a long history of abruptly pulling the plug even on products that appeared to be successful, says Laurano.

There’s a website and a Twitter handle dedicated to all the products they’ve killed,” she says.

Andrew R. McIlvaine
Andrew R. McIlvaine is former senior editor with Human Resource Executive®.