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Tired of combing the Net for the right tech job? A start-up says its Web site can do it--and better than online job boards.

Start-up NimbleCat says it has built a better mouse trap for helping techies snag jobs.

The Fremont, Calif., company has a Web-based service that compares resumes with job openings, and claims the resulting matches are more relevant than typical alerts sent by online job boards. Sunil Mehta, NimbleCat's co-founder and chief executive officer, said that while other online recruitment tools rely on key-word searches, NimbleCat software uses more sophisticated algorithms based on the judgment of recruiters and hiring managers.

"We found a way to glean the knowledge from them," Mehta said.

NimbleCat is hoping this 'secret sauce' will let it take a bite out of the growing amounts of money spent on online recruiting.

That market is dominated by three big players--CareerBuilder.com, which is owned by media companies Gannett, Knight Ridder and the Tribune; Yahoo's HotJobs; and the Monster division of Monster Worldwide, which includes the Monster.com jobs site. The revenue generated by those three should rise from $667 million in 2003 to $950 million this year, according to investment firm Thomas Weisel Partners.

NimbleCat has some paying corporate customers using its software to help screen applicants. But the company--which formally began in 2000 but launched its Web site earlier this year--hopes to ratchet up this business in the near future with a campaign to publicize what it can do for job seekers, hiring managers and recruiters. NimbleCat plans to make announcements regarding its service on Wednesday.

Christa Sober Quarles, an analyst with Thomas Weisel, has not seen NimbleCat's technology in action. But she indicated there's room for improvement when it comes to online job searching and recruiting. Monster.com allows job hunters to create "agents" that will search for jobs based on criteria such as type of industry and key words supplied by the user. "Sometimes (the results are) accurate, sometimes they're not as accurate," Quarles said.

She added that human resources units at large companies may be interested in technology to help them winnow through mountains of resumes. "I would think that they could probably use some ability to further refine their searches," she said.

About 5,000 technology workers have signed up to use NimbleCat's free service since the site went live around the start of April.

On its site, NimbleCat has posted "testimonials" from satisfied users. One, from a contractor named Howard Lange, reads in part: "I wish I would have used you sooner. I have started to use you exclusively for finding my next contract and you helped me find my current assignment."

Greg Guidolin, a telecommunications industry professional, also tried NimbleCat's service. He told CNET News.com that NimbleCat helped him use his time more efficiently than job boards did. Other tools "don't prioritize," Guidolin said. "They give you a match but they don't tell you how much of a match it is."

Guidolin eventually landed a job through personal networking. Another NimbleCat user, Venkat Tata, also used the site but found a job by other means. In an interview, he gave NimbleCat credit for helping him improve his resume. He found that by tinkering with the language of his resume, the NimbleCat leads shifted to the sort of work he wanted.

Still, Tata said NimbleCat itself can improve. He'd like to see a service for matching cover letters with job openings, and suggested links to more job sites.

NimbleCat is expanding from relying on job listings at major job boards to incorporating listings from company career sites, Mehta said. He said NimbleCat would have to assess Tata's cover-letter idea.

The company plans to expand beyond the technology recruiting field, Mehta said. But for now, NimbleCat is focused on IT jobs.

Mehta has been a consultant and engineer in Silicon Valley for some 20 years, and he said he helped start NimbleCat partly to assist people like himself land new work after the dot-com bust. As a result, the company is committed to giving techies free access to the site. "You see a lot of heartbreak in the Valley now," Mehta said. "I couldn't reasonably think about charging for a service that helps job seekers or people that are out of work."