(Reuters) - As a marriage counselor years ago, Neil Clark Warren saw first-hand how incompatibility led to unhappy matches.
So the compatibility factor was key - even in the name - when he co-founded online match-making service eHarmony in 2000.
Now, with surveys showing 70 percent of Americans are unhappy with their jobs, he thinks the same focus on matching personalities can work in the recruitment industry.
“Nobody has really matched personalities in terms of the applicant and the supervisor. That’s not something that LinkedIn or Monster do,” Warren said, explaining eHarmony’s plans to get into the employment industry.
“(The career market) is such a big market that we do expect it to grow faster than our core product,” the octogenarian clinical psychologist and eHarmony CEO said in an interview.
Finding love is not easy, and neither is the increasingly crowded online match-making industry.
The market is dominated by Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp, owner of Match.com as well as other sites for the lovelorn. IAC has also been gaining market share through acquisitions, including dating app Tinder.
Los Angeles-based EHarmony plans to launch its recruitment service - Elevated Careers - in 2016, and expects the business to contribute about 60 percent of the company’s revenue within three years.
In the meantime, visitors to elevatedcareers.com can sign up either as a job-seeker or recruiter.
Work on the project has been under way for more than a year. “It’s so important that Elevated Careers is developed to eHarmony standards via client feedback,” a spokeswoman said.
The new service speaks to eHarmony’s need to diversify as IAC/InterActiveCorp bulks up ahead of the planned public listing of Match Group, which will hold the company’s dating businesses.
IAC pushed deeper into the mobile-based dating business last month when it agreed to buy PlentyOfFish.
Match Group did not respond to requests for comment on whether it plans to launch a recruitment service.
EHarmony has no plans to go public, Warren said.
“We love the position of being able to manage our own situation and not feel pushed by any public groups,” he said.
“We’re very much on the side of remaining private as of this time.”
Daniel Kurnos, an analyst at brokerage Benchmark Co, estimates that eHarmony, whose biggest shareholder is Madrone Capital Partners, has a market value of about $1 billion.
The U.S. online dating market is worth more than $2 billion annually, he said.
In comparison, the online career market - which includes LinkedIn Corp and Monster Worldwide Inc - is worth about $6 billion a year, said Lisa Rowan of market research firm IDC.
The entire talent acquisition and staffing market worldwide is worth about $94 billion, she said.
EHarmony expects “high and double-digit” revenue growth in percentage terms this year, to between $275 million and $350 million.
Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) are expected to increase by 50-70 percent both this year and next, said Warren, who turns 81 next month.
But he said the contribution from Elevated Careers would be “minuscule” as eHarmony spends heavily to develop the business.
Both employers and job-seekers will likely pay to use the service, although some features could be free.
More than 100 variables will be used to match clients.
Apart from skills and experience, the algorithm will attempt to match job-seekers and employers based on such variables as personality - as on the eHarmony site - as well as work and social and cultural values.
Warren retired from eHarmony in 2007 but came back as CEO after five years to turn around the business, whose growth was slowing in the face of increasing competition.
He cut jobs, bought back shares from Sequoia Capital and slashed the nine-member board to two (now three) - himself and “very close friend” Greg Penner, founder of Madrone Capital and now chairman of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
A compatible match, it seems.
Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Ted Kerr