In his “previous life,” HigherMe CEO Rob Hunter owned seven ice cream stores, managing a team of about 100 employees at any given time. Recruiting hourly employees was an aspect of the job that Hunter struggled with, especially as he attempted to balance interviewing with the day-to-day responsibilities of running multiple franchises.
“I’d get 100 resumes in, and they all kind of looked exactly the same on paper,” Hunter said. “There’s not much context from just a resume.”
One of his best employees was a teenager named Kendra, who handed in a resume saturated with spelling errors and irrelevant experience. But her personality and flexible availability made her the perfect employee for one of Hunter’s ice cream stores.
It was experiences like Kendra’s that ultimately led Hunter to develop HigherMe, a technology startup that aims to ease the hiring process for hourly employers and their applicants. Through advertising and their matching algorithms, HigherMe sources candidates for hourly roles and for their own constantly-growing pool of applicants. HigherMe also puts applicants through an question-based online application, which HigherMe then uses to present a ranked list of candidates to hiring managers based on personalized criteria.
There’s also a video component to HigherMe’s process: candidates have the opportunity to include a 30-second introductory video clip that can set them apart from other contenders.
For Hunter, having the ability to sort through 30-second clips instead of resumes would’ve saved a lot of time as a hiring manager. Hunter said he knew better candidates would create a better business, but it was a roll of the dice to talk to people without getting context from a resume. When he interacted face-to-face with a candidate, Hunter could easily gauge whether they were the right fit. But he didn’t have time to interview all of them.
HigherMe’s newest features are also saving employers time that could otherwise be spent running the business through SMS-based interviewing scheduling and applications.
HigherMe’s team found that in the hourly world, employers that reach out to candidates looking to schedule an interview via email receive a response rate of approximately 40%. And even when an interview gets booked, applicants only show up about half the time.
“I think it’s a bit of a generational trend to some extent,” Hunter theorized. “I’m a quasi-millennial, and I don’t answer the phone if I don’t know the number that’s calling. Nor do a lot of people nowadays. We don’t use the smartphone for phone calls anymore.”
He’s right; Americans exchange twice as many texts as they do calls. And only while only 43% of smartphone owners use their phone to make calls, 70% of smartphone users text. It’s a trend that will only increase as millennials find comfort socializing through screens.
“We found that text messaging is a really effective way for engagement because that’s the way they like to communicate,” said Hunter.
So far, HigherMe has found a 20% response increase from applicants who are prompted about an unfinished application with a text message. Part of the success could be credited to the intelligence of HigherMe’s SMS platform, which communicates with candidates in a personal, conversational manner.
To simultaneously streamline and individualize the hiring experience, HigherMe is converting the application process to a text conversation with a hiring manager. Candidates can text a provided number and apply via a series of simple questions asked by the automated hiring manager.
Hunter developed the platform to benefit both hiring manager and applicant. As an applicant, he said, the hiring process often starts with instructions on a hiring sign directing applicants to a long, complicated website URL.
“No one remembers that,” said Hunter. “The beauty of the [text message application] is we have you. We can get through you faster. And you can apply asynchronously, whenever you want.”