Storytelling about Canvas with Ben Herman

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 86. This week we have storytelling about Canvas with Ben Herman. During this episode, Ben and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Canvas.

Ben is fantastic to speak with and is an expert on many things, including hiring, analytics, and diversity. With Canvas, they have created an end-to-end diversity recruiting platform. Their solution enables companies to build their brand, track and understand diversity, and then ultimately, engage and hire more diverse talent through their platform. 

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.

Thanks, William

Show length: 25 minutes


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William 0:27
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today, we have Ben on from Canvas. And we’re gonna be talking all about his company. And I can’t wait to kind of get into it. So Ben, would you do us, do the audience a favor and introduce both yourself and Canvas?

Ben 0:45
Yes, I’m excited to be here today, and thank you for having me. I’m Ben Herman, co-founder and CEO of Canvas started as a different company, which was Jumpstart, a few years ago. We predominantly help students find internships and new grad opportunities with companies like Airbnb, Pinterest, Snowflake, Twitch, etc. But what we realized was is our vision was much bigger than that.

And although starting in that area, we realized that our solution could help anyone and everyone, and so we have recently rebranded to Canvas. And we’re now solely focused on creating a new category, which is around diversity recruiting. And we believe as every company needs a CRM, every company needs a DRP. And so we are, you know, an end-to-end diversity recruiting platform, and our vision is to be the number one diversity recruiting platform in the world.

William 2:02
You know, it’s funny because Ben, I’ve been programming this HRTX event that’s about diversity and inclusion and the intersection of talent acquisition. I’ve been talking to a lot of practitioners, I’ve found probably what you found, as well, is that now the responsibility, it’s not, it’s not just one, it’s not just one group. It’s not just one person. It’s almost like, you know, you could be a talent sourcer years ago, but now even if you’re a talent sourcer and you’re sourcing engineers, you’re also, you care also about diversity and inclusion.

Ben 2:41
Yeah, depends, but.

William 2:43
Right. You might care about it in different ways. But you’re going to have pressure. It seems like the conversations, the societal conversations that are external to the business, have increased the dialogue inside the business. From HR, well, from the C suite, from the board to HR, to TA, all forms of TA. So I think that, first of all, I love the way that you’ve positioned the company, I think it’s super helpful. It will be super helpful to folks. Let’s take a walk through some of the functionality so that folks understand what a diversity inclusion platform or recruiting platform, what is that? Yeah, what does that look like?

Ben 3:28
Just, just before I do that, I think, I totally agree with your sentiment of what you’re saying just there as like, it’s now a lot less about, you know, words and much more about actions. And people are being held accountable. And so that means that it’s gone above and beyond just the one or two people who saw it as an important thing, or something that they were responsible for. So I do agree.

In terms of the question, you ask, you know, what, what functionality and what features? You know, we ultimately, you know, stumbled across a solution that started in early career, which was just based off of a lot of research, understanding of historical problems, being a recruiter of, you know, a decade prior to starting this company now Canvas. It was really sad to see that companies never really valued their inbound applicants.

And, you know, that there’s, there’s all of these articles, and I’m sure many interviews that you’ve done, where people will talk about, you know how good talent doesn’t apply, and people have to apply to 100 jobs before they get one response. And I think that’s really like, caused like much bigger problems in this industry. When you think about that, you know, people sometimes think it’s because of them, that they’re not hearing back.

But actually, it’s just because companies tend to not really look at those people. And so instead, they go to places like LinkedIn. And we’ll source talent, usually, on very biased, like, search strings, right, which could include, you know, a top-five school, you know, a Fang company. And there’s so much more talent than that, right. People just haven’t been given an opportunity.

So when we did all this research, what we found in early career, which is, you know, generally interns and new grad opportunities, they had what was like, such large volume for the headcount they were hiring. So take, you know, a company like Lyft, you know, they will receive over 30,000 applicants for 100 positions. So when you think about that in context, right, even if they hired all 100 from those 30,000 applicants or so, like, you know, 29,900, would fall to the wayside.

And, and we just thought like, there must be a better way to, like, manage this, right. And there really wasn’t. Like, there was no solution that enabled companies to understand, you know, the backgrounds of candidates beyond just the resume in an ATS. And they didn’t have the ability to go through these applicants, right. Like, if you ask a recruiter to go through 1000 applicants that they receive, there’s no way that they could do that in anything less than a day, right? And that’s probably skimming keywords.

So what we focused on was, how do we get these candidates to self-identify? To give what is structured data to us, so we could then add an app, enable companies to actually go through these candidates, and highlight people that otherwise had never been viewed or given an opportunity before? Right. And so we did that, in a very hacky way to begin with, as an experiment. You know, we had a, a company invite, you know, 1900 applicants and of which, you know, I believe 1600 completed profiles on our platform.

And we optimized and built this in a fully automated way. Where companies can control the messaging, the branding, the questions, and the workflow around this, to really optimize that conversion and activation from a candidate side. And so yeah, we ultimately give companies the ability to understand their historical and future applicants. Giving them the full picture to increase diversity across their funnel.

And because we have this data, we can do so much more beyond this. And we do. From analytics to sourcing, to event management, and to talent communities. And so, for us, it’s an end-to-end solution, enabling companies to build their brand, to track and understand that diversity, and then to ultimately, engage and hire more diverse talent through our platform. And so that’s the solution.

William 9:06
Well, I love it. I love it. So a couple of probative questions. With your clients that are kind of ahead, you know, I mean, there’s a maturity curve to all these things, right. So the folks that you’ve dealt with that really, really get it, that are doing some really innovative things, you know, we don’t need to mention names or anything like that.

But how are they thinking about diversity differently? Insofar as you know, in the US, a lot of folks when you say diversity, their minds go to race and gender, immediately. Which is fine. But with some of your more advanced clients, how are they thinking about diversity and inclusion differently?

Ben 9:48
Yeah, that’s a really great question. I think that the true answer to that, William, is that I don’t think they figured it out. They’re leaning on us to actually share more about like strategies and tactics that they can take to either make that process more diverse and inclusive or how they can engage and hire these people.

I think we want to redefine what diversity is, as you kind of said there it’s not just about ethnicity and gender. It’s about your whole self. And in some ways, you know, we’re all diverse in our own ways. And really, the goal is accessibility. I think for too long, there’s been this like blanket over talent acquisition and recruiting as there’s a war of talent.

And I’m sure you’ve heard that for many years, as have I. But the question I always go to is that really a war for talent? Or is that really a discovery problem? Right? And I think, now more than ever, it’s about how do we bring companies together to complete the data gaps, like diversity data? But then in addition to that is like, how do we enable companies and candidates to just have the same accessibility, right, and that’s really what we’re trying to facilitate. And so they don’t necessarily need to have a strategy. They just need to have a commitment to what they’re doing, and we can help them get there.

William 11:56
Well, you’ve hit on something that’s actually it’s great for the audience to hear. Because it’s something that I believe in strongly. That you should, as a practitioner, should lean on the vendors, your partners, and work with them, because, y’all are sitting on top of hundreds, if not thousands of different installs. You’ve got a lot of experience in what works and what doesn’t. Practitioners need to leverage that.

Again, for wherever they are, whatever they’re trying to achieve, they should talk to your team and go, Okay, here’s what we’re doing, how can we change? Etc. So they should leverage that. I love that. I did want to ask about candidate personalization. Because, again, your background on the early stage and interns and things like that, and also dealing with diverse talent, how much do you think the solution needs to be personalized to the candidate in their experience that they have with the brands that they apply to?

Ben 12:57
Yeah, I think, I think that’s a really important question. And I would say a lot, right? Like, when you look at LinkedIn, every profile looks the same. Right? And we are so much more than what is like words, on a document. And the fact that candidates can’t show their whole self, I think is damaging.

Because now more than ever, you know, people aren’t just looking for work, right? They’re looking for a mission and a group of people that they find a connection with. Where they’re more excited and more willing to go above and beyond to do their best work. And so I think in order to for that to happen, it’s really important that people have the opportunity to express themselves, and also start to own more of their data.

That companies, you know, will state that AI is using, but it’s not really AI. It’s more like, you know, they use an API that gives them public data. And that’s what they use, but the candidates can’t even see what’s being used. Or they’ll use, you know, a diversity API, which guesses, you know, whether or not you’re Black or Asian because of your name or your photo and I just think that it’s wrong and like, right, things need to change. And I think that the way that that changes, is by giving the power back to the candidates.

William 14:55
I love that. So when we first started, we talked about the diversity inclusion recruitment platform. For the audience because, you know, the ATS category has been around 50 years, the CRM category has been around for maybe 10 years, etc. When you say, kind of end to end, I think sourcing to onboarding. So I know a little bit broader, probably than the normal, normal person. What are Canvas’s lines of demarcation? Where do you partner with folks? Yeah, on one end, and partner with folks on another end? And what’s your sweet spot?

Ben 15:36
Yeah. So, you know, the DRP category is something we want to create. And we want to be the first one there. And when we think about that, it’s about how do you understand your data, take action against that data to ultimately hire. So it’s like the end-to-end hiring process.

Regardless of if you want to host virtual events, whether or not you want to, like build, like more communication at scale with your candidates. Whether or not you want to, like source more strategically, or whether or not you want to have more one-to-one connection. And so for us, it’s really about the hiring process. And from the first point of someone applying to a job to them, ultimately, moving forward in the process and being hired.

William 16:50
Right, right. Okay. So, for those that are listening, when they do the demo, and want to ask a couple questions on when they see, you know, when you show people Canvas. What’s the, I would say, aha moment, that’s the thing, but you know how it is when you look at software when finally the light bulb goes off, you’re like, Oh, my God, I can’t live without this. What is that for Canvas and y’alls prospects and customers?

Ben 17:22
Yeah. Yeah, it’s really the moment that they connect and sync their ATS to be able to immediately understand and filter and find diverse talent that they wouldn’t have otherwise ever considered. And that really is like a jaw-dropping moment for them. Because it’s, it’s data that they’ve never had. And so, because of the integration we have with the ATS is bidirectional. It gives them so much information that’s like, just beyond this person’s profile, but actually, their full, kind of application history.

William 18:21
You know, folks are gonna, Ben, people are gonna ask me on the integrations. I know, you. There are 1200 ATSs in the world. So you probably can’t be integrated with all of them.

Ben 18:30

William 18:31
Yet. Which, which ones have you, are you focused on? Kind of what part of the market Have y’all focused on the most right now?

Ben 18:39
Yeah, it’s probably where we spend most of our time, and we’ve actually been building and launching what is a universal integration system. So really, state-of-the-art works bidirectionally, can, you know, be plugged in and work in basic form with any ATS. So we will be looking to expand to hundreds of different ATSs over the next, you know, 12 months or so. But specifically, right now, we’re an official partner for Workday, an official partner for Greenhouse, we have a bidirectional integration with Lever. And we’re also an official partner to Jobvite. And we’ll be doing you know, integrations very soon with iCIMS and Smartrecruiters.

William 19:35
Oh, that’s fantastic. I mean, you’ve almost covered a majority of the market just by covering those. Just the Workday integration, I think is a fantastic integration. They’ve got almost 4000 HCM clients. So Workday Recruiting is installed in a lot of those and to be able to make that a better tool for folks, I think it’s just wonderful. Folks that listen, the audience always asks me these questions. So I’ll ask you, I don’t want to get into the weeds around pricing. But what’s the philosophy or the model for pricing for Canvas?

Ben 20:18
Yeah. We, in general, want to give companies access, right? Because, you know, our mission is, you know, to make the world more equitable. And how we do that is ultimately by more and more companies utilizing, you know, our services. So we tend to think about it in two forms.

One is like, it’s how many people want access, so a seat model? And then what usage do they want. And you know, we have a price per seat based on that usage. And if they want more seats, the seat price is discounted. And that’s generally how it works.

And they pay, you know, for an annual subscription. And in general, you know, we don’t sell under, you know, 12 months is, you know, managing and dealing with all that data takes time. And those integrations, and they, yeah, and then, you know, we also sell two-year and three-year contracts in addition.

William 21:27
Sure, sure, sure. So I think the business case for D&I and even going further into belonging, equity, and equality, I think it’s becoming easier for practitioners to make that business or use case or business case for services and software that kind of helps them there. But from your perspective, what’s what success? Like when you talk to your customers and you hear stories?

Ben 21:53

William 21:54
Like, where are you the proudest of? What is success when people use Canvas?

Ben 21:59
Yeah, it’s, it’s not, it’s not just about doing events that help you build your brand to show that you’re doing something. But it’s about being able to take action on the people who give that event time and commitment, to ultimately give them an opportunity. And I think that, whether that’s an event, an applicant, whoever. It’s just about, like look, when someone expresses interest in your company, doesn’t it make more sense to first consider them? Before trying to find people who aren’t interested or who haven’t shown interest? Because at the end of the day, when anyone’s looking for a relationship, we don’t go out and talk to people that are married. That’s not how it works. So why is it any different? And so for me, success is giving people the opportunity to express and show interest in your company.

William 23:09
I love that. Okay, the last question before we roll out. Canvas in let’s say, three years. Let’s not go too far. Success for Canvas in three years? What is that? What does that look like for you? What do you envision as just this would be, we would love to hit this ball marker.

Ben 23:34
Yeah, I think it’s that we’ve built the largest and most diverse, you know, community of talent, with the best, most accurate and most fresh data set on any given candidate. Enabling every company to be held accountable for their diversity metrics and goals. And so that’s really about like, showing that data, so people will have the understanding of what companies are doing. And that, to me would be success.

William 24:26
I love it. I love it. And, folks, Ben’s going to be speaking at HRTX in June. So, so please make sure you come to his session because it’s gonna be awesome. Come to the whole event, but come to his session, in particular, because it’s gonna be awesome.

Ben, thank you so much for your time. I know that you’re crazy busy right now. I appreciate you schooling us and educating us on Canvas.

Ben 24:51
No, thank you. And I appreciate your time and giving me this opportunity to speak and I look forward to speaking meeting again soon.

William 24:59
Alright, my friend thank you, and thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case Podcast. Until next time

The Use Case Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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