PeopleAhead Has Forward-Looking Take on the Online Job Board

6/11/08Follow @wroush

The Web has been around for long enough that many online businesses that once seemed revolutionary have begun to look routine, tired, even fundamentally flawed. In many industries, there is an emerging second generation of Web businesses that hope to supplant their pioneering predecessors. Look at online comparison shopping in the financial industry, for example. It’s a sector that has long been dominated by advertising- and commission-driven banking sites like LendingTree. But as we reported on Monday, there’s a new site called MoneyAisle that’s completely ad-free; its founders are out to replace the old regime with a reverse auction system where banks actively bid against one another for customers’ business.

Rather than “Web 2.0″—a term that has acquired a specific meaning having to do with hosted services, browser-based interaction, user-generated content, and social networking—you could call this phenomenon “the Web, Take Two.” And now it’s spreading to job boards. Waltham, MA-based PeopleAhead, which launched to the public yesterday, is taking on Monster.com (NASDAQ: MNST), Yahoo’s HotJobs, Dice, and the other traditional employment websites with a new mix of features that emphasize job seekers’ talents and aspirations over their raw résumé data.

There’s a big whiff of Web 2.0 to the PeopleAhead website, where the main activities involve creating personal profiles, soliciting endorsements, and networking with other job seekers. But more than anything, the site amounts to a repudiation of the Monster.com model, where job seekers toss their résumés in with millions of others, and where employers wind up sifting through hundreds of potential employees who may be technically qualified but aren’t good matches, for a host of reasons that aren’t captured by traditional database searches.

“First and foremost, it’s a career advancement website, not a job board like what you might have come to expect, although we do match people to the right career opportunities,” says PeopleAhead co-founder Tom Chevalier, a recent Babson College MBA graduate. As Chevalier and fellow co-founder and Babson graduate Carlos Laracilla explain it, PeopleAhead’s system is built around the concept of competencies. Members start off by picking the areas where they believe their own skills are most evident: problem-solving, for example, or persistence, enthusiasm, or team-building. Each member can then invite peers, supervisors, teachers, or other mentors to visit their profiles and leave their own input about the areas where they excel (a feature that will be familiar to users of the professional networking site LinkedIn). Potential employers can screen job seekers based on these competencies, and see the external evaluations alongside traditional résumé information such as a person’s educational and work background.

“Without knowing that sort of information, you may find somebody who has the requisite number of years of experience, but maybe they wouldn’t fit what your team requires personality-wise,” says Chevalier. “That’s one aspect of how our matching goes beyond what you’d find in a résumé. It goes into who a professional really is rather than what they’ve written down on paper.” To find out who a person really is, of course, an employer will probably want to meet them in person. But PeopleAhead’s process may at least help companies be more efficient about deciding whom to bring in for interviews.

Laracilla and Chevalier founded PeopleAhead in 2006, raised funding from Boston-area angel investors, and spent the last year and a half designing the website, writing and testing the site’s proprietary matching algorithms, and forming partnerships with New England-area MBA programs. Students from these programs have been helping to beta-test the site, and Laracilla and Chevalier expect they’ll now be one of the main sources feeding new members into the system. With today’s public launch, however, anybody can join the network, and employers can set up their own profiles and start screening job candidates.

It’s the PeopleAhead matching process, called “TrueMatch,” that Laracilla and Chevalier say they’re proudest of. It doesn’t work like the typical searches that employers can run against the databases at Monster.com and other job sites; it’s more reminiscent of what mathematicians call fuzzy logic. “Companies define the profile of an ideal candidate for a certain position—for example, the industries they would like that person to have experience with, the type of education they’ve had, the types of activities they’re involved with, the competencies relevant to the company and the position,” Laracilla explains. “Then we … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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