IronList Postmortem

You can’t help but be blown away by all of the cranes in Seattle right now.  The city’s skyline is changing in a way that reminds me of the rapid growth in China.  Amazing stuff.

All of those buildings are (presumably) going to be filled with people.  Software developers, of course, and also a lot of other white collar workers.  That’s a lot of people to be hired, and recruiters are already feeling the strain.

Video is big, of course.  I like to build software.  I loved working with the recruiters at my former companies.  Job listings are awful.  What to do?

Idea: Create a job board where all of the job postings feature video interviews with hiring managers.  Awesome for candidates – they have some idea who the human being is behind the job.  Awesome for hiring managers – they can skip the first part of the endless phone screens.  Awesome for recruiters – the videos would give them an additional tool to help get candidates excited (and more informed) about their open positions.

As an exercise in MVP development, I put up this site.  My friends at Dev9 were kind enough to record videos for several of their open positions.  Added a simple scheduling software option for folks to easily book interviews.  Put up an explainer video and a “demo” video, showing how differently the same job description appears when presented by different people.

With MVP site up and running, I sent out around a thousand emails to my LinkedIn list, as well as following up with about thirty hand-picked individuals that are key in the hiring process for their companies (managers and recruiters), including both mid-size FTE hiring, staffing, and consulting firms.

The reaction was very consistent.  Candidates and recruiters liked the idea.  Lots of feedback about how the site looked nice and the videos were great.  Hiring managers liked it in the abstract, but nobody actually wanted to be interviewed.  Even if the interviews were free.  Appointments would be made and then canceled at the last minute.

I did a bit more research.  Followed up with additional email and F2F conversations (lots of coffee meetings).  Here are my findings and conclusions:

  • It’s not clear who would drive a major change like this in recruiting at most firms. Driving a change like adding videos to the process is very hard - coordinating various groups in HR, legal, and of course the hiring managers.

  • We are immersed in professionally shot video all day long. The kind of authentic video you get from a video conference call just doesn’t seem “professional” enough to most folks. This is part of a much larger conversation about authentic vs. corporate voice.

  • Larger firms have multi-step legal and HR review of their posted job descriptions. Firms concerned with secrecy will do additional screening. Nobody has a process for doing the same with videos. Who, exactly, is going to champion a rework of the recruiting process?

  • Price point was, interestingly, not a factor. At all. A single 30 day text posting on a major job site is $500-$650. A typical full-service firm finding talent will charge 20%+ of the annual salary of the hire. There’s a lot of money there.

  • People hate public speaking as a rule. As in, a significant percentage hate it more than death. Data is hard to come by, but anecdotally it’s huge.

  • In our current environment, a world filled with stalkers, doxers, trolls, and more, the idea of posting a video is kind of… scary. It’s pretty easy to imagine someone watching a video, becoming emotionally engaged with the presenter, and then getting upset if they are not hired (or even just don’t hear back).

  • Go watch that demo video again – it’s funny, but also illustrates the challenge in a critical, subtle way. Let’s face it – you cannot help but judge the various presenters in a million subtle ways. The more you think about it, the more challenging it all gets.

The image that comes to mind is of one of those scorpion hard candies that are common in Asia.

Those candies are awesome.  People buy them just to bring them home to show people.  But actually, you know, eating one?  Maybe, if they are intoxicated and there’s $100 on the table. Maybe.

I think the video interviews are like those candies.  People think they are cool to look at.  But actually shoot one?  If your boss told you point blank to do one or else, people would do it.  Otherwise… no.

Everyone seems to think that it’s a real shame that nobody wants to do the interviews, but when I flip it around and ask them if they want to do the interview… oh, wait, umm, I’m busyI need to go talk to folks first.

Fail fast wins this one.