A new door to employment in Baltimore is opening wider.
The gateway is the latest variation in finding and applying for jobs online. Called Apploi, it's an application for computers, smartphones and tablets that allows users to fill out an application once, use it to apply for any number of jobs and even record a video to pitch themselves.
"It gives job seekers another tool to use in finding a job," said Craig B. Lewis, division director for workforce operations with the Mayor's Office of Employment Development, which recently agreed to expand its relationship with the New York-based start-up.
After launching a pilot program last fall that put Apploi "kiosks" in a city library, high school and job center, the office recently extended the partnership another nine months and plans to add a fourth screen at the west side city job center, Lewis said. It also used the app to help Amazon hire for its soon-to-open distribution center. The city's library, meanwhile, is adding the program to its computers.
"Anything that opens up access for people in the region is a good thing," said Diane Bell McKoy, CEO of the Baltimore-based Associated Black Charities.
McKoy has been working with Apploi to find the best places to put the kiosks that will appear in the city expansion, part of a company effort to raise the number of free-standing screens in Maryland from 12 to 30 this spring, with most new ones in the city.
She said decisions have not been made, but the kiosks are likely to appear in churches, food pantries and the offices of community organizations.
Online job hunting is nothing new, but Apploi — launched on smartphones and freestanding tablet-based kiosks by a New York entrepreneur in 2013 — adds features that other job websites don't offer, said Daniel Freedman, Apploi's chief strategy officer and head of business development.
"Either they're literally a traditional job website, or they've taken the traditional application and made it mobile-friendly," said Freedman, who is based in Baltimore. "We've rethought that application, putting personality at the forefront."
Specifically, Apploi allows applicants to record and post short videos about why they're suited to a job, and respond to questions posted by employers. The kiosks open a gateway to job hunters who do not have their own computer that other employment sites such as Monster do not, he said.
The app experienced some technical problems a few months ago related to changes in the Apple mobile operating system, but those have been resolved.
The company announced in January that it had raised $7.4 million in venture capital and hoped to expand its range from 36 states to all 50 by this summer.
Baltimore was the first city in the country to team up with Apploi, followed later by others including New York, Boston and Chicago.
"Baltimore just moved quicker than any other city," Freedman said.
A recent count showed about 1,900 job postings from 450 companies in Baltimore, including Maryland Live Casino, Jos. A. Bank, Banana Republic, Wegmans, Food Lion, Turf Valley Resort and P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Freedman said.
He was Apploi's ambassador at an Amazon job fair at the Eastside One-Stop Career Center, working the crowd outside in the cold, introducing the app on smartphones, and inside on the center's kiosk. About 670 people registered through Apploi to express their interest in positions at the warehouse, which was expected to hire about 1,000 full-time employees, Freedman said.
In addition to that center, the city has kiosks at the Career Academy, a public high school on the west side, and the Central Library of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. A fourth kiosk is to be installed at the Westside One-Stop Career Center in the Mondawmin Mall.
The app also is among the menu of services for job seekers offered at the Central Library and other branches, including computer stations, career counseling, resume workshops and interview preparation. In addition to the kiosk, Apploi is loaded onto 30 computers at the job resources area and will be added to all 500 at the library on Cathedral Street, said Wesley Wilson, the library's chief.
He said users seem "very happy you can do a recorded interview rather than just submitting a paper resume."
The app is free for job-hunters, but employers pay a range of monthly fees to post jobs, depending on the company's size, how many workplaces they're posting for and the features they use.
Job hunters can select from a menu of 11 job categories, although Freedman said most of the posted jobs are in retail, hospitality and office jobs associated with health care. The system allows geographic searches, from five miles to any distance away from the user's location, and choices of full-time and/or part-time jobs, and more or less recent job postings.
Erica Daughtery, an intern at the city's Eastside career center, used Apploi to apply for one of the 1,000 Amazon jobs while she was helping others do the same.
"It was pretty easy," said Daughtery, adding that she likes the convenience of carrying her job search around on her Android phone.
Dr. Gary H. Cassel, an ophthalmologist at Ruxton Towers Eye Associates in Towson, said his office used Apploi to hire a part-time receptionist a few months ago. The posting included a request for a short video about why applicants wanted a part-time job and their salary requirements.
"I'd like to hear their diction, how they'd sound over the phone," he said.
Apploi allowed him to screen the 10 applicants quickly.
"I used to have to call every applicant. … I'd be on the phone for hours," said Cassel, who added he would use the app again because it made hiring more efficient.