After helping to build businesses in the financial inclusion sector in Kenya and other emerging markets for 12 years, Paul Breloff identified a gap in the market: there was no mechanism to help companies hire great people who possessed the skills they needed for the job. This is why he co-founded Shortlist with two other partners in 2015.
He takes us through his experience with Shortlist, which currently works in Kenya and India.
What inspired Shortlist?
Shortlist was born from the desire to shift the recruiting paradigm from pedigree to potential. We wanted to reduce companies’ reliance on resumes, connections, where they went to school and where they worked and instead focus on demonstrations of competency and potential. We think this is a win-win for both companies and jobseekers.
How long did it take Shortlist to settle in Kenya?
We have been operating in Kenya for about a year. My partners and I have been doing business in Kenya and coming back and forth for about 10 years now.
Do you hire for specific industries?
We work across a number of industries and sectors but where we are focused more is on mid-level and non-technical roles. We have been having success on positions that require 2 to 10 years of experience and more often in managerial positions like Finance, Sales, Communications, Marketing, and General Operations.
How do you help startups?
Shortlist helps startups by making sure that growing companies have the right people in the right roles. Our suite of services makes it far easier for growing companies to find great candidates and ultimately figure out who’s going to be the right candidate for a given position. This helps startups out because it reduces the cost and the effort of recruiting, which can often be a long and complex process. It also improves the quality of talent, productivity and satisfaction, as well as the cultural foundation of companies.
How does the process work?
From the perspective of a candidate, the Shortlist application process involves a digital experience with some human touch. And we actually believe that candidates are better served by making the application process a little bit challenging. If a candidate is interested in a job, they don’t just click “apply” or only send in their resume. When they come to the Shortlist platform, applicants answer some questions in a basic chat interface like WhatsApp, which automatically screens people in and out based on basic experience, fit, location, and their salary expectation. These preliminary questions make sure that neither the candidate or the company is wasting their time if it’s not the right fit.
If the candidate is a fit, he or she continues on to a series of competency-based assessments that gauge the candidate’s ability to do the job. We have this saying at Shortlist “DON’T TELL US WHAT YOU’VE DONE, SHOW US WHAT YOU CAN DO.”
What challenges have you experienced and how do you handled them?
Every startup has its own challenges that come along with the industry the business falls under. For our business in particular, one major challenge we faced was convincing companies that what we had as a product and a service was different and better than what they have seen before. Recruitment as an industry has existed for a long time, and there are many small recruiters who are sometimes a bit cheaper than we are. We believe that the way we use technology and data to hire is not only more efficient, and saves the company more time and energy, but also leads to better hiring outcomes – meaning higher performance, improved productivity and retention, and more happiness on both sides.
Another challenge is that we believe that many companies undervalue talent, and this leads to the trap of just filling the open position with a candidate that is convenient. Our point, however, is to not just fill vacancies, but to get the right person, with the right talent, for the job.
As we also look to the future, figuring out exactly how we fit into an evolving marketplace is a challenge. There is new technology out there around digital experience, machine learning and more that we can integrate within the HR tech stack. And for the most part, we view the future with a lot of optimism and excitement because we see this technology presenting ways we can improve our product.
So far, I think we have navigated these challenges well and we are excited with the progress we have seen in Kenya.
What are your thoughts about the Kenyan job market?
Kenya has a remarkably vibrant job market with so many talented and hungry professionals. More people are coming into the job market than ever before, but one challenge is that as recent graduates, applicants lack traditional markers of quality. When a candidate has no prior experience, it is harder for companies to sort through all this new talent and judge applicants based on ability versus where they went to university, for example. We see huge potential for Kenya, and if Kenyan companies can find great people, it will create a huge economic opportunity.