Tim Griffiths, chief technology officer and co-founder with Lee-Martin Seymour, led a team of developers, user interface designers, data scientists, and coders to create Xref, one of the most comprehensive, yet simple, Internet-based reference checking systems.
The five-year-old company was conceived over a red or three by two "experts" in HR, recruitment, and business who could apply their thought processes to "there must be a better way to check references than hopping on the blower and asking a stack of questions".
That it has been listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in five years is testament to the strength of its "good idea" and its strong sales track record as it gained 365 clients including Westpac, Qantas and many government departments.
The original question was 'Why with all this tech are recruiters still manually checking references?'
I had to agree – in my 40 years in business I have been a referee for a lot of staff, and I was asked the same questions – essentially “What are their strengths, weaknesses, would you employ them again?” In all, not very comprehensive or accurate.
Griffiths said there was no rigour and no cross checking of what one referee said over another – usually because reference checking was seen a repetitive, monotonous task best left to juniors and interns. “Our reference checks and data analytics help identify fraudulent or inconsistent candidates – it becomes trusted data,” he said.
Why an IPO?
“We did an IPO via a reverse takeover for two reasons. First, it added a level of governance that our larger clients expected, and second it has helped take us global with offices recently opened in London and Toronto and the platform live in Singapore and New Zealand,” he said. We also felt that an IPO would be better than going to angels or venture capitalists that did not understand our HR focus.
The remainder of the interview is paraphrased.
We discussed the process – it seemed too simple.
Xref is totally Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud based. It has been written in in Python because it's highly scalable and it's known as a tool of data scientists. We went cloud from the start to enable global use and when all you have initially is “sweat equity” cloud can be remarkably economical.
But using the cloud has also allowed us to integrate via APIs into many workflow programs like Oracle Taleo, and HR management programs. It has allowed mobile device use too. We can continuously and quickly innovate and add new smarts without having to support a traditional software development approach.
What is the Xref process?
It all starts when a candidate applies for a job. The prospective employer sends them a Xref request, and they fill in a customised template (that can be general, profession, qualification, or client specific). The candidate nominates some referee emails and the platform then fact-checks with the referees. You would be amazed how many inconsistencies it can reveal that require more investigation.
How far can you probe?
There will always be questions you cannot ask – ageist, sexist, religious, racist, and so on. That is the bailiwick of the recruiter to determine the best fit. Xref protects its users with a governance framework but you have lots of scope to drill down and use the system to create a profile that is perhaps more accurate than the CV suggests. You can even specify mandatory qualifications or things like the maximum career gaps to explain away those periods off the radar.
What does it cost?
It is not just for large enterprises. Each candidate Xref process costs about $50 – that is all from start to finish. By that, I mean data governance, insightful analytics, fraud minimisation, progress updates, scoring, custom forms and reports. The secret sauce is our use of analytics.
We have a Bondi dentist who uses it to check for dental assistants, and it saves him time. If it can do that for one, imagine the time savings for larger enterprises. What is more is that you see immediate value regarding reduction in staff time to check references and to help avoid dodgy ones.
Why move internationally?
We chose AWS Cloud for that reason but it has been our clients who have driven us to open offices internationally – and we will continue to do so. Once we open in a market, a whole new set of clients come to us. Australia has always been cash-positive, and the IPO allows us to expand.
It has also opened our eyes, “We have more than we thought we had,” best describes both our and our client’s reaction when they see our offering. We are experiencing 100%+ growth year-on-year.
Just as FinTech has disrupted the finance sector, this HRTech will disrupt the HR sector. It is as good as it sounds!