Monday, May 05, 2008

Accolo: An Online Job Seeker – Employer Community

John Younger is president of Accolo, an online community of job seekers and employers seeking mutually beneficial employment matches. That’s a mouthful of words -- something I usually avoid. But as I spoke with John recently during my interview with him, I realized his company is more than an automated human resources system – it’s a group of smart, caring people who facilitate job searches and job placement with a higher goal than simply profit. And that’s what makes that mouthful meaningful!

Like other online job boards, Accolo posts job openings for its client employers. Job seekers can select jobs they want to apply for, submit their resumes, and go through a recruitment process. Here’s what seems to be unique about Accolo: It treats both the employer and the job seeker with equal respect and value.

In the traditional recruiting world, an employer might engage a live human being called a recruiter to find candidates for a job opening. The recruiter’s loyalty belongs to the employer because the employer is the one paying the recruiter for his or her service. Crudely put, the job seeker is a commodity who generates money for the recruiter when he or she is placed in a job.

Although Accolo performs the task of recruiting for its client employers, it does so with a level of integrity and thoroughness that honors the job seekers as much as it does the employers. You see, Accolo knows that the real name of the game isn’t just the numbers on its paychecks from the employers. It’s really about building lasting, growing relationships (among job seekers, job seekers’ networks of other job seekers, employers, and Accolo) that are based on trust.

Here’s how it works: A job seeker joins Accolo (for free). He then completes an online form, which includes the basics: name, address, etc., along with his resume (more on the resume later in this post). The job seeker then searches Accolo’s database for jobs he’s interested in, based on profession, industry, skills, location, etc. While browsing through the job posts, if he sees a job that a friend might be perfect for, he can click on a button to have that job post sent to his friend. Aha! The Accolo community expands through a trusted referral!

Each job on the Accolo site has a human Accolo consultant who handles that application process. The consultant has spoken directly with the hiring manager to understand what’s required for the job, what the company culture is like, and how success is measured for that particular job. He also knows for sure that the job is, in fact, not yet filled (not always true for jobs listed on other job boards).

Together, the hiring manager and the consultant develop a set of unique multiple-choice questions specific to the job, which each applicant is asked as part of the online application -- a first virtual interview, if you will. If the first interview indicates an applicant is a possible match for the job, he is asked to answer more questions, which involve written answers -- think of it as a second virtual interview. If things are still looking up for the job seeker after his second round of questions, he’s invited for a phone or in-person interview.

So what makes Accolo special? Its Candidate Bill of Rights. I won’t post it all here, but essentially, Accolo promises:
1. To keep information confidential
2. That all jobs are validated
3. That each applicant is considered for a job fairly
4. That each applicant will get closure and follow-up no matter what the outcome

Okay, now that you know how impressed I am with Accolo, here’s what I learned about the nuts and bolts of creating and submitting a resume online.

Search optimization: When a search engine “reads” a resume in its database, it searches the content from beginning to end, giving priority to keywords in the beginning of the document. Therefore, important information and keywords should be put near the beginning of the resume to make the “best impression” on the search engine (otherwise known as search optimization).

Here’s a technique John Younger recommended: Make a long list of keywords that describe your relevant qualifications, including hard keywords (like computer applications or manual skills) and soft keywords (like people skills and personality traits). Prioritize all those keywords. Using the top six or so keywords from your list, create a sentence that summarizes you as the candidate of choice (the candidate who will take away the employer’s “pain”). Incorporate this sentence into your job objective statement so that it’s concise and says what differentiates you from others.

Here’s how John’s technique would work if I applied for a job as a technical writer:
- My top six keywords might be: write, edit, documentation, organize, user manuals, and technical.
- My job objective statement might read: Technical Writer with ability to organize, write, and edit technical documentation for user manuals for novice and savvy readers.

Keyword section: Near the end of your resume (that you’ve already loaded with keywords), create a section called Keywords. In this section, put all those hard and soft keywords from that long list you just created. If there’s a choice between various forms of the word (noun, verb, adjective, or gerund; e.g., manager, manage, management, or managing), include all forms. If your list gets really long, John says it’s okay to insert a little flair here and there (e.g., “You’re still reading!” Or “Haven’t found it yet?”) for the amusement of the human reader. Of course, if this sort of humor doesn’t suit your personality, don’t do it.

Upload your resume: Given the choice to submit your resume as a copy-and-paste or an upload of your MS Word or PDF version, pick Upload. This will deliver a resume to the hiring manager that’s most like your beautifully formatted hardcopy resume. By the way, don’t upload a resume that contains images, or colored print or background because these features can make the resume hard to read on the employer’s screen or when printed.

Copy and paste your resume: To copy and paste your resume into the online resume system, first open your resume in MS Word (or whatever word processing application you used to create it). Copy the entire document and paste it into the specified window on the resume website. Review your online resume, adjusting the spacing and indents as needed to make it attractive and easy to read, even though some of your desktop publishing features may have been stripped from the document. Check that characters such as bullet points, ampersands, and quotation marks transferred accurately. Most online systems have perfected the ability to recognize and reproduce these characters, but you should proofread your resume carefully to be sure it’s perfect. Just as with a hardcopy resume, this online resume will be the first impression an employer has of you, so make it a good one! By the way, on most resume sites, it’s What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG, pronounced wiz-ee-wig), meaning your resume will look the same on the employer’s computer screen as it does on yours.

If your hardcopy resume is two pages, delete any reference to the second page that might have appeared at the bottom of page one (e.g., “continued” or “1 of 2”). Keep your name at the top of page two so that when the employer prints your online resume to hardcopy, your name will identify the owner of the second page, should the two pages get separated.

One final piece of advice: When answering online questions as part of the application, be honest -- don’t try to game the system. On Accolo, the questions are designed to create good employment matches for both the employees and employers, which ultimately serves all parties’ interests.

My interview with John Younger was part of my research to update my E-Resume Guide. I’ll take this opportunity to thank John for sharing his insight and expertise with all of us here in The Job Lounge. In future posts, I’ll tell you about my interviews with other online resume and human resources experts.


Murray Kilner said...

You hit the nail on the head here: "Here’s what seems to be unique about Accolo: It treats both the employer and the job seeker with equal respect and value."

I think that's the problem with most recruiting sites in general. Not only do they not treat the employer or the job seeker with the respect, they don't treat the RECRUITER with respect, either! I've been put in the position of hiring manager several times before and have never been impressed with recruiting sites, particularly the ending cost of the process (a fourth of the hire's yearly salary has more or less become standard).

Thankfully there are a few sites that are bucking this trend and starting to give more power back to all parties involved in these three-way transactions. A few months back we needed to fill a mid-level position and I had a pretty good experience with Dayak -- in the end it was about 40% cheaper than the last recruiting firm we used (don't remember the name) and the position filled much quicker than I expected, since the recruiters were competing to find candidates.

But I'm curious how, on Accolo, one interacts with the recruiters? That isn't clear. Or is it simply a "virtual" recruiter kind of thing? I think any non-traditional recruiting company is worth trying, since there are so few out there.

Susan Ireland said...

Murray, thanks for your perspective. My understanding is that a real live Accolo consultant meets with the hiring manager for each job. They meet either in person or on the phone. That's when they develop the job description for the post and the questions for the "online interview."

I did a test drive of Accolo's system, pretending to be a job seeker. Because I wasn't qualified for the job I applied for, I didn't get too far in the hiring process. But the emails I got from Accolo were from real people, I'm sure of that.

JohnY said...

Hi Murray,

You bring up excellent points!

After looking deeply at this problem from every perspective (technology geek, VP of HR, Recruiter, Candidate, Referral Source, Executive and really frustrated Hiring Manager), what emerged was 10 Universal Hiring Best Practices listed below. To actually adhere to all 10 every time, the process, technology and art of the business had to be approached differently.

For example, no technology can replace the trusted relationship that forms between the Hiring Consultant and the Hiring Manager. However, since the Accolo technology can perform over 80% of the routine best practices, the artist (Hiring Consultant) can actually spend more time with the few people who matter most.

We had to buck the trends that seem to repeat themselves about every 5 to 6 years. For example, we believe that every job is as unique as the person who will be an excellent fit. We have never met a template. To extract the uniqueness for every job (hard skills, soft skills, team fit, geographic alignment, etc.) and interview each person against those unique attributes requires a completely different approach.

The great news is that we have made the hiring of top performers much more predictable. As of today, the median time for us to find, pre-interview, document that interview and introduce the person who will ultimately be hired is 9 days. Since we become part of the internal hiring function, we are also able to provide this predictability at a cost that’s consistent or less than the equivalent internal recruiting function.

Universal Hiring Best Practices:

1. Easy for the Hiring Manager
The hiring process should be the path of least resistance for hiring managers.

2. Every Job is Unique
Every job is as unique as the hiring manager, team, geography, function and company and should be profiled and managed accordingly.

3. Courteous, Respectful and Confidential
Every stakeholder deserves to be treated with courtesy, respect and complete confidentiality.

4. Referrals must be Leveraged
Referrals are the best source of candidates, and each recruiting effort should actively seek and follow-up with referrals.

5. Incorporate All Sources
All sources should be included in the recruiting process, including traditional and non-traditional direct sourcing methods.

6. Adaptable Process
Recruiting approach should be responsive to different job types (Executive, technical, non-exempt, etc.).

7. Diversity Sourcing
Diversity sourcing should be included with every job. The world is diverse and a diverse workforce gives a company a strategic advantage.

8. Fair and Equal Opportunity
Every Candidate deserves a fair and equal opportunity to apply and receive job-specific consideration.

9. Follow up and Closure
Every Candidate deserves follow-up and closure, regardless of outcome.

10. Applicant Tracking
EEO data capture, applicant tracking and reporting must be complete and accurate for every job.

I hope this provides some further insight into why over 600,000 of our Career Network members are so excited about what we are doing.

Susan Ireland said...

The previous comment was from John Younger, president of Accolo. Who better to explain how it works!

Thanks, John!

Anonymous said...

I just completed an application for an Executive Assistant position using Accolo and I found the process very demeaning, in particular, the last written question: "Write the e-mail your boss is going to send out to the company announcing your hire as his EA." I support c-level executives , and I have never had to write my announcement e-mail. Who came up with that question? If it was written by my potential manager, I don't think I'd want to work for him. I showed your application process (the multiple choice and written sections) to the other c-level EA's at my company, and no one said they would even bother applying - and not because of the job description, but because of the ridiculous questions that had to be answered. The 1st round 2nd round interview process is an excellent concept, but please think more carefully about the questions you ask the candidates.

JohnY said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JohnY said...

Thank you for your message. It's disappointing to hear that the questions did not provide you with an opportunity to shine. While that was the intent, it was clearly not your experience.

The questions are developed with the following in mind: What is a marker for talent that would differentiate those who are a better fit from those who are not?

The reason behind the question about the email announcement was to see a demonstration of:
a. general writing skills
b. executive communication ability
c. tone, attitude and style

In this case, the executive may want someone who will be responding to others on her behalf. Because of this, asking for a sample email with a defined purpose is a request nicely aligned to what may be required in the job itself.

The last thing Accolo or its clients want to do is to be demeaning. We are pushing against a horrible recruiting environment where over 94% of the people who apply to jobs are not getting a fair shot or hearing back about the status of their application. “We” are a group of people who are committed to putting a little sanity back into the process. It’s clear that we have a way to go.

To that end, what questions do you think would be appropriate markers for talent for an EA job? We would be delighted to hear your thoughts about how to make the EA questions more effective. Please feel free to contact me directly at jyounger at Accolo dot com.

Thanks – John Younger, CEO of Accolo

Anonymous said...

Despite the verbiage and hype, there is really nothing special or unique about Accolo. There are many options out there.