Storytelling about Knockri with Jahanzaib Ansari

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 130. This week we have storytelling about Knockri with Jahanzaib Ansari. During this episode, Jahanzaib and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Knockri.

Jahanzaib is the co-founder and CEO of Knockri, an AI behavioral skills assessment tool that utilizes video to improve diversity without impacting work performance or hiring efficiency.  He is an expert in all things diversity, inclusion and bias in the workplace, having served as key advisory member to World Economic Forum’s Equality and Inclusion Council. He was also dubbed Ascend’s Innovator of the year and granted the Rising Star Award by HRD Magazine.

Today, we go in-depth on how the software understands the candidate markers of what will be successful in the job. We’ll address where Knockri gets its research, and why the company does not use facial recognition. Also, how does Knockri align candidate research to the role?  As a side, Jahanzaib shares how being turned down for job offers and asked to anglicize his name helped drive his decision to create Knockri.

This is a sweeping conversation with utmost relevance, highlighting how useful tools like Knockri are to D&I initiatives. Jahanzaib’s and, in turn, the company’s passion to defeat unconscious bias and improve diversity in the workforce really comes through during the podcast.

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think. Don’t forget to drop your thoughts in the comments!

GEM Recruiting AI

Thanks, William

Show length: 27 minutes

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Jahanzaib Ansari
Co-Founder & CEO Knockri

Served as key advisory member to World Economic Forum's Equality and Inclusion Council, Diversity and Inclusion group Ascend's Innovator of the year, and Rising Star Award by HRD Magazine.

He is on a mission to defeat unconscious bias and increase diversity in the workforce. Jahanzain is a keynote speaker, a life-long learner, and the Co-Founder & CEO of Knockri. An A.I. video Assessment tool, a leader in HR technology.

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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:  00:26
[inaudible 00:00:26] this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today, we have Jahanzaib, and he’s going to be on and he’s going to talk about his company, Knockri. And I’m really excited because he and I have gone back and forth on email and I’m really excited about learning about his company, about the business case for his company.

William:  00:46
And he’s also going to make sure that I got both his first name pronounced almost correctly and his company name almost correctly. So he’ll make sure that we get that ratified because it’s very important that we get our names correct and all that stuff. So without any further ado, why don’t you introduce yourself and your company, and then we’ll get started.

Jahanzaib:  01:08
Great. Well, thank you so much for having me, William. My name is Jahanzaib Ansari. I’m the co-founder and CEO of Knockri.

William:  01:21
And what does Knockri… For those that haven’t followed you on social or whatever, what does Knockri do?

Jahanzaib:  01:27
Absolutely. So we help large organizations, like an IBM, a Shopify, in the hiring process. So we essentially are an automated video-based behavioral assessment tool that helps large organizations increase gender and racial diversity, and shortlist the best fit candidates to interview without tokenism. So we’re not just helping organizations with just trying to fill diversity quotas there.

William:  01:57
I like this. So there’s a couple things to unpack there. So the medium is video.

Jahanzaib:  02:03

William:  02:03
And behavioral. So you’re asking questions and obviously looking for micro expressions and things like that. So you’re looking for responses, both the way they respond and the substance of their response.

Jahanzaib:  02:18
Yeah. And I should clarify that we’re not analyzing anything that is facial. We’re solely converting the speech into text and analyzing key skills and competencies based on the correlations of success predictors in a specific job role. So just speech to text. The video piece is for the experience of simulating an in-person interview.

William:  02:49
Well, what I love about so far… And we’ll get to the assessment part, but what I love is, you’re using a video, which is a platform that people are comfortable with, especially because of COVID, people are comfortable popping on their phone or whatever device that they want to, and just shooting a video and answering questions, which is great.

William:  03:09
I’m glad you clarified the facial part. I think Harvey got into a little bit… It wasn’t trouble, but Harvey got into a thing where they were using facial recognition and things like that. And so I’m glad you kind of just said, yeah, we’re not doing that, we’re stripping the text out and analyzing the text itself against the markers of what would be successful in that job.

William:  03:37
So one question before we go to the assessment part is, how do you know the markers of what’s going to be successful in the job? Where do you get that research? Is it from that company or is it from their industry? Or how do you know how to align up A to B?

Jahanzaib:  03:56
No, that’s a great question. So essentially, what we’re based on, is the world of I/O Psychology. And we have mapped skills and competencies of about 45,000 different job roles at the moment. So in addition to our dataset, we also work with an organization’s data set as well, in terms of what they deem as correlations to success predictors. And so in the initial onboarding process, we work with our I/O psychologist to make sure that what we’re trying to map is scientifically valid and it’s also legally defensible as well.

William:  04:38
Right, because you want to deal with not just any of the biases that might happen in hiring and also any of the adverse impact. So another reason to kind of make sure that the compliance side is right and the legal side is right, but you also want to make sure it works. And so the reason that you would continue to kind of validate the model and validate what’s going on, is you just want to make sure it works, you also want to make sure that legally, if there are challenges, that they can stand on science.

William:  05:17
And so, the assessment piece, which would make a lot of sense to all the I/O folks, but also on the front end of almost all recruiting processes, to get the funnel down to a manageable level, people put assessments, because they want to go down from 15,000 candidates that applied to that job down to a manageable level and get closer to fit, those that are going to be successful in the job.

William:  05:46
So where do you like… For when your customers ask you, where do you like to put Knockri in their process?

Jahanzaib:  05:56
Yeah. So where we come in is the initial screening process. So we’re essentially at the top of the funnel, right after the knockout criteria. So for example, yeah, on an applicant tracking system, a candidate goes there and they click off on the knockout criteria, and then they’re automatically sent over a custom branded, Knockri assessment which seems like it’s coming from the organization. So we are very careful about the candidate experience. And we want to make them feel very welcomed. And that’s why our NPS scores, they really talk for us.

William:  06:45
Well, what’s great about that is, again, we’re kind of an interesting market. We went from a candidate-driven market, to an employer-driven market, back to a candidate-driven market. And in different industries, it’s different obviously, but it’s still a game of fit, making sure that people fit in that job.

William:  07:03
Candidates, they want to make sure that they fit, recruiters and hiring managers, they want to make sure that they fit. So this is a wonderful tool. Again, using a medium people are comfortable with, using science, which I hope that we’re all comfortable with, and putting it closer to the top of the funnel after the knockout, which I think is really important and create a good experience for them. Is there any places, because you’re young-ish, is there any places where you’ve seen this just… That you focused on more to start with, retail, or healthcare, or anything like that? Is there any place where you’ve started and you’ve seen some success?

Jahanzaib:  07:46
Yeah. So I mean, we started off about four, four and a half years ago, and initially… And I’ll tell you a little bit of the catalyst to how we got started is, I was applying to jobs, William, and I wouldn’t hear back from a lot of employers. I have a long ethnic name, which is Jahanzaib, and so, yeah. So my co-founder’s like, “Why don’t you just anglicize it?” And we went from Jason, Jordan, Jacob, and literally in four to six weeks, I got a job. And so with that experience, I came together with my third co-founder, who was a machine learning scientist and an I/O psychologist, on the other side, to create Knockri. And we initially started off trying to work with franchises or Tim Horton’s like hotel groups, really trying to like target that retail and hospitality space.

Jahanzaib:  08:41
But very soon we realized that these organizations, unfortunately, don’t have a hair on fire problem in terms of increasing gender and racial diversity, and delivering a great candidate experience, reducing adverse impact, this isn’t a top priority for a lot of, like the smaller stores.

Jahanzaib:  09:09
And so we soon realized that larger organizations like IBM, or like a Shopify, or like a department of defense are… These folks have thousands of people applying on a yearly basis and they need a solution like Knockri, that is efficient and is fair, and is transparent and based on science. So some of our results, I will share very recently with the department of national defense here in Canada, is they actually utilized us, and we in their shortlist of candidates after utilizing Knockri, they saw a 20% increase in candidates that were female and candidates that identified with disabilities in the top quartile of scoring.

Jahanzaib:  10:06
So these candidates often get overlooked, and because of our process, they were able to surface this. And on top of that, from a tactical operational standpoint, we analyzed about north of like 200 hours of interviews in about two days, with a 93% completion rate. So customers are… They were initially excited about their product and now they’re seeing the results, which has been great for us.

William:  10:39
So you touched on it in terms of budget and that’s part of the podcast, is to help HR and TA understand how to build the business case and the use case for things. So companies that care about D&I, obviously, I think, and thankfully, I think a lot of the societal pressures have gotten us to a place where we are thinking more about D&I, and not just thinking about it, but actually doing things about it, which is good.

William:  11:13
So when folks make their case for Knockri, do you find that they’re spending time, on the ROI of time and getting time back in their calendar, like Knockri can analyze 200 candidates a lot faster than a recruiter or a hiring manager or a hiring team. So speed is really, that’s eloquent, but what do think, what’s your most recent successes with customers, has it been based on price, quality, speed? Is it D&I? Where are they getting the budget to then pay for Knockri.

Jahanzaib:  11:57
That’s a great question. So the buyer at the end of the day is the VP of talent. And really, how we help them create the budget is we really work with them to understand how many hours their recruiting team is actually spending on screening people, on shortlisting people, on conducting phone interviews, and just working back from that. Working back from a specific cohort, let’s say of 6,000 people. And just looking at how many labor hours actually go into the process from each and every single recruiter, and then building out a model from there. And so if I, at a high level, if we’re able to accomplish, let’s say it’s taking a recruiting team anywhere from two to three months to screen and shortlist about 6,000 people, as an example.

Jahanzaib:  13:08
And if we can bring that down to about four weeks, as you can imagine, that is a significant amount of savings, of time and cost as well. And another thing is that, we are helping a lot of the recruiters spend a lot more time on the more valuable things, as in the in-person interview. So they’re not having to go back and forth on the tedious tasks of sending out assessments, or doing these phone interviews, and really helping them free up some of their time, so they can focus on the real thing, on interviewing the person and then bringing them into the job.

William:  13:55
Yeah. What I love about this, is it speeds things up, right? So you’ve kind of focused on, hey, it saves you time, check. You can then spend that time on the other strategic things, other human things, if you want. It creates better outcomes, standardizes this process. So there’s not a Jane interview and a Jim interview, and all that type stuff, it’s like everybody gets the same assessment for that job.

William:  14:25
And the assessment doesn’t have those biases that we do, typically, as humans in hiring. So that speeds the team up, saves them time, creates better outcomes. There’s really no reason not to do it. I found that, some companies get I/O and some companies just don’t. And some of that has to do with they might be big enough to where they actually have change management and I/O, in their company. And some of them just aren’t big enough, or they just never invested in I/O.

William:  15:05
What have y’all found, because the testing and validity, which we went through at the very beginning, that’s a really, really, really important part for I/O psychologists, that making sure that the data, the throughput, is actually what they want, and making sure that it’s valid, and in what they want. Again, it’s been my experience, some companies get that and some companies don’t, what have you all found?

Jahanzaib:  15:41
That’s a great question. So what we’ve seen is that all of the larger organizations have an I/O psychologist, or somebody who has a background in I/O psychology in the talent acquisition team. However, some of the smaller organizations, currently don’t have this function, so it’s really educating them on the world of I/O psychology, like we have a team of I/O psychologists at Knockri and they play such a key component on just educating the client on what the world of skills are, and how can we objectively map skills and competencies with correlations to success predictors. And then with sort of sophisticated onboardings that we’ve done in the past, is that we would work with their I/O psychologists hand in hand to do a validation study.

Jahanzaib:  16:50
And so what we would do is that we would essentially conduct an A/B test of their previous hiring method, versus Knockri, and pretty much every time they’ve seen a much better outcome utilizing Knockri. And so it gives them even more confidence from a science side, and if there’s any questions on the I/O front, they’re very well rectified, but I would say that I/O is such a huge component in the assessment space, and AI just by itself is not going to solve everything. And so having industrial organizational psychology and being able to tell your clients the value is extremely important in the sales cycle.

William:  17:46
Yeah. What’s great is, again, you’re talking about a better outcome. If you do the A/B test and Knockri presents a better outcome, that’s the outcome, which in and of itself, if we just stopped there, it’s worth doing, just because it got you to a better outcome. But then you include things like, oh, by the way, your speed is going to go through the roof, you’re going to be able to respond to candidates faster, create a better experience for them, you’re going to be able to speed things up internally as well, take some time off of their calendar, give it back to them. So when folks do the demo of Knockri, what do they fall in love with?

Jahanzaib:  18:35
I would say they fall in love with two things. Number one, is the candidate experience. So it’s extremely welcoming. We, as I was saying, it’s fully custom branded and we get the hiring managers to actually record their questions. So it’s very personable, and the candidate can actually see each part of the hiring journey and who they might interact with in real life as well. And then, what recruiters, or, I was going to say, like the I/O team loves, is being able to see how transparent the technology is, and how they can essentially open up the technology and see why a candidate has scored in a particular way, which skills were mapped to what behaviors and why somebody had scored in a particular way, versus other vendors out there that are extremely black boxy, and even they themselves don’t know how their results are being derived. So I would say the transparency in technology and the candidate experience, is something that a lot of people are wowed by.

William:  20:00
And I love that they can go back, right? So if you do this in person, like we historically have, a month later, A, you can’t remember the conversation you had, B, how do you explain the conversation and what you saw, what you felt, what do you think, et cetera, to a colleague or the hiring manager? Whereas in this instance, they can go back and look at it themselves. So it can be kind of a collaboration platform on some level. You can see the data, you can see the results, and oh, by the way, you can, at any given point, you can then go back and double check. Like, okay, I think this… Did you see this? Did I see this? We all see the same thing. Okay, then that makes sense.

William:  20:47
You can’t do that if it’s bespoke interviews that aren’t recorded in this way and aren’t really… You’re not learning from what you’re recording. And so I love that. A couple things, you’ve mentioned workflow in terms of the ATS and top of funnel, what are the things that y’all are being asked to kind of connect with in terms of the TA technology stack?

Jahanzaib:  21:17
Yeah, so we integrate into all major applicant tracking systems. And so I would say that is the major portion that we get requested to. And we are currently integrated into Workday, SAP Success Factors, Smart Recruiters, and so forth. And so as long as we are playing in the recruiting module, it makes the TA groups’ life extremely easy.

William:  21:48
Yeah, this is post apply. So they’ve applied, clicked, then obviously they get some knockout questions. If that’s going to be the case, they get the assessment. And then from there, that data then gets put into their ATS, then people can see it, et cetera, and go from there. That makes sense.

Jahanzaib:  22:07
Exactly, correct.

William:  22:09
Last question is, favorite customer story? What’s most recent, or just your favorite one?

Jahanzaib:  22:17
Yeah, I think… I mean, there’ve been a lot of favorite ones, but I really like the most recent one, with the Canadian Department of National Defense. So they utilized us, and essentially they were looking at the organization as a whole, and they were very weary of biases in the hiring process. And it’s a huge mandate from the top down. And it’s been a great agency for us to work with. And working with them, we, as I was saying, we analyzed about 232 hours of interviews in two days. So we crushed their time and cost to fill. And then on top of that, compared to their previous hiring method, they saw an increase of 20% more women and persons with disabilities being surfaced as the highest success rates.

William:  23:29

Jahanzaib:  23:30
And so, they never see this, because obviously there’s so much that’s going on in the hiring process. There could be some bias in there, or there could be just some gaps in there, so extremely happy with that. And an extremely highly completion rate of 93%. So I think as a recent win, we’ve been ecstatic about this and I think it shows that the Knockri technology is not just, we’re not just like a repurposed sort of tool with a label of like diversity. It’s been built from the ground up with D&I in mind. And I think this for me is extremely exciting.

William:  24:27
Well, the 93% completion rate is also, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, because if somebody is not willing to go through an assessment that helps you fit, their fit to the company and the job, your fit to the candidate, et cetera, you probably didn’t want that employee, quite frankly. That’s not necessarily a bad number, because again, this is in their best interest as well. Yes, there’s knockout questions you want to filter so that you can make sure that if the job requires them to have a mechanical engineering degree and they don’t have that, okay, fair enough. That’s easy stuff.

William:  25:13 But this is fit, which you would assume, again, from a candidate’s perspective, you would assume that they care just as much about fit as the company does. So I look at that number and go, yeah, well again, 7% bailed. Well, that’s okay. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. That’s 7% of folks that probably you wouldn’t have hired, or if you would have, that might not have turned out well. So I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Jahanzaib:  25:46
Absolutely. Just wanted to quickly add to that was, there’s so many variables, right? One is the fact that a lot of them would just knock themselves out pretty much at that stage, or some of them have multiple, competing job offers, or if they’re taking other job offers. There’s a multitude of things. But the fact that being at the top of the funnel, having to screen through 93% of the entire candidates that are applying, is yeah, we’re extremely proud of.

William:  26:25
That’s a huge number. First of all, thank you for coming on the podcast. The Use Case Podcast, Jahanzaib?

Jahanzaib:  26:33

William:  26:35

Jahanzaib:  26:37

William:  26:39
I love it. First of all, I love learning new things. So thank you for teaching me. And also thank you for teaching the audience about Knockri. I’ve seen you around. We’ve not met in person, we’ve emailed and all that other stuff, but it’s just good to learn about the company. I really like what you all are doing, and I think it was just a great thing for the audience.

Jahanzaib:  26:59
Thank you so much. It was a pleasure being on the podcast.

William:  27:03
Cool. And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case Podcast. Until next time.

Music:  27:08
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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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