With BlackBerry Ltd. set to close its offices in Halifax, N.S., in January, leaving more than 300 workers jobless, a local startup has made plans to try to help BlackBerry’s former employees find work.

Today, Interview Rocket Inc. set up a free service to connect prospective employers and former BlackBerry employees. The troubled smartphone maker is laying off a staggering 40 per cent of its workforce before Christmas.

Interview Rocket’s plan is to give BlackBerry employees the chance to register for a free profile, and then record themselves answering interview questions with their webcams. Employers registered with Interview Rocket can then watch the videos on the Web site and follow up with anyone they’re interested in hiring. The videos themselves are private, with employers only accessing them after they’ve submitted a request to interview a candidate, or if a candidate has expressly asked to share his or her video.

The free service is available here for BlackBerry employees or interested employers.

“We’re based in Halifax, and it’s really hit the news big here. And you might get larger urban areas that can absorb these job losses, but here, we’ll struggle to absorb that many people coming onto the market just before Christmas,” says Craig Brown, Interview Rocket’s CEO.

“We basically wanted to see if we could help, and I think we can.”

His startup provides software for companies who are looking to hire, helping them skip the process of doing first-round, general interviews by asking job applicants to post interview videos of themselves. However, the process is a little different from what Interview Rocket is offering BlackBerry employees, Brown said.

In most cases, applicants for a job at a company using Interview Rocket will appear on web cam and are then shown a few questions on screen. They can’t repeat their answers and they can’t come back and re-do the video at a later date, making it as close to a real interview as possible. They also aren’t given any of the questions in advance. Recruiters and hiring managers can then watch the videos whenever they’re free, which saves them the trouble of having to set up multiple interviews.

“Our main service isn’t meant to replace full-length interviews. It’s meant to replace first-round screening interviews. The questions are a bit more generic and really, most of our clients fall into one of two categories,” Brown says.

“They either need to interview tons and tons of people and they need to cut their processing time down, or the other area is companies that typically hire at a distance. So when they’re hiring and there’s four or five time zones involved, the scheduling can be horrendous.”

Pricing for Interview Rocket’s software is based on a subscription model, although prices vary based on different features and add-ons on the back end, Brown said.

While Interview Rocket’s service for BlackBerry workers was designed with Halifax-based employees in mind, the service is also open globally to anyone currently working for BlackBerry or who was recently with the company.

Interview Rocket isn’t the only company stepping up to try to help local BlackBerry employees who have been set adrift. In the Kitchener-Waterloo area, tech hub Communitech has created a job portal called Tech Jobs Connex meant to help laid off BlackBerry workers find new work in the area.

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