Felipe NavÃo Garcia and Juan Urdiales are sticking a large company logo on the blank wall of their new offices in the City of London. Some young men are making calls on mobile phones at a handful of the 16 or so desks bunched together in the small, drab, echoing room. It has the forlorn, beige feel of serviced offices, apart from the logo â€“ "jobandtalent" â€“ which is written in a jaunty blue. Is it perhaps a little reminiscent of Facebook?
Mr NavÃo and Mr Urdiales â€“ also jaunty and from the Facebook generation of twentysomethings â€“ are marking out their first London territory, having established their recruitment start-up in their native Spain.
The logo's similarity to Facebook's is no coincidence. Jobandtalent links to the social networking site and uses the data on it to help companies find and vet new employees.
"We are creating a 'social recruitment company'," says Mr NavÃo.
Most people associate Facebook with their personal life, a place to share holiday snaps and talk about Saturday nights out with friends. Up to now, in fact, they have been more worried about what their employers may discover about them on Facebook than thinking about using it to find a job.
But the founders of Jobandtalent believe this is changing. The site makes it easy to discover connections and share information about jobs with friends â€“ and young people especially are looking out for a job, or know someone who is.
In plaid shirt and jeans, the 28-year-old Mr NavÃo has the look of a Silicon Valley computer programmer, someone who would be at home on the Apple or Google campuses. "All my experience is that looking for a job is very social. I used to work for McKinsey â€“ and I discovered that job through a girl I knew in Sweden who had heard they were looking for someone," he says. Next, he worked at Tuenti, the Spanish social networking company where, again, he says he got a job by knowing people who worked there.
Mr NavÃo thought there was an opportunity in the recruitment market for a company to use social networks to capitalise on these kinds of connections and recommendations. It was friends â€“ of course â€“ who put him in touch with Mr Urdiales, who was working on a similar idea, and they formed the company in 2009.
Mr Urdiales, urbane in navy blazer and jeans, and also 28, is a serial entrepreneur who had already started and sold a textile business before founding Jobandtalent.
Friends and some contacts in the recruitment sector provided seed money, but many in their social circle said they were crazy because the Spanish economy was stalling. Indeed, by late 2009 the company was close to failing. In the nick of time, they secured â‚¬600,000 from business angels and a Spanish venture capital company, InversiÃ³n y GestiÃ³n de Capital Riesgo de AndalucÃa. Then Accenture came on board as the first customer and the site gained momentum.
The company expects revenues of â‚¬1.2m this year, rising to â‚¬12m in 2014, and another big rise in 2015. It will not be profitable until 2014, the founders say, because they are investing heavily. For instance, it is currently planning a new round of fund-raising to expand into Germany.
Users sign in to Jobandtalent and give the website access to their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. The site pulls in details such as contacts lists and biographical information, but not personal photos or status updates. Users also fill in details such as salary, location and the industry they work in. The site then identifies jobs they might be interested in.
Mr NavÃo says 40 per cent of Facebook profiles already contain some professional information, such as academic qualifications. Encouraging people to link jobhunting and Facebook is becoming easier.
The founders expected LinkedIn, the business-focused social network, to be the better basis for recruitment leads, but it was Facebook that immediately generated more recommendations. Because of the personal aspect, "the most powerful connections you have are in Facebook," Mr NavÃo says. "The real 20 or 30 people you can ask for a recommendation are on Facebook, not LinkedIn." Now their site uses LinkedIn only as a way for people to upload their CV.
When users click on a vacancy, they can see if they have Facebook friends at that company, and can sound out their friends about the business.
Employers pay £350 to place job ads and can browse a database of jobseekers. They can also see if candidates have friends working at their companies. "They can call the employee and ask what that person is like, to see whether they would be a good cultural fit for the job," says Mr Urdiales.
A unique feature is that recruiters can not only browse profiles of people actively seeking jobs, they can also see limited details of their contacts. This means the company's 200,000 active users have generated a database" of 7m of their contacts â€“ "passive" candidates. The passive database currently includes the president of Spain and Mark Zuckerberg, for instance, because they are a signed-up user's Facebook contacts.
Not surprisingly, Mr Urdiales is keen to stress that privacy is respected. If a company wants to contact someone not already signed up â€“ but on the Jobandtalent database because they are a friend of a friend â€“ it asks the signed-up member to pass a message on. Only 10 per cent of such messages currently get through, Mr Urdiales estimates, but it is still a pool of talent that employers might not otherwise have any access to.
Jobandtalent has worked with about 1,500 companies and has 500 companies active on the site, including names such as L'Oreal, Google and KPMG. It places an average 200 people a month.
In the UK, just 30 companies have signed up so far. One is Experian, where Gemma Draycott, its strategic sourcing specialist, explains: "I wanted to try using social media to attract talent and these guys can offer me something without us having to create our own Facebook page."
Guiseppe Mozilla, 30, got his current Barcelona-based job at German internet company Wimdu.com through Jobandtalent. "I signed up to it just through curiosity," he says. "One day, when I was in India, I received a job offer via a friend who also was on Jobandtalent."
Mr Mozilla works in the internet sector, so it is little surprise that he is comfortable with this way of finding a job. But he is increasingly typical of the next generation of jobseekers who, in a tough labour market, may be willing to look at any options.