Reshaping the HR industry – Interview with Harver CEO Barend Raaff

Barend-Raaff-Harver

The HR industry is undergoing major transformation, and a Dutch startup is well-positioned to play a leading role in this process. Harver’s AI-powered platform pairs job and candidate profiles in an unprecedented way, eliminating the lengthy processes of selection and hiring. Big names like Netflix, Uber and Booking.com are already using the platform. With a recently raised Series A round and a brand new office in USA, there is plenty of work ahead. To learn more about the company’s history and future plans, we did an interview with Harver’s founder and CEO Barend Raaff.

Barend, please tell us about the beginnings of Harver, and where does it fit now in the current HR landscape?

We started Harver back in 2013 because we saw that recruitment as it was done back then was fundamentally broken. People were applying for random jobs and got hired or rejected for the wrong reasons or no reason at all. In the meantime, in other sectors, data-driven decision making and the use of AI were already standard practice. The presence of this broken process on the one hand, and innovative technology that could be used to fix it, was what moved us to create Harver.

In short, Harver is an AI-powered, pre-employment assessment platform that helps recruiters from companies of all sizes make data-driven hiring decisions. Initially, we tested the software with a select few companies, but once we saw the impact it had on both recruiters and candidates, we decided to turn in into an actual platform. This was around 2015 and from there on out, things accelerated rapidly. Nowadays we serve hundreds of amazing brands like Zappos, Netflix, Uber and Booking.com from our offices in Amsterdam and New York, and there are no signs that things are slowing down. In fact, we’re only speeding up. This year especially, demand from the market has grown exponentially. More and more organisations now see that this data-driven hiring thing can give you a significant competitive advantage and that it’s here to stay.

The role we play in the HR landscape is that we’re an integral part of the recruitment process of our clients. We offer our software as a SaaS solution (Software as a Service) that sits between the sourcing and the onboarding phase in the recruitment process. Meaning that, from the moment a candidate applies, up until they’re either hired or rejected, Harver plays a role. We’re dedicated to improving the selection process of our clients by giving recruiters the data necessary to make well-informed hiring decisions on the one hand, and candidates a fun and engaging experience on the other.

Give us an overview of the Harver’s matching magic.

The ‘magic’ of Harver starts with defining desirable applicant profiles per job family by looking at a company’s top performing employees. We combine this with our own proprietary industry data and public industry benchmark data. Based on the resulting candidate profile, we build an engaging hiring experience within Harver. The platform comes equipped with, what we call, a flow builder. Which is a drag and drop editor where you can construct an assessment experience using videos, images, assessments, and situational judgment tests. Fully branded and customized to your organization and hiring needs. Once the hiring profile and the assessment funnel are in place, you can invite candidates for the experience. While they learn about your organization, see what the job is like and go through the assessments, Harver matches a candidate’s scores to the ideal profile that was set up earlier in the process. Based on this, the system calculates a ‘matching score’ that you can use to make a data-driven hiring decision. But it doesn’t end there.

Making hiring decisions based on data a huge step forward from the resume. But the real magic happens when you keep track of your hiring decisions and feed the data back into the initial hiring algorithm to improve it. We give clients the option to share performance feedback data with us and with it, we can improve the hiring algorithm again and again. This way, the system gets ‘smarter’ over time, presenting you with better data and empowering you to hire better. This ‘continuous improvement’ aspect of the system, that’s where the real magic happens.

What are the most distinctive features of the platform?

With Harver, we fix the recruiting process on three domains. Firstly, we provide recruiters with the best data possible to enable them to make hiring decisions based on data instead of a CV and gut feeling. We can do this because we only use scientifically validated assessments in our platform. We don’t scrape information from social media profiles and we don’t scan CVs for keywords. This way, we can assure our clients that the data that feeds into the algorithm is valid, unbiased, and trustworthy.

Secondly, we maximize recruiter efficiency. We do this by taking out the laborious, repeatable parts of the process. No more endless CV screening or profile checking. With Harver, we provide recruiters with an overview of candidates that ranks them from ‘least fitting’ to ‘best match’. Whether you have a hundred or a hundred thousand applicants a year, they all flow into the system automatically and get graded based on their performance in the assessments and not on how well they’ve written or designed their CV or social profiles.

Lastly, we provide an amazing candidate experience with the way the process is set up. By implementing videos in the process, explaining to them exactly what the job is going to be like and by presenting them the assessment scores after they finish an application, we keep them satisfied with the overall process. After applying, we give candidates the opportunity to provide feedback on the process, to make it better and better along the way. With Zappos.com for example, this resulted in 97% of applicants being happy with the process, even after rejection.

Why would a company choose Harver over other recruitment platforms? What is your secret ingredient?

What we see is that companies choose Harver over other recruitment platforms because they believe in the mix of Data, Process and Candidate Experience that we offer. A decisive factor in this is the fact that we only use validated data sources, which guarantee a bias-free hiring algorithm – something we are really strict with. Other than that, the customizable nature of the platform plays a factor. Many companies use Harver because they really care about their candidates and want to give them an experience that is smooth, entertaining and in line with their culture. Companies like Zappos.com, Netflix, Booking.com all have a distinct culture and get thousands of applicants a year.

To make it even more challenging, there’s a big chance that these applicants are also customers of these companies. The last thing the organizations want is to give their applicants a bad experience and push them to a competitor. Implementing a branded and fun experience shows candidates these companies care, which leaves them fulfilled, even after rejection. So to wrap it up, “the secret ingredient” is the high-quality data first and foremost but the candidate experience definitely is too.

From the US to Sri Lanka, how does the platform adjust to the cultural and social differences when it comes to personnel recruitment?

We have a team of highly skilled IO psychologists that helps clients across the globe with building their assessment experiences. During the first stages of the implementation phase, we work together with the client’s project team to make sure that the way the platform is set up, adheres to local social values and aligns with cultural norms. In the end, the Harver platform is the facilitator of everything necessary to construct a hiring experience but the content makes it special. Because the content is implemented by the client’s project team and our assessment experts we can ensure a setup that is completely in line with social and cultural differences in personnel recruitment.

Netflix, Zappos, Booking, they are already confident that Harver will get them the best candidates. What benefits does Harver bring to the companies?

In general, we help our clients optimize their recruitment process in a number of ways. We improve Quality of Hire because we give recruiters the opportunity to make data-driven hiring decisions. Other than that, we decrease Time to Hire by automating large parts of the recruitment process. We improve Candidate Experience and Candidate Satisfaction numbers because we make the process more engaging, fun and easy for applicants. We eliminate bias from the decision process and we improve recruiter team-efficiency overall because we provide a single source of data (or truth if you will) for all to work with.

The HR industry is moving from a human-driven to a more data-driven approach and Harver is one of the companies that enable this shift. What do clients say, how is their feedback?

We do not necessarily think of it as human-driven vs data-driven. We believe the goal of the data is to make the process more human. The data we provide recruiters with helps them to better match companies and candidates. Fewer mismatches, improved time to hire, an improved candidate experience and better communication between recruiter and candidate. All these things make the process more human-driven. And we see that in the feedback of our clients as well. Furthermore, we provide clients with the option to collect feedback from candidates. So the data helps applicants to get the most out of their application, even if they don’t get the job.

Wired named Harver as one of ‘Europe’s Hottest 100 Startups’ in 2018. With a Series A funding round, and a new office in the US, what is next line for Harver?

Our main focus is to continuously improve our matching engine and provide recruiters with the best data possible. Besides that, we’re actively working on optimizing candidate communication. Matching candidates and jobs is one thing, but accurate and consistent communication is another and has a huge impact on candidate experience. Optimizing both these data and communication components of the hiring process are stepping stones towards a new reality where we will help rejected applicants in finding better matching vacancies using the same AI technology that exists in the platform now. Once we’ve achieved this, we’ve closed the loop for applicants applying at companies using Harver. Instead of rejection being a dead-end street it’ll be a crossing where, after rejection, a candidate can choose a number of paths forward to jobs that are just as, or even more likely to suit this candidates skills and preferences.

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