Thursday, December 25, 2014

Async Recruiting offers a high-tech solution to time-consuming job interviews

At 30th Street Station, Christopher Young uses his laptop to demonstrate how recruiters can function without being tied to a desk or holding face-to-face meetings. Young and his partner, Ehud Israel, launched Async Recruiting L.L.C. last year.
At 30th Street Station, Christopher Young uses his laptop to demonstrate how recruiters can function without being tied to a desk or holding face-to-face meetings. Young and his partner, Ehud Israel, launched Async Recruiting L.L.C. last year. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
At 30th Street Station, Christopher Young uses his laptop to demonstrate how recruiters can function without being tied to a desk or holding face-to-face meetings. Young and his partner, Ehud Israel, launched Async Recruiting L.L.C. last year. Gallery: Async Recruiting offers a high-tech solution to time-consuming job interviews

By the tender age of 23, Christopher Young has experienced two pivotal inconveniences in life.

One was walking 10 minutes across campus while a freshman at Drexel University, only to discover that the field where he wanted to play soccer was already being used. The other was having to cram 20 job interviews into four weeks over final exams and a Christmas break.

As quirky as life is, those two annoyances could wind up making Young a wealthy man.

In September, he and a Montgomery County businessman who mentored him at Drexel's Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship launched a company aimed at revolutionizing the often costly and time-consuming hiring process.

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  • Async Recruiting L.L.C. offers employers a chance to conduct interviews with job candidates without face-to-face meetings - and at the time of day and place (at home, on a train or plane, or even while waiting at Starbucks for a grande skinny cinnamon dolce latte to be assembled) of their choice.

    For applicants, it means not having to leave a dorm room, apartment, or house to make a job pitch.

    Critical, however, to all using the Async Recruiting system: a computer with webcam capability. Virtual, asynchronous video interviews are the technological system through which employer and job seeker interact in a nonlive forum.

    Interviews are recorded, but candidates do not get to see the questions in advance and have a limited time to answer them, allowing companies to judge them for their ability to extemporize.

    "We wanted to simulate pressure of a real interview," said Young's partner, Ehud Israel, 43, who is also co-owner of Search Innovations Inc., a 15-year-old executive-search firm in Maple Glen.

    Young and Israel stress their goal is not to replace the interview process, but rather to help companies more cheaply and efficiently whittle down a throng of job applicants to a core worth meeting in person.

    They also acknowledge this is not a hiring system for everyone.

    "If you were looking for a CEO of Apple, you're not going to go through this process," Israel said. "We think it's more applicable at the lower ends of the hiring spectrum."

    The Async Recruiting system works like this:

    An employer develops a list of questions for job applicants and enters into Async Recruiting's system the e-mail addresses of all applicants it wants to answer those questions.

    To eliminate the possibility of cheating, applicants get just a 60-second preview of questions, followed by an employer-specified time limit to answer them orally on camera. The applicant gets one shot at recording his or her response.

    Given that the responses are recorded, they can be watched by as many people as a company wants involved in its recruitment process - at different times and in different locations if necessary. In a traditional interview process, many involved in the hiring process at the early-screening stages are often left to rely on the candidate assessments of just one person.

    Under Async's system, each viewer of an applicant's video then rates that applicant on a five-point scale for a variety of criteria, such as voice, language, and appropriateness.

    Async Recruiting's target market consists primarily of companies that do a substantial amount of college-campus recruiting, such as law firms or professional-service providers. That often requires a significant investment in travel and lodging expenses, not to mention lost time by employees who would otherwise be back at the home office doing revenue-producing work.

    The fee for Async Recruiting's services, to be paid by the employer, is $30 per candidate per job.

    The fee might be higher for companies whose recruiters typically make a sizable amount, such as law firms, hedge funds, or any similar business that is based in part on billable hours. That is where the cost of sending heavy revenue-producers such as lawyers and investment brokers out on recruiting trips is most evident, and the benefits of Async so clear, Israel said.

    Young, a graduate student at Drexel, and Israel would not disclose how many clients they have signed up so far.

    Neil Cohen, director of human resources at Ransome International, a Bensalem dealer and servicer of trucks and other heavy equipment, said the company of 550 employees was considering integrating the Async system into its hiring process, perhaps as a pilot program.

    "I'm not sure the technology lends itself to the kind of candidate we're recruiting," Cohen said, referring to the 100 hires Ransome expects to make this year, more than half of them for technician's jobs. "And we get a lot of referrals [from current employees]. We have to meet those people anyway. It's just the right thing to do."

    Young and Israel said a surprising variety of companies had expressed an interest in their technology, including an operator of summer camps and even retail stores.

    "After six months, we realized the market is vastly bigger," Israel said.

    And it's far different from the market that Young initially set out to serve. Inspired by his 20-interviews-in-four-weeks experience for a co-op job in December 2008, he had first come to Israel at the Baiada Center, a business incubator for Drexel students, with a plan for a video-resumé system. It was essentially a video social network for job seekers.

    Israel said he was fearful the idea could be easily duplicated and then dominated by such online job-search powerhouses as Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com. He also was not keen on Young's proposal that job seekers, rather than employers, pay for the service.

    So Young went back to the drawing board over Christmas break in December 2009. By April 2010, he and Israel had formed Async Recruiting, borrowing from another idea Young had had.

    That was the webcam system he developed that won him a $1,000 scholarship from the school in March 2008. The system enabled some of the school's recreational facilities to be viewed from a computer so no one had to suffer the inconvenience Young had that day he found soccer fields he wanted to use occupied.

    "You pair them together," Young said, "and you get asynchronous recruiting."

     


    Contact staff writer Diane Mastrull at 215-854-2466 or dmastrull@phillynews.com.

     

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