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Hackernoon logo"AI Shouldn't Have the Final Word in Recruitment Yet" - Jamie Beaumont by@viceasytiger

"AI Shouldn't Have the Final Word in Recruitment Yet" - Jamie Beaumont

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@viceasytigerVik Bogdanov

Tech storyteller

Less than a decade ago, we could only dream of being able to spend five minutes on a job that required 10 hours to complete. All we could hope for was a magic wand. Cargo dancing with tambourines could also help, but there was no guarantee (pun intended). 

Today, as technology becomes more advanced, we’re gradually getting used to a "new normal" when most things are done instantaneously thanks to automation, Cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and advanced analytics. Physical boundaries are fading away and what once required physical presence can now be done remotely, faster and much more efficiently.

Powered with automation and big data, any technology becomes cutting-edge and sophisticated. Recruitment tech isn’t an exception.

From accelerating employee selection processes and managing the pipeline to activating a dormant talent pool and reducing administrative burden – recruitment tech enables consultants to make more informed decisions and proactive process interventions to improve the overall quality of hiring.

As most hard skills are expected to be automated in the years to come, both corporate and agency recruiters should be ready to transform into tech-enabled strategists, and act as middlemen between stakeholders and digital platforms that begin to play a crucial role in recruitment evolution and digital transformation. 

To understand better how recruitment innovation helps simplify hiring and reinforce informed decision-making, I've zoomed in with Jamie Beaumont, an entrepreneur and founder of Offerd, a UK-based recruitment platform that enables 100% remote candidate screening, interviewing, hiring, onboarding and more.

Jamie and his team were able to launch their product to market during the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes their case even more thought-proviking.

We've talked about key challenges facing corporate recruiters and hiring agencies alike, why AI is not a silver bullet, what it takes to launch a recruitment tech product amid the Coronavirus pandemic, how to use big data and insights to improve the quality of hiring and more.

Enjoy the reading!

Jamie, can you tell me more about yourself, your background and when and how you got to the recruitment business?

Having graduated from the University of Exeter, I wondered what I was going to do next, and I ended up going to the mountains for skiing. There I noticed a big fashion trend among people on holidays: many were wearing old-school clothing like the bright red gear. As the retro look regained its position at the top of the fashion charts, I just couldn't stay on the sidelines and co-founded a fashion brand with an idea of bringing a retro style back to the mountains. The business went well, but after almost two years, I came back to the UK, where I joined a graduate recruitment company as a consultant. Although I managed to rise through the ranks, I left it about a year later to start my own recruitment company – it was a graduate brand within another company called Sales Point. We did really well and managed to drive a significant amount of revenue. 

And then the opportunity came to actually go back and purchase the company I started out with. My business partner and I acquired that recruitment business, and we merged two companies into one. As the company scaled, we opened another office up in Manchester and hired lots of people. 

During that time, I spoke to many businesses and they all complained that hiring through an agency was expensive, vetting candidates on their own was time-consuming, and there was no way to do things remotely.

As I collected those insights, I said to myself: "There should be a way to solve all of those problems!" And that's where I saw a new opportunity for myself. 

So I left that recruitment business in February 2019, and put my entire life savings and more into starting my own recruitment technology business and building the first piece of software. I raised £300,000 with three fantastic investors who are still with us and who have been unbelievably amazing and supportive along the way. They've re-invested earlier this year which allowed us to build a decent product, launch it to the market during the Covid-19 pandemic and onboard customers despite the crisis.

It's been a great journey from selling clothes in the mountains to owning a technology business, and we've got bigger things on the horizon as well. As we raise more funds, we'll hopefully start a new product which is a game-changing financial offering for recruitment agencies and hiring businesses alike. It's in stealth mode now so I can't reveal much about it.

At the moment, Offerd caters to three target categories which are recruitment agencies, businesses and universities. Can you elaborate more on how your platform is going to affect each target group?

Many universities struggle to secure employment for their students after graduation. At the times of mass unemployment, with experienced individuals being unemployed, students don't stand a chance. When you need to choose between hiring an experienced and an inexperienced person, most will choose the first. The idea was to help universities make students more employable, and we started thinking about how to increase the employment chances of each graduate coming out of the university. However, we've put that on ice for the moment and will "package" it next year when the academic world gets back on track.

In fact, 20% of our customers are direct hiring businesses, i.e. all types of companies that hire individuals themselves. We cater to smaller businesses that don't want to pay for complex enterprise software. As much as 80% of our client base – what we really want to specialize in – are small and startup recruitment agencies whom we give access to really cool remote hiring features. Instead of spending thousands of pounds a month on enterprise software, we offer them a great solution to get to the market and hire. At the moment we see a good increase in customers like this. 

According to your website, you can help recruitment agencies triple their revenue. Is it your brand promise or just a marketing gimmick?

This statement is based on the insight we've gained from a couple of the actual clients using our platform.

A traditional structure of a recruitment business is as follows: you post a job, get a CV, read that CV and look through it to make sure it's a good match. You may arrange a phone call and ask a few questions to make sure they're relevant to the role and have the right qualifications, and then you invite them to a face-to-face meeting or a virtual one in Skype or Zoom. All of that is taking 1-2 hours to complete.

With us, recruiters get all of that done for them: when candidates apply for the role, they complete a screening questionnaire, upload their CV, have a small profile and hold a video or voice interview. So instead of two hours, they literally spend sixty seconds and save a good amount of time.

Our product helps them triple the capacity of their recruitment consultants and improve the quality of hiring, which helps increase their revenue threefold. 

And how does your platform leverage AI?

At the moment, we don't have AI yet, and that's for a specific reason we need to be very careful about. I believe that when AI makes a decision instead of people, it's really bad for recruitment. If a machine has to make a decision, it means you don't get to make it, and you might miss out on something and reject someone you really need on your team. 

Thanks to our software development partner Evolve, we have the capabilities to integrate AI into our platform. But as I've just said – we haven't done it yet because we want to be very careful how we do it.

At the moment, we want to give every recruitment consultant the ability to get as much information as they can, as quickly as possible, so they can make an informed decision, not a robot.

Until we can find a solution, we'd rather give them a relevant context to reinforce their decision-making. We're going to keep testing it until we're 100% sure it's a viable feature.

Are there any similar solutions that you're apprehensive about?

There's always an apprehension there'll be someone who'll make more money because they can build quicker. And there are people out there who do very good things with their products and who do similar products, but I guess the difference between us and a lot of other products is we focus the recruitment process as a whole. It means we encompass job posting and attracting candidates, we encompass screening candidates, video and voice interviewing, we encompass getting rid of admins so that you can integrate your calendar and get interview scheduling done with automation and we embrace collaboration with clients. We provide an all-in-one platform that's very easy to deal with. 

Lots of other recruitment platforms focus purely on video, or they focus purely on posting jobs, or they focus purely on collaboration. They are not focusing on a big picture, and there is a big picture indeed: why would you use four pieces of technology when you can just have one that's ten times cheaper and more effective. I'm definitely apprehensive that there are people out there who can move quicker than we can just because they have unlimited funds, unlike us. However, we launched officially during Covid-19, which is probably the most difficult thing we've done. Still, we're confident that what we're doing is solving an entire process, not just one problem within it.

As you gain steam and onboard more clients, you'll own a lot of big and small data. How will you leverage this data to make a difference in the recruitment industry?

We have to decide what type of data we're going to produce, but one of the most powerful types of data is behavioural. Hiring is very subjective: you hire based on whether you like or dislike a person, and inside of that "I like/ I don't like a person" is discrimination and bias.

Using data, we'll be able to answer many questions and connect the dots. For instance, we'll be able to share things like: although the number of university graduates pursuing this type of job has grown, the number of graduates who are actually getting this job has decreased. We can start to generate some really good behavioural data in the future. We can share insights into what people do and how they do it, insights into how businesses hire and what type of people get rejected, etc. 

I think any technology business should be data-driven. Functionality is great, but the most powerful and the most expensive part of the business is data.

How has Covid-19 affected your product development and business in general?

It's been weird. Covid-19 has increased the amount of interest in our platform exponentially. Suddenly, people that were potentially looking for remote hiring solutions now have to find them, 100%. However, despite an increased interest, many companies are having issues with decision-making: with up to 90% of their workforce being furloughed, they can't make quick decisions. And that's still going on. So while we see new trends towards remote hiring and an increased interest in our platform, we're still waiting for people to get back to business so they can sign off and start adopting this technology, sooner or later.

What's your opinion about WFH vs WFO?

I love both. I think it depends on what you do. I miss the buzz of an office, but I also feel like I get more done when I work from home: I still wake up at 6 am every single morning, and I sit at my desk by 7 am. I save 2,5 hours each day by not having to commute. So, I can use this time to work and do more. That being said, I like WFH, but I do miss WFO.

What piece of advice would you give to your 15-year-old self?

Don't worry about what everyone else is doing. Just focus on what you want to do most.

What piece of advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs who are lacking confidence during these turbulent times?

Embrace the whole journey, both the good and the bad. There'll probably be more bad than good. But the good feels so much better that it encompasses everything else. 

A lot of entrepreneurs and tech companies believe a miracle can happen overnight. I've been doing my product since May 2018, and I'm still not a billionaire.

Is becoming a billionaire your ultimate goal?

No. My ultimate goal is to make a difference. Money is great, but if you want to focus on money, you need to do a different type of work. If I wanted to be a guaranteed millionaire, I'd have worked incredibly hard and gone to finance or something like that. That'd be great to make a lot of money, but that's not the case if you want to make a difference, make a great product, execute strategy, improve operations, build a good business. If you do all of these things right – the money will come.

Featured image: Illustration by Fanny Luor

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