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Obama's call for jobs gets local response from Async

When President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress Sept. 8, it was to impel passage of a $447 billion plan for tax cuts and government spending intended to encourage companies to hire.

When President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress Sept. 8, it was to impel passage of a $447 billion plan for tax cuts and government spending intended to encourage companies to hire.

Obama hasn't pulled that off yet. But he has inspired a recent graduate from Drexel University, who is also a fledgling entrepreneur, to take action to help Americans get back to work.

Christopher Young acknowledged that he hopes his efforts will result in more business for his new video-recruiting company, which aims to reduce costs and time consumed in the hiring process by enabling employers to conduct interviews with job candidates without face-to-face meetings.

But boosting Async Recruiting L.L.C.'s bottom line is a secondary piece of the company's Help Us Help America campaign, Young insisted. The priority, he said, is "to really get Americans back to work quicker."

Motivated by Obama's speech promoting the American Jobs Act, a 32-minute talk in which the president challenged Congress to "stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy," Young and partner Ehud Israel came up with a giveaway plan.

They are offering 50 free video interviews to each of the first 100 companies that signs up. The offer stands through Dec. 31, or until 100 companies are enrolled in the program, whichever happens first. Companies have four months to use the interviews, which typically would cost as much as $30 each or as little as $5, depending on the volume purchased. (Interviews are sold in blocks - 20, 100, and so on.)

Aside from getting people hired, Young said, he hopes Async's Help Us Help America initiative will prompt other job-creation or job-filling actions by U.S. businesses.

"The message I wanted to send is: 'No matter how small or big . . . whatever your business is, try to offer something,' " said Young, 24, who graduated from Drexel in June with an MBA. Israel is a Montgomery County businessman who mentored Young at Drexel's Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship.

As reported in March, Async was launched in September 2010 with the goal of revolutionizing the hiring process. Its founders aren't suggesting that in-person interviews should be avoided, just that its technology can help companies more cheaply and efficiently whittle down a pool of prospects to a core group worth meeting.

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

Responses, recorded on camera within an employer-specified time limit, can then be watched by as many people as a company wants, even at different times and places (for instance, trains, planes or coffee shops), thus eliminating the headache of coordinating the schedules of executives and others involved in hiring decisions.

As of last week, Async reported, it had facilitated nearly 1,000 interviews since its debut. Competition in the still-emerging field has not been Async's growth challenge; "misperception" that the technology is hard to use has, Young said.

The most effective way to combat that impression is to let people see how the technology works. Async's free offer is one strategy.

It's a "very clever" way to do it, said Dwight Carey, a professor and adviser at Temple University's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute.

Tying the approach to the jobs speech is likely to get Async "a lot of mileage," especially if the White House learns of it and uses the company as an example of businesses rallying to Obama's call to action, Carey said.

Young - who would not disclose whether he voted for Obama but said he generally does "lean more to the Democrat side" - has not contacted the White House about Async's Help Us Help campaign.

The Inquirer did, however. In response, spokesman Brandon Lepow said in an e-mail Thursday that the White House "is excited to see young American entrepreneurs heeding the President's call and doing their part to try and get Americans back to work."

Not only did the free offer of Async's recruiting system appeal to Launch Leads, a three-year-old, 35-employee business-to-business lead-generation firm based in Salt Lake City - so did the job-creation intent behind the initiative, and the fact that the company pushing it is a small start-up, said Katelin Rowley, executive assistant at Launch Leads.

The Async video system enabled Launch Leads to hire nine "executive-relations representatives" in less than half the time its traditional in-person interviewing would have taken, Rowley said.

With Generation Y as Launch Leads' target hiring audience, Rowley said, she envisions use of a video-recruiting system helping to attract future employees. "They will think, 'Hey, this is an up-to-date company,' " she said.

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