Omer Molad is the Co-founder & CEO of Vervoe, a groundbreaking employee hiring platform for small to mid-sized businesses. In this interview, he talks about the challenges of hiring the right people, how to successfully communicate with a 100% remote workforce, and how they learned to speak the language of their target audience.
Omer Molad didn’t set out to reinvent the recruiting experience. He had been leading a corporate finance solutions team at National Australia Bank, and before that he lead an international emergency response program at Red Cross. He even served as a platoon commander in Israel’s Defense Forces. Perhaps those diverse experiences gave him a unique perspective on workplace culture. But Vervoe is more than a fresh perspective. It throws out everything you think you know about the hiring process.
It’s a brand new business with a brand new concept, which comes with equally new challenges.
In this interview, Omer Molad shares how he and his team have overcome some of the biggest, and often surprising, challenges that face a truly innovative startup - most of which, in one way or another, have to do with communication.
From frustration to innovation - Vervoe’s origin story
Friends Omer Molad and David Weinberg found themselves facing a common problem. They were building their separate teams and interviewing dozens of highly credentialed prospects who weren’t panning out: “people with polished resumes who’d worked at big name organizations. In David’s case, in technology, applicants who’d gone to Stanford and worked in the Valley.”
In other words, the applicants looked great on paper. But in person, not so much.
“We’d been disappointed at people not measuring up, and we’d been spending so much time interviewing people who weren’t a good fit for a whole range of reasons.”
At the same time, they noticed that the people who turned out to be indispensable assets were ones “you’d never pick out of the pile based on their resumes alone, because there was nothing on paper that made them stand out.”
As friends, Omer and David talked over their hiring difficulties. What came out of that discussion was a wishlist of what they wished the hiring process could be. In the hands of two talented entrepreneurs, that wish list quickly became an outline for a completely new kind of hiring platform.
“We thought, ‘wouldn't it be great if you could audition people instead of interview people?’ Focus on what people can do, like the film industry does. The film industry doesn’t ask for your resume. They put you in front of the camera. Could we put people in scenarios they’d actually face on the job, and ignore resumes almost entirely?
Is there a way to do this at scale? Using technology? That was the start of the dialogue.”
Three months later they came up with a concept: An automated interview. Their goals were to create a product that would save them valuable time, money, and more than a little stress, because, as Vervoe’s home page video bluntly says, hiring “sucks.”
For Omer, the question was how to turn the hiring process into “something awesome” that would be “hugely insightful for an employer and a better experience for a candidate.”
That’s right, not only does Vervoe make the hiring process easier for business owners, it makes it much easier for job applicants.
“We spent 9 months designing a candidate journey, from one-sided glass user testing all the way through to design hackathons. Crazy work.”
Their research showed that job applicants have two major pain points: Not knowing where they are in the process and what to expect next, and never being told if they don’t get the job. It’s a waiting game, and it isn’t at all fun.
Vervoe’s candidate journey eliminates waiting altogether. Omer says a candidate simply applies for a job, answers a few questions, and does their video interview immediately.
“We’ve found a bunch of ways to ease people in, our completion rates are high, and candidates love it because they don’t have to take a day off of work - and they have an opportunity to show what they can really do.”
Vervoe creates interview script templates business owners can mix and match, or interview scripts can be written entirely by the business. Employers can also choose from a variety of skill tests to further qualify applicants.
“And because it closely aligns with the job they’re going to do, it’s a great qualifier. If you’re going to work in something qualitative, like finance, you might do an Excel challenge. If you’re going to apply for product design role, you’ll probably be asked to do a design challenge, like watching a video of a user onboarding flow and make a sketch.
The way we talk about it is: We replace face to face interviews with online simulations. There’s a platform around it, there’s more detail, but that’s the guts of it. You don’t have to worry about who to interview. You spend your time looking at how people respond to scenarios, rather than looking at resumes.”
Essentially, they found a way to automate a process around finding diamonds in the rough, which came with an interesting side effect.
“When employers see first how a candidate reacts to a relevant task, the focus is on what they can do, rather than their background, bio or photo.
We remove all the bias. Because you’re not looking at the bio or photo. The first interaction you have with them is to see how they’re performing. It’s amazing how that switches the focus to what an applicant can do, rather than who they are.
Design is a great example, because it couldn’t matter less what school they went to. When someone wows you with something they’ve created, that’s what matters.”
The challenge of communicating a truly new idea
When you think of the typical order of operations for hiring a job candidate, the Vervoe platform completely flips the script.
Usually, the people in charge of hiring start their process by collecting resumes and applications, sorting through them to find a handful of likely interviewees. With Vervoe, the applicant does the interview and assessment first. It’s new, and anything new can be a tough sell.
“It’s such a different way of thinking about hiring. When you’re trying to change mindsets, you need to communicate that value proposition to customers and explain why they should do it differently.”
Omer and David found that while they could explain the benefits well in person, it was harder to convince an online audience.
“When we went to translate that to online content, we didn’t get it right in the beginning. We started writing the way we speak, and turned the website into a slightly more polished version of how I’d tell someone about this in an elevator.”
But being in tech meant that the way they spoke wasn’t necessarily the same language their customer base used. Tech culture is rife with jargon that doesn’t translate well to outside audiences.
“We’re surrounded by experts and consultants and marketers and we get sucked in. but when you meet the person who owns ten beauty salons, they don’t even think about that stuff in that way. Our customer base is small businesses and startups. That was an important recognition for us. We learned the hard way that we needed to avoid jargon, and just speak human.”
They changed their language entirely, eliminating jargony terms like “candidate sourcing,” “talent acquisition” and “pipeline.” It was a more painful process than it sounds.
“We had to give up on things that we thought sounded good.”
That sensitivity to how their target audience best receives information also affected their content.
“Our customers don’t want to read longform blog posts; they don’t have time.
You have to immerse yourself in who your target customer is and that has to flow into all the assets. Every time we do something now, we ask ‘is this how we speak?’ If not, we get rid of it. That’s how we think about content and copy now.
I think that was the most difficult challenge was to learn how to communicate with our ideal customer at scale.”
Another lesson in communication: show, don’t tell
Vervoe bases every decision they make on customer research and keep a constant eye on what works, what doesn’t, and what could work better. This vigilance results in extremely valuable insights that let them communicate with their audience better and better. Their most recent discovery: Show, don’t tell.
They also noticed that their audience responded particularly well to social proof - reviews and testimonials. Omer thinks this happens for two reasons:
“When you’re doing something new, and you’re not in a known category, people think ‘prove it. I don’t want to be the guinea pig.’ They naturally want to see that someone like them is benefitting from this. The second reason, for us, is when we’re talking to busy entrepreneurs with short attention spans who don’t necessarily read content, visual testimonials a great way to communicate quickly and credibly.”
Vervoe’s website is currently being updated to include GIFs that show the software and add written, animated and video testimonials that will also be used on their social media channels, like Facebook and Slack, as well as Google AdWord landing pages.
And testimonials are rolling in.
“Yesterday I met with a customer who just hired a product designer on our platform and is now hiring a customer success person on our platform. The CEO suggested he give us a testimonial both from himself, and from the employee he hired as well. I suggested we get it on video.
So we’re going to do two videos: one of the CEO and one of the new employee. And we are going to put it everywhere. When you do that, it’s not like obnoxious sales. It’s a story we’re proud of.”
Communicating with your 100% remote team
While Omer Molad and David Weinberg are both based in Melbourne, Australia, the rest of the team is scattered across the world. Omer says he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We’re 100% distributed. Everyone works from home or from a co-working space that’s local to them.
Our policy is unless there’s a reason to be in a certain time zone, we advertise globally, and we look for the best person. And we then let them live their lives.”
Their product designer is a prime example: He splits his time between Berlin and Chiang Mai, Thailand, and as a devoted rock climber, enjoys a good midday climb.
Omer says, “Why would I want to stop that and make him come into the office? It’s up to him when he works.”
“Work is not instead of living their lives.”
This kind of flexibility comes with advantages - they can hire the very best fit for any position that the world has to offer.
“Our videographer who does our videos and animations is a marketer by training - a perfect combination - and he lives in the Czech Republic.”
Vervoe’s hiring criteria is lax on location, but very specific in other ways.
“We only hire people who buy into our mission and are passionate about what we’re doing and have a strong startup ethos, who want to be part of a startup and embrace the chaos. It's’ such a win-win. We have a global talent pool. Such a wide variety of people. And for them, they get such a good setup - they can be anywhere.
"They get to be part of a fast-growing startup and we have awesome people.”
But, Omer admits that a global business comes with some challenges. Two, in fact: Communication and time zone.
“The time zone issue isn’t just about the hours. In New York it’s summertime; for me in Melbourne it’s winter. Totally different environments. Different moods. When you work with a global team, you have to allow for people going through different experiences, different holidays, different weather systems. It’s something to be mindful of.”
Communication across time zones, schedules and various technological mediums can also be tricky in terms of creating a cohesive, connected company culture. It’s not impossible, but it does take a little more thought.
“We use Slack and all the best tools, but we make sure we speak to each other on phone or video to talk about what’s really important.
You can’t lose human interaction.
We make sure to regularly get the whole team together and, when we do, we don’t talk about day-to-day work. We talk about how can we help each other. What are we stuck on? What new ideas do people have? We make sure to think together and collaborate, and we have to make an effort to do that, because we don’t bump into each other in the corridor.”
Slack and other communication tools can be a little interruptive, especially for employees whose jobs require extended periods of focused work. Omer says it’s okay to switch off - with one proviso.
“It’s okay to be offline. I don’t need you to respond to me immediately. But I do need to understand your rhythm and when I can expect you to be available. If you’re going to go offline, say you’re going offline for three hours - everyone’s going to respect that, and we won’t disturb you, because we know we’ll get an answer to anything we need in four hours.
For design work, especially, they might need to wander around. I don’t want them chained to Slack; they won’t get anything done, they won’t be able to think of anything interesting. So we encourage that as long as there’s good communication, so people know what they can expect.”
Remote works - but do it intentionally
Vervoe is rethinking what it means to apply for a job, what it means to hire people, and what it means to work. No assumption is safe. Offices - gone. Resumes - superfluous. And in paring down what doesn’t work perfectly, they’re getting to the core of what people want, not just in their jobs, but in life.
And one of those desires most often voiced by candidates is for the freedom to work anywhere.
Omer’s advice to companies considering remote work is to enter into it intentionally.
“If you’re going to be remote, don’t be remote by accident. Don’t slip into this culture where people start working from home. Do it deliberately and set people up for success, so they enjoy it and are productive. Don’t just have an office where people stop coming in. We’re very deliberate about it. We promote it.”