The start-up that’s shaking up recruitment

Discover the start-up that’s using machine learning to revolutionise the recruitment industry.

For many businesses, recruiting a talented workforce is at the top of their priority list; it’s essential to their success. But how do you find the perfect employee? Traditional methods filter applicants based on arbitrary qualifications and generic experience, which means diversity within the workplace inevitably takes a hit.

It’s time for you to rethink your hiring process and get to know the person, not just their CV.

Headstart is the app that’ll change how you recruit. Mobile-first, they use machine learning to help companies identify the most suitable candidate for any job role. In doing so, they also significantly improve equality in the workplace by broadening the criteria used to discover talent. It focuses on skills, personality and motivations, giving companies access to a more diverse group of applicants.

We spoke to CEO and co-founder Nicholas Shekerdemian about how a single idea grew into one of the most disruptive businesses in the UK.

Can you give me an elevator pitch for Headstart?

We help companies work out who they should hire. We do this by using a combination of machine learning and psychographic analysis to work out what the high performing traits are in individual employees within different job functions. We then use this as a mechanism for screening incoming applicants according to their level of suitability for the job.

How did you come up with the idea for Headstart?

I was frustrated to find that so many people in my peer group were looking at the same job verticals when applying for internships and grad schemes. This spurred the idea for Headstart. I wanted to create a platform that young people could use to discover their ideal job and help companies be more open-minded as to how they hired talent.

How do you match individual profiles to a particular job role?

When we first go into an organisation, we send out insight questionnaires to hundreds of employees, categorised by departments, job functions, and seniority (among other things). It has a psychometric assessment, which looks at personality, values and motivations, and a skills evaluation. Whatever role you have in the company, we want to find out what soft/hard skills are necessary to do a particular job. We then apply this to our series of algorithms with unique weightings, tailored to the internal mapping of the organisation.

What are the ways in which companies can use Headstart to improve inclusion practices at work?

Recruiters look at three things in an applicant – education, experience, and skill. By opening it up to look at their background, behaviours, motivations, and passions, you’re broadening the inclusivity. There could be ten people that get a 99% match for a job role with Headstart, but those people could be completely different, and that’s because they all have a unique weighting. We also provide companies with real-time insight into the diversity of their talent pool.

How does Headstart make the way businesses work more agile?

Headstart can help companies interact more quickly with their candidates. One of our measurable outcomes is the speed at which our clients can offer people a job and compete with their competitors for the top talent. Our system has automated capabilities, which allows them to rank every incoming applicant according to a broad range of factors and create a shortlist of suitable matches.

A lot of companies fear that new technology is going to change or disrupt the way they work. In fact, if they don’t adopt it, they’re more likely to be disrupted. Headstart isn’t replacing recruiters; we’re simply enhancing their ability to make informed decisions in the most unbiased and data-driven way possible. I think if companies can do this, they’ll work much more effectively and improve their agility.

When pitching your idea to large corporations, did you sell in the benefit of your technology or the human touch of your business?

The technology itself is a benefit but the fact that we treat applicants as people, not paper, means they respond really well to our philosophy. The average drop-off rate from a traditional application form is 72%. Our application form takes candidates less than fifteen minutes to complete, so our drop-off rate is around the 20% mark.

Do you have any advice for small businesses when working with large corporations?

You really need a champion within the organisation otherwise you just end up treading water. They need to be authoritative/senior enough to drive the process forward because larger businesses can move slowly.

You’re already using machine learning at a time when not many people are using it so, what’s next?

The more data we receive, the more accurate our predictive models become, and the more we become an integral platform for clients. We want to reach a point where, if you fill out our short application form, we can tell you where your strengths lie and how they suit a specific role. For us, it’s about broadening the horizons of what we can look at so we can have the most comprehensive understanding of People Analytics in existence. People don’t know how to measure talent and we want to be able to do that.

From improving your agility to investing in new technologies, you can discover more tips on how to drive your business to success here.