Pichumani Durairaj, the founder and CEO of video interviewing platform InterviewDesk, has been in recruiting for almost two decades. In his final role with a corporation, he was a recruiting leader at Amazon, working to scale the engineering team until, in 2012, he left and moved to Brazil to start a new journey of entrepreneurship.
“I always had a sense of entrepreneurship, and I felt that that time, when I was taking a break from corporate life, was a good place to get started,” he said in a conversation at People Matters TechHR India 2022.
Today, InterviewDesk is Pichumani's latest entrepreneurial venture into the disruption of traditional recruitment. The InterviewDesk service focuses on tech hiring, with the objective of cutting down on the most time-consuming part of the recruitment process: candidate interviews, especially the initial round where interviewers have to spend time assessing a candidate for communication and listening skills, behaviour in conversation, and similar basic traits that can only be evaluated through visual contact at the minimum. With over 25,000 remote interviews successfully conducted so far, InterviewDesk has a huge database with which to automate such assessments today.
Most recently, InterviewDesk supported People Matters Are You In The List awards with the screening of all nominees who made it to the video interview round, and Pichumani presented the awards to the finalists at TechHR India 2022. After the awards ceremony, People Matters met up with him for a conversation about his entrepreneurship efforts and InterviewDesk's success. Here's what he told us.
What drew you to the disruption of traditional hiring, especially interviews?
I've come across a lot of problems in hiring. Sourcing is a problem, screening is a problem, onboarding is another challenge. And candidate interviews is one of the biggest pain points. Let's say you have 100 applicants for a particular role. As HR or as a recruiter, you have to go through all 100 resumes and shortlist at the resume level, and then you have to go through multiple levels of screening – meaning interviews. The time it takes to interview at the first level is a bottleneck for any organisation.
But that pain point is also where I saw an opportunity. I'm always passionate about solving a problem given my experience in recruiting, because whenever you have a problem, you also have an opportunity, and instead of trying to get away from your core problem, we should see how we can solve it.
So we came up with the concept of interview as a service, where we help companies to carry out initial level interviews by building an interviewer community. This is basically a crowdsourcing interview platform, also called an aggregator. Companies share candidates with us, and we do the initial round interviews and shortlist the best candidates for them, freeing up all the hours they would spend otherwise.
What's the demand for interview as a service like now?
It has always been great. When we started, we would do 10 interviews a month, then that became 20, and now we've scaled it to 5,000 in a month. The response from the market is huge. Every function demands it: sales, marketing, finance, shared services organisations who hire in volume. And the interviewing challenge is common across all industries, even for blue collar jobs such as in manufacturing. It's not just the time spent but also the difficulty of getting detailed feedback from the internal team, who is often so busy that they will only give a one-word evaluation: 'good' or 'bad'.
We are also seeing demand for our service for the more advanced interview rounds. With many of our customers, once we had built trust with them, they started asking whether we could do multiple interview rounds for them so that they only have to do the final interview round. And we have been trying to automate this part of the process as well. We have a lot of data to support our machine learning – 25,000 interviews' worth of data. And I would like to thank our customers for always supporting us and pushing us towards better quality and faster delivery, especially the early customers who believed in us even as we were starting out.
Many people are still very attached to traditional hiring and interviewing methods. How do you convince them to buy in?
In the past, people definitely wanted interviews to be done in person. During the pandemic, a lot of things changed, and even now that we are back to full normal, companies will not necessarily expect a candidate to come for an interview in person. In fact, a large part of the new normal is about meeting virtual, no matter where you are, and technology has developed to support that very well. There's no more need to make candidates travel from city to city for interviews.
Of course there will still be some interviews done in person – you will get a mix of both depending on the company's ability to manage the logistics. Established companies will have a system that allows them to go for full technology-enabled hiring, but companies in the growth phase might want to go for virtual hiring in the early rounds and still have in person interviews later on.
You have years of experience in interviewing and helping companies to interview – how can employers today improve the way they interview?
There are some main things. One: when an organisation grows and has to hire, there is pressure to hire fast and attract talent no matter what.
It's not easy, especially in a tight market. But they shouldn't compromise on the quality of the talent.
Two: there must be some structure to the process. Companies cannot afford to delay, or they will lose the candidate to the market. They must make their interview process more effective and more simple.
Three: they must be prepared to make a course correction based on the feedback that they receive, whether from the candidates or from the stakeholders. That means a continuous investment of time in order for the organisation to adapt to changes in the market.
We work with some startups who are still in their early days of fundraising – Series A to C or D. Those startups may not have a system in place for their recruitment and interviewing, so we will help them come up with a structured benchmarking process. For example, for a given role we will lay out for them what is expected in terms of the level of interview and what kind of questions we can ask; how we change the interview based on the candidate's years of experience; and so on. Sometimes it's almost like helping them with the entire job description. But we see this as the way to create value for our customers.
InterviewDesk is the Official Interview Partner for Are You In The List Awards 2022. This year, the InterviewDesk platform supported the screening of the 29 nominees who made it to the video interview round, making Stage 5 of the awards possible.