An exciting milestone in the Shortlist journey…

1000 560 Paul Breloff

We’re thrilled to announce our recent seed investment, an exciting milestone that will allow us to continue unlocking professional potential across India and East Africa.

When we started the fundraise process, we sought to partner with investors who share our passion for smarter hiring and who represent the global diversity of our business and team. The group we assembled includes institutional and individual investors from India, Kenya, and the US, each who bring deep expertise from their respective markets. We believe this gives us an incredibly strong foundation on which to grow, with insight and networks in all the places we want to be.

We want to thank each of our investors — University Ventures, Samir Shah of Sattva Capital, Zephyr Acorn, Farm Fund at Impact Assets, Bodley Group, and a handful of individuals who wish to remain private. We are humbled by their faith in us and their excitement about Shortlist’s potential. We have already benefited so much from their tough questions, thoughtful suggestions, and helpful pushes throughout the process — and we’re eager to continue getting their ideas going forward.

So what lies ahead?

A lot! We’re going to use the money we raised to take our data-driven talent screening product and technology to the next level. We’ve learned so much working with nearly 100 employers in the last 18 months, and want to build these insights into a brilliantly intuitive screening platform that will help growing businesses hire even better. We have a rich product roadmap encompassing new and improved assessments, a model for easy assessment customization for each job, and more features for both employers and job-seekers. The end result will be even easier and more targeted hiring without the pain, and with the promise of higher quality, better-fit candidates and employees.

We’re also starting to harness the power of our data. Each candidate who applies on our platform (and several hundred thousand candidates have engaged so far!) shares great detail about her professional experience and aspirations, while the competency-based assessments we deliver allow us to gauge skill, knowledge and potential beyond a CV. We are starting to use this data to better predict who an employer will select to interview, who they’ll hire, and who will actually be great in the job. We’re also starting to look at where candidates might be happiest. These predictive loops will get stronger and stronger as we increase our “hiring reps” with particular roles and particular employers.

It’s an exciting time for our business, and once again we thank our investors for their faith and support. Now: back to work!

Be sure to check out our new website, www.shortlist.net, to learn more, and follow us on Twitter (@Shortlisthires) for hiring tips and other updates!


What we learned from an evening with a bunch of Mumbai jobseekers

1200 859 Shortlist

On a rainy Friday evening in Mumbai, we got together with over 30 outstanding professionals and jobseekers so they could learn more about Shortlist and we could get to know them! Despite the gloomy night, the conversations that ensued over hot chai and pizza were both bright and enlightening.

Here’s what we learned:

Candidates want the freedom to switch careers

Many attendees from a variety of industries and job roles expressed their willingness — nay, desire — to switch careers to something more meaningful or exciting. Some of them had even invested their time and money into acquiring skills like mobile app development or project management, hoping it might help them in making these non-linear career moves. We were particularly inspired by a candidate who mentioned wanting to take up an internship in digital marketing to get his foot in the door and work his way up after putting in 10 years in a totally unrelated industry!

We love to hear that professionals want to challenge the status quo and fulfill their potential in a career they’re excited about. Unfortunately, candidates explained that employers they’ve spoken to often don’t see things the same way. Firms like to hire ‘low-risk’ candidates and therefore tend to hire based on industry experience in an effort to ensure job fit and increased retention.

Ever thought of switching careers but don’t know where to begin?

The main thing you can do is highlight transferrable skills you’ve developed in your current job. Maybe your career in software sales made you great at persuasively explaining complex concepts, which you could translate into a communications role. Perhaps in your operations role you really excelled in hiring and developing trainee colleagues, and that’s how you could shine in a people operations role. Get creative, keep thinking about the root traits that underlie success in each required job responsibility, and make sure to communicate this when appealing to potential employers.

Add in some research and lots of networking (online and offline), and you’re well on your way to landing that new dream job. It won’t happen overnight, but persistence and curiosity are your allies when switching career types and industries.

Brr — “Job boards feel cold”

We learned so much about where and how candidates are looking for jobs in India today. While Naukri, Linkedin, IIMJobs, and other job boards are still undoubtedly the most convenient places to find and apply to a high volume of jobs quickly, our candidates felt it was easy to get lost in the crowd — with hundreds or sometimes even thousands of applicants for a single position.

Issues they expressed included frustration over shooting resumes into a black hole and never hearing back about their application status (or whether their application had even been received by the employer!!) and receiving incessant emails about jobs that weren’t relevant to the interests they had specified after signing up. Contrastingly, they seemed to really appreciate the few times that companies had invested in warmer, more humanizing hiring processes.

Employers take note!

Shortlist has found that the desire for a more tailored hiring experience is a global trend. Check out our takeaways from a similar candidate event we hosted in Nairobi — from Kenya to India, candidates want employers and job boards to recognize that behind every CV is a real human, and every application represents an individual who is trying to further their career.

Hearing this loud and clear was an excellent reminder for us to continue prioritizing candidate care and being there for applicants every step of the way.

Today’s jobseekers want to be able to highlight their strengths on their applications

Another issue that candidates had while applying to jobs was figuring out how to put their best foot forward. They wondered how they could differentiate themselves from other applicants on a 1 or 2 page CV despite being advised (just like everyone else) to optimize for certain keywords employers would look for. Many candidates were surprised to learn that the average amount of time an employer spends on a CV is 8 seconds — very little time to highlight your key strengths!

On the other hand, our attendees felt far more confident in their applications when they actually had to put some skin in the game and showcase their skills on simulations and assessments that mirrored a day in the life of the job they were applying to.

What to do?

While we can’t change how other companies run their application processes, this reinforced for us that even though applying for a job through Shortlist takes a considerable time investment, most candidates are happy for a chance to show what they can do.

While we’re biased towards our platform (check out open jobs and start an application here!) other cool platforms that let you highlight your strengths and be objectively assessed as part of your job application include HackerRank and Aspiring Minds.

We hear you!

At Shortlist, we’re constantly trying to get to know and understand the experience of professionals in today’s job market so we can better respond to their needs and curate resources that will help them in their job searches (be on the lookout for more candidate resources soon!). Every time we get a chance to meet with candidates in person, we’re reenergized in our mission to level the job search playing field and help candidates highlight their ability to do the job to potential employers.

Do you have any other comments, qualms or observations about being a jobseeker in India?

How and where are you currently applying to jobs?

How are you currently exploring career opportunities — articles, blogs, networking groups?

What would you like to see in terms of coaching and mentoring opportunities?

How can we better support candidates as they apply to jobs, whether on Shortlist or not?

Let us know what works and what doesn’t in the comments!

To start an application, check out openings on our platform at www.Shortlist.net.

For more ideas, resources, and updates from Shortlist, be sure to follow us on Twitter, Medium, and Facebook (where we post new job alerts on our feed!).


paradox of choice

When Deciding Is Hard: The Modern Recruiter’s Paradox of Choice

1200 900 Paul Breloff

When Barry Schwartz first wrote and spoke about the “paradox of choice” in the early 2000s, he was grappling with the cute problems of an analog world, like how to sort through the varieties of jeans at a Gap, or how to choose among the bottles of olive oil at a supermarket. I wonder what he makes of our modern digital cornucopia of options and decisions, of all the choices beamed directly to our computer screens available for one-touch purchase. If he thought he had it tough then…

What is the paradox of choice?

Quick reminder: Schwartz’s idea is that, paradoxically, more choice is often worse for us, not better. It seems counter-intuitive — we like to be in control, we like it our way, right away, so the more options the better, right? Wrong.

Research continues to show that beyond some minimum threshold of optionality, more choice leads to trouble in three ways:

  1. Too much choice leads to paralysis, not liberation, as we try in vain to sort through options and make the “best” decision
  2. Too much choice leaves us less satisfied with our decision (when we can actually make one) because we’re confronted with a bewildering array of opportunity costs in the paths-not-taken
  3. Too much choice sometimes even leads us to make objectively worse decisions, because our brains grasp onto faulty heuristics to guide us through the data and variables.

The reality is, deciding is hard! Deciding requires cognitive effort, of which we have limited reserves. Ask Barack Obama, who as President of the United States was charged with making hundreds of critical decisions every day, and wisely found ways to reduce non-essential decision-making to a bare minimum. As he told Michael Lewis, he limited sartorial hemming and hawing to preserve energy: “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits…I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

How does the paradox of choice effect recruiting?

So, imagine the double-edged sword of the modern recruitment marketplace. Job boards and social media have succeeded in aggregating jobs and job-seekers so that candidates are inundated with hundreds of what-might-have-beens and the-grass-might-be-greeners. And now, employers can often generate candidate pools into the thousands. The thousands! For a split second, this could sound like a recruiter’s utopia — and then the paradox of choice is front and center. The reality of stacks and stacks of CVs sinks in and we’re reminded of the scientific reality that this will almost certainly lead to a sense of paralysis, dissatisfaction, and poor decision-making.

Sure, you say, reviewing a thousand resumes would suck and might lead to a creeping dissatisfaction with whomever one ends up choosing. But does this proliferation of options actually lead to worse decisions?

More decisions = worse decisions

I’d argue yes, in most cases. When a recruiter or hiring manager is confronted with a thousand resumes, she or he must figure out a quick way to make sense of the pile, a strategy to quickly screen. Unfortunately, the most common strategy to triage a stack of resumes is to look for markers of familiarity, a thought process that sounds like, “Do I recognize the school names, do I recognize the company names, does this person seem like ‘us’?” Unfortunately, biases of this sort (which are often operating implicitly, not consciously) lead us to enshrine pedigree over ability and entrenches like-hiring-like, rather than diversity.

What can you do to simplify hiring choices?

At Shortlist, we’re hoping that our automated approach to screening big candidate pools will remove a large part of the bias creep and decision fatigue that hiring managers face as they grapple with the paradox of choice. Here are a few simple steps to reduce the number of choices you face on a daily basis, and improve your satisfaction with those decisions:

1. Establish upfront screening filters

For most positions, there are certain factors that are necessary to function in the role — things like speaking a local language, having a certain salary range or being willing to relocate. By pinpointing and filtering for these basic must-haves, you significantly cut down on your number of options to consider for a role, and save yourself the time of getting to know a candidate who ultimately couldn’t accept an offer or succeed on the job. We use an automated chatbot that asks candidates questions regarding basic fit (location, salary range, etc.). If they don’t fit the must-haves, we don’t advance them through to the next round.

2. Use competency-based assessments to identify top performers

Whenever possible, test applicants with competency-based assessments or case studies instead of relying on CVs and unstructured interviews to make hiring decisions. Generating data points on performance will help you objectively rank a long list of candidates and ease the stress of making choices.

3. Present decision-makers with essential information only

Whether you’re a recruiter sharing a list of candidates with a client, or a talent acquisition head who needs the hiring manager to make a decision, chances are at some point in the recruiting process you will be sharing information on candidates with others. Think about how much information you need to share on each candidate to help them make smart decisions without the stress. At Shortlist, rather than include every one of the hundreds of data points we collect on candidates, we share the important stuff while holding enough back to create a subtle sense of “magic” when the candidate who shows up for an interview is just right.

This article originally ran on People Matters.

Hiring in Kenya

Hiring in Kenya: Three takeaways from our new report

1080 788 Simon Desjardins
“How much time are growing companies spending on hiring?”

“What is most challenging and time-consuming about the hiring process?”

“Can we quantify the benefits of making a great hire?”

As we help growing companies built high performing teams, these are a few of the questions that we keep being asked. Despite how basic these questions may seem, there’s actually very little reliable data out there to answer them, at least in an emerging market context. To begin to change that, we partnered with FSD Kenya and Open Capital Advisors to learn more about how small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in Kenya are hiring. We’re excited to release the report and share its findings with you. In case you don’t have time to read it in full, here are three takeaways:

1. Hiring is extremely time-consuming

During the decade we spent — before and after we created Shortlist — helping SMEs source and screen talent, we have become acutely aware that hiring is massively time consuming. From figuring out what to put in a job description, to sourcing candidates through multiple channels, to sifting through hundreds of applications, to organising and managing interviews, to all the follow-up needed to negotiate a final offer — the hours add up. But most companies that we’ve observed, including the ones we interviewed for this research, aren’t actually recording or analysing the time it takes them to hire, and consequently don’t know what it’s really costing them.

We found that for a single mid-level hire, companies are spending around 18 hours screening CVs, and then 19 additional hours interviewing candidates. Unfortunately, many hiring managers report feeling that much of the time spent before the interview stage is being wasted.

How can organisations screen and interview candidates more efficiently and effectively? A few solutions:

  • Rather than filtering candidates based on CV data, implement a competency-based screening approach to objectively filter out candidates who don’t possess the core requirements needed perform on the job. Much of this process can now be done online.
  • Generate discipline around what you will screen before an interview and how you’ll spend valuable interview time. Many assessments are more effectively administered remotely and scored by machine, equipping hiring managers to interview candidates who have already been pre-vetted in ways that can be tough to do in an interview setting. Cognitive ability, for example, is highly correlated to job performance across job categories, but is often harder than we might imagine to assess quickly in a short face-to-face setting.
  • Use a structured interview method to significantly increase the chances that your interview will actually predict on-the-job performance.

2. Too many high-level staff and non-HR employees are involved in hiring

When companies consider their hiring costs, they often only consider direct expenses, such as job board posting fees. In fact, we found that the key cost driver is time, and 85 percent of hiring time is spent by non-HR staff.

In practice, this means that non-HR staff are involved with screening CVs, because functional knowledge is needed for identifying the right skill sets and experience, though CV screening can be a futile task. Business managers often lead the interview process as well, and up to 3 interviews are often conducted.

We’re sometimes asked how business managers can spend less time on the hiring process, and we often provide the following guidance:

  • Define the “must have” requirements that will drive high performance (and by “must have”, we mean a maximum of 3 requirements, not 20).
  • Collaborate on designing an assessment that mimics a key task that a candidate would need to excel at if you hired them (not a theoretical exercise).
  • Agree in advance what will constitute a “good answer” to your interview questions, such that business managers don’t need to be present in each interview round.

3. A high-performing hire is exponentially more valuable than a low performer.

We all know what it feels like when we make an amazing new addition to our team. As soon as they join, we’re often instinctively aware they will have a net positive impact on the company. We wanted to back up that instinct by quantifying the difference high-performing employees make. We found that top-performing employees have a an exponential — not linear — effect on their organisation’s bottom-line, especially in sales or credit roles:

  • A high-performing sales agent can generate around two and a half times the margin of a low performer in the same organisation.
  • For one of the companies consulted, the difference between a high and low performer amounted to a difference of approximately US $30,000 in revenue per agent per year (in a business with sub-$1,000 transaction sizes).
  • High-performing loan officers can generate up to seven times the annual margin of low performers.

These figures show that for growing SMEs, hiring high-performers should be prioritised with great urgency. If this sounds obvious, you may be surprised to know that the vast majority of HR departments are measured based on cost-per-hire or speed-per-hire rather than quality-per-hire.

We recognise that this research isn’t exhaustive, but we hope it will at least begin to point to ways that you can help your organisation hire more effectively, and we would welcome your questions and input.

Download the full report here — Hiring in Kenya: Current Methods, Hidden Costs and the Value of Top Performers — and check out our Business Daily op-ed on the research findings. Want to spread the word? Share your favourite fact from the report on Twitter using #HiringinKenya, and tag us @Shortlisthires!

4 Hiring challenges and opportunities facing Indian companies today

800 553 Yvonne Kilonzo

At Shortlist, I’ve had the chance to get to know dozens of fast-growing companies in India spanning sector and stage — from 6-person startups to a multinational advisory firms — and learn what’s working for them, what’s not, and what hiring challenges they are facing on a day to day basis.

The sheer scale of India’s market is overwhelming. Not only is there a staggering one million people coming into the job market every month, but there is also a lot of turnover — according to LinkedIn, India has the highest percentage of the workforce that is “actively seeking a new job”. Clearly this is an extremely liquid, massive market — but one that also has many frustrating inefficiencies.

These are the top four challenges that I’ve seen companies face when it comes to hiring. If these issues go unaddressed, they could seriously impact economic growth in India. But with every challenge comes an opportunity for improvement, so I’ve also included some potential ways that we can shift our thinking and practices to address these challenges head on.

Challenge #1: Separating serious candidates from the pack

In April, with the new financial year, professional across India gear up for the bonus and increment. Many professionals apply for as many jobs as possible leading up to their review, hoping to get an offer with even a marginally higher salary that they can leverage during negotiations with their current employer. It’s not hard to take this “spray and pray” approach, given that applying to a job typically entails nothing more than uploading your CV to a job board post, hoping that some employer somewhere will see it.

This system is detrimental to hiring practices in India for two reasons. First, it makes it nearly impossible for hiring managers to discern which applicants are genuinely interested in the role, and which have no intention of accepting an offer. It ultimately slows down the entire hiring process and leads to a whole lot of frustration for growing companies.

It also changes the mindset of recruiters. With the assumption that a candidate may not even interested in the job, recruiters find it hard to invest the time in reviewing each application thoroughly, let alone give a thoughtful response to each applicant. This perpetuates a vicious cycle: Candidates are used to employers not responding, so they do the only rational thing and apply everywhere they possibly can.

The opportunity: To separate serious candidates from the pack (or in this case, stack — of CVs), use applications that force candidates to have skin in the game. If a candidate is genuinely interested, they will invest the time to write a cover letter or complete a case study. Assessments like this not only weed out the applicants who aren’t truly interested, but are also much better indicators of ability and fit than a CV alone.

Many top corporates have built their own application portals with a structured system of qualification rounds. Companies like BelongShortlist, and Entelo (in the US) are using social media and other data streams to identify and engage “passive” candidates. Those who engage back consistently and proactively, particularly through multiple rounds of assessments, are most likely to convert into employees.

Challenge #2: Making sense of candidate CVs

There is no standard CV in India. Instead, when reviewing CVs for one job you’ll see everything from a Western-style, one page, achievement-based resume to 20 to 30 pages of everything a candidate has ever done — including primary school achievements! Partly as a consequence of the high volumes of applicants for any opening, candidates will often stuff their CV with as many keywords and buzzwords as possible in hopes of being picked out of a database or catching the eye of a recruiter.

What’s more, many people don’t even write their own CV — there’s a whole business for this here in India! You can walk into any internet cafe in Bombay, give someone your qualifications and target sector and they’ll whip a CV for you. This practice makes it really hard for any differentiating details or personality to shine through on the page.

The opportunity: It’s no wonder that we think the CV is dead! Unfortunately, asking a workforce of 100 million professionals to reformat their CVs will be really tough. But what companies can do is stop relying on CVs in their own hiring processes. Instead, decide on the mandatory qualifications and core competencies that are absolutely necessary for success on the job, and use a standardized method to screen based on these factors.

Challenge #3: Knowing that candidates can do the job before you hire them

Most of the hiring happening in India is experience-based recruiting (“Does the candidate have at least two years’ experience in solar industry?”) rather than competency-based recruitment (“Can the candidate perform the tasks that the job entails?”). Sure, sometimes past experience indicates that you’d be great at a job, but you might be surprised to learn how often it doesn’t match up.

We saw this firsthand during a partnership with an international management consulting company. They were working with a number of recruiters, and as expected, some of the candidates that went through the Shortlist process were also brought to the client by other recruiters. Many of the candidates who had impressive experience were being advanced by the other recruiters, but when they took the Shortlist assessments they didn’t perform as well as others did. Ultimately, we were able to recommend a number of candidates who were hired — but on the basis of how they performed on our suite of assessments that measure demonstrated skill, not just where they went to school or worked.

The opportunity: Lazlo Bock, former Head of People Operation at Google, uses research to show that the single biggest predictor of an employee’s performance in the workplace is the “work sample.” This is to say — the best way to see if someone will be good at the job, is to see them actually do the job!

Sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how often an unstructured 30 minute “chat” with a candidate substitutes for a rigorous technical and capability assessment. Don’t you want your PR Manager to be able to write a good press release? Shouldn’t your Category Manager know how to create a demand forecast? Should you be waiting until the interview to find out?

Competency assessments including case studies or work simulations will increase the likelihood of hiring talent who will be high performers on the job. At my previous role as an Investment Officer at a financial technology venture fund of Accion International, we gave every single applicant a case study before the interview. If they couldn’t write an intelligent analysis comparing a handful of investment opportunities, there was no point in an interview. Today, companies like Mettl and Jombay are helping companies add more objective assessments to the hiring process to increase their hiring efficiency and success rate.

Challenge #4: Willingness to invest in talent and finding the right recruitment partners

This last challenge will be the hardest to tackle, but I think will result in the greatest change for Indian companies in the long run. Across the board, there is a mindset that talent is an afterthought, that hiring is a mere necessity of running a business, not the core of what makes its successful.

One way this manifests itself in outsourcing to any external recruiter who can fill an empty seat as quickly as possible. There are over 20,000 “mom and pop” recruitment agencies in Mumbai alone. The cut-throat commission-based model these agencies work on — one months’ salary if you successfully place someone — creates terrible incentives. Recruiters tend to send their clients the highest priced candidates for a role, not necessarily the ones who are the best fit for a role.

The opportunity: As with any fragmented market, technology and business model innovation will play a big role in consolidating the long-tail of sub-scale recruiters.

In the meantime, we hope that all companies will take a thoughtful approach to their hiring. Carefully consider the mix of processes you build in-house, the human resources you deploy, and the technology and trusted recruiters you bring on. Your in-house team shouldn’t be manually reviewing thousands of resumes — it’s 2017! Plan your hiring in advance — don’t start searching today for someone you needed yesterday. Think about how to incorporate assessments, work samples, and on-site interviews into your process.

And always remember — the lowest cost solution is often not the best choice. Shortlist estimates that closing a mid-level hire can take as many as 70 hours and cost as much as 2.5 lakhs (USD 3,700) in time and fees — and if you make a rushed or sub-optimal choice — you might find yourself having to start over.

We’ve had the privilege of working with dozens of clients who truly value talent. And you can see how it pays off — not just in their awesome team culture and employee retention rates, but also for their bottom line. I hope that more companies in India will turn these hiring challenges into opportunities and enjoy the same benefits for their growing businesses.