Storytelling about Cauldron With Vahan Melkonyan

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 159. This week we have storytelling about Cauldron with Vahan Melkonyan. During this episode, Vahan and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Cauldron.

Vahan is an expert in all things application and interview.  His passion to help companies create unique and engaging job application processes and eliminate never-ending interviews really comes through during the podcast.

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

Thanks, William

Show length: 27 minutes

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Vahan Melkonyan
Co-Founder & CEO Cauldron

Vahan's current passion is redefining the job application. By solving the job application, you take care of time loss on screening and interviews, the bias in recruiting and maintaining a diverse pipeline.

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Music:  00:02

Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case podcast, a show dedicated to the storytelling that happens or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better as we speak with the brightest minds in recruitment and HR tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

William:  00:23

Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup. You’re listening to the Use Case podcast. Today we have Vahan on from Cauldron, and we’re talking about the use case, the business case, the cost-benefit analysis, a lot of different ways to call it the same thing, but how one makes the decision of what to buy and then how to buy. And so, we’re just going to get right into it. Vahan, would you do us a favor, the audience a favor, and introduce both yourself and Cauldron.

Vahan:  00:56

Yeah. Hey, William. Great being here. As a quick introduction, I’m Vahan, co-founder and CEO at Cauldron. And Cauldron helps companies hire 50% faster, bias free, and save up to 6,000 on every hire. How we do that is we help talent teams build tasks right into the job application and score their applicants skills as they apply instead of resumes.

William:  01:27

So let’s start with speed first. So speed is good because the candidates are moving faster. And the recruiters. There’s a bunch of noise in the system. We’ll deal with that later. But, speed. What have you seen … When you talk to a talent acquisition, when you talk to a recruiter or talent acquisition professional, how do they react when you say speed? We can just get you there faster?

Vahan:  01:55

That’s a good question. So I think a part of it, a part of why focus on speed is because that’s the only number that’s out there. That’s the biggest feedback that we’ve gotten from talking to recruiters, even before starting Cauldron, just talking to our customers is the biggest number out there that tracks recruiter efficiencies, that time to hire metric. Whatever you want to do about it, it is the metric. Time to hire or time to fill. Different companies have different approaches, but it’s all about speed.

Vahan:  02:28

And at core, that speed metric talks about a few different things. The faster candidates move up the funnel, the better their experience most of the time. The faster they end up at the job. The faster they can start onboarding and then actually be valuable to the company. All of these things, they all matter. They all matter to the speed you get people in. So I guess that’s a metric that’s … At Cauldron, we don’t really look at it as the metric our company solves for, but it’s the metric that our customers care about.

William:  03:06

Right. Well, and again, if you’re too slow your candidates move on.

Vahan:  03:12

Of course.

William:  03:12

They get frustrated with the process or the experience and they move on, they do something else. And in today’s market, they have a lot of choice and a lot of flexibility. So if you’re not running on pace with them, or at least as fast as they are, you’re just going to lose talent. Just by not being as fast to respond or fast to move them through that process or communicate where they are in the process.

William:  03:37

Let’s move on to skills versus resumes. You made a decision. You could have easily used resumes or LinkedIn profiles or something like that, and aggregated that data and then stack ranked it or validated it or whatever. But you’ve purposely decided to focus on skills. First of all, where did that come from? And why did you do that?

Vahan:  04:04

I think that goes way back to how the company was even formed. Because originally, and I think it would be better if I gave context on our background for this, because-

William:  04:19


Vahan:  04:19

…our team started working … And this was back when Cauldron wasn’t even in the plans, we had a student job marketplace that we used to run. Very similar to Handshake that everyone knows and loves, connected to every university in town, talent flowing through 100, 250 companies of very various sizes, start up to enterprise. One thing that we learned from working with all of them was that the screening process didn’t do justice to … Wasn’t catching up and wasn’t good enough for these companies hiring needs. It took way too long. The applicants didn’t have the best experience. And then, the end hires or the end interviews were not the best.

Vahan:  05:17

We talked a lot hiring managers for feedback, and we looked at a very critical number is how satisfied were they from their interviews? And we got as low as 10 to 15 to 20 interview satisfaction rates from the hiring manager as the average, which is why Cauldron was born. And the original idea … So why I’m telling you all of this is that the original idea for Cauldron was born from this concept is, how can we make candidate screening or applicant screening fit better to the hiring process and produce better results? And the best way we know how is, ask the right questions and look at the applicant’s skills way before they enter the interview room and be able to screen through that information skill-based information instead of something that’s on paper, that’s unproven, that’s proven to be ineffective.

William:  06:28

So as we think about skills right now, are we thinking mostly hard skills? Is it a blend of hard and soft skills? Or what is it? What are we looking at? Give us an example of some of the skills that we’re looking at.

Vahan:  06:40

So when I say skills I usually mean anything that’s on the spectrum of what could be considered a skill, or anything that a company might want to screen for. And it obviously matters a lot for the job and a lot for the position and the company size and stage they’re at. For a developer job, you would obviously go with something that’s more hard skills. Testing for coding ability. Asking questions to figure out collaboration also could be a thing.

Vahan:  07:15

Best examples that our platform has been for so far have been in non-tech jobs for tech companies. So sales and customer support have been up there. Asking questions and giving these open-ended tasks and open-ended questions to salespeople and the customer floor folk that these people facing roles really opens up information about the applicant. So just off top of my head, asking a tech salesperson what was the last thing they’ve sold or how would they structure a sales cycle for some product, a mock product? Just a task like that gives much more information to the hiring manager than their resume.

William:  08:15

And what’s interesting is you dovetail nicely into where we are societally around reducing hiring bias. So resumes, LinkedIn or otherwise, are littered with all kinds of bias. Whereas skills, it seems a bit more democratized. You either have the skill or you don’t, or you have the potentiality to have the skill or learn the skill or you don’t. So it seems like, again, it strips some of the, I guess, historical hiring bias out. It levels the field. Have you gotten feedback along those lines from customers and prospects?

Vahan:  08:54

That’s exactly right. So when we talk about skills-based versus any kind of other based resume-based hiring, accolade-based hiring is what I call it, a big part of it is looking at applicants in a fair way and judging all of them equally in an equitable manner by their skills, in a fair manner. A lot of the feedback from our customers … I actually have a lot of anecdotal feedback from them. You have these stories where, hey, my hiring manager wouldn’t want to interview this candidate just because of their resume, even though they passed the skill screen or the task.

Vahan:  09:45

And I think a lot of … All recruiters have had this kind of case pop up. That they know it’s a hire, but for some reason it’s a block. So when the hiring manager is looking at a person’s skill screen, their task, their test, whatever it is, first, before any accolades come in, any bias comes in and they don’t have context of these accolades, then they’re able to more objectively judge a person’s skillset. And that indirectly or directly produces better interviews.

Vahan:  10:32

So what we’ve seen is that initial time that the hiring manager is collaborating with the recruiter on screening skills translates to 50% faster process overall because of less other tasks or less interviews. And then whatever interviews are there, the interview satisfaction rate triples.

William:  10:55

I love that. Now, you mentioned the word task a few times. I just want to make sure our audience understands when you say task, what do you … Just give us a couple of examples.

Vahan:  11:06

Yeah. So task for us is a code name for anything that could be a simple open-ended question like, hey, what was the last time you built an API for something? Tell us the story about it. Or, what’s your creative process like? Maybe send us something you have built in the past, or give us a link. I don’t know. That could be something that’s a very simple question. That could be something that’s an assignment for a person to go back, do, come back with a response. That could a form of multiple-choice questions. It could be a compliance form. It could be a test that has right and wrong answers that the applicant has to go through. So all these things on Cauldron would be considered tasks.

Vahan:  11:55

And what our platform does specifically, it helps recruiters build out a checklist of these tasks, however many they want or however little they want, whatever they look like. So that’s how the whole platform operates.

Vahan:  12:14

You can feel like there is this … A lot of recruiters I tell this. Their first reaction is, oh, wow, we’re adding friction to the process. That’s something we’ve never done before and our whole industry is telling us otherwise. One click applies the future. But that’s exactly where the industry went wrong in our opinion and in our thesis. Yeah. And in our thesis, what we help you do is optimize. And with data, with analytics, we help you optimize and calibrate that friction in the application process with these tasks or these questions or your process.

William:  13:01

Yeah. One click apply sounded great in theory for LinkedIn or Indeed or any of the folks that do it, but it created a bunch of noise. And so, then recruiters found themselves with 20,000 people that applied to one job, and then they’re like, how do I figure that out? And so, friction isn’t necessarily the enemy. You’re looking at friction in a way that basically says, no, there’s an appropriate way to use friction so that you get quality. So that you don’t waste time.

William:  13:33

And you also don’t waste time for the candidate. I mean, this is time on both sides. I can see tasks initially being blank screen and letting people figure out the things that they want to do. But over the course of time, either through machine learning or AI or some combination thereof is that you serve up recommendations based on the job, the job class, the industry, etc. on what tasks are more effective. Do you see that? And maybe not currently, but do you see that in the future for Cauldron?

Vahan:  14:10

For sure. I want to come back to this question, but just a quick note on something you’d said.

William:  14:15

Sure. Sure.

Vahan:  14:16

Friction in the application process or friction in the lead generation process, if we talk in more marketing terms, is not something that’s new. And I say this a lot. Marketers have been doing this for decades. Friction in the process, disqualifying leads, saves time for the marketers, saves time for someone who’s looking at the wrong product, saves time for everyone in the company, the product team who has to develop some features that don’t fit with the product. So all of this communal time saving can be reached by adding friction and disqualifying leads at the very top of the funnel. For some reason, recruiting or hiring job applications haven’t gone through that transformation yet.

Vahan:  15:07

One reason is because we’re all stuck in the mindset of resume is the way to apply to the job, which is what we are basically going against or going complimentary to. You can ask for a resume, but you can also add friction for it. That’s just quick two cents, because I’m very passionate about this topic of recruiting and hiring being basically the same thing.

Vahan:  15:31

Just to go back to your point, there is this component, we are in development and you will definitely see future launches from us of playbooks and templates. And you can already see some of that developing on our platform if you sign up. Where we are partnering up with masters at their jobs to bring playbooks and templates of different job application scenarios for any customer of Cauldron to use, even if you’re on the free tier, which can be reached by just registering on Cauldron. You’re on the free tier. You can post jobs for free. And just be used like that.

Vahan:  16:14

You don’t have to come up with your own task. You don’t have to come up with your own process. You can use the one that’s provided or customize it to your needs. And in the future, we will also help you calibrate it to better fit your needs. You’re getting less applicants that you want to, there’s a way to turn that off. If you want to get less applicants, there’s a way to add a layer to it. And all of these things can be taught to you by our analytic system that you will find in the platform. But yeah, for sure. So a recommender system or a template library, or a playbook library is definitely in the works.

William:  16:55

I love that. Now, I know where you’re at in the tech stack, because you can probably be putting it in a couple different places. But because you want to help people with the quality that you’re putting this at the application phase, what do you need to be connected to from their technology stack perspective?

Vahan:  17:20

Very good point. A fair concern of our customers is always, where does this fit? You’re saying top of the funnel, but our ATS is top of the funnel. We don’t replace any product that a hiring team might currently have, especially not your valued ATS. What we do instead is we build on top of your ATS. We take care of what happens with job applicants as they apply to your job from the moment they find the job and click apply on the career page to the point where they submit their application with all of the tasks completed. We take care of all that process, the engagement happening and all of that thing. After you’re done scoring applicants and ranking them and understanding and getting the final list of the applicants that have all completed tasks, everything is automatically synced with the ATS both ways. So you can continue the applicant journey through the interview stages and everything else in your ATS that you’re currently using.

William:  18:37

Have you been asked the question in terms of knockout questions? So we’ve talked mostly on task in terms of skills-based things, but have recruiters or hiring managers … Have they asked you, is there a quick filter of … Maybe it’s a knockout-related question to skills. But have you been asked about knockout questions?

Vahan:  19:03

Of course. And knockout questions is the current … I like to say that knockout questions in the current job application space is just a bootstrapped version of what Cauldron is. Yeah, of course. So you can build knockout questions into Cauldron. You can have it as a layer. You can have it as a compliance questionnaire that you only look at the people who are obviously compliant to what your job needs. They have a visit. They have a work permit. All these things can be checked upfront.

Vahan:  19:39

Of course, if you do have a test or an assessment that has right or wrong answers, Cauldron will also RA check it for you and give out the correct scores at the end. If you choose to tie your already existing assessment system into Cauldron and integrate your already existing assessment as a part of the application, you can also do that. It’s a very simple integration and we can handle all of that for you. So when I say we’re a job application sandbox, I really mean it.

William:  20:10

So is there a play here for salary and compensation? I know because, again, the job description’s going to say a bunch of stuff. Is there a way to validate or do you think it’s appropriate for a customer through this process to then validate that they know that they’re … Because they might have all the skills in the world and maybe it’s not disclosed what this compensation is. And this is just another way to make sure that the filter of quality goes through. This is a $200,000 job. If you’re think it’s a $400,000 job, you should probably bail out. This is a cart abandonment. It’s not a bad thing. Do you see a play there either currently or in the future where comp is a part of the task?

Vahan:  20:59

For sure. I mean, some of our customers have built the comp question in the checklist. They have it in there. Well, they usually go for the, what’s the expected … What comp do you expect? Which is not my personal preference.

William:  21:16


Vahan:  21:17

What we suggest and what the product will push you to use if you sign up on Cauldron is a question you can have on the built-in FAQ, actually, as you can set up is, it will prompt you to answer, what’s the comp for this role? And yeah, if you just answer that, I mean, you can answer it either very fixed. It’s a 200K job. Or you can obviously answer it it says it’s a 200K job, but X, Y, Z. Or I mean, you can have a known, required question in there that asks about the comp expectation and also tells your story about it, what your budget is. You can have it at the very first line in the job description. All of these things.

Vahan:  22:01

And this is something that you probably don’t experience in a lot of current tools that you built your job applications with, but on Cauldron it’s very open to what you want to do with your job description or your task or any part of the job application experience for an applicant. The job description editor is very similar to Notion or Google Docs. Just a really modern doc manager, file manager. So you can just pop any information in there on whichever part you want. It’s not fixed. And on all the tasks as well, you can obviously configure how we want to approach that question in very different ways.

William:  22:49

So two questions left. One is, because folks are going to ask this, is this something that you can plug into a job board? Or is this something that’s better or more applied on their career site or job site?

Vahan:  23:06

So that’s a good question. So what do we do currently, what the Cauldron platform will do, is it will push the jobs that you build on Cauldron to either your career page directly or whatever tool manages your careers page. So we’ll do that. We’ll also help you generate referral links to whatever source you’re going to use to get applicants with.

William:  23:35

So you know what’s working and what’s not.

Vahan:  23:38

Of course. And we will tell you where your applicants are coming from and where each applicant came from. We’ll tell you all of that. And we’ll tell you which source worked the best at the end of the hiring journey and which source provided the best interviews for the job. What this means, what our referral system means, is that if you have 20 job boards you’re sharing this job to, we will generate the 20 links and then they could be automatically sent to all these job boards.

William:  24:10

So first of all, I love that because, again, that closes that loop on source of hire. And so, you might be spending, let’s say, $40,000 a month on indeed, but you’re spending $4,000 on accounting jobs in Vermont or something like that. And you’re getting more value out of something nuanced, and having clarity and visibility into what’s working is something folks would love to have so they can put their budget in the right spot.

William:  24:42

Last question is, you and I are having this conversation a year from now. So November 1st, 2nd, of 2022. What’s different about Cauldron?

Vahan:  24:56

That’s a good question. So what’s different about Cauldron is that we’re building this hiring tool, and in a year from now I might have a different answer. Last year I would’ve had definitely a different answer. But Cauldron is a hiring tool that’s building on top of everything hiring will be in five years, mainstream hiring will be in five years. Which is, it will be more transparent. It will be more efficient for all parties involved. It will be bias free. It will be more equitable. All these things, all these good things.

Vahan:  25:45

And the companies we’re partnering now, all of them have this forward-seeing vision of, yes, that’s how hiring should be like. And applying to jobs and getting a job wouldn’t have to take seven, eight months for a standard person, and the applicant experience to applying to jobs wouldn’t be 90% ghosting. And all of these things would be in the right places. And this platform contributes to all of these winds of change in a way no other platform does at the moment.

William:  26:22

Love it. Drops mic. Walks off stage. Thank you so much for carving out time for us today.

Vahan:  26:28

Thank you so much for having me.

William:  26:29

Absolutely. And thanks for everyone that listens to the Use Case podcast. Until next time.

Music:  26:34

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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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