When Paul Naha-Biswas recommended someone for a job several years ago, he thought nothing of it.
When it comes to highly skilled roles, the recruitment industry is built around such introductions. However, five years on, the realisation of the impact that individual had gone on to make would be a lightbulb moment for him.
“If you’re hiring, the thing you want most is to find someone who’s interested, capable and been recommended for the job by someone you trust. Historically, the way to do that was to ask around your network; but that’s time-consuming, awkward and not very transparent,” he tells BusinessCloud.
“The other way to do it was to pay a headhunter a lot of money to ask around the industry for you.
“For example, I introduced someone for a role where that person went on to be hired and tripled the division’s turnover in just five years. On hire, the headhunter got their fee whilst I didn’t even get so much as a thank you!
“Throughout my career, headhunters frequently approached me for recommendations. It dawned on me that they were making upwards of £50k per role from recommendations made by others. And that didn’t seem particularly fair.
“Sixley is the solution to this problem.”
The recruitment tech platform, founded in 2019, matches employers with jobseekers recommended through a trusted network, with rewards for successful referrals.
In recognition of the fact that referred candidates are 15-20 times more likely to be hired than a jobs board applicant, Sixley harnesses people’s understanding of skills and strengths beyond CV data.
It allows you ask around your extended networks – for example, your staff, alumni, diversity groups and industry contacts – in, it claims, just 10 minutes. There is a £149 referral fee, while the companies hiring can also reward those who made the recommendation – or their chosen charity – with up to 80% of the fee.
“I felt that a platform could do some of the asking instead of a headhunter and that the savings could be shared amongst those whose recommendations led in some way to a hire,” Naha-Biswas explains.
The serial entrepreneur has worked for the boards and CEOs of over 100 companies spanning five continents, including the likes of media companies ITN and FremantleMedia.
In 2013 he co-founded his first start-up, Boclips, one of the world’s largest digital video libraries for learning. After selling down his stake in the EdTech platform, he was able to launch Sixley.
“For a long time, recruitment has been very one–dimensional. It’s outsourced, with job descriptions advertised through headhunters or recruitment firms and the same box-ticking exercises are applied to the CV filtering process,” he says.
“Worse still, the only time the actual hiring manager actually sees a CV is when candidates have been filtered down by an algorithm or by a recruiter who may have little idea of what’s needed for the job they’re hiring for.
“The result is that businesses end up with the same types of candidates – and don’t get to meet potentially brilliant candidates who’ve been identified as stars by their peers. Poor recruitment practices can lead to a stagnant company culture and ultimately can affect company performance.”
Referred candidates often end up staying longer at a company because they have the skills and aptitude needed to do the job. They can therefore save businesses money on the recruitment process and on training due to lower staff turnover.
Sixley’s tech supports businesses through this process by automatically asking for personal recommendations from, or sharing the role with, the people who know you and your market well.
Sixley works through the power of social, so the service is quick and personal with follow-ups on every referral. In real time, the recommendations are presented back to the hirer for them to decide who to interview.
“As a majority BAME-owned business, it’s important to us that referrals are transparent and diverse,” Naha-Biswas adds. “By supporting one-to-one asking, social sharing and dedicated group referral boards, hirers can use Sixley to ‘proactively invite diversity in’.
“There are concerns about the use of tech in recruitment, as there are some examples of its use resulting in bias. For example, unconscious bias had been unintentionally hardwired into Amazon’s AI recruiting toolv, forcing the retail giant to scrap it altogether after it was shown to discriminate against female candidates.
“From my experience with Sixley and, before that running Cambridge University’s student access scheme, we know that a personal invitation to apply is the best way to overcome ‘imposter syndrome’, get talent past mutant ATS algorithms, and ultimately broaden access and diversity.”
Sixley, based in London with a remote team of just 10, serves businesses of many sizes, ranging from 40-person start-ups all the way through to 100,000 employee-strong corporates such as BT.
It recently launched a self–service platform for small– and mid-sized businesses. “Through the platform, businesses can post a role up on LinkedIn or WhatsApp and people can share it or recommend someone – and get rewarded for it,” Naha-Biswas says.
“Never before has the job market been so deep and so wide with talented workers. This makes it a great time to hire and dynamic businesses will capitalise on the wealth of options currently available to them.
“On the other hand, the market is much more competitive for jobseekers than in previous years. In such a crowded jobs market, a recommendation can make all the difference.”
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