Storytelling about Mockmate with Megan Kenna

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 106. This week we have storytelling about Mockmate with Megan Kenna. During this episode, Megan and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Mockmate.

Megan is an expert in all things candidate experience and the interview process.  Her passion for helping candidates interview better and companies hire more proficiently really comes through during the podcast.

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

Thanks, William

Show length: 33 minutes


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William:   00:25
Ladies and gentlemen this is William Tincup and you are listening to Use Case Podcast. Today we have Megan on from Mockmate, and we’re going to be learning all about Mockmate. So without any further ado Megan, would you introduce both yourself and your company?

Megan:   00:40
Sure. Thanks for having me. So yes, my name is Megan Kenna and I am COO of Mockmate. My co-founder and I started this business last year in the middle of the first stages of the pandemic. My position and our view was that as being candidates ourselves, we wanted to create a product that would help improve the candidate experience. So that brings us to what Mockmate is. Mockmate focuses on the automated interview and screening. So anyone that applies can do an interview and respond to specific questions that the company would like to know. So it’s a, in addition to resume or a CV and cover letter, you can do a quick interview. So yeah, that’s our vision.

William:   01:30
So the interview questions, obviously each job can have its own specific questions. Each company can kind of tailor theirs. Or again currently or even in the future, do you see where candidates can ask questions themselves?

Megan:   01:48
Yeah, absolutely. So we have a couple of different iterations of our product. The one that we use for businesses is fully customizable. So we can customize the interview questions as they prefer. It is mainly a screening interview. So typically five to seven questions are suitable for that. The candidates themselves can ask questions. We might not be able to provide answers because it’s up to the company to decide. But certainly we aim to please.

William:   02:19
So with them answering and asking questions, people obviously we’ll get into it. But folks will wonder, “Is it text based, is it video? Are they doing it through a form? How are we serving up questions and how are those questions being answered?”

Megan:   02:39
Yeah, absolutely. So the questions we have on file more than 800, but we can certainly customize and change and adapt to whatever the company needs. The candidates kind of respond in three ways: by either typing a response, by recording an audio clip or recording a video. The company can decide which one they prefer or if they leave it open, then the candidate can decide. We see that most people like using audio. Our analysis is done based on the text regardless. So if you record a video, we’re not doing facial recognition or expression or even tonality, we’re doing purely content based on the job description and a couple of other qualifiers.

William:   03:27
And with content, because you can obviously shook out the text on all those. Are you doing any type of machine learning or AI, or even NLP on that text?

Megan:   03:41
Yeah, absolutely. So we have more than 5,000 interviews in our file. And since we are a startup, there’s a lot of potential of what we can be doing with this. Right now what’s also unique about us is that we’re open to candidates. So if a candidate has a job interview and the company is not offering Mockmate, they can still go onto Mockmate and train and practice. Because we know that we’re not the only people out there that do this kind of interview automation, but there isn’t really anything that says open and flexible as we are. So that’s our unique way of tackling this.

William:   04:17
Oh, I like that. And again practice. Just being able to, again put yourself in that situation and even think about the questions that you’ll be asked by hiring managers and recruiters. The more you practice, the better attitude you’ll get. You’re still being your natural kind of self, but it’s just a nice safe way to practice that. I love that. And I love that it’s being offered up to candidates, those that use Mockmate and those that don’t. That’s fantastic. Early success right now for y’all, what have you seen any industries that kind of pop out or specific types of jobs?

Megan:   04:58
Yeah. So our main focus and target is on early career positions. So we’re trying to work with candidates that won’t be afraid to use the technology. And similarly, if you have 20 years of experience, you might not want to have a conversation screening with a computer or a product. You might want to have a more old school style or phone interview. So we think that Gen Z first-time job seekers are really best for us. And then within the… You asked more about the industry, so who are interested and how is it working? We’re seeing a lot of interest from colleges to prepare their students to have interviews. So they’re one of our customers. And then we have worked with a couple of different companies who haven’t ever used any kind of ATS or other product, but are interested in technology and are willing to give us a go. So we’ve kind of picked up a pretty different and unique space compared to a lot of other HR tech companies.

William:   06:05
Well, I love all of it, but I love the college simulation part. Because again, getting back to that practice part. And I already I can’t even imagine what it’s been to be a graduate of 2021 or even 2022, and not having kind of some of the same kind of atypical college experiences because of COVID. So again, a safe environment, a safe way to practice just sounds like something it would be really easy for colleges and career management centers to kind of pick up and be able to kind of distribute to students looking for jobs. So I love that. So early stage, I got that. Any industries that… Consulting versus manufacturing versus food services, anything shook out so far where y’all just kind of really thrive?

Megan:   07:02
So we would love to get more into the retail space and food services, but we haven’t yet been able. So somebody is listening, I’m happy to have any contacts. But no, we have had success with quite a few companies that are not hiring for tech. We have sales positions or marketing or those types of roles. We have just released in the last two weeks, more industry specific interviews. So we have Google replicated interview, Amazon replicated interview: which those are a little bit more intense and specific. But no, basically we’ve just been plugging along with our sales, with our small team just going through and trying to contact those that we think are interested. And having really insightful calls and trying to do what we can to just get one step further to the goal.

William:   08:03
Oh yeah. Well, that’s the game. You would just got to get one client. A lot of it, especially when you’re starting up, it’s converting kind of the beta folks into pilots. Early stage kid getting more pilots and flipping those into paid customers, et cetera. I want to do this kind of in a couple of ways, the feedback you’ve gotten from candidates, the feedback that you’ve received from recruiters and even hiring managers on Mockmate. What are some of the things that people are telling you about the product?

Megan:   08:40
So we always do feedback. We’re really into that. It’s kind of startup land, it’s very crucial. So we surveyed our users with the Superhuman survey, which we learned during our time at Techstars. Which we just completed. So Techstars is an accelerator program and they have training for startups and they taught us a way of collecting feedback from users and customers, that would help us to really just drill down on what’s most important. So we implemented this system and we ask four questions and then we take that feedback and improve.

Megan:   09:16
But I think that more broadly speaking, especially for your listeners who might be in this space already. Something that’s a bit more humorous because in our branding we try to be real and be fun and be a little bit alternative. Sometimes when you have customer calls, they’re always going to want one more thing that you just can’t do or don’t want to do. Because your product will kind of become meaningless if you just implement all the features that everybody wants. So you really have to focus and that’s why we’re focused on the interview. And it’s been going well. I think it’s interesting to have conversations with people who have ideas, and certainly we have ideas too. But it can be… you can get some pretty crazy. I had someone once say, “Why don’t you apply this to dating?” So we could do that, but we’re focused on HR tech. Just to give an example.

William:   10:09
Right. So let’s talk a little bit about HR tech and kind of some of the things that you’ve seen just workflow wise. Where does it just kind of makes sense for recruiters and the workflow? And where have you kind of run into some challenges or obstacles in terms of getting people to kind of change the way that they think about these things, or do these things already?

Megan:   10:32
So I think that the case for Mockmate and the case for any kind of technology is definitely there. That you will only be better if you can measure and track what you’re getting and how you can improve. So if you can measure and if you can even have more candidates, all the better. You want to have as many talented people in your pool as you can. And so we’re able to make that, but the problem might come later in the line where there are existing older ATS systems. Or just people who like the way that they do things. So I think that it takes a bit of time, certainly with the ATS we are developing integrations that are pretty far advanced in process. We do have a little bit of a, I would say, looking forward. There are just so many, so it is that narrowing down.

William:   11:29
I know. It’s interesting because just picking the ones… I mean, what a lot of folks do, especially at this stage it’s based on their customers. So it’s their customers using greenhouse, as an example, as their ATS: and they wanted integrated into greenhouse. And then you figure out a way to get it integrated into greenhouse. And second cometh third, fourth, fifth, tenth, all of a sudden it’s like you follow your customers around and figure out, “Where do you need this to be integrated?” And then go do that.

William:   12:03
Which is exactly what y’all are doing. You’re going to follow your customers around. But you’re right, it’s an endless, an endless list of what you could be integrated with. And you don’t have all the time to then just do nothing but integrations. You got to get the product in the hands of candidates and recruiters. So take us into the demo of Mockmate. So when you show the software to people… And again, maybe this is… Let’s just do it with, maybe this is the first time they’ve seen something like this. What do they tell you about your demo?

Megan:   12:45
So there are usually two types of people, either people that have never heard of anything like this and they’re afraid or resistant. Or there are people who have heard of it and they don’t like it because they heard something bad about it once. Like some larger competitors who may have been discriminating because they were using facial recognition, didn’t pick up some races or genders. Which is a huge problem in this industry. So we do see that that’s a little bit of a challenge. Certainly the people who haven’t heard of it, we get typical questions. I think there’s probably a list of 20 that we get depending on the person that are always the same, more or less. So we kind of can see that and present our product to quell any fears and explain the technology and everything.

Megan:   13:36
For people that have bad opinions, like I said in the beginning, we believe that everybody deserves to be interviewed. And this is one way of doing it. We only analyze the text, you get a transcript of it. We don’t really care if the person… There is no difference if the person speaks with a high pitched voice or not. That all is irrelevant and therefore welcoming to nor diverse or any different type of person that wants to interview. So yeah, we think that the demo usually goes pretty smoothly. It’s also available if you want to demo it yourself. It is a free product for candidates. We have a different stripped down version. So I’d love to go into a demo one time and somebody tell me that they had already done it, but most of the time we walk it through and explain and answer any questions that they have.

William:   14:28
Right. Because you talked a little bit about the model in terms of going to market, let’s talk a little bit about pricing. And not down into the dollars and cents stuff, but just more of your philosophy on pricing and getting more customers on the platform.

Megan:   14:48
Yeah, absolutely. So we don’t pricing based on number of candidates because that’s antithetical to what we’re trying to do. Which is just interviews on people. So we have small, medium, large business pricing, more on the number of positions that you will be recruiting for in the year. And you can go up and down and whatever it is, quite flexible and accommodating to our customers. But we really just avoid the fact of doing a per candidate role. We saw that in the beginning was a kind of an option and we don’t want people to do a filter first or even a screen of keywords in the ATS. We really believe that interview them as you normally would and get people based on our short list, which really establishes everything quite clearly.

William:   15:40
And so you serve…. First of all, I love the idea, interview everybody. Give everybody a chance. That’s first of all you get out of some of the kind of historical biases that have kind of riddled recruiting and hiring forever. So if you just interview everybody, give everybody a fair chance. That said, then there’s a grading. There’s some people interviewed better or some people kind of you like better or just fit better or whatever the criterion is. Does Mockmate actually render that in terms of a grading? Or is it more right now as a system of just helping collect those interviews and render the interviews, so that people can then make their own determination?

Megan:   16:31
No, that’s why we do as our special added sauce. I should have said earlier. But we do instant analysis using AI. So we compare people’s answers based on the job description and 12, 13, 14, different other qualifiers, like whether they are using action verbs or speaking specific replies, sentiment analysis. But purely based on the content. And we have a profanity check as well. But no, we provide a shortlist based on our analysis and you can drill down compare candidate three to candidate 40, or however you choose. We have a dashboard for recruiters. Just got a new facelift, so it looks really pretty. We give candidates a score, one to a 100. So it looks a bit like you’re in school or taking a test. Somebody might have a 75%.

Megan:   17:23
So no, that’s what we try to do is to make it really easy. And in our early customer tests last summer, we had double blinds. Where they, recruiters did things normally. And we also interviewed people with Mockmate and our shortlist matched their shortlist. Which was fantastic. Also, as we were developing the product, we were consulting constantly with organizational psychologists. And making sure that everything was being built in such a way that would be useful, but also that it would be fair and unbiased and really just provide a product that helps and that works.

William:   18:03
What I love about that as you came to a similar outcome. If not the same outcome as they did in terms of the short list, but you gave them back to their time. So instead of them having to go through all of that arduous process of time and energy. And scheduling and all of that stuff, you gave them their time back. And you got essentially the same result or a very similar result, right?

Megan:   18:27
Yeah. So especially for your podcast name, the Use Case. That is one of our early use cases was, recruiters spend a lot of time on this. They don’t necessarily look at… Resumes and CVS will be looked at for six, seven seconds. If you think that your recruiting isn’t going well or you have problems with retention that you need to track more data. So we match all out. My co-founder has an MBA. So that was his dream, to do this kind of perfect model and pricing and time saved and make everything really beautiful. Emotion sells a lot more, but certainly the numbers are there.

William:   19:07
So you mentioned a profanity check and because I’m an over curser, it obviously got me to think about that. But what if… I mean I’m sure the company can flag this or select or de-select it. And this would be rare, but what if you did actually did want somebody that curses.

Megan:   19:28
Yeah. Well, that’s a great point because as I said, we’re trying to do our company branding a little bit more alternative and challenger. Because we want to speak to candidates and get to have them realize that we’re on their side. So even in our materials, we might… I don’t think we would use severe curse words. There’s a scale, there’s some really awful ones. But we might use some occasional escort or whatever. But no, what I mean by profanity filter it’s more than just profanity. It’s inappropriate sexual language. I tailor things like that.

William:   20:06
No, that’s fair. Yeah, that’s fair. Because I think again, companies, especially hiring is in some ways it’s a game of risk and risk mitigation. And so yeah, when you’re trying to find the right fit for the candidate, candidate trying to find a right fit. You’re trying to get to a point of productivity and yield and all these other types of business things. But you’re also back behind all of that stuff, you’re trying to manage risk. And so if someone shows a characteristic… I remember a hundred years ago, for a vendor I did what they… It was an assessment, but it was a safety assessment and it was a personality test.

William:   20:48
And it was a personality assessment that basically you could determine whether or not that person’s personality landed them towards being safe or not being safe. Which was, again, if you’re hiring for forklift operators, then you kind of care about well their personality as it relates to safety. So I get that and I like that. I would love for you to create it like a sarcasm filter. [inaudible 00:21:19] detector. Because I would hire based on that, if I could actually look through that and see sentiment that is absolutely dry wit or sarcasm. That person goes to the top of the list. But that’s-

Megan:   21:34
Humor is cultural. I’m from the East Coast and I had trouble going to the West Coast, people not really telling me straight answers. So I think that’s interesting, but I don’t know how localized we can really get there.

William:   21:52
I think it’s… Again, if you… In the future, again y’all are at earlier stages of this, but it’s letting the recruiter and hiring manager make the determination on what’s important to them. And letting the candidate giving them a fair opportunity to just be themselves, and answer the questions. And then in doing that companies job by job can then select and de-select the things that are important to them, based on that job. Or based on the company, based on a lot of different factors. So I love that.

William:   22:29
The aha moment in your demo, which is a really horrible way of kind of thinking about it. But it’s really what I’m trying to get at with folks is, there’s a moment when you look at software as a practitioner and all of a sudden you’re, “Oh, I didn’t know it did this. I wasn’t even thinking this thought beyond not knowing that this thing existed.” Or they’re just completely dazzled by something. When you show Mockmate right now, what is that currently? What’s the thing that’s trending in terms of people when they kind of just go, “Wow, that’s cool.”

Megan:   23:11
So about an hour before this conversation, we had that. We have it frequently, but we just had this aha moment where it’s just the analysis. And it looks pretty now, we’ve improved the UX. So it’s just beautifully designed and it’s the end of it all. So if you want to zoom in on one person or you want to zoom out. Do you want to see everyone charted on that question or everyone totally charted. So I think it’s that. But I think that to what we’re trying to make the aha moment, and we’ll see if it’s successful, but it is just that you can interview everyone. That you don’t have to have a short list first and that by interviewing everyone, you can really make people have a better experience with you. Because candidates don’t like to send applications and not hear back. And this at least gives people a chance or they feel as if they have a chance. So that’s what we’re trying to move towards in the aha moment. But right now it’s product driven, the analysis page is the aha moment.

William:   24:21
Well, as you brought in UI, UX, it’s because you’ve got candidates and you’ve… Candidates are probably dealing with a lot of consumer grade technology. A lot of apps, a lot of things that just are normal to them in their day-to-day life. And so the UI and UX, it’s super important for that experience. For them to have a wonderful experience and go through and just have a really, really good time with the process. That makes sense to me. I love the idea of letting people… Again, you submit a resume, you fill out a form, but then to be able to go another level to then just go, “Okay, here’s eight questions. Answer these eight questions.” Or whatever the bid is. I feel the company wants to know more about me in order to make a decision. And they still might make the decision not to offer me a job or whatever, but it feels they’re giving me more of a fighting chance than just uploading my LinkedIn URL.

Megan:   25:27
Yeah, absolutely. And in the future, we can… We’re not doing this now, but we can actually provide feedback, “Hey, the job descriptions is looking for this, you didn’t talk about that.” And it might be that that day, that person had a great experience talking about something else. Because that was on their mind. Like I just mentioned something that happened to me an hour before, we’re all human or maybe that day I didn’t eat lunch or whatever it is. So everyone can learn from having better data and from using technology.

William:   26:00
And I didn’t ask this earlier, but I think you touched on it. For the recruiters that are setting this up for their positions, you’ve got a question bank. I know you told me about that. So there’s this question bank, do you serve up based on the job or the industry? Do you say, “Hey…” Instead of starting with a blank screen and come up with eight questions… Again I’m using or number eight, that’s random number. But do you serve up, “They looking for a software engineer or front end developer specifically. Here’s the eight questions that you should probably ask or start with?” Are y’all-

Megan:   26:42
Yeah, we have that.

William:   26:43
You have that?

Megan:   26:44
Yeah, we have that. What we like to do is to get the job description so we can tailor the questions to the job description, because that is one of the core elements of analysis. But basically you can see, “Okay, I want to do an interview for engineering, marketing, sales.” Whatever it is, “Here’s an interview. These are the questions that we propose. You can add, change, remove whatever you need to do.” But we try to make it easy and very flexible because every company is different. Some recruiters like to ask five questions and one of them is, “When can you start?” Or, “What are your salary expectations?” And some people like to go into the details a bit more so. So yeah, we offer as much flexibility as we can.

William:   27:26
If the job description itself is not… I won’t curse. If the job description itself is not great, that it’s garbage in garbage out. And again, this is kind of giving feedback to the recruiter. How do you tell them it’s not great? Or do you just kind of do the best with what they have? Obviously you’ve got some best practices, you’ve got some benchmarks that you can also pull from. But again, if they serve up a job description that’s just not great, what do you do?

Megan:   28:05
Yeah, we haven’t had that experience so far, knock on wood. But there are ways where there’s online analysis of job descriptions. I think you even mentioned it in a previous podcast, but we do have stock job descriptions as well. So at this stage we’re working with people very closely, so we don’t really let them kind of make mistakes. We’re very careful. And we have a very close eye and hand-in-hand partnership with our recruiters and their companies. So you wouldn’t get to a point where you only had a four sentence job description and everyone’s interviews were going poorly because we wouldn’t let you get there. So yeah, we’re-

William:   28:55
This is going to be an interesting question or an odd question, let me put it that way. With Gen Z, both my sons are Gen Z, so they kind of cast is they have a short attention span or a shorter attention span. But they also spend a lot of time doing things once they fall in love with something. So they make decisions rather quickly, but they also have the ability to focus and have the ability to do things over a longer period of time. First of all, do you see that A, outside of the stereotypes and rumors that are out there on the internet? Do you see that just in kind of the work that you’re doing? And B how does that impact? Just give you an example.

William:   29:32
I would easily fight my way through a 3,500 word job description. That would be normal for me. Now, if I put a 3,500 word job description in front of my 15 year old. Yeah. I’m pretty sure [Henry 00:29:49] would not even… Maybe the first couple paragraphs. But by a large, he would make a decision based on that, too quick to decide. Quick to move on or quick to go deep, if it’s truly interesting. First of all, am I on the right path and thinking that way? And B, are you seeing some of that? And how does that impact the kind of the job description?

Megan:   30:16
Well, I would hope that your son early stage career would not have a job that requires a 3,500 word job description. Because that would be too much for anyone.

William:   30:25
Good point.

Megan:   30:28
When you’re starting off, you’re usually… Unless you’re a genius or entrepreneur in some cases, you’re usually doing something which is limited responsibility. You might want to know more. But to answer your question, I think that every generation, every new young generation always has stereotypes. And people look at things or might say things like, “Oh, back in my day, it was different.” I’m a Millennial, I am fascinated with Gen Z, but in my day it was different. But we have had a couple of candidates practice for… One of the record is 24 hours. A person over a course of weeks had been practicing interviewing for 24 hours. So we’re not really seeing that they’re unfocused as you’re saying. Your son will, if he’s interested.

Megan:   31:26
I do think that the generation is different and what we see, and in studies and surveys, that they value is… a company values diversity. Because they’re the most diverse generation ever. And so I think that tools like Mockmate and others that are putting those values first, will be able to capture that attention of the candidates. Which in turn will hopefully mean that we’re successful. And that it’s the focus of everyone. Remains to be seen because it’s quite early stage. But the oldest members of Gen Z I think are 26, so we’ve got a couple of years of experience that they’ve been on the market.

William:   32:08
And those are weird years. So it’s going to be interesting to see how the data plays out over a decade or so. Megan-

Megan:   32:14
Oh I think I lost you.

William:   32:15
No, no I’m-

Megan:   32:17
Oh, you’re back. All right, excellent.

William:   32:19
No, no worries. This is a great place to stop. I love what you’re doing and I just really appreciate everything. So thanks for coming on the Use Case Podcast.

Megan:   32:32
Yeah. Thanks very much. It was great to be here and thanks for giving us the opportunity to chat.

William:   32:38
100%, and thanks for everyone for 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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