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HRx Radio – Executive Conversations: On Friday mornings, John Sumser interviews key executives from around the industry. The conversation covers what makes the executive tick and what makes their company great.

HRx Radio – Executive Conversations

Guest: Kevin Parker, CEO and Chairman of the Board, HireVue
Episode: 374
Air Date: August 7, 2020




Important: Our transcripts at HRExaminer are AI-powered (and fairly accurate) but there are still instances where the robots get confused and make errors. Please expect some inaccuracies as you read through the text of this conversation. Thank you for your understanding.

Full Transcript with timecode
John Sumser 0:13
Good morning and welcome to HR Examiner’s Executive Conversations. I’m your host, John Sumser and today we’re gonna be talking with Kevin Parker who is the CEO of Hirevue, the video interviewing and assessment company. Kevin, how are you?

Kevin Parker 0:29
I’m terrific this morning. How are you, John?

John Sumser 0:31
I’m on top of the world. You know, the pandemic gives me my best possible life. I don’t have jetlag if I conducted a house with my favorite person. It could be better. That’s my heart. Yeah, I think some people have described it working from home and others have described it as living at work and the two are very different I think. Yes, yes. When you love the work you do, everything is play and when you don’t like the work you do, everything is work in this new world.

So, please take a moment and introduce yourself and tell me the story of how you ended up at Hirevue.

Kevin Parker 1:04
Glad to be here and glad to share it. You know, I joined Hirevue as a board member about five years ago and was board chair for about a year and started, the company started a search for the successor for our founder Mark Newman. And one thing led to another and I stepped in as CEO about four years ago, and it’s been a great, great journey ever since then.

My background has been technology for longer than I want to mention on air here today. But I was CEO at a company in in the DC area called Deltek for a number of years and was co president and CFO at PeopleSoft for a number of years as well. And so I’ve been in the software industry in the enterprise software industry since the 90s at some point. What really appealed to me about Hirevue growing in my PeopleSoft experience is I really understood what the company was all about in terms of hiring in terms of interviewing and democratizing the process for people on a global level. It was really exciting to join a team.

John Sumser 1:57
Yeah, Hirevue spent a lot of time getting its value proposition, right. They were so far ahead. You know, today, you can’t run a hiring process without video interviewing, when Hirevue started, that was a twinkle in the eye of a god that nobody had actually ever met. And so that was a long, hard slog to get to where they are. And along the way, they picked up IO psychology and assessment capabilities and built it into some interesting AI. And then, there’s been some serious bad press about that. So, help me understand what’s going on and what you guys are doing.

Kevin Parker 2:37
Sure, and maybe a little bit of background too, because we solved one problem. We were opening the funnel, the hiring funnel, to more people than ever before, but inadvertently created another problem. No one could watch all these video interviews and do it consistently and fairly. And about five years ago, we expanded our IO psychology team to really try to bring assessments hiring assessments into a modern age and move away from from the traditional paper based, you know, 200 question type, you know, true false questionnaire and and replicate what interviewers were actually doing in person and listening to the answers and evaluating the candidates based on the answer that they were giving to the question.

So, we developed the technology to do that we added about a year and a half ago now, game based assessments as well. So, a cognitive assessment based on playing a game or understanding spatial relations and things like that. So, what we really tried to do is use that to help companies interview broadly and then down select very, very quickly. The controversy, if I can address that, is really been around the role of video in that. And obviously the world is very attuned to facial recognition algorithms and you know, particularly in areas like police work, and conflated that the idea that we were doing facial recognition, which we were not, to what was the role that video was playing in our assessments, and we’ve looked at that pretty carefully and the video adds some value, but the reality is the vast majority of what we’re evaluating is the candidate’s answer to a good open ended question. A question that’s really r based on job copetencies. But as I said the video it really was the source of, at least from our perspective, the source of any controversy. And that’s what’s really been driving it.

John Sumser 4:18
So, I heard an internal study at Google that hasn’t been published, where they discovered that recruiters introduce about 30% bias into their decisions and AI introduces about 80% bias into those decisions. And the question there is how do you stop a machine learning or natural language processing tool from overreaching in its analysis? So there’s obvious interesting stuff in specific content that relates to specific skills and competencies and you can catch that with sort of a keyword analysis or something closed for this you start getting into the structure of people’s language utilization and the patterns that you see there, you start to pick up preferences that are hard to shake out of the things. So as you guys watch the evolution of your toolset, what’s the method that you use for keeping the AI fenced in and staying in its own swimlane.

Kevin Parker 5:20
A few things that are important about that. One is we think about the role of adverse impact and bias in the process. It’s always front and center and how we look at our algorithms and how we look at what we’re creating for our customers. The algorithms aren’t self learning, they’re not modifying themselves over time. And before we put in any solution for a customer, and let’s say we’re looking at a quality or an attribute called team orientation. So we’ll look at all the answers the words that candidates are using and start to grade them on a bit of a spectrum. These answers are more team oriented and these answers are less team oriented. We’ll match that spectrum against what trained evaluators look at and can we predict what a train develops Waiting would be looking at in terms of team orientation. That’s a really important part of the process. But we also take a few extra steps. And one of the most important ones is we look at any of those attributes and see if they correlate through adverse impact, whether it’s race, gender, ethnicity, age, a whole variety of things that are undesirable attributes to that, and we’ll eliminate those. So if it turns out that create a common example we use, the men in interviews tend to talk a little bit faster than women do. After doing 15 million interviews, we recognize that men talk faster than women. If that attribute is oriented towards both team orientation and gender, we have enough information in the course of the interview that we can remove that attribute completely and rerun the algorithm. So it’s a very iterative process where we’re constantly looking at what are we looking at in terms of the attribute? And does any of that correlate to the undesirable outcomes that we’re working to avoid and constantly look at that against what the EEOC guidelines say what the organization psychology institute’s say. So we’re really focused on eliminating any of those things that correlate to adverse impact. And we can measure that statistically, we can measure that arithmetically and satisfy ourselves and ultimately satisfy our customers that we’ve got an algorithm that really focuses on the attribute we’re looking for. And we’ve eliminated as many of the attributes that are undesirable as possible.

John Sumser 7:20
So one last question, then we’ll move off of that I have been studying this area for a long time. And one of the things that’s interesting about compliance as a measure of bias is when you get to stop reporting in the areas of gender, race and ethnicity, I’ve kind of read. So race is not a binary thing. Race is a spectral kind of phenomena. And she is a diversity inclusion powerhouse who is married to a white guy. She is a product of three grandparents who were black at one Who was white? And so when she talks to her kids about which box to check off of these forms, she says, Well, of course you check off the box that will do you the best advantage. And probably what I could tell there’s no economic incentive to choose a range of the options in gender, and race and ethnicity. So the stats that you get are also purported stats that have obvious biases in them. And so to be able to say that we have solved the problem to the compliance level, that’s interesting, but it doesn’t solve the problem. And I wonder if you’re thinking about how to look at the definitions of race and gender that are broader than self reported statistics, because what you’re trying to do is not be compliant with the EEOC, you’re trying to remove bias from decision making.

Kevin Parker 8:49
That’s a very good point. And we are to some degree, relying on the self reporting of the individual candidates, You know, at an individual level, I think there’s always those issues of misreporting. or unintentional misreporting, if I can describe it as that. But across a broad spectrum of candidates, we have a better sense of what’s actually going on at the macro level in terms of race, gender, and ethnicity. We are in some ways constrained by what the legal requirements are from a reporting perspective. And there’s a lot of subtlety to that, as you’re pointing out. The other component I’d look at is that for most of our customers, the EEOC is sort of a minimum threshold. We’re really trying to focus on what fairness means whether that’s racial diversity, gender diversity, cognitive diversity is something that we work very hard on. And so we’re trying to provide as fair an outcome as we possibly can even backup for that, because the root of all of that and what I think from a societal level, one of the things that we can do to improve outcomes from that perspective is just really rely on structured interviewing. And that’s probably the primary value that we bring to customers knowing you can interview 100, 1000, 10,000 people and they’re all getting asked the same questions. They’re all getting asked work related questions and work related competencies. And so it’s a leveling for us in that respect that we’re all having the same experience, all the candidates have exactly the same questions. And that introduces an important component of fairness from our perspective, and from our customers perspective.

John Sumser 10:15
That’s interesting. So, is the installation process that you help people get very specific about the data that they’re trying to gather? So for every interview campaign, every job that you set up a process for there is an intervention that makes sure that structured interviewing gets at the right stuff?

Kevin Parker 10:36
Yeah, exactly. We certainly encourage that for our customers. For all of our assessments customers, that’s a requirement. We conduct what you know, an IO psychologist would recognize as a job analysis. What are the skills and competencies for that job in that particular company or a family of jobs in that particular company? So, we’re not looking for a stereotype or an archetype of an employee. We’re looking for someone that’s To be a good call center employee in your company and one of the competencies associated with that. And then the questions are really focused on those competencies. So instead of asking, you know, what would be your favorite tree? Or you know, if you were a spirit animal, what spirit animal would you be? There’s all sorts of ridiculous interview question. Yeah. It’s really focused on, you know, tell me about a team oriented experience, what was your role? And how did you contribute? And so good, open ended questions that a trained interviewer would ask. That’s the basis upon which we’re conducting our interviews.

John Sumser 11:32
So next question, and this leads leads into the heart of our conversation. On or about Valentine’s Day, every business model in every company in at least the United States broke, and every job in every company changed. And so you’ve got this great body of historical data about what jobs are. My question is, if you’re interviewing for people today, and your historical data is at a minimum set spec. How do you do the job analysis that’s effective enough to tell what you need to be interviewing for in today’s market? My guess is that there are a lot of people hiring people for jobs that no longer exist in the way the job description defines them. And that we’re going to see pretty dramatic numbers suggesting that people are in the wrong jobs because we haven’t taken the time to understand what’s changed before we hire.

Kevin Parker 12:29
I think that’s an excellent point. And most companies are taking a retrospective view of what it took to be successful on a particular job. But, think about the vast majority of you know, the professional workforce today is now working from home juggling family requirements, perhaps kids perhaps parents and still trying to be successful at a particular job. I think as a result of that sort of the traditional nine to five paradigm is going to break I think we’re at work and family life and home life or blended together in ways that We’ve never seen before and don’t look like it’s going to go back to anything close to what it was for a long time. It’s hard to look at retrospective data and know what the future looks like. We have and we’ve published a little bit on this with our psychology team tried to encourage employers to look broadly about what the job requires, in addition to the traditional skills, what new competencies are, what new attributes should we be looking for in some of those individuals? And who’s going to be successful in that environment and who’s not?

John Sumser 13:27
That’s great. This is the heart of the conversation, you have done some work to identify the competencies that best predict success in remote work, what are they and how to do that?

Kevin Parker 13:39
So, we have a team of professional IO psychologist that has started working on that with customers and done some research on our own as well. And a few things come to the top of the list. And this isn’t definitive and this isn’t the only things that employers should be looking for. But obviously, self motivation, individual learning is important. Conscientiousness is on that list as well. You know that with that blends work ethic and independence working styles, you know, we’re we’re all sort of on islands at this point. And the ability to work independently is an important part of that. And adaptability, flexibility and adaptability and opening to new experiences. All of our jobs have changed in ways that were unpredictable, you know, four or five months ago. And those are the qualities that we think our research tells us employers should be thinking about, in addition to the traditional things they were looking for, for candidates.

John Sumser 14:29
When I think about the problem, I think about how formal work has gotten. In order to have a meeting with anybody, you have to schedule it and there’s no bumping into them in the cafeteria or bumping into them on the way to the bathroom or wandering by their cubicle. So, all of the informal communication in the organization has either morphed or disappeared. And so it seems to me that there are organizational glue currents of competencies that we haven’t noticed yet that we need, but that they’re pretty obvious. The people who can provide that glue are going to be valuable in the way that managers used to be valuable, for instance. And we’ve got entire cadre of first level supervisors throughout the economy, who have no training and no idea about how to run a remote department. And so we’re going to see churn there as we start to learn and the things that we’re going to learn how less to do with personal competencies and more to do with organizational effectiveness. I wonder if you’re looking at this work and imagining that you’re going to get a clearer picture over time.

Kevin Parker 15:38
I think we will and particularly from the definition of leadership and the qualities associated with leadership are different in the Zoom work world that we all inhabit today. The style of communication as you’re pointing out becomes unintentionally more formal, the the infrequency of informal communication is absent from our lives and we can only do so many zoom happy hours or Zoom birthday events with teammates. But I think we do have to recognize that it’s different and leadership does change in that environment. We’re early on in our sort of assessment of that. You know, the data is a little bit harder to get for many of those things. But that’s something we’re going to be looking at in the year ahead.

John Sumser 16:15
Is there a competency called figuring out work life balance? You know, many of the things that you identify this competencies or work competencies, but work is happening in the family room, and it’s happening with the kids needing a snack, you know, and the and the dog barking. And so there is some Zen of dealing with blended environments that you’d think would pop up onto your list at some point time.

Kevin Parker 16:44
Yeah, and I think we’re getting at that a little bit in terms of the flexibility and independence and working style and that’s a little bit of what I was getting at John when I was talking about the nine to five paradigm. When we were commuting to work and we are at work at nine o’clock in the morning till five it was different than the world that we inhabit and you’re describing. And so I think as supervisors as managers, and as leaders, I think we have to recognize that there are just enormous challenges with the world we’re inhabiting today. And the way we’re working today and constraining employees to a traditional nine to five schedule just makes it worse. So I think incumbent on us as leaders is to have a lot of flexibility in how individuals react and attack the challenges that they have with as they adapt to this.

John Sumser 17:28
So, I assume that you’re developing a body of structured interview material that allows your clients to figure it out these successful competencies for working at home, is that right?

Kevin Parker 17:42
We do and we advise clients in terms of the question you might ask about team orientation would be different for a supervisor than a call center employee. And so it’s important to have questions that are relevant to that particular role and design them for various levels of interviewers. So, we have a variety of competencies that we can measure from Team orientation and composure problem solving, General cognition, service orientation. And they change by role but we’ve built up a body of knowledge. And that’s what drives our assessments technology as well.

John Sumser 18:16
You remember early on in the pandemic, March, early April, the great news story was the failure of the supply chain to produce enough ventilators because at that point in time, we were certain that COVID-19 was fundamentally a respiratory illness. Just this week, we’re starting to see evidence that asymptomatic people suffer brain damage. 55% of people who are asymptomatic, suffer brain damage and 55% of people that are asymptomatic, suffer heart damage. And so we don’t know – it’s no longer ventilators – the solution of ventilators is off the table really. You get them, but there’s not a shortage anymore because everybody doesn’t get one and we still don’t know what the thing is and what it does. We don’t understand the problem yet. And so we’re in this weird managerial environment where the very nature of the business is uncertain and still you have to make decisions going forward. The question is, how do you deliver your insights in a way that allows your clients to understand that this is a stopgap rather than a final resting place?

Kevin Parker 19:25
I think a few things have happened if I understand the question correctly. One, for many of our customers, the access to video, integrating technology has helped them a great deal, but it’s suddenly jumped to the top of the list from a business continuity perspective. We couldn’t have thousands of people come in to offices to interview for jobs. Several of our customers interviewed more than 1000 people a day using our solutions and you couldn’t achieve that otherwise without video so we’ve had to respond very, very quickly. You know, we had a customer in Australia that had a call center in the Philippines get quarantine and they had to stand up a call center in the Sydney area. In a matter of days, and so it’s jumped from, I wouldn’t describe it as a nice to have but an important part of their process to a business continuity solution that is really comes to the center of their recruiting process. And as we think about putting the world back to work, you know, I’m old enough to remember when you know, the last several recessions, lines of people with their resumes in hand standing outside the convention center looking for a job hoping to get an interview, we’re not going to do that that’s not going to be the way that the world gets back to work. And I think video and video technology and structured interviewing assessments are an important part of how we’re going to help them solve those problems.

John Sumser 20:36
So I guess I’m asking, you know, there’s an old idea about how jobs work and that is you have a job description. It may not be great, but the job description is the foundation of everything and you interview against that job description that yields workers and we’re in an environment where that core thing what’s the work is rapidly evolving? And our understanding of it is rapidly evolving. And so my question was really about how you keep the interviewing process germane at the kinds of scale that you’re talking about. So how do you reintroduce feedback as the company learns that, oh, that thing we used to need, we don’t need it anymore. And that thing we didn’t used to need? Oh, we need that now. How do you hurry that process up so that your interviews remain market relevant to the highest degree possible?

Kevin Parker 21:28
It’s a really good question. And we’re at the start of that process with many of our customers because one of the important parts of our assessment process is to then coordinate that or to the extent we can with performance data, and by performance data, did the employee make it through the first year? Did sales increase, did customer satisfaction improved? So we’re always looking for that outcome data, and particularly in this entire environment we’re trying to get that outcome data as quickly as we possibly can to make sure that our assessments and the interviewing process is remaining relevant to the candidates that we’re interviewing. So, that’s an important part of the process that’s still in front of us, in many cases. For many customers getting that information pretty early in terms of, you know are we hiring the right type of people? Are we interviewing for the right qualities in today’s new world? But, the performance data is something that we always look for and make sure that we’re improving the outcome for customers. And then we’re hiring the people that are going to be successful in the job.

John Sumser 22:23
Great answer. So it’s been a fantastic and fast and intense conversation. Any final thoughts before we close up the call?

Kevin Parker 22:31
I think one of the things that is really important to us too, is that is we look at IO psychology in general. And they’ve been studying this for 100 years worth of research, that we know that structured interviewing and assessments are incredibly, highly correlated to success in the job and the things that are not correlated are years of experience, education, and a whole variety of factors that we usually use to hire people. And so I think the value here for us and for our customers is really creating a consistent process and a consistent and fair process. We started Hirevue 15 years ago with the goal of democratizing hiring. And that’s still at the heart of what we do every day.

John Sumser 23:10
That’s great. So take a moment and reintroduce yourself to tell people how they might get a hold of you.

Kevin Parker 23:15
Sure. My name is Kevin Parker. I’ve the good fortune to be the CEO here at Hirevue and K Parker at Hirevue, H I R E V U E dot com is my email address.

John Sumser 23:26
Thanks so much. It’s been great talking with you. Thanks for taking the time to do this. You’ve been listening to HR Examiner’s Executive Conversations and we’ve been talking with Kevin Parker, who’s the CEO of Hirevue. Thanks for tuning in. And we’ll see you back here next week. And thanks again Kevin.

Kevin Parker 23:43
Thank you John.

John Sumser 23:43
Bye Bye now.

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