Acertiv aims to give job candidates a way to better résumés


Acertiv's co-founders, T.J. Radtke, president, and Noah Stein, chief technology officer, in their office in Dulles, Va. (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN FOR WASHINGTON POST)
September 23, 2012

When it comes to hiring the best candidate for a job, Art Forcey of Ardelle Associates has often faced a frustrating problem.

On their résumés, job seekers typically list current or former colleagues who can attest to the quality of their work.

But “a lot of what you get from a reference is totally worthless,” said Forcey, who is chief operating officer at the Annandale-based staffing firm.

Often, he said, the information that person provides is too general to be useful.

That’s where a start-up called Acertiv comes in.

The Dulles-based company, founded last year by T.J. Radtke, has created a Web-based way for job applicants to validate specific claims on their résumés.

Users of Acertiv can create what the company calls a ProofSheet, which is a collection of evidence that verifies one’s credentials or body of work. Instead of providing a broad level affirmation of talent or experience, it allows a job seeker to offer line-by-line confirmation of every point on their résumé.

Clients can upload documents to show they possess a certification or input comments from a supervisor that show that they beat their sales quota. Acertiv is free for job seekers, but hiring professionals pay to use it.

Radtke hopes it will become a hub for workers to store important proof of their successes and will give job candidates a way to stand out from the pack.

“If you won an award, where do you park that? If you took a class, where’s the one place you memorialize that? There’s other data you wouldn’t want to share with the world on LinkedIn,” Radtke said.

China Gorman, a human resources consultant who serves as an adviser for Acertiv, calls it “the Carfax of careers,” a reference to the service that allows consumers to get a reliable history report on a used car before they purchase it.

“The old saw in recruitment is ‘the best predictor of future performance is past performance,’” Gorman said.

And that’s why she thinks Acertiv is poised for growth: Its service could help employers get a complete picture of the kind of worker they are about to hire.

At Ardelle, which began partnering with Acertiv about six months ago, Forcey said ProofSheets have helped his company whittle down pools of job applicants.

“If [an applicant] put that effort in, they must feel like they’re a decent fit. So you look at those résumés first,” Forcey said.

In some cases, he said Acertiv has helped trim the hiring process significantly, weeding out 90 percent of job candidates.

Acertiv is gearing up for what Radtke calls his firm’s “coming out party:” An appearance in Chicago at the HR Technology Conference & Exposition, a major industry trade show taking place in October.

The firm has spent $5,000 for a booth at the event, where Radtke hopes to lure some new users. He also sees opportunities there to explore possible partnerships with job boards or background screening companies.

It will also appear in Silicon Valley next month at the annual Demo conference, which showcases innovative tech start-ups.

Acertiv will need to land more users if the company is to thrive. So far, Radtke said close to 1,000 people have created accounts.

And though the company has raised $540,000 to date, Radtke said he’ll need to raise more money in the future.

“I go out to California, I get meetings, I get interest. Here, it’s tough,” he said.

The goal right now, according to Radtke, is “getting a critical mass of users to prove out the model to more people.”

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.
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