All Episodes CEO & Co-Founder Stephane Rivard
Stephane Rivard

CEO & Co-Founder Stephane Rivard

The goal of the platform to identify candidates who excel in soft skills.

Joining us to discuss how AI is transforming the hiring process is the CEO and Co-Founder of HiringBranch, Stephane Rivard. In this episode, we explore how HiringBranch is revolutionizing hiring by creating a platform where candidates can showcase their abilities in real-time simulated scenarios.

Episode Transcript

Rob Stevenson 0:05
Welcome to talk down to me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the front lines of modern recruitment.

Speaker 2 0:12
We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life, we want to understand how they make decisions where they’re willing to take risks and what it looks like when they fail.

Rob Stevenson 0:22
No holds barred completely off the cuff interviews with directors of recruitment VPs of global talent CHR OHS and everyone in between

Speaker 3 0:31
once I went through the classes and the trainings and got the certifications through diversity and inclusion, I still felt like something was missing.

Speaker 4 0:39
Talent Acquisition. It’s a fantastic career, you are trusted by the organization. You get to work with the C suite and the security at the front desk and everybody in between. And everybody knows you.

Rob Stevenson 0:52
I’m your host, Rob Stevenson. And you’re about to hear the best in the biz. talk down to me. Here with me today on top talent to me is the CEO and co-founder at hiring branch, Stephane Rivard. Stephane, welcome to the show. How the heck are you today?

Stephane Rivard 1:08
I’m great. Thank you for having me on the show. I’m excited to be here.

Rob Stevenson 1:11
Yeah, I’m excited. You’re here as well. And you snuck me in right before you and your family are going to be gallivanting across Europe. Is that right?

Stephane Rivard 1:17
That’s correct. Yeah, we’re flying off getting off on a big jet plane in a few hours. So I’m glad to be here just to get this off my plate. But yeah, we’re jetting off in the few hours and glad to be here before that.

Rob Stevenson 1:28
Yeah, I appreciate you sneaking in and then promptly disappearing and hopefully ignoring email and, and actually really taking time to rest. Like when I go on vacation, I really try and unplug like I delete the Gmail app and the slack app for my phone, or at least like the work accounts on the on that app. Are you able to unplug to that? I mean, being a CEO and co-founder probably you always need to be reachable, right? Yeah,

Stephane Rivard 1:49
I think I’ve always had a hard time to unplug my idea of unplugging because reading business books, or I have gotten to a recruiting book that I’ve been meaning to AI based recruiting book. So that’s my idea of unplugging. But I will take some time to hang out with the family and do some fun things.

Rob Stevenson 2:03
Good. Good. What is on your reading list for this trip?

Stephane Rivard 2:06
I’m reading a couple of books. One is called the TA recruiter, which is a new book that just came out. And the other one is Kevin wheelers, brief history of interviews and its future. So those are my reading lists. And I have a couple of ones for fun. But those are the ones that I’ve been meaning to read.

Rob Stevenson 2:21
Gotcha. What was the first one the TA recruiter? Is that about recruiting recruiters? Yeah, it’s

Stephane Rivard 2:25
a mike Wolfowitz new book The call the HR Recruiter, it’s talking about, as you know, entering into human AI collaboration, how AI can bring efficiency and objectivity to the hiring process. Yeah, it looks really interesting. Oh, we

Rob Stevenson 2:38
got the AI recruiter. I got that wrong. Yeah, yeah. Cool. There’s a shout out for some some some book Rex for some people out there in podcast land. Check those out. What are the books you’re reading for fun?

Stephane Rivard 2:46
Oh, my God, I wish I could read for fun. I’m a big news junkie. So I have read all kinds of news from all over the world. And for fun. Yeah,

Rob Stevenson 2:55
I guess news is really what I like to read about, though not much love for fun at the moment. I recommend people read other countries coverage of your country. It’s always really, really interesting. Like, okay, how are they viewed this? Like what is if I get outside the filter bubble of like the American news apparatus, what are other, you know, publications saying they’re all leaning and biased in their own certain ways. But reading a different kind of biases is usually interesting.

Stephane Rivard 3:20
It is fascinating. I think that when I say news, exactly, I will read the French one from France, BBC. So I will read every point of view and try to come up with what’s actually going on. So it’s kind of fun to balance those different points of views. Yeah, of course.

Rob Stevenson 3:33
Well, speaking of different points of views. I wanted to have you on so fun listeners. Um, I know that it’s rare I bring on founders of HR tech companies, but you have a really unique approach and unique background that has led you to the space. So I want to make sure we talked about that. Would you mind sharing a little bit about your background? And what kind of led you to see there was this need for hiring branch

Stephane Rivard 3:55
since I was a little boy, I’ve always wanted to be a business person, entrepreneur. I don’t know why I think I think I told the story to all my friends. Recently, my parents took me to Disney World, one of the early years that opened and we had rode all the rides. And at the end of the day, we’re sitting in a big hotel, and I told my dad one day I want to run this place. I’m in Disney. And all I could think of is how complicated is the logistics the moving parts of a hotel. I think I was seven years old, six or seven years old. And it took me to where I am now. I guess back once I graduate from university, I decided just to become a business person entrepreneur. I never went for an interview. So there’s a year I’m running an interview company, interview, this company, never went for an interview. And I started in language I got an opportunity doing voice over IP with a company based out of Toronto, and I found it fascinating. And from there I got involved with universities and corporations doing language training, language assessment, cultural training, all based around people listening and speaking and communicating with them with each other, which brought me to hiring branch and using AI and the process.

Rob Stevenson 4:58
So before we go any Further, would you mind giving a quick elevator pitch the 32nd, boilerplate for hiring branch?

Stephane Rivard 5:04
Yeah. So what we do is that we’ve created this platform based around high volume hiring for the moment and what it does that evaluates your ability to understand customers. And to give a clear and concise answer, or a better way to say that it’s the we evaluate your language skills and communication skills, soft skills, in real time. And from all the information that out there all the research is that soft skills are really primarily the reason people succeed in life. And typically, in high volume roles. These are the most crucial roles that you have, and they’re talking to your customers every day. So we flip that model, give company candidates an opportunity to virtually do a mock, do the job, talk to customers, and we evaluate what are a high? Well, they saved livings.

Rob Stevenson 5:47
Got it? So the opportunity to do the job? Is that like a paired programming session? Or is it its own sort of animal? Yeah, it’s its

Stephane Rivard 5:55
own animal. It’s like, really, it’s a mock opportunity. So you’re on a platform, either on a device or a computer. And you actually have to listen to customer calls or customer chats. And you have to answer with open ended questions. So there’s no correct answer you provide, identify what the problem is. And then as I say, let’s say for example, a customer calls in and they say, I just bought this new phone, and the internet does work on it. So as a candidate, you’d have to figure out what the problem is it is they bought a new phone, or is the internet does work on it. What is the internet mean? So they’re really basic, everyday skills that someone should be able to understand. And then you have to come up with some possible answer for those kinds of questions. And the candidate have a whole series of these types of questions, depending on what kind of roles are applying for?

Rob Stevenson 6:38
Yeah, the reason I bring up pair programming is because it feels like it’s the same theme family of approach, like the idea is to recreate the scenario of work, like what does it actually look like when someone is on the job fulfilling tasks on a random Tuesday at 11:15am. But with this, you get, it’s more scalable, because it’s like, you don’t need an engineers time, for example, to sit next to someone,

Stephane Rivard 7:01
you get to see what they’re actually like, what they’re actually like in the environment. How do you assess if someone did a good job? Yeah, so we assessed is a whole bunch of different metrics. And it really depends on the role they’re applying for. They’re typically two roles. Net right now that we use our platform, one, one of them is for a sales oriented or loyalty oriented role. And the other one is customer service. And what we really evaluate as part of that process is first of all of their language skills, can they speak the language with using the correct language? The second thing we’ll do is evaluate their people skills are also known as soft skills, evaluate if they understand the question, are they using the right speech act? So for example, Are they active listening? Are they building rapport? And there’s lots of them and our people’s skills framework? And the third thing we’ll do is employability skills, which means can they retain the information of being told them? So if someone tells you my phone number is this Can they can retain that information? And enter that onto a computer? Or can they repeat that information? So those are the three primary skills and within that, we use artificial intelligence. And we evaluate hundreds of metrics that have been correlated to or in benchmark the performance of existing employees. And we have tons of benchmarks for different types of roles.

Rob Stevenson 8:13
Got it? Okay, so that is the what of hiring branch. Let’s go to the why. So what about your experience prior to hiring branch led you to see this gap in the interviewing process, or this problem of the interviewing process?

Stephane Rivard 8:27
I’ll tell you a story. We had a customer base in the Philippines, they literally have probably three 400,000 people apply every year. And then we’re using one of our platforms just to record and to have the different recruiters and go listen to these recordings. So you can imagine if you have that many candidates, how many recruiters that you need to have to listen to these recordings and evaluate these recordings. And you can also imagine everyone is different. So what they think is a good candidate may not pass the test for another recruiter. And what we wanted to do is standardize it. So they came to us this is we want to automate this, we want to make have some metrics that we can pull out. So the idea came from our customers requirements, like they really wanted some new way to be able to give them a first idea of which candidates have the skills and which ones don’t.

Rob Stevenson 9:15
Gotcha. So the voice over IP connection, I think is worth calling out as well, because you had this more language and linguistic based framework or based approach to the problem, right?

Stephane Rivard 9:28
Correct. Yeah. So we had this language-based approach working with universities around the world. And we knew like the at the end of the day, what you really want to know is not the language level, you want to know if they can communicate. At the end of day like people don’t take language courses to learn language, they learn to take language courses to communicate, you want to go to Italy or Greece and you want to be able to feel like a local and local wants to feel like you’re trying and I think that’s the key and and everything we do language is just not enough. It’s really those soft skills that really drive the success of a career of an employee of a company. Session, we’ve all had those conversations where we call customer support. And that candidate or that agent doesn’t have those skills and you hang up. And you’re just gonna call again until you find someone who can build has empathy for you, and can build rapport and help you solve those problems. And this is every day. So that’s the thing that we put at the forefront. Gotcha. Can I ask this is a little unrelated to talent acquisition, but

Rob Stevenson 10:23
I’m curious what’s going on with these call centers and the technology being deployed? If I put my tinfoil hat on, as I’m wanting to do? Is there like voice modulation? Is there auto translation going on? Our agents being like, pass through technology to make you feel like they’re naturalized for a coded word, but

Stephane Rivard 10:40
I’m sure there probably are. But I don’t see that. I know that there’s a lot of tech going on in call centers, but it’s really around performance. There are a lot of call routing software, they capture every single call, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of different metrics they’re keeping track. What we like to do as a company is that we look like to look at the performance metrics, what do you as a company measure a successful conversation? Is it the outcome of that conversation? Is it a CSAT score? Is it for example, we have some companies that are in sales is it revenue, and what we do is that we correlate so using that tech is making sure those candidates have those skills to start off with. And then companies use the tech to keep track of what’s going actually going on.

Rob Stevenson 11:21
Gotcha. So I’m glad you called out the importance of soft skills. And also this maybe fracture point of interviewing. So I’d love for you to beat up the process a little more. What do you think most companies are getting wrong? Or over indexing on when it comes to interview is that when it comes to interviews that are maybe not indicative of someone’s future success in a role?

Stephane Rivard 11:43
Like it’s interesting question I’ve been asked many times, I’ll give an answer so differently, when you asked somebody about their hiring and firing practice, they will often say says we hire for hard skills, and we fire for soft skills. And I think you’ve probably seen that everyone’s seen that when you have to layoff someone, it’s very rarely that it’s based because they can’t do the job is because they don’t have the team building. They can’t get along. And that’s really the core of everything. And the interesting thing is I was reading an article from the Harvard Business Review, research they conducted with Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center. And they concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well developed soft skills, which is really fascinating. The most interesting thing is that the base of this study came from 1918, from the Carnegie Foundation. So in 1918, they had already figured out that soft skills was the core, the job success, I think that’s really putting at the forefront. I think that when you’re interviewing someone, or when you’re trying, you’re doing a great job, figure out they have the hard skills, it’s more difficult to evaluate those soft skills. Yeah,

Rob Stevenson 12:45
the assumption underlying that approach hire for hard skills fire for soft skills. It’s kind of saying like, we can’t teach someone either. Either you have the hard skills or you don’t, in which case, we’re not hiring if you don’t have it, once you’re on board, either you have the soft skills or you don’t. And if you don’t, we’re firing you, which it totally ignores a possibility of employee development, doesn’t it?

Stephane Rivard 13:05
It does. But I think what we also do is that we also identify skill gaps. So a lot of our high volume customers, they sometimes need to hire five 6000 people a week, and they can’t always get the ideal candidate has the perfect profile. So even within our platform, we can say, Okay, well, this person has 85% of the soft skills required to do the job. But their active listening skills aren’t great. And those are trainable. So the other part of the story that I haven’t told you about is that we still do training. And we still do cultural training, soft skills training. And these are the things that we will help those candidates get to that level. But ideally, you want to find a candidate that has all the skills out right out of from the hiring process. But sometimes you can’t you can use our platform for you know, for skill gaps analysis, find out what skills they don’t have.

Rob Stevenson 13:50
Yeah, so I was about to quip that maybe it’s easier to teach someone Ruby on Rails than it is to teach them empathy, right. And that’s why we index more on hard skills. But if that were true, you should be indexing on soft skills, right? Because it’s like, oh, we can teach you the coding stack you need provided you have enough under your belt already to prove that you are adaptable and can learn. But maybe we can’t teach you how not to be a jerk. But it sounds like you’re saying we can teach you how not to be a jerk. Or we can identify some of the soft skill areas where you’re deficient and then show you the way

Stephane Rivard 14:20
correct That’s exactly it. Sometimes there are candidates that they just they’re on trainable that we can identify that untrainable candidate or untrainable within the timeframe, you need him to do the job, which is probably a better way to say things. And by the way, Ruby on Rails is really hard. I tried to teach myself. I took a lot of programming courses, but I think it’s just trying to get to find those ideal candidates. And ironically, some of these customers that we approach, when you ask them about what soft skill drives success, they don’t even know when you’re talking about these large multinational corporations whose sometimes admit that we’re just hiring on hunch we have an idea of what skill is that drive success but they don’t have They don’t really know for sure. So we actually do with our platform, we analyze your existing employees, and we correlate hundreds and hundreds of metrics. And we can actually pull out the soft skills. We know, for example, for a sales role, there are two or three key soft skills and metrics that lead to successful and profitable conversations.

Rob Stevenson 15:19
What are they? Well, I can

Stephane Rivard 15:21
tell you, a couple of them. One of them is, you know, having high level of fluency. And the other one is probably not not surprising, but building rapport. building rapport is extremely important in closing sales.

Rob Stevenson 15:31
Gotcha. So this is interesting to ponder, because I kind of thought that this conversation was going to be about oh, we shouldn’t be indexing more on evaluating soft skills, and less on hard skills. But it seems like if you can make an effort to develop both, or at least soft skills, then it’s less important that someone passes an interview with flying colors, as long as you can identify the areas where they might need to grow.

Stephane Rivard 15:56
Yeah, exactly. And I think that what this does, especially for high volume jobs, is that it gives you like a standardized way to evaluate everyone, fairly unbiased, you’re looking for some core skills, and that person employed the hard, soft skill. And this is what using AI to do that it will do that in an unbiased, effective and accurate. And I think a lot of people ask me, you know, what are the key metrics you measure? Well, you’ve probably lot you hear this metric a lot in in hiring platforms, you know, time to hire an extremely important metric. But if you’re using a skills based approach, what we call our platform, is that time to hire is becomes, you know, it’s not really a metric anymore, because you can we have clients, many clients hiring immediately. So they do the assessment and hiring within hours, 24 hours. What’s interesting is that the quality of hire is the ones we care about. And the metrics that we move for large customers can be first call resolution, if you’re in a call center, we typically improve that by 10% or more. And the only thing we’ve changed is like buying using signs to hire those candidates. But to screen those candidates. In a sales organization, increasing sales, we have one customer increase sales by the candidates that we selected increased sales by 10%, within 90 days, which would take six to 12 months to get that candidate to that same level. So it’s just accelerating that whole process, and being able to have an iteration. So evaluating performance, feeding that back to our the metric driven AI system, and then back into the platform. So it’s constantly being analyzed. And that’s really the magic of what

Rob Stevenson 17:25
we do. Gotcha. Can you share a little bit more about the evaluation process? How you’re assessing employability? Like, what kind of screening goes on outside of the market platform approach?

Stephane Rivard 17:35
Yeah, so it’s like things like multitasking, active listening, and retention of data, being able to paraphrase all that employability skills that are really important. Customers don’t like to repeat their requirements, I go somewhere, and someone doesn’t understand what I said, or have to repeat my phone number 10 times I get annoyed, and everybody gets annoyed. So these things, can they retain that information? And can they transform or digitize that information accurately and quickly? So those are the types of skills that we evaluate? Can they multitask? Can they be able to understand a question start answering meanwhile, enter that information or research the information that they need to answer with? So those are the types of employability skills?

Rob Stevenson 18:12
Gotcha. Are those kinds of client to client? It sounds like probably multitasking, for example, maybe one client was like, Hey, this is really important to succession or roll, can we index on that? So it’s gonna be a little different for every person using the product? Surely, right.

Stephane Rivard 18:26
Yeah. And I think that, you know, it’s very customizable approach. Every single customer we have have different metrics that drive their business objectives. And we match that as a, you know, it’s like, we’re looking at a customer, it’s not really we’re not a vendor, we’re a partnership. If you want to partner and you want to share with your business objectives, we will do everything in our power to be able for you to meet those business objectives. So it’s a process that leads results, and our customers keep expanding, and the results are proving them for themselves.

Rob Stevenson 18:55
So you mentioned a moment ago that you speak to, you know, large corporations who maybe they don’t even have that clarity on what makes a good hire in this specific case. So you’re putting in kind of an uncomfortable position of maybe consulting them a little bit to be like, alright, well, let me ask you some questions. And let’s figure out what is actual success in this role so that we can design a solution around that, right, which I would imagine that would resonate with, with recruiters because they have to have that conversation with hiring managers constantly. That to figure out what is actual success look like in this role? Is it this laundry list of technologies that they know? Or is it an ability to learn to be adaptable, etc? So I’m curious what that conversation sounds like. Like when you are forced to be consultative. How are you extracting that from your clients? How are you helping, helping them figure out what success in a role looks like?

Stephane Rivard 19:44
We use our platform, we work with customers around the world. And from that we’ve gained a tremendous amount of knowledge. But typically, the most successful way to do this is actually by benchmarking or using our tool to evaluate the current hires they have that have been put into production or what Working for 90 days, 120 days, and correlating that to their performance metrics of that employee. And from that our tools, we’ll be able to extract exactly what skills. So we have a good idea of what skills are required for each role. But it’s once we do this activity, then it becomes clear as daylight, it becomes really these are the three skills of your top performing agents are or two skills or whatever it may be. And we add that then to the AI tool to go screen for new employees.

Rob Stevenson 20:26
Yeah, that sounds a lot like a process I’ve heard outlined from other recruiters, which is like, Hey, who are the best performers on your team? What makes them so good? Why are they so good at their job? All right. Now, let’s screen for that. Let’s see if we can find that in another person. And it may be like, I feel like it’s rarely that oh, well, they have this mastery of 15 different engineering program, like 15 different coding languages, right? It’s usually something more like, oh, well, they are a team player, or they help everyone else on the team be better or they over communicate. It’s really just like, Oh, they’re a technical wizard. It’s like that is maybe table stakes, honestly, for a role.

Stephane Rivard 21:03
I agree. You know, our most successful employees are, they’re great listeners. And they’re curious. We have a tech heavy, we do have a customer support team, the customer support team, they have different skills. They’re kind of people who love to resolve problems. So we’ve taught them all the hard skills because they came in they didn’t know how to use our all our platforms, but we hired them for the soft skills. And we use our platform to hire those customer facing roles when it’s worked out really well.

Rob Stevenson 21:28
When I think about one of the best teammates I ever had a fellow content marketer. If someone asked me why she was so good at her job, I wouldn’t say oh, she’s really really good at HubSpot. though. She was she was really good at HubSpot, then that was an really important part of her role being able to use HubSpot effectively, right. But it didn’t make her really good at her job. I’ve worked with plenty of people who knew how to derp around in HubSpot and figure stuff out right, it was that she was really, really a hard worker is that she was creative. And she had lots of new ideas is that she’d like to bring in people from other teams and organize different kinds of work with multi departments like those are all not hard skills, technically, right. But again, it wasn’t that she was really good at some software that made her so good to her role.

Stephane Rivard 22:12
Yeah. And I think that you just mentioned that the key is soft skills. It really comes if someone shows up with a positive attitude, looking for solutions, you’re going to want to work with that person. If someone is closed minded, not listening to you not communicating correctly, then you’re not going to want to work with that person, regardless of how good they are. So I think that if you want to have create a culture where everyone works together, then putting those soft skills at the forefront are really important. And learning how to use HubSpot is important. But I think you can learn how to do that.

Rob Stevenson 22:40
Yeah, this has come up a couple of times, it’s worth reiterating this idea that like in a lot of these cases, the stakes of a hire are not life or death. It’s like, okay, you need to reach a certain level of technical competency, we need to know you have a background that lends itself to this role. But we can teach you the specifics of our tech stack, you can learn a new web app, it’s like oh, well, we use HubSpot. We use Pardot. It’s like so what like it’s just it’s a different color, basically a different UI, like you can figure out how to use it. It’s the other stuff that’s going to make or break you in the role. Not necessarily if you had experience doing this specific thing. Exactly before, so worth calling out.

Stephane Rivard 23:15
Yeah, no, I agree with you. And even like you’re not I was I was reading another study from insole, which is a healthcare professional association. And they were saying to get better client outcomes, you need to have better soft skills. And there’s a correlation about how the nurse or the doctors communicate with that patient and the outcomes they’re going to come. So it’s it’s not only just in, you know, for textiles, you’re talking about the health care. So same thing, we need to put those soft skills at the forefront.

Rob Stevenson 23:42
Definitely. I’m curious to find since founding this company, since interacting more with hiring professionals, what has kind of surprised you about the space? What did you not know going in that you’re like, Oh, this is something I hadn’t anticipated?

Stephane Rivard 23:55
God, there’s a lot of things that things that surprised me. And so again, I’ve never been for an interview. But from what I’m hearing from recruiters and from people who hire in high volume over and over again, it’s as though they usually make their final decision on based on hunch and their gut instincts. And it’s like, I think I read a study recently, I think, at 75 to 85% of recruiters make the decision based on hunch and I think that was a bit of a surprise. 85 to 97% of hiring is based on gut instinct. And that’s a bit of surprising. We’re looking at corporations, which everyone is so metric driven. Nowadays, everything we do even our lives are apps that are metric driven. And why is there not more of this metric driven approach to hiring is probably the biggest surprise I have.

Rob Stevenson 24:37
Yeah, makes sense. That has implications toward bias towards diversity hiring. It’s like if you are you can’t quantify a gut feeling you can’t put a number behind I you know, I had a good conversation with this person. It’s like we need hard information. We need like an explanation of the skills, hard information even about soft skills, right, that we can quantify. We cannot be hiring based on gut.

Stephane Rivard 24:58
Yeah, I know and I like to talk to people and when we get to conversations, and my gut feeling is I want to hire everybody. I need some science. I’m gonna end up with 3000 employees in no time but but I think anything that can help you make do your job better than that should be a welcome addition to your tech stack to your toolkit.

Rob Stevenson 25:17
Absolutely, well Stephane, we are creeping up on optimal podcasts linked here. And this has been really good fun chatting with you the time was flown by. So at this point, I’ll just say thank you so much for being here and sharing all the new interesting work you’re doing over there hiring branch. I’ve loved learning about it. Yeah.

Stephane Rivard 25:30
Thank you very much for having me on your show. It was great fun.

Rob Stevenson 25:33
Great to have you, Stefan. Thanks for doing this. And yeah, looking forward to seeing what hiring branch does next. Thanks. Talk talent to me is brought to you by hired. Hired empowers connections by matching the world’s most innovative companies with ambitious tech and sales candidates. With hired candidates and companies have visibility into salary offers competing opportunities and job details. Hired unique offering includes customized assessments and salary bias alerts to help remove unconscious bias when hiring. By combining technology and human touch, our goal is to provide transparency in the recruiting process and empower each of our partners to employ their potential and keep their talent pipeline full. To learn more about how we can help you find your next great hire, head to