Jonathan Duarte, Founder and CEO, GoHire, Inc


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Jonathan Duarte, Founder and CEO, GoHire, Inc

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This interview is with Jonathan Duarte, Founder and CEO at GoHire, Inc.

Jonathan Duarte, Founder and CEO, GoHire, Inc

Jonathan, welcome to Featured!  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to becoming a startup founder in the HR tech space?

I got involved with HR tech back in 1996, when I founded one of the first job boards and the largest job distribution network, My hypothesis and interest, back in those dial-up days, was pretty simple. I thought there had to be a way to use the internet to make it easier for hiring teams to be able to connect with qualified candidates faster and more efficiently.

After building three HR tech companies over the last 28 years, I think I’ve found the solution.

Your career path is fascinating!  What key experiences or lessons learned led you to identify the opportunity in the market that your startup addresses?

I’ve been through multiple waves of HR and Recruiting tech, and I’m usually one of the early founders blazing the trail, with lots of arrows in my back. But most of those experiences have led me to a couple of key factors that have given me the ability to recognize where the pain points are and the solutions needed.

For instance, most people don’t talk about this in the HR Tech and Recruiting tech space, but in 2016, Uber hired approximately 600,000 drivers in six months in 26 cities!

As far as I know, that’s the largest number of people hired in private employment in six months in the US, and possibly globally, yet no one talks about how they did it.

I was really fortunate because I was building a startup that was helping to automate recruiting for Uber and other gig-economy companies at the time and saw what was happening early in the process.

So, like any good entrepreneur, I was intrigued. I signed up as an Uber driver, with no actual intent to drive, but to simply understand what they were doing.

It was phenomenal… The end result was that the gig economy companies built proprietary recruiting and onboarding tech that used text messaging as the channel of communication, instead of email, web pages, and the typical ATS.

So, I took those lessons and started building for midmarket companies, so they could leverage text messaging and recruiting automation to engage, hire, and automate tasks and communications with both candidates and employees.

You mentioned ‘recruiting automation’ as a major trend.  Can you share a specific example from your own company where automation significantly improved your recruiting process, and what advice would you give to smaller companies looking to implement similar strategies?

“Recruiting Automation” is mostly about defining workflow processes, and most importantly, the processes that are often manual, repetitive, not currently scalable, and take a lot of time, but often are not strategically valuable.

In recruiting, there are hundreds of processes that hiring teams have to undertake in order to find, attract, and then pre-screen, interview, and onboard candidates.

For instance, scheduling meetings, or a pre-screening call, or an interview can take a lot of back-and-forth calls, emails, etc. It’s a complex set of steps and requires a lot of follow-up at volume to get results. Unfortunately, it’s often a manual process, and 80% of qualified candidates, the candidates a recruiter has chosen to reach out to, are never pre-screened or interviewed. It’s an expensive human labor process for the recruiting team members. Often, great candidates are lost in the process, or not responded to quickly enough, because the process isn’t simple and scalable.

Well, now that issue is a thing of the past. Instead of only pre-screening 10-20% of our Qualified Candidates, 80% of our Qualified Candidates are self-scheduling themselves, over text messaging.

It’s a better candidate experience. Recruiters aren’t spending time sending emails to candidates that don’t respond to email, or making phone calls, because most people won’t answer a call unless they know who is calling.

Instead, our recruiters are talking to candidates that are pre-scheduled. Our recruiters are seeing “Apply to Offer” times drop from 7-14 days to 24-48 hours, in many cases.

You’ve talked about the importance of mobile-first recruiting for hourly workers.  What’s one creative recruiting campaign you’ve seen that effectively targets this demographic, and what made it successful?

The most effective mobile recruiting campaigns that we’re helping companies implement are so simple, yet they require connecting the technology together to make it work.

We call them ‘Text Invites.’ It’s just like those ‘Evites’ you’ve probably used or received in the past for a party, where the host creates the event and times, and then sends emails to those invited.

The front-line or the mobile workforce isn’t responding to phone calls and emails like they used to. But they are using text messaging.

So, just like sending an Evite email for a party, the hiring team can send one-on-one or one-to-many personalized text messages asking the candidate if they want to schedule a call to talk about the position.

It’s super simple and generates a 400% increase in pre-screened candidates, basically solving the ‘not enough qualified candidates’ issue, in many cases.

‘Text Invites’ are a super simple concept. When a recruiter or hiring team member wants to invite a qualified candidate to an interview, a pre-screening call, or a job fair, all they have to do is click two buttons on their web browser.

Then, a personalized text message is sent to the candidate, asking if they are interested in talking, attending, etc. If the candidate replies ‘Yes,’ our chatbot, GoBe, finds available times on the hiring team member’s calendar, and then responds to the candidate. If the candidate chooses a time, it’s automatically logged on the calendar, and everyone gets a confirmation. And if a candidate doesn’t confirm a time, GoBe will send a series of customized follow-up reminders, just like your best-performing recruiters would do.

Many are calling 2024 the year of AI. How do you see AI realistically impacting the job market for recruiters in the near future?  What skills should recruiters be developing to stay ahead of the curve?

There are three primary areas where AI and automation are having significant impacts on recruiters today:

* Candidate-matching algorithms, with machine learning, are getting better at screening and matching candidates to the right roles.

* Generative AI that’s helping hiring teams create better job descriptions and communications, both internally and externally.

* Scheduling automation is eliminating multiple pain points in the recruiting process; from making it faster and easier for candidates, while eliminating low-yield tasks like sending emails and making phone calls that don’t get picked up.

As a recruiter, knowing how to leverage the three changes above is imperative.

If you’re looking for a new role, or looking to get back into the workforce, it’s imperative to not only know how to use the tools above but also how they can be used in the specific recruiting processes within different recruiting workflows and recruiting playbooks.

You’ve been vocal about ‘AI washing’ in HR tech.  For those unfamiliar, can you explain what it is and provide a red flag that might indicate a product is exaggerating its AI capabilities?

We’ve been talking about Artificial Intelligence in recruiting for the last eight years. Unfortunately, what the HR Tech vendors are marketing isn’t ‘AI’ at all, and often isn’t a significant technical innovation that will significantly change their recruiting outcomes.

There are specific areas where AI is having a significant impact, like candidate matching and now ‘internal candidate mobility.’ And, with candidate matching, AI and AI bias and compliance are becoming significant issues that both customers and vendors are going to have to be ready for.

One way to tell if a product is really using AI within their solution is to simply ask, ‘Is this Automation, or AI?’ and then ask the vendor to describe the difference. Automation is connecting workflow processes, for example, while ‘AI’ is often used to make decisions, like matching a candidate’s skills to a job description using complex contextual search that a human can’t do as well or as fast as a computer can.

So, if the vendor can’t describe the AI valuation… it’s either not significant or simply ‘AI Washing’.

With the rise of AI, some fear technology is replacing human roles in recruiting.  Where do you see the human element remaining crucial in the hiring process, even with advanced technology?

No matter what the technology, in more senior and strategic roles—where EQ, strategy, experience, leadership, relationships, and existing human networks can have a direct impact on the work output—it’s going to take a human, a recruiter, to watch for those strengths and motivations, and sell the candidate on the opportunity.

Recruiting and Human Resources are human-first roles that require nuanced skills that can’t be automated and left to a computer that currently can’t automate things that we can only barely define.

For instance, great recruiters can ‘read’ a candidate’s motivations, either positively or negatively, across multiple interactions and calls, interviews, and response times and tones of messaging. These are skills that humans can learn but often not even define.

Job boards have been a staple in recruiting for years.  How do you see the role of job boards evolving alongside AI and other emerging technologies?  Will they become obsolete, or adapt?

Job boards haven’t really changed in the last 15 years, for the most part. They acquire and engage potential candidates and then help them apply. In most cases, that is the end of the ‘job board’ value proposition.

Some will adapt and change, but most are just optimizing the above.

There is a huge opportunity coming for job boards, but I don’t think most will be able to adapt to what’s about to happen… I’ll just throw that out there, because it’s something I’m working on.

For startups with limited resources, what’s one actionable SEO tip they can implement today to improve their visibility to potential candidates online?

Focus on your Ideal Candidate Profile (ICP). I mean the type of candidate that will do well within a startup, isn’t afraid of risk, has a ‘roll-up-the-sleeves’ mentality, isn’t hung up on job titles, is willing to learn and dive into the unknown, and has the skills and capacity to do what you need done in the next 18 months.

Then, and only then, start finding out where people with that level of skill or expertise hang out online, and start engaging them directly with content that is relevant to their skills and desires.

Find the keywords they are looking for, and start writing content, making videos, posting on social channels, and point all of that collateral back to a webpage that is optimized for the primary keywords of ‘search intent’ that the candidate is searching for online.

That’s what I would do, but I’d also suggest focusing the content into the communities where these individuals are already spending their time. Where they are chatting with others in the industry. Sites where they go for referencing things.

If you want candidates who are inquisitive—which is something highly valuable in a startup—make sure your content is in the places they are already looking.

If that content points back to a career site page on your website, great; but in many cases, that content may never show up in Google.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’ve never been more excited about the next decade-plus of where HR and Recruiting technology is going. Recruiting and HR Tech are going to see a lot of technology shifts to automate mundane, non-scalable processes, while also bringing the human back in HR and recruiting.

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