37 minutes | Sep 1st 2020

Asynchronous voice interviews, going beyond the resume with automated assessments — Paul Noone CEO at HireIQ

Welcome to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast. A show about innovations, technology and leaders in the recruitment industry brought to you by Talkpush, the leading recruitment automation platform. 
Max: Good morning, everybody and welcome to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast with max  from Talkpush. Today I’m excited to be welcoming Paul Noone, who is CEO for HireIQ and someone who is in technology. And I've, we both focus a lot of our energy on the call center and the BPO market and service this industry, which is always hungry for automation and innovation. So we both love this industry and we can exchange our thoughts on this topic.
Paul, thank you so much for joining me on my new podcast. 
Paul: Hey, thanks Max, I’m thrilled to be here actually. 
Max: So our audience, some of them will recognize HireIQ. And some of them will probably recognize you, but they probably don't know the history of how you ended up starting this business, or how you ended up with HireIQ.
Perhaps you could walk us through that journey. 
Paul: Yeah, I'd love to. HireIQ is an interesting technology and we're very focused on the call center. And because the call center has this outsourcing process that's associated with business process outsourcers.
Most of the organizations don't realize that, while Fortune 500 organizations, anybody with a product or service has a requirement to support through call centers or through service locations, they also do a lot of outsourcing. So they're organizations like BPOs, the large ones in call centers are Teleperformance and Alorica and Atento and Sutherland and 24[7].
And those are the organizations that we help with  in the talent acquisition, part of this, you know, max, you and I probably talked about this before, but recruitment is the term that we use. But we're in sort of a special place in recruitment. We're in the engagement with the candidates, the acquisition of all the data that we aggregate as much data as we can in a shorter period of time.
And then we provide it to the recruiters in such a way that they can quickly make a decision, because we're talking about maybe 10 interviews for every hire, we're really known for our efficiency. And then we're also known for the AI associated with how we do that. How do we tell whether a candidate it's going to be particularly good at this particular role in collections or in sales? Or in support?
We do a whole lot with that. I actually got here about six years ago through the investors. So I had just, I was working with another technology company on disaster relief, and just sort of an interesting aside, Max, we had built a product around disaster resource management and that's where these large scales or, when you guys experienced the typhoons and we have the hurricane season from June through November and, being able, you know, the shift in technology, the shift to phones, being able to locate all of the things that you need when a disaster strikes is a really interesting use case.
So we had gone pretty deep into that and acquired some large customers, the U.S Red Cross, but we were looking to move from the Red Cross division of emergency management and we were looking for additional investment. So I was on sort of a roadshow talking to investors and ultimately a lot of people made the decision that it, and it's a function of that market. But, without disasters, if you have a good year, meaning no disasters, you’re getting no money into that particular part, the Red Cross every now and then they literally go almost to zero. So they actually need engineering, 
Max: Pure disasters once in a while. 
Paul: And oddly, when you're in that business, you start to hope for bad things to happen. So there was something wrong, but the investors didn't buy. 
Max: I think it's not just the disaster people. I have a feeling that a certain class of politicians also relying on a good disaster once in a while. 
Paul: Well, so there's politics in there, the weird thing about funding ,and how funding shifts, and things like that.
I think that actually is what scared investors away, Max, and it's a shame in some ways. That what we were doing was, you know, enabling, with the Red Cross, for example, we found a billion dollars worth of resources that had been sort of lost, and it hadn't literally been lost. It was in firehouses and it was in other locations.
And that sounds like an inventory management issue, but it's not when something bad happens in one part of the state. And then you realize that through a quick app, you can find it. Where everything is: shovels clubs, protective eyewear, and N95 masks, for example. Imagine that you put in an application, you find a billion dollars worth of resources, really through crowdsourcing your own people.
Anyway, that app is lovely but the investors didn't think it was an investable market at the time. And so I just finished this and I had met with the investors here and I called them back and said, you know, so we'll probably shut this down. And they said, great, because we have something we'd love to share with you.
And they brought me into HireIQ. I have a background in call centers. I was with Genesis as they were starting out on sort of the part of the first team. I want to say pre-revenue, but I want to say Genesis is a $2 billion organization right now, 20 years ago when I was with them we had less than $10 million in revenue. So building that to a public company and then moving on, but coming here was lovely in that the technology was solid. 
But it was  a function of focus. We were trying to do too much. By focusing on call centers and BPOs in particular, we ended up, turning into, from being a typical technology company where we might be losing money quarter after quarter to being one that was profitable, really understood what we were doing and then have been very zeroed in on that use case around language proficiency, around understanding our customer's needs and really, more than anything else, making sure that they're succeeding.
So closing that loop and making sure that they succeed. 
Max: Your star product is the product called Audiolytics? 
Paul: Well, so Audiolytics is really the technology that underlies the audio processing that we do. So at the heart of what we're doing is, the origin story really comes around. While I submit my resume in a recruiting, in an interview process, what that does is it strips out my personality and my voice.
It strips out the narrative. I moved from the disaster resource management effort into HireIQ, why did that happen? All of those things that you get to tell people in an interview process. So the origin story is really about how do we add a narrative to what's a two dimensional piece of paper that's supposed to represent me.
And so with that, we started to create a platform that would say not only here's the resume and here's some qualifiers about me, but here's my voice. 
Max: It used to upset me so much when I started on my career and I would go and socialize, go to a bar anywhere and someone would ask me, so what do you do?
And, you know, I didn't want to tell them my job title and the company I worked for, because I didn't feel like it represented anything about me. And it would always come up with some weird answer I would say, oh, what do I do? You know, I roller skate or, you know, or something, just so that I could come out and shine and that wasn't a social environment in a work and job search context.
Also, what do you do? Should be the first question or rather who are you? rather than a resume. 
Paul: Tell me about your expense in this particular business is an open ended question that a lot of our customers ask, but asking open ended questions, which is an old interviewing technique and a valuable one really allows people to tell them more. To talk to the narrative. Tell me about your experience in this particular world. Tell me about your understanding of customer support. Tell me your understanding. Tell me about an experience that you had with your boss that may be positive or negative, but being able to do that and being able to do it asynchronously when, you know, we could collect lots and lots of those became really the most important thing.
But Audiolytics is actually the parsing of that. The audio data in order to get a really good and different understanding. So Max, what it doesn't do, is it doesn't convert voice to text and then parse it that way. But, it literally is looking for tone. So it's in these frames of voice, it's saying that's a positive, that's a negative, that's a happy emotion, that's a sad emotion. We're looking for things that we know are important for a good employee, but are particularly important when you're dealing with call center agents. That they're engaged, they're alert. They're more active than passive. They're not expressing boredom. Which is really interesting when you can pick up boredom because when a recruiter gets this information, they're going to see an Audiolytics score that says, you know, this person is probably not someone you want to spend a lot of time with.
And I would say more than anything else we're not dispositioning customers. What we're doing our best to do is to give them an idea of priority. Talk to Max. He's got a great score. He's good with language. He's got good scores with data entry and even chat. 
Max: I didn't know that your technology was able to detect boredom. That's remarkable. Would it be influenced by geography and how do you factor that in? Because you live in Atlanta, people are supposed to speak a little bit more slowly, perhaps have a drawl. You don't, but nonetheless, you know, would the software, not pick up on the intonation and think maybe somebody from the South is bored?
Paul: So it's really interesting. What you're doing is, so engagement doesn't necessarily have anything to do with dialect. And in fact, the tool itself is just sort of mentioned there's no conversion. It's listening for something that would be appropriate for the cohort of folks who are taking it ,interestingly enough.
It's actually self adapting, because the same tool is used for engineers and salespeople and support people — all should have a different dynamic in their voice. And so it actually has to adjust based on the people who are taking the interview. The people who are successful in expressing themselves in that interview, as well as the questions.
The questions and the people are really the dynamic that you're looking for, but boredom might be expressed differently by an engineer, or by somebody from, a Latin expression. But, the cohort itself helps to define that. And so ultimately you have not only our recommendation, but you also have the answer.
So what's interesting about it is how closely we track to what a good recruiter would do. In the initial testing, after we did the machine learning on it. So can we in fact pick these up at a high rate? So can we, in fact, identify that Max is more happy than sad? Can we identify that when he’s taking this test he's more bored? When we do that, we match Max almost 97% against a recruiter who would be listening to those particular things. 
So imagine that the technology itself is so wildly accurate in a lot of ways. But you know, to that end, that's what Audiolytics does. We’re really sort of the platform is HireIQ, and it's a whole series of ways to basically create a recipe of assessments to understand more about you more about whoever you're interviewing — at speed. 
So we're trying to get the recruiting experience to be three, three and a half minutes. So you don't spend a lot of time with these individuals unless you're really digging in on them. And then with the candidate experience should be less than 20 minutes.
Max: So the questions are not picked from a standard list. Since you're working with open answers, you don't have to use the same questions with every customer. 
Paul: No, in fact, they're different in virtually every customer.  There are some that seem to be universal people do want, need, to understand what your experience has been with customer support.
So, if you're going to be in that customer support role, you're going to have to have some experience in sales, right? That has come up. 
Max: Yes. For me, it's like a yes or no answer. Have you worked in this industry before? That's usually how they ask that question in a chatbot environment. Paul: So that would be a bad question for us.
What we're always going to do is ask a question that asks you to elaborate on something because we do in fact, need enough content to understand the profile. We need to have enough of Max telling us about Max to understand where Max's orientation is in terms of sharing, communicating. For the question, is he too verbose? Meaning he may be struggling with answering a particular question and trying to overanswer a question, or is it too short, meaning maybe he doesn't have the skills to think through and is that enough for this particular customer? 
So there are all kinds of metrics, there are cohort determined, sort of thresholds. It's really fascinating. And now we've done about, you know, close to 5 million interviews with it. So we have a really good base of understanding of how effective it is when matched with outcome data.
So it's really fun stuff. 
Max: Does it replace, let's say the first phone call? I mean, if you're going to look at the standard recruitment process to hire it replaces the first phone call. 
Paul: So really what it's designed to do is give you a complete understanding. So we have customers who might do it for the engaged at the front end.
We have customers for who it represents the entire interview process. So  once they've engaged, they've completed it. They have the scores, they meet thresholds. Then it's appropriate literally for the recruiter when they engage with them to close them.  You've probably experienced this, particularly with BPOs is that there's a real machine, there’s a supply chain and with the attrition rates that exist, what you're working your best to do is fill training classes. And what we're doing, of course, is trying to identify people who are going not only achieve the right goals, the metrics that they're looking for, but we're also looking for folks who have an orientation, which would suggest they're going to stay longer.
So that's one thing that we're doing, but because there's such a speed element, to this we are really careful about, trying to do as much as we can in a shorter period of time, giving you a complete understanding so that that particular recruiter can sell when appropriate and be restrained also when appropriate.
So somebody does, you know, in the U S we have to answer, we have to give everybody the same interview experience. So that means that if you answer the first question horribly, Max, I still have to give you an opportunity with the next 7 questions I'm supposed to ask in an interview. It's a fair interviewing process, even if you disqualief yourself right out of the gate.
And so one of the things about being able to acquire this information, offline and, online, as opposed to in front of somebody, it gives that particular person, the ability to advance quickly through that particular candidate and prioritize who to sell and who to, again, disengage with.
Max: I understand the benefit for the candidates to do a short interview and a short assessment and get through those things faster, but it sounds like it's more than just, you know, I mean are you doing it because you get dropouts when ,people are held up more than five minutes? Or is it at the request of your customers? What's the driving force behind keeping it just two or three minutes long?
Paul: Oh, I'm sorry. So the interview itself for the candidate will be as much as 20 minutes, but we're trying to keep it under 20 minutes, really because there's a falloff Max. 20 is about the cutoff. If you've seen some of the older, you know, The 1950 based assessments that had a lot of triangulation, right.
You're asked one question one way and then seven questions later, you're getting the same question phrased differently in order to validate that the first question was like the second question and your answer was consistent throughout. And if you know that that's going to be an hour and a half, you really start to wonder, is there an easier way to get a job? For this wage.. 
Max: But time is speeding up, right? People have a lot shorter attention spans. They have multiple conversations going on asynchronously with five friends at the time. And so I expect that the 20 minutes would already be beyond the comfort zone for some people who are remote.
Paul: It's very, very close. And you see what we're trying to do. It answers that question: is it enough? What we're trying to do is the open ended questions seem very much like what a typical interview would be. So tell me about yourself. Tell me about an experience that you had. What would your last employer say about you?
Those kinds of open ended questions are the things that seem conversational. And allow you to expand upon yourself, but in fact are dense with data for us to help make a decision. And so the tone, the tempo, and in fact, the content is even important, but only when you know that that petitioner has an alertness and an engagement that pleasantness that you're looking for now go back and listen to those questions.
Is there even more data that we can mine there? And that's why on average, it's about three and a half minutes. Because some you're just going through they didn't meet any of my language proficiency thresholds or whatever. And now we can spend a little bit more time with the particular person that I want to hire.
And that would extend, you know, that's when you advance candidates and things like that, but it really is. I agree with you. I think what you're asking in that question is how do you give the candidate an opportunity to advance themselves, to tell their story? And not be too efficient in the process, that would eliminate me being able to tell enough about me. And so I think this is sort of the best of both worlds. 
Max: Yeah. I get the sense that 20 minutes would be annoying if I'm sitting at home and I'm applying to 10 different jobs, but yeah. If I had a sense that this company could be a fit, they are interested in me, then, yeah. 20 minutes is no problem, easy. And certainly easier than traveling physically to sites. 
So, have you seen the same thing as we have at Talkpush over the last few months? We've seen an increase in the volume of job seekers, an increase in volume of candidates. And how has that played out for the rest of the recruitment funnel?
Is it,  becoming a problem where it just means we have too many candidates and not enough jobs to offer? What kind of dynamics does that create for your business? 
Paul: Well, I think for both of us, what I would say is: volume is important because volume breaks process. The more, you know, we got to a point in the U.S, our unemployment rate was down to 3%, you know, at times probably lower than that in certain places.
So it was in fact hard to get enough people to interview, you know, recruiters spent most of their time trying to pull people out of other companies. And then in a matter of weeks, as we all know, it went from, you know, less than 3% too, you know, a lot. And then we're talking about 52 million people at its height, out of work needing to quarantine and work from home. So all of a sudden the opportunity to interview was greater, but the importance of identifying somebody who was really looking for that job and really engaged and would do a good job with both the hard skills and the engagement that we're looking for.
What everybody's looking for, to be committed to that particular role, over the long term that became even more important. So a 100%, I agree with you that the volumes changed. And I would say, you know, in the first, because of the way we're set up and because of the way people leverage boards, that we might've seen a doubling in the first month, which probably created some concern on our part. There was actually a cost every time somebody does an interview with HireIQ, rather than it being a, you know, we do a lot of processing…
Max: and because we're doing processing servers, AWS, bills go off, Google bills, come up. I had all of that happen as well. 
Paul: Yeah. So, that sort of evened out a little bit. And while I would say we're up. We're also going into that season, which is a ramp, right? So we're looking for a lot of holiday seasonal workers right now. So I would say we're probably, closer to where we were maybe a little bit higher, but not as dramatically higher as we saw in the first quarter after the quarantining.
And we're seeing some alleviation of that. I think we're seeing some go back to physical work, but, the other part, Max's you may have an opinion on this as well, is that I don't know that a lot of people were willing to let go of their jobs. So are people artificially staying where they were highly mobile in the first quarter? All of a sudden now they're thinking, you know, it may not be as easy to get a job in the next place. So, there may be a false sense of  retention taking place at the same time. 
Max: Well, yeah, I guess when things heat up again, we'll see whether all those new hires in the BPO sector from the last six months, are meant to stay in those industries.
I guess it really depends whether they like working from home. If they like putting on a headset and getting in front of a camera, and working on Slack, maybe it'll work out and maybe they won’t to go back into the field. Like, I do not have a crystal ball for that, but, I think that some companies are making a shift towards hire anywhere and opening the talent pool so much that they're going to be able to build a very unique group of people which have defining traits, which if you remove the geographical constraints and you say, now I can have such a broader group to choose from. Then you can create new constraints.
You can say, I only want people that think that way, or that have this hobby or that are very meticulous or, you know, you can be very specific and that could create, you know, some very bizarre groups of people and  that could give the economy some lift perhaps.
Paul: So Max, this is an interesting thing. I absolutely loved the whole train of thought. So I have  a couple of data points on this. I had a company at one point in which I did a lot. The company had lots and lots of training, and we started to do a model, which we were trained from anywhere this go to meeting in a WebEx type zoom.
It was technology, but we were sharing screens. Let's configure it this way. Now this is how you do this. This is how you do that. And one of my employees came to me and said, do you mind if I do some work? So his passion, interestingly enough, was kimonos. So he did he sold, these beautiful kimonos. He invested in them. And what he wanted to do was be able to go to these shows in Asia where all of the best would be there, he’d be able to sell his kimonos. They'd also be commercial. I said, Sam, Do you think I care where you go to a meeting or a virtual training takes place, go do what you want to do.
And by the way, then being skewed 13 hours is in your best interest. Now go spend a day there and carve out the two hours you need for that particular training. Just make sure that it doesn't affect your ability to do that particular piece of work, but I just so loved this and that whole concept of displacement.
If we can, and  it's happening more and more in some of our customers. Assurion one of the groups that I heard speak recently, they're doing gig work now, Max, meaning you can opt in to when you're available, you know, you've got to schedule, but sometimes it's via social media, they'll say we've got surge paying.
You've got a surge wage based on how much people, how much traffic we're going to have, you know, based on, on questions, we need to answer about the Assurion products. That to me, being able to opt in, to be able to do what you're passionate about and have that feed your work day is something that I think is really important.
And I think that's where you get energy, you get energy by, you know, middle of the day being able to take, you know, take a swim in a pool. I get energy. I did something recently where I went out and I hit golf balls. First time since March, I used to play golf all the time. I'd say 10 years ago.
I went out and, Max, doing something physical, like that, changed, I swear it changed my brain chemistry. So I think this whole concept of displacement is one of those things that's also going to enable people to do and maintain their passions. And because of that, we may be in, you know what we're doing with call centers and delivering work to location. I literally think that's the future. I don't think  the future  like I thought the future was cell phones. As soon as you don't physically have to go pick up those yellow slips, you don't have to answer a physical phone. You don't have an extension that's tied to a location. God, the world changes and in such a great way.
Max: Yeah, you were telling me how you got to enjoy more time with your family in recent weeks. Somebody was telling me recently, an article about this reverse migration, which is happening, where people are leaving the cities, and going back to where they came from, to their hometown because of this pandemic and supported through the technologies of remote work. 
We are seeing basically these shifts happening everywhere and people spending more time with our family. So, on a bizarre way, family values, family traditions  we'll see a resurgence as a response to this crisis.
Paul: Well, I don't want to be overly optimistic. Look, I think everybody's been through a trauma. And so, one of the things that I'm doing as a CEO, I'm sure you're doing it is giving people some room. Right? I want people to make sure that they... look, I have an employee who has three kids at home, all under the age of 10, who she’s starting zoom meetings with, in three different rooms for children.
There's a kindergarten class going on. There's a second grade craft class. There's a third grade class, all her room, she and her husband are working at the same time. It is insane what we're piling on people at the same time.
Max: And the bandwidth. 
Paul: That's exactly right. So that's the other thing right? We didn't talk about this, but it's interesting. I read an article last night about why this is different. And this particular article was why New York city would never be the same. Because just as you said, there's an exit, maybe a million people have left New York city. The rates, the rental rates, the buildings that are empty relative to where they were.
But, we saw something like this in 2001, with 911, we saw something, you know, we've had these, national crises in the U.S. 2008. And the contention was why this is different than those other times is because bandwidth exists right now. Bandwidth exists like it's never existed before.
So now you have private equity guys that don't physically have to be in New York City, because it doesn't matter that you're physically there to run into somebody because that person may in fact not be there. So when people were telling me, and in fact, during this period, they said, they'd be traveling. I said, well, that's good that you're traveling. Are people willing to meet with you? Which is the other side of the equation, right? It's one thing for you to be willing. It's a second part altogether once you land in a city, are people willing  to meet with you? That will change. There's no question, but, I think some of the positive of that and believe me, I'm sure if you're a real estate magnet in New York city, you're super concerned about this. But, I think the freedoms that it provides for individuals is particularly engaging. It's an interesting thought. Let's put it that way. 
Max: Oh, if you're, if you're a real estate magnet in the suburbs, well, you're doing well. Anyway, we’re going to a more realistic conversation because that will alienate my audience 100%. 
Paul: But the other part to that, but I would say, listen,  the thing that I get excited about is the options it provides. The reality is I think so you can follow those kinds of things in any direction.
The reality is we need human interaction. You and I like to do what we do. I want to meet you. I want to run into you, I want to see you compete at a technology showcase. Those kinds of things stimulate me. So I don't think there's any chance that we don't go back to some more normalcy and sooner than later, more 2021.
But I think taking a moment and understanding the lack of distraction. Which really is the way I described it early in this was, there was no sports. There were no, you know, the activities themselves that would typically take me off center or off of focus were gone. And so now I had family to focus on.
Now I had what's next for the business. Now I had what's best. So I think the lack of distraction helps us to focus. 
Max: Yes. I see. I think that you were talking before we started the interview about the fact that, you're going to look for a different type of worker the call center worker working from home needs to be self motivated, autonomous and so on.
If someone is now at home unemployed and is able to find, well, by force needs to find employment of that sort and then by force needs to build certain life habits around that. And then actually it gets through it and realizes, oh, this works. I can put in 5- 10 hours of uninterrupted work in a day if need be.
And now you’ve unlocked something in him or her that they can carry for the rest of their lives, potentially that sense of autonomy and that ability to manage your day. That becomes something you can keep 
Paul: It's a freedom and it’s magnificent. So rather than your work being dependent on your relationship with your employer or your boss in front of you, you’re focused on becoming valuable, is your ticket to the next role that you have or greater responsibility or in frankly being as engaged in your passions and things outside of work could in fact, energize that in a way that we might not be able to today. I promise you, nobody's complaining about the lack of traffic.
Max: Well, one thing, one thing I do complain... I still hear some people ask me, Max, you’ve got so much experience working with remote teams, distributed teams. How do you check on them? And like you just totally missed it. You don’t. 
You're rethinking about what your job is as manager. But that question still comes up so often.
Paul: Here's how I keep in touch with them. I engage with them on how do we make what you're working on better? How can I help? And then they'll tell me. 
Max: Yeah,  there are certainly a few ways.
I'm sure some, some of my employees will listen in and think that's too engaging. But, it's great to see how your business has evolved over the years. I hope that we can be part of this bright future. And have more of these partnerships as we've had with some of our customers where they integrate your assessment platform with our, conversational chatbots and engagements to take care of the whole workflow.
So if anybody's listening you want to match our two technologies. They work very well together and thank you very much, Paul, for joining me today. 
Paul: Maxm I love it. And I appreciate  your engaging in conversation with this. I love Talkpush, I always have, and I love in particular the fact that you're doing what many other people would be required to do.
So being able to get out in front. Engage those people to make sure that they stay in touch and then keep that information about them. Just, you know, in a way that really becomes a system of record for employment. So, we're thrilled to be working with you. Thank you very much for your time today. And, we're partners, so anything that we can do to help you we're available.
Max: Thanks. Paul, we'll both continue burning resumes and replacing them with conversation. 
Paul: There's a whole discussion about bias and all of the other things that we really should talk about it some time. But, I think the answer is engagement and we're both doing everything we can to enlighten people about who they're talking to and why they'd be a good fit.
Okay. We've got the topic for our next interview, it will be about bias. Maybe we'll wait a few months for that one. 
Paul: And so we'll give people some time.
Max: And the topic may be a little bit less dangerous in a few months time. 
Paul: Yeah. I think there'll be more light at that point.
Max:  Great. Thanks Paul. T
Paul: Thank you, max. 
That was Paul Noone from HireIQ, a company, which has figured out how to measure the empathy, warmth, and care of a voice and allows employers in the call center industry to evaluate those voices in a scalable way. If you liked the interview and you'd like to hear more about some of the movers and shakers from the high volume recruitment industry, please subscribe to our podcast and share with your friends.
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