UB Insider #67: Changing the Face of the Interview Process
About this episode:
HireVue has had a great year—they’ve hit 5 million video interviews, making theirs the largest database of video job interviews, and the company’s roster is still growing. Kevin Parker, CEO of HireVue, talks about how the company is making and sustaining its growth in a competitive sector, and how they hope to change the interview process as we know it.
[The following has been edited for grammar and clarity.]
Lisa Christensen: Hello and welcome to UB Insider. I’m Lisa Christensen, online editor at Utah Business magazine. HireVue has had a great year – they’ve hit 5 million video interviews, making theirs the largest database of video job interviews, and the company’s roster is still growing. Kevin Parker, CEO of HireVue is here to talk about how the company is making and sustaining its growth in a competitive sector. Welcome.
Kevin Parker: Terrific, thanks for inviting me. I look forward to the conversation.
Lisa Christensen: So tell me a little bit about your background and what brought you here initially.
Kevin Parker: I’ve been in the technology industry going back almost two or three decades at this point. I’ve been in the disk drive business. I was in PCs for a while, but mostly in software and enterprise software. So that’s the bulk of my experience.
I moved to Utah, I guess, in the summer of 2012 with no plans. I just wanted to move to Utah and to get back in the West where we were from, and it’s been a great experience moving to Utah and living here.
Lisa Christensen: And what brought you to HireVue?
Kevin Parker: Well it was a really compelling opportunity to join a company that is growing very quickly. I started off as a board member and then September 1, a year ago, I jumped in as CEO and it has been a great experience. It’s obviously a very compelling platform and we’re changing the way the world hires people. Who wouldn’t love a mission like that?
Lisa Christensen: You have been really aggressively growing some of your upper talent, correct?
Kevin Parker: We have. We’ve been adding quite a few people. In fact, we’re continuing to do that. I think we’ve got 40 openings for new jobs even today. We’re adding across the organization both developers, sales people, customer support and back office people as well. It’s a challenge to keep up with the growth, but as we say, it’s a high quality problem.
Lisa Christensen: Yeah, and you’ve had some fairly high profile hirings. You had a recent hire who came from IBM and you’ve got some other big players with institutional experience now. How do you draw from the experience of those people that you’re bringing in to help create a better company?
Kevin Parker: Well part of the goal of hiring experienced leaders is so we can unlock the value of our team. If you’re just sort of doing everything on the job for the first time, it’s hard to grow. So we brought in some new senior leaders from IBM, from Anaplan, from LinkedIn, and from Cornerstone OnDemand to help raise our team. These are not only talented executives in their own right, but they’re great teachers and they’re inspiring leaders. So we’re trying to unlock the value of the team we’ve got in place by bringing some new leadership and some new experience on board.
Lisa Christensen: So tell me about this milestone that you guys recently hit, the five million views.
Kevin Parker: Well it is a great milestone for us and I’ve got an exciting update for you as well. We’ve been in business about 13 years at this point and we did our four millionth interview in early May. So it took us 13 years to get to four million interviews. We did our five millionth interview about 130 days later and we’ll be at about five point five million by the end of this week. So 13 years to four million, 150 days to five million and we’ll probably be at our six millionth interview in early January. That really speaks to the global adoption of our technology.
We’re in 32 languages today. We’re doing interviews in 180 countries around the world. The volume is really compelling but what’s really exciting is to see companies reach out and find talent in new and exciting ways. The video interviews aren’t the end unto themselves, they’re really a way for companies to find talented employees and potential employees around the world. So that’s the part that’s really exciting for us.
Lisa Christensen: Well tell me about how you managed that expansion around the world. How did you do that while still keeping the businesses and the existing model that’s paying the bills going?
Kevin Parker: Well it’s important that we keep up with our customers. In addition to doing so many interviews, we’re working with some of the world’s most exciting and most interesting companies. They’re interviewing globally. You know, we’re 250 people today but we’re working with the IBMs of the world, the Hilton Hotels, the JP Morgan Chases, the Goldman Sachs’. So they’re really pushing us in new directions. We’ve had to redefine what customer service looks like and what customer support looks like. We’re supporting our candidates, or their candidates I should say, all around the world. We’ve got a call center down in South Jordan that’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to sort of respond to that. It’s really about keeping up with customers. That’s why we’re bringing some people on board that have some of that experience to help us.
Lisa Christensen: How do you find just the right direction and angle of these services? And you’re trying to scale on such a rapid scale.
Kevin Parker: You know, a lot of that has to do with focus. My experience has taught me that many companies struggle with trying to do too many things at the same time. So at the start of the year we really narrowed it down to four or five things that we really wanted to accomplish. And by definition, when we only have four or five things there are nine or ten things that we’re not trying to do. Having the organization focus around what the key measures of success are, really staying very disciplined and very focused and as they say, keep the main thing the main thing. Don’t get distracted.
Lisa Christensen: Do you mind me asking what those four or five things were?
Kevin Parker: Sure, I’d be glad to share those. The first was to really engage with our most important customers at a new level. I think we’re doing that very, very effectively.
The second was to expand internationally. And we know that there are people looking for jobs and there are companies hiring around the world. So really expanding internationally and engaging with those folks on a new level was really important to us.
The third was really focused on our assessments platform. The assessments platform is where we’ve taken artificial intelligence and brought it into the interviewing process. And the fourth is really focused around customer engagement and customer retention for all of our customers.
So those were the four things that we set out. And I think if you stopped any HireVue employee today and asked them what our priorities are for the year, I’d hope they’d tell you those were the four things. It’s helped quite a lot to have that focus.
Lisa Christensen: Why do you think that those four things as your focus have helped you be so successful? How have they helped you hit two milestones this year and set you up for a third?
Kevin Parker: Well, you know, it comes down to the fact that we are a small team. And when you start to add a fifth or a sixth or a seventh priority you actually dilute the effort on your first and number one and number two and number three priority. So having a lot of concentrated effort around a small group of goals has helped us and helped our team a lot. I think our customers can sense the difference as well. We’re really engaging with them in a very personal way that we hadn’t been doing before.
Lisa Christensen: So you have clearly found a niche for yourself in a very competitive market of the tech industry. It’s extremely competitive on all facets, but you guys have found a niche. How did you find that niche and how have you kept it?
Kevin Parker: Well part of it really starts with the roots of the company. We were started right here in Salt Lake. Our founder Mark Newman was trying to interview for a company here in town and couldn’t get an interview. He decided that we were going to democratize the interviewing process and we were going to do that through video. So that spirit, that ethos of change has really allowed the company to grow even further. We do have some competition today and I think it’s sort of smaller companies that are doing a little of what we’re doing. But we’re working hard to stay ahead of them. And certainly customer engagement is a big, important part of that as well.
Lisa Christensen: You mentioned having working relationships with some very big names. How do you foster those relationships and how do you go about forming partnerships like that?
Kevin Parker: Two things. One: recognizing that for them it’s personal. For them, they’ve taken a chance on a small company. They’ve in many ways made a career bet on us. So we want to make sure that we’re engaging with them in a way that supports them in that role. They’re change agents within their organizations, so we need to be supporting them.
The second is making sure that we’ve surrounded the customer. It isn’t just necessarily that I have a particular relationship or someone else on the team does, but we work a lot internally to make sure that we’re all very aligned. We want to ensure that all of the touch points that we’re working with in a very large, global company stay aligned. We have internal calls every other week around some of our biggest customers. What’s the latest? What do we need to do? What’s the next project on the horizon? What do the metrics look like today? It’s an opportunity for us to engage cross functionally that keep us aligned with our customers.
Lisa Christensen: You were founded 13 years ago and the world is a lot different than it was 13 years ago. How have you evolved to keep up with the times? And how do you stay on top of such a continually shifting industry?
Kevin Parker: We’ve done a few things. When we first started we were shipping little webcams to people around the world. And we thought in a good year we’d do 100,000 interviews. With a camera on almost every device that you can think of today, we have recognized that the world has changed.
People aren’t doing interviews at their desks. We know that 40% of all of our applicants or all of our customers’ applicants are taking their interviews on a mobile phone. So making sure that you’ve got a mobile-friendly device, almost a millennial friendly way for companies to find talent has been pretty exciting.
A couple of years ago we were sitting on this enormous database of interviews and we thought, what else can we do with this information? And that’s where the artificial intelligence really starts to come in. We can now transcribe the audio of an interview and look at the complexity of word usage and sentence structure with candidates. You can look at the intonation of their voice to understand what they’re communicating. We can also look at their expressions to look at things like sincerity and tenacity and a variety of things like that. So that was a great way to take this enormous database that we had and put it to work in a very new way to help customers and to help candidates.
Lisa Christensen: How do you see this evolving in the future? You know, especially as you’re catering to millennials now but Generation Z is coming up as well. Things are going to just keep changing.
Kevin Parker: It is a constant change and that actually makes it very, very exciting. We’re thinking about a lot of things we can use these algorithms for and this artificial intelligence for. Imagine a world in the future where you didn’t apply for a specific job. Many of our customers think candidates are actually applying for the wrong jobs. If we could create algorithms that helped match candidates with jobs within an organization, they could say, you’d really be good at this analytical capability and this person over here might be really good at this sales capability. So you wouldn’t really interview for a job but more introduce yourself to the company and keep a profile online that’s ready and accessible. It would actually steer people in the right direction to help them find the right job at the end of the day.
One of the other areas we’re really excited about is the role we might play in the future with respect to diversity. We recognize that one of the ways that companies solve diversity issues is to interview more broadly, to interview more people at the end of the day. Certainly a video capability enables you to do that. But the algorithms are written and developed in such a way that they actually neutralize any bias in the process. So we’re letting the most talented people come to the surface irrespective of their age or their gender or their ethnicity. All the human biases that we bring to an interviewing process, we can neutralize by using that algorithm. We think we can actually help the world a great deal in understanding diversity and improving the quality of hires.
Lisa Christensen: So it benefits companies in that they are getting the right people who are a better fit for jobs and they’re getting the most qualified candidates.
Kevin Parker: And they can interview very, very broadly. So it helps the candidates as well. I’ll give you a really brief example. Goldman Sachs used to interview at a bunch of schools that I could never have gotten into. Today they’re interviewing at 900 colleges and universities around the world using HireVue as a video platform and they’re getting a much more diverse group of candidates as a result.
Lisa Christensen: Is there anything else you’d like to add about the growth that you’re maintaining or about where you see the future of technology taking us?
Kevin Parker: Well I think we’re in this exciting era where technology has done so much for so much for human endeavors, if you look at manufacturing and things like that. Yet we haven’t really changed the way that we interview people. It’s still the same way and it has this illusion of being valid. But we all bring our personal biases into the interviewing process.
There’s just so much more that can be done using technology in new ways to access people, to find people, to find talent in very exciting ways. And I think it gets back to that original mission of democratizing the process. Too much of interviewing is: who do you know, where did you go to school? I played lacrosse, you played lacrosse. That sort of stuff. And that brings bias into the process that isn’t helpful to the company and it certainly isn’t helpful to the candidates. So we think we can solve all that.
Lisa Christensen: Well fantastic. Good luck with that. I sure hope you do.
Kevin Parker: Thank you very much. I’m delighted to be here.
Lisa Christensen: Thanks also to Mike Sasich for production help today. Be sure to follow us on social media at @utahbusiness and subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening.