Making Recruiting More Humanly for Everyone

Peter Weddle

TAtech has a longstanding commitment to helping talent technology startups. In fact, we recently launched a Startup Special Interest Group, offering free membership in TAtech, mentoring and other benefits to early stage companies. We also shine a spotlight on some of those companies, so that more people know about their innovations and potential. To that end, we’re very pleased to introduce Prem Kumar, CEO of a company called Humanly.io.

Peter Weddle, CEO of TAtech (PW): Greetings Prem, thanks for joining us here at TAtech. Let’s begin our interview with some information about you. Tell us a little about yourself. How do you get into the tech space and into the recruiting area in particular?

Prem Kumar, CEO of Humanly.io (PK): I’ve always felt passionate about solving problems using technology, and the power of data. I don’t think this really hit home for me until I started working at Microsoft after college and seeing the real-life impact technology can have on people’s lives – from business applications, to helping solve healthcare problems, to the classroom. The big bets Microsoft was taking to impact the world really inspired me.

Talent Acquisition had always been something I took a deep interest in personally and professionally. It really started for me as a candidate, when graduating college. The job application process felt like it lacked empathy and equity – I couldn’t understand why I’d spend hours on my resume and cover letter only to not hear back from employers. Or why my female classmates (many much smarter than me) were being unfairly biased against in interviews.

I soon realized this had nothing to do with hiring teams being inherently bad, but due to the fact they didn’t have the tools and time to engage candidates at scale.

PW: You’re the CEO of Humanly.io. Tell us a little about the company and its product.

PK: Absolutely. It’s been a fun ride and I’m really excited to continue helping shape the future of hiring along with my peers at other companies.

Our vision is to blend technology and people recruiting workforces much more deeply than before. We automate candidate screening and scheduling at scale for companies with high applicant volume, dramatically reducing time-to-hire and improving the candidate experience while reducing unconscious bias in the process. Our goal is to engage candidates wherever they are, 24/7, and automatically schedule the best fits into the hiring team’s calendars.

Our newest offering – which launches in two weeks – will help in the next step of the hiring funnel (the interview). We’ve built a first-of-its-kind solution that not only takes notes and transcribes interviews, but provides hiring teams with tips to make their interviews more efficient and more equitable (syncing all relevant data into a customer’s ATS of course). For example, we can detect what topics are discussed, if different candidates are being treated differently, the sentiment candidates have during interviews, if interviewers are showing up on time, if they are interrupting while candidates are talking and things like that. The goal here is not being “big brother” but providing individuals with the data they need, to improve, and anonymously aggregating trends. We’re excited.

PW: Okay, so your product is designed to help recruiters with screening, why is that? What’s the problem that you’re solving?

PK: The big one is around time savings. Currently hiring teams spend 64 hours in screening and scheduling candidates for high volume roles (think entry to mid-level Support, Ops, Sales, Support and entry level Engineering). Not only is this a costly time investment but it results in a scenario right now where 80% of candidates never have their resumes looked at by a human and recruiters only have 7 seconds on average to look at the ones they do see. Candidate experience suffers, and there is a huge missed op here. Hiring teams are spending time and money to attract candidates to their brand, and yet only are able to engage with a few (these missed candidates could of course be future employees, advocates and even customers). This is of no fault of the hiring team, but the tools just haven’t been there like they have in Marketing and Sales scenarios.

In short, we believe if hiring teams had better tools they could engage at exponentially better scale.

PW: There have been more than a few press reports about AI products inadvertently causing biased outcomes. What questions should an employer’s TA team ask a solution provider to assess its product’s ability to avoid such problems?

PK: This is a great question and one we spend a lot of time on. Technology can make things happen faster, at scale – even the wrong things.

I would definitely ask questions to vendors around how their algorithms and models work and what inputs they take in. Are they only trying to find people based on characteristics of existing staff? If so, that is inherently biased and will lead to a team of people that act and look the same. What outside inputs are factored in? What happens if something goes wrong and the system makes a suggestion that is biased – does the vendor store the logic around why decisions were made? Is there a paper trail?

Separately I’d ask vendors to discuss their own teams and how representative they are – their board, etc. It takes a diverse team to build a product representative of the customer population.

PW: In addition to candidate screening, your product provides support for scheduling, engagement, and reference checks – that’s a lot of traditional recruiter roles. So, what does the recruiter do? In your view, what is the optimal division of labor between technology and recruiters?

PK: We started out by interviewing about 60 recruiters and recruiting coordinators and asked them about this … what tasks are the most tedious and draining for them? If they could choose exactly where they spent their time, where would it be? If they had unlimited time what all would they do?

Some of what we do is not replacing what’s currently happening but augmenting it. For example, we can ensure our customers are getting out to ALL candidates at scale, in real-time, 24/7. For those high-volume jobs, that’s often impossible with only people.

Overall, what it really came down to for us is filling gaps that our customers feel are not value-add to their business or their candidates. Our goal is to empower and free up hiring teams to focus on the areas that aren’t repetitive and tedious – the ones that can only be done by a Human. We do this by getting the right candidate to the right recruiter faster and eliminating the areas that are current time and energy drains. Most of the tasks we automate will fall under parts of what Recruiting Coordinators (RCs) versus Recruiters are often doing. This really frees ups RCs to spend more time on strategic items and pave their ways to career advancement. Quality time with top candidates, strategic work around Talent Acquisition, deep sourcing for non high-volume roles and experienced hire searches, are some of the things we can free up time for.

PW: One of the issues that’s gained a lot of attention in TAtech’s recent polls is the difficulty employers are having integrating new tools into their corporate TA tech stack. How would you suggest employers deal with that challenge?

PK: Coming from roles at Microsoft and TINYpulse where integrations were a huge focus, this is a core piece of our value prop. I find it imperative that new TA tools fit into existing stacks and the integrations actually work. I wrote a little about this in a recent Forbes Business Council post and a way to deal with this is really diving deep with vendors to understand how their integrations work and what implementation and updates look like. Often vendors will say, “We integrate with XYZ tool,” but the devil is in the details. Not all integrations are created equally. This also bridges into data ownership. This isn’t always top of mind for some, but in today’s age, where data is invaluable, make sure you read the terms of use for the tools you’re considering and understand your data rights. Where is the data stored? What are the security features that ensure that data remains private? What happens to your data if you are no longer using the service?

PW: Many companies have moved to remote work to deal with the pandemic, and at least some of them are saying that they may continue that practice even after things return to some semblance of normality. Do you think that shift will affect the way companies recruit and the technology they need to do so?

PK: It’s been a tough time. I do absolutely think some of these trends around remote work will continue and were catalyzed by COVID19 but already at play. I had a recruiter at a large Fortune 50 company tell me that the #1 reason why candidates don’t accept a job offer with them was because of their lack of remote-work options (prior to COVID). This was more important in their candidates’ decisions than pay, competitive offers etc . The candidate experience and how companies acquire talent will change, and yes, they’ll need the tools to do so. Separately the pond will get bigger as companies can source from many more talent pools, using niche job boards and other tactics. One area we’re working on that I’m really excited about helping hiring teams have more effective remote interviews and remove unconscious biases from them.

PW: Companies are tightening their belts in today’s economy, so justifying an investment in TA technology can be a challenge. What do you think are the most compelling points to raise in a business plan for such an investment?

PK: Yup. One area here is diving into the costs deeper. For example, we are seeing many people turning to automation like never before because tools like ours are 1/8 the cost of a Staffing Firm or 1/4 of any RC for example. With that said, it’s important to look at this holistically – our tool is NOT about replacing people, but we can certainly make the case that a team made up of automation and people is less expensive and also more efficient.

During times like this with historically high unemployment, being able to engage candidates at scale is much, much harder.

There is also sometimes a heavy cost around keeping business as usual. One example is we feel right now companies are having trouble engaging their whole pipeline of candidates at scale (even the ones that didn’t get the job – those so-called silver medalists). If you can get that right and keep folks engaged at scale, the cost of hire for your next role will be dramatically reduced.

Separately, by not using technologies to engage candidates at scale, candidate experience can suffer. Verizon media did a study and found they lose $6mm a year before candidates with a negative experience cancel and go to a competitor. I’ve also heard many CEOs tell me that their candidates often spend exponentially more a year on their products than the average consumer – so treating candidates well makes sense for many reasons (and is the right thing to do regardless). Right now, with many roles having high applicant volume, companies have an amazing chance to touch many lives in positive ways even if they can’t offer everyone a job.

PW: Every day, we read about another company where data have been compromised by hackers, malware or ransomware. What thoughts can you share on what solution providers should be doing to protect their customers’ data?

PK: This is critical. We actually put our data security statement up on our website because we felt it was so important. First one is simple – don’t ask customers/users for data you’re not going to use. Surprisingly, people are housing all sorts of customer data they either aren’t using or stopped using. Another is to be very clear with customers what is happening with their data, don’t just skim past it – make sure they understand your terms of use in non-legal speak. Lastly, following good practice and having hygiene around data privacy and storage is a MUST, protection is always a key and there are many accreditations around that and tips for doing it.

PW: We’ve covered a lot of ground, Prem. Many thanks for your insights and information. Do you have a final thought you’d like to leave with our readers?

PK: Thank you! As a small plug I’d love to offer your readers FREE entry into the beta for our latest product which will transcribe phone interviews, and help recruiters with tips around improving efficacy and equity in those interviews. If you’re interested, contact us at hello@humanly.io or email me direct at prem@humanly.io and put “beta” in the subject line.

NB: For information on TAtech’s Startup Special Interest Group and to apply for membership, contact pete@tatech.org.

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