Putting the “chat” in chatbot: Introducing our new features!

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At Shortlist, we want to make sure everyone has fun throughout the hiring process! We design human-centred products for our clients (employers) and candidates to help them enjoy the experience of recruiting and applying for jobs.

We’re excited to introduce our latest product — a new & improved candidate chatbot!

Candidates chat with a bot — that’s as sassy, funny, or straightforward as our clients want it to be — to share details about their background, skills, and experience. Shortlist configures the chat questions based on specific details employers need — no unnecessary questions, and no boring forms!

Today, we’re launching a more flexible and interactive chatbot that will enhance the recruitment process for both applicants and employers alike. Take a look at our latest features!

A more interactive application experience for candidates

Hundreds of thousands of candidates across Africa and India have applied to jobs on Shortlist, and we want them all to know that we’re on their side! We try to understand these candidates as people — what they love and hate about job applications, what aspects of the process stress them out the most, and what they’d love companies to do differently. (We also engage with candidates on several other exciting topics, but not all result in a new product build 😊).

We took all of this into account when creating our new chatbot. Here’s what candidates are most excited for:

Better communication: Candidates can preview a job application before they dive in, see how long they have before the deadline, and track the progress of their application.

Candidates track progress through the application and chat using an intuitive interface.

More human interactions: A WhatsApp-esque chat interface makes it more enjoyable for candidates to share details about their careers and interests.

Easier navigation: Unlike most structured forms, candidates can easily move through various stages of the application and come back to ones they want to complete later.

Friendly prompts help candidates understand what to do.

Clear instructions: Friendly prompts, cleaner drop-downs, and lots of messaging tell the candidates exactly what we’re looking for.

Flexibility: Candidates can answer questions in the format they are most comfortable with. For example, they can enter their salary in whichever currency and time period they’re comfortable they’d like.

More flexibility and customization for employers

Hiring managers — what if you could automate every question you ask an applicant during an initial phone screen? That’s essentially what our chatbot does for you! It takes in the key information you would ask to gauge if the candidate is a fit for your role. Here are the features that allow us to replicate the experience of a phone screen, at scale!

Employers only include questions they need.

More flexibility with the question flow: With our customizable chat, you make sure you’re only asking relevant questions. Depending on a candidate’s response, you can branch to a different set of follow-up questions.

Automated screening: Exclude candidates that don’t meet basic criteria early in the process, just like you would not continue with a phone screen if the candidate didn’t possess a “must-have” skill.

‘Boost’ candidate scores on core requirements. Branch to different sections based on a candidate’s response.

Automated scoring: Give different weight to questions you care the most about. For example, if your ideal candidate has 4–6 years of experience building financial models, you can “boost” responses to the question, and it will reflect in the candidate scoresheet.

Structured data: Responses to chatbot questions live in set columns in our database. If a candidate has answered a question for one of your applications, they don’t need to again.

See for yourself!

We’d be delighted to show you around our new chatbot — email us at sales@shortlist.net for a demo.

We’re excited about making the hiring process as fun and stress-free as we possibly can and there’s so much more we’re working on to achieve this. Stay tuned!

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What Kenyan employers want — Digging into our 2018 data

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When an employer works with us to recruit for an open position, we tailor an online application to include screening questions and assessments that gauge for the must-have skills they’re looking for. Once they’ve reviewed their list of top performers on our Talent Gallery, hiring managers get to provide feedback on their reasons for rejecting and or moving a candidate forward to the interview stage. After running over 200 jobs in 2018, we have a ton of data on what pushes a candidate over the line from “maybe” to “I need to meet them!”

On our Talent Gallery, employers give us feedback on why they decided to advance or decline candidates

Here are some of the main reasons, and corresponding tips for both hiring managers and candidates:

Assessment scores: High performance on skills assessments was one of the top reasons that hiring managers decided to move a candidate forward on the Shortlist platform. Prioritizing candidates based on assessment scores is a smart way for recruiters to spend their valuable interviewing time with candidates who have already shown they have the ability to perform on the job. After all, last year we found that SMEs in Kenya are spending around 19 hours conducting interviews for a single role!The Shortlist assessments approach is based on 85 years of research that show that cognitive tests, work samples, and structured interviews have the highest predictive value in understanding how someone will perform on a job.

Tip for hiring managers: How can you increase the value of assessments in selection? Learn from our white paper on Science of Hiring on Kenya.

Relevant experience: Experience remains a top factor in why an employer would choose to move forward with a candidate. This is because it gives the hiring manager the assurance of the candidate’s ability to apply relevant skills in the job for productivity. A degree qualification used to be a major deciding factor in who got the job, but since there’s been a rise in the acquisition of degrees over recent years in Kenya, employers are forced to focus more on experience.

Tip for candidates: Highlight key experiences in your job application and resume to avoid the chance of an employer discarding it without a second thought.

Potential: Candidate potential appeared to stimulate greater interest than actual accomplishments. In every instance that a hiring manager highlighted the potential of the candidate on our platform, the candidate ended up getting hired! For the hiring managers, candidates who had demonstrated an initial aptitude for their technical abilities and behavioural competencies stood a higher chance if they were considered to have future potential to make a bigger impact than the role they were applying for at the time.

Tip for candidates: As an applicant, use this to your advantage by emphasizing your future value, in addition to past achievements when applying for a job.

Tip for hiring managers: You probably know that performance is what you do, potential is what you could do. Here is a guide on hiring for potential over experience.

Culture Fit: Like potential, culture fit was a sure predictor of getting hired in 2018. What is even more interesting is that all the hiring managers who highlighted the culture fit were from Small and Growing Businesses (SGBs). Culture fit is crucial for SGBs mostly because they require a different approach from bigger companies, often seeking candidates who take initiative, seek growth opportunities, and are comfortable with ambiguity. The impact of hiring a great fit or a mismatch if often amplified in SGBS due to the small number of staff. Further to this, a study also shows that 84% of recruiters agree culture fit is an important factor in recruitment compared to skills.

Tip: Is the candidate someone who will perform well in your work environment and collaborate effectively with your existing team? If your answer is yes, then they are most likely a good fit. Successful companies such as Netflix and LinkedIn are already hiring for culture fit!

Stability: Although the least considered factor in recruitment, hiring managers remain cautious of profiles full of short job stints as they may be a sign of being unstable or disloyal. However, our data shows that if a candidate has the right experience and high assessment scores then hiring managers are likely to overlook the job-hopping. There’s no doubt about it — you will have to invest resources for a winning recruitment process, and wasting time, money and energy to hire someone who may not stick with you can be frustrating.

Tip: Before you write off candidates with meandering job history, adopt techniques for assessing job hoppers to ensure you don’t miss out on a star recruit.

All in all, recruitment is a test for both hiring managers and applicants. Candidates need to bring their best foot forward to stand a chance of being selected, while recruiters need to pick the best talent to ensure productivity and avoid spending so much time and resources in rehiring.

How I “Unlearned” to Recruit

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Musings from my first six months at Shortlist

As a hardcore recruiter from the recruitment consulting industry, the last six months have been a journey of unlearning what I knew (or what I assumed I knew 😉) regarding hiring, and learning the way recruitment should really happen. I switched my job a little over six months ago to join Shortlist’s Mumbai office, where tech-powered recruitment is our core business.

Shortlist envisions to help all companies build happy, high-performing teams. Our mission for the other businesses (Executive Search, HR Advisory, Training, Campus Placements, and other exciting ideas) are in sync with that of the core business — to ‘unlock professional potential’.

So how has my thinking shifted in the last six months at Shortlist?

Crunched for time? Here’s a bulleted summary of key takeaways from this article, though you will probably miss my key learnings.

– Digitizing candidate data collection is a life-saver for recruiters

– A sustainable hiring strategy is built on a structured recruitment process

– Search approach based on potential rather than pedigree is a catalyst for effective hiring

– Employer branding works like a charm

Digitizing candidate data collection is a life-saver for recruiters

At Shortlist, we create chatbot questions to collect data on candidates. This data automates prioritization and screening of job seekers. Of course, traditionally I have done this manually by going through every resume and cover letter. Like most recruiters, right after hearing, ‘Go, get them!’, I would start calling job seekers. Frustrations would go through the roof if, after all my efforts, the candidate wouldn’t be interested in the job or wasn’t looking for a change at all. My stress levels were at an all-time high, given the unimaginable man hours I was putting into it.

The most awkward and tricky information to collect (which actually matters most to employers in the Indian job market) is salary expectations and the notice period of job seekers. On most occasions, where I was not able to predict a candidate’s earnings, getting this information meant calling up a stranger and asking upfront about their earnings. Our automated chatbots get all this information upfront. Transactional stuff out of the way, I can focus on what truly matters.

Our technology allows job seekers to submit virtual interviews in the form of audio and video responses, and we also offer a proprietary personality test, which job seekers can take for free. This means personality and communication criteria can be assessed by employers before meeting the job seeker.

Key learnings: Put technology to work for you. The basic information can actually be collected and measured before the interview stage.

A sustainable hiring strategy is built on a structured recruitment process

Organizations grow. Even the best places to work on the planet prepare for attrition. Companies will always need to hire. We know this at Shortlist. And so, we work with employers as thought partners, not just for account management but to strategize the entire recruitment process, right from the birth of vacancies till successful joinings. This includes writing job descriptions for companies, setting up a bias-free search strategy, creating multimedia job description pages and competency-based assessments, and sourcing applicants.

When the right match has been found for a particular job, the first job-pitch call of a talent acquisition professional can make-or-break the deal. In my personal experience, on calls, I have struggled with which points to talk about and questions to ask. Historically, I have ended up talking to job seekers about what’s already on their resume and have sometimes been driven into extremely long calls. A typical call between a recruiter and job seeker has each of them narrating stuff off of a good resume. The only difference being, a recruiter is framing the resume content as a series of questions and the job seeker is answering in the affirmative.

The human touch of the Shortlist process has us connect with job seekers at the end of the on-platform application. Here too, we have a fixed set of validation questions that we ask everyone in the same order, but they go far beyond the resume and instead probe into motivation and fit. We condense our chats in exciting briefs shared with employers on our Talent Gallery, for each of the shortlisted job seekers.

Job seeker care (Candidate Support as we love to refer to it in the Indian context) ensures that when someone applies for a role, we are there to assist because we understand that job applications make even the best of us nervous at times. As a recruiter, I have been at the supply end to black hole job boards for some of the popular life insurance companies. I take solace in knowing the fact that all applicant tracking systems have a subscription lifespan. Serendipitously, I might just cross paths with the hiring managers to tell them about Shortlist.😊

An integral part of our process includes closures with all job seekers who have been rejected during the screening stage.

Key learnings: Think long term. Structure wins. #Candidatelove matters.

Search approach based on potential rather than pedigree is a catalyst for effective hiring

When there is no other metric to consider beyond experience, education, duration of employment and work gap, and other (irrelevant?) personal data points, companies and recruiters do not know what criteria to look for and where. This scenario is often described as the talent shortage problem of our time. Here’s our take on each of these metrics:

Experience — At Shortlist, we study career paths and have created our proprietary salary benchmarking tool. We believe that skills matter more than experience — for example, a UI/UX designer or a data analyst can often step up as a Product Manager. To create job applications that can identify candidates with the key skills, we dive into our treasure trove of functional assessments, created and curated by our product managers and instructional designers in association with industry experts and include them in our job application flows. Performance on assessments guides us in making a judgement, whether applicants have become irrelevant and might not be a right fit, even though they have the on-paper experience.

Education — No doubt premier institutional education makes a candidate a great hire. However, on-job-performance might have no correlation to educational background.

Work gap and career shift — We like job seekers whether they are currently employed or not. Trying to keep millennials engaged at work is a herculean task. We have come to accept that our forefathers were much more patient about spending decades at a single company.

Age, race — Our process doesn’t screen for age or race, nor should ANY process! We work with and prefer job seekers who approach the application process with a growth mindset and prudence.

Key learnings: There are always enough people. As a recruiter, I can level the playing field.

Employer branding works like a charm

Impersonal searches have long bugged the industry. A key role of a recruiter is to motivate job seekers to apply to a company. Prior to joining Shortlist, I believed in withholding the name of my clients during my search. Communicating my client’s brand across was difficult on call or by email. It was difficult to even prompt the reply of job seekers with a copy of their updated resume with email templates consisting only of the job description and company website.

Shortlist has gone the human resources business partner way for companies. We are committed to telling job seekers upfront about the company and the role. Our multimedia job descriptions have been able to convey the employer’s brand across; at least the essence of it. This, in turn, has generated interest even from passive job seekers. We invest time, money and efforts not only in going where job seekers are but also in taking the employer’s brand along. This means job seekers aren’t ghosted anymore with promises of having applied to an esteemed client that cannot be named.

With our proprietary database and curated talent hot lists, we are building focused talent communities that are driven to your brand as your business grows.

Key learnings: Investing in employer branding can make hiring easier on many levels.

Happy recruiting!

why good employees quit

Why do good employees quit?

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Losing a star employee can feel devastating (no matter the size and scale of your company). So it’s not surprising there’s a plethora of research on why good employees quit their job and how to mitigate that outcome. Many say that people don’t quit a job, they quit a boss, but as I dug further into the research, I found it’s a lot more complicated than that…

In particular, Facebook’s internal research about why good employees quit their job at that company, recently published in Harvard Business Review, tells a really interesting story about how to lose, and keep, great employees.

Some key takeaways on why good employees quit Facebook:

Good employees quit their job at Facebook for a few main reasons:

  • The employee no longer enjoyed their job
  • Their strengths weren’t being used
  • They weren’t growing in their career

On the flip side, this means that managers can retain great employees by customizing experiences for their people, including:

  • Enabling team members to do the work they enjoy most
  • Helping team members play to their strengths
  • Carving a path for career development that accommodates personal priorities

What does this look like in the day to day?

It’s things like making sure you know whether a top individual performer on your team actually wants to become a manager, and if they don’t, thinking through how their role and responsibilities can grow in other ways.

I’ll close by noting that that most of the research about why good employees quit – or employee turnover in general – has focused on the United States and Europe. However, at Shortlist, we recently conducted a survey with almost 6,000 Kenyan jobseekers which touched on these topics.

We found that the two most important things jobseekers are looking for in a new opportunity are (1) career growth (69.2% of respondents) and (2) alignment with company mission (14.4% of respondents). When you contrast this with those who stated the most important things were salary (only 8.5% of respondents) and stability (only 4.2% of respondents) — clearly, jobseekers are looking for a lot more than your standard 9-to-5!

Do you enjoy these snippets of research, tips and tricks on talent? Sign up for our newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/deINUX

Related: Happier Workplaces: Four Essential Ingredients for Building Them

Sparking a Talent Race-to-the-Top

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This post originally appeared on PCDN, in their Future of Work in Social Change Career Series. See https://pcdnetwork.org/blogs/sparking-talent-race-top/.


The last time I applied to jobs (admittedly, a few years ago now), it was a miserable experience. Dozens of applications, dozens of hours wasted on job boards and cover letters, and what did I have to show for it? Nothing. No interviews, at most only a handful of form rejections. It was mostly a big, yawning black hole. And how did this experience make me feel? Like crap!

Imagine a similar dynamic playing out literally millions of times every day around the world. In India and Kenyaーthe two markets where we workーover a million people join the workforce each month, and the typical job posting gets upwards of 1,000 or more applicants. We’ve all heard the horror stories of millions of people applying for a few thousand jobsーand I’d wager my next paycheck that 90%+ of those applicants never got so much as a courtesy rejection. This is totally demoralizing!

As we’ve gotten to know these talent markets better, I’m increasingly convinced that this breakdown in trust and respect creates a vicious cycle of wasted time and bad outcomes for both the employer and the candidate. Instead of a “race to the top,” it’s a race to the bottom. In this race, candidates lose faith in the fairness and transparency of the job market, driving them to apply to jobs blindly and without any research into the role or company (i.e., “spray and pray”), while companies are so flooded by resumes that they don’t have time to carefully weigh the merits of each application or respond with a status update or rejection.

Exacerbating the problem, job boards have made it easy to apply with one-touch applications, leading many jobseekers to apply to every single open job every day for weeks. And so called data-driven approaches like automated CV keyword searches only incentivize jobseekers to add meaningless buzzwords by the handful, hoping the job board and application tracking system filters will catch them and move them higher in the pile.

Let’s be clear: I don’t think anyone is winning in this current state of affairs. Companies are drowning in resumes and resorting to old-school, bias-heavy approaches like screening only for top academic institutions or known companies to cut through the noise. And jobseekers are not rewarded for deeply researching a role or company and taking their time assembling strong applications that show what they can do and why they’d be great.

So, if much of the market is racing to the bottom…what might companies and employers do to spark a talent race to the top?

  • Make it worth the effort to try: Right now, there’s not much rewarding candidates for taking the time to learn about a company, work hard on an application, and follow up professionally. There are various ways we could incentivize good behavior and deliver more value to jobseekers. We can communicate expectations more clearly on both sides, and be clear about what the overall process will look like. Make it easy to learn more about the company, with compelling job descriptions and links to further information. Communicate excitement about the role and the impact (social or otherwise) you can have on the job. Gamify the process and use icons that visually reinforce best practice (🌟🎖🏆🏅💚). Offer tips and tools on how best to interview, what skills or competencies will matter most in the role and which traits the hiring manager will be looking for.
  • Be human: The job search often feels inhuman, and it has been made even worse in some ways by the digitization of many steps of the search and application process. But an increasingly digital process doesn’t have to be an increasingly cold and inhumane one! Use technology, but make it fun. Invest in well-designed UI/UX. Share personal anecdotes and success stories of current employees and past applicants. Use engaging graphics and emojis (🏄😇💪💥). Don’t be afraid to send an email, make a phone call. Try not to unnecessarily prolong the process (e.g., don’t wait over a week to review an application; don’t stretch processes over 2+ months and 10+ interviews). Use the candidate’s first name every chance you can. In the interview process, show empathy and gratitude for the candidate’s effort and interest in your company. When closing the candidate out, avoid “corporate speak” and give it to them straight, and respect the effort they put in.
  • Deliver value at every turn: Let’s be honest: applying for jobs is grueling and many candidates face 99 rejections for even 1 promising interview. How can we make sure that every candidate, even those we ultimately pass on, get value from the process? To the extent practical, we can provide feedback on why people didn’t get the job. Provide advice about how to make a better application next time and resources about the employer’s industry or the function the person applied to (e.g., a generic white paper on how to prepare for a career as a finance manager or UX designer). Suggest other positions within the company that could be a good fit, and email as similar positions come up in the future. Invite applicants to informational events in the future or networking events to meet other young professionals with similar interests.
  • Be transparent: Black holes suck. It’s bad enough to be rejected from a job you want; it’s even worse when you don’t hear anything at all, one way or the other. Be clear up front what the role requires and the criteria that will be used in deciding who to interview and hire. Acknowledge that you’ve received an application and that you’re reviewing it. If it’s been awhile and you still haven’t made a hire, let candidates know that the hiring process is still underway, and acknowledge the understandable eagerness they may feel for a resolution. And above all else, let people know if you decide not to proceed with them (and bonus points for actual feedback!).
  • Make the process fair: Recruiting processes are riddled with bias at every turn. Resume screening is often based more on recognizable school or company brand names more so than any real markers of ability to do the job. Interviewing is notoriously biased, with most decisions made in the split-second upon meeting and confirmed with conversational trajectories subconsciously directed to confirm initial impressions rather than objectively assess fit. To make the process more fair, invest in tech-enabled screening that vets candidates on objective factors that have been determined in advance. Use skill and other competency assessments to gauge what a candidate can do, rather than just what they say they’ve done. Collect the same information and data-points on each candidate so you can compare apples to apples. Interview in a structured format, with clear notions of what you’re looking for, and what makes for a good and bad answer. Make every effort to make sure the playing field is level, making sure the best and most deserving really do rise to the top.

At Shortlist, we’re trying to build a better way to hire, one that will use a combination of tech and human touch to scale these “better behaviors” across all our clients’ hiring processes. We create media-rich, colorful, and engaging job descriptions. Our digital application process is full of humor, progress updates, “what-to-expects,” color, and graphics. We automate application updates, letting people know they’re still in the running if the process drags and closing out all applicants. We offer dedicated applicant care, a human being candidates can call or email for help. We let employers know when candidates are waiting, offer helpful reminders about how to keep the process moving, and help with structured interviews after the first screen is done. And in the future, we hope to offer many more links and resources to help jobseekers on their journey even if they’re not selected for the job for which they applied.

Our hope is that if we can help employers engage in better behaviors, jobseekers will start to follow suit: we hope candidates in the future research jobs in advance, only apply for the jobs they really want, invest in the process, show up to interviews, negotiate in good faith, and show up on the first day of work (none of which can be taken for granted!). Let’s rev up these virtuous cycles and start a race to the top, so everyone can win.