CEO Sit Down: Kai Han on Cardea

A company that is interrupting the traditional job search process one job at a time.

Finding a job is tough. Finding a job in today’s economy is even tougher. Cardea‘s entrance into the job search space couldn’t have been better timed, with new job seekers, like myself, eager to seek new and exciting opportunities. Having used many different job searching platforms, I consider Cardea to be one of my favorites, as the website’s user experience is incredibly intuitive and simple. I am so happy to have gotten the chance to interview Kai, Cardea’s CEO and a budding entrepreneur, on his new business and hope that you sign up to access the site too!


Kai! Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Sure thing! I’m 22 years old, and recently graduated from the University of Oxford in June. I was born and raised in New York City, which unfortunately makes up about 55% of my entire personal identity. Besides my hometown, I also like talking about startups, sports, and anime.

What was the inspiration behind starting Cardea and tell us a little bit about the business?

I was looking for an internship last summer and found myself extremely frustrated with the process. I wanted to work in venture capital, and remember conducting an entire mini-research project just to find out where to apply. I often caught myself wishing that someone could just present me with a list of all the firms that were currently hiring interns in New York City. Talking to some of my friends, it seemed that everyone hated the process of finding the right places to apply to as well (particularly those who didn’t want to go the banking, big tech, consulting type of route).

Traditional job finding platforms really place the burden of discovery entirely on the user. You’re given a giant database of jobs and nothing but a search bar and some rudimentary filters to sift through all of those jobs. What ends up happening is an experience that feels extremely clunky, with low personalization and tons of irrelevant jobs being shown to users.

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Zooming out a bit, I’d say there are broadly two types of content platforms: Search (Amazon) and discovery (Spotify, Reddit, Twitter) based platforms. Search works really well when the user knows exactly what they’re looking for, whereas discovery is optimally suited when a user has a set of interests but doesn’t know the exact specific pieces of information they want. From that angle, jobs should really be discovery based, but they’ve been search products since Monster.com in the 90’s. We set out to build a jobs platform that prioritized highly curated discovery over anything else.

To do that, we curate Spotify-style “playlists” of jobs. These can center around anything, whether it’s something like “Fintech’s Top Startups”, “Breaking into Product Management” or even something like “Last minute internships for procrastinating students”. Users can explore our selection of playlists and follow the ones they like. Anytime a job is posted to one of their followed playlists it’s displayed in their stream tab, creating an intuitive and easy to navigate job finding experience. Once you’re set up with us, all you have  to do is occasionally check your stream, we’ll handle all the rest.

What do you believe the biggest challenge is in finding employment online?

I could write an entire essay on this question alone. There’s a lot of problems in a lot of different areas, but we’re focusing on the discoverability aspect of it. Studies have shown that over 40% of qualified applicants won’t apply to a job simply because they don’t ever see it. In this age of technologically connected societies, that’s a pretty jarring number.

How does Cardea stand out from competing platforms such as LinkedIn or Creatively?

At this current stage, we’re strictly focused on job discovery, rather than professional social networking. For both LinkedIn and Creatively, job search is a small part of their product, and it’s pretty easy to tell that from looking at their platforms (search bar, big database, low curation, bad filters). We think by directing our efforts to just one aspect of these types of larger horizontal platforms, we can deliver a superior experience that we can then be built further features off of.

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What has been one “high” and one “low” in starting Cardea?

Definitely a high was letting our first users onto the platform.  We’re still in the process of testing and building but that was the culmination of so much work and planning so that was a big moment. As far as lows, we initially had a solution for adding jobs to the platform that we quickly realized was impossible to scale, and that was definitely a tough pill to swallow. Thankfully, we were able to get our heads together and figure something out on the fly.

What are future goals or milestones you hope Cardea to achieve?

We’re viewing this next year as a “building” phase for us. We want to really build the best product possible without needing to rush that market. Thankfully we’ve generated enough user demand for us to continue to test and validate our ideas around. In that sense, I’d say our goals for the immediate future are making the people that do get access to our private beta extremely happy. To us, this looks like high engagement, high retention and positive word of mouth growth. While the initial signs have been encouraging, there’s a lot more we can do to get even better.

Cardea targets recent college graduates and junior level positions, why have you chosen this market?

It’s really a scaling issue. To handle the amount of content we’d need to pump out to service older candidates is something we can’t really do right now. That being said, I think the current model is well suited for anyone up until their 3rd or 4th job, at which point people are usually moving around strictly via word-of-mouth referral. We might actually be even better off for people a little later in their career, as they usually have slightly more market awareness and a better understanding of what they’re looking for in their next step. One thing I will say about the younger demographic is that our UX is something they’re extremely comfortable with. Our entire generation has become accustomed to the act of following niche content channels, then scrolling through a central feed that aggregates all of that content.

What features are you rolling out on the site in the near future that you are excited about?

We’re working on a lot of really exciting things. In the near term, we really want to beef up our core consumer offering. This means expanding into different industries, allowing users to favorite and save companies instead of just lists, bringing in a search aspect (that doesn’t take away from our core model), and revamping the entire design of the platform. In addition, we’re currently building a machine learning tool that should allow us to increase our volume of jobs by a significant margin.

What is your advice for recent graduates applying for jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Don’t be discouraged! COVID-19 has hit businesses hard, but there are still plenty of companies hiring out there and plenty of positions that need to be filled.

In terms of how to go about the search process, you should have a few companies you’re particularly excited about, and at least begin to think about what it is you want to do with your career. We spend arguably the most amount of time in our adult life doing things for our employers, so finding companies that align with your goals, values and interests is crucial. There are a ton of companies out there that are doing really amazing work, you just need to find them.

 

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