One wanted to become a pilot, while another started out as a bank clerk, but discovered that the selling role was not for him and switched to business psychology instead. These are the stories of two of the four self-proclaimed "fellow sufferers" who have now finally found their calling: Since the founding of their HR tech start-up Aivy in January 2020, Boas Bamberger, David Biller, Florian Dyballa and Arbnor Raci have been helping people to recognise their skills and potential, and embark on the right career path.
Innovative challenges instead of bland questionnaires
Funded by the Free University of Berlin through the EXIST start-up grant, Aivy enables students, applicants and professionals to discover their interests, skills and personality traits in a playful way through entertaining challenges. It takes two to three minutes for the app's artificial intelligence to analyse the data submitted and provide an initial list of career suggestions, 70 per cent of which could appeal the user. After five to six games, this list will then be narrowed down to around ten possible occupations. The app, which is available for Android and iOS, will then display suitable job offers to match the user’s specific skills and potential.
Age, appearance and gender do not play a role in the AI’s results, as the app has been specifically designed by Aivy to prevent any discrimination in the selection of applicants. This scientifically based method not only has advantages for employees. “Companies will ultimately benefit from this. They will receive applicants who have been pre-qualified on the basis of diagnostic performance values, which reduces the risk of hiring the wrong candidate. Quality instead of quantity,” said Dyballa in an interview with the Tagesspiegel. Compared to traditional selection processes such as questionnaires, the game-based assessment also provides companies with less socially desirable response behaviour, 95 per cent user acceptance and 80 per cent time savings. The app can be used by companies both as an orientation solution (self-assessment) for candidates on their own career site and as a shortlist tool (pre-assessment) after the application. By using intelligent algorithms, the start-up, which was named Newcomer of the Year at the HR Award 2020, can also make predictions about future personal success and satisfaction and continuously optimise the app.
The Aivy founders Boas Bamberger, David Biller, Florian Dyballa und Arbnor Raci © Aivy
Future-oriented solution from Berlin: Career compass for candidates
There is also another HR tech start-up in Berlin pursuing a long-term approach. “We don't just want to provide young talent for a lot of money on a one-off basis, but rather attract students in the 1st or 2nd semester to our app, find out which jobs are right for them, what interests they have and then offer them a kind of career ladder,” says Maximilian Willert, founder and managing director of HYRE Solutions, presenting the vision of the company in a nutshell. Aspiring bankers, for example, should find out more about the practical aspects of their dream job, while also being shown the typical path to get there: from internship in industry, to a junior position, such as in an auditing company. “Gaining the candidate’s trust is important to us,” he emphasises.
It is about building a long-term relationship with the talent and collecting a lot of data in order to convey the ideal position. "If someone uses the app for over a year, we have a clearer profile, not just a snapshot: That was Adriana on day x, but a development over 18 months," explains Willert, who founded the start-up in 2020 together with Christof Mehlstäubler and Luca Lallopizzi. "This allows you to also present certain indications about character and soft skills." Skills such as an aptitude for problem solving, goal orientation or emotional intelligence, which according to a study by the ManpowerGroup are particularly valued by employers in Europe.
However, it may take some time for HYRE to fulfill all of these functions. It currently has a “basic product” on the market that focuses on the placement of junior sales staff at tech start-ups and primarily supports students in creating a good CV. The HYRE team forwards suitable profiles anonymously - without a photo or name - to potential employers, who in turn invite 80 per cent of the submissions to a job interview. "There is still a lot of human work involved on our part," says Willert, "We are only testing high-tech in the background."
A junior data scientist works on a matching algorithm with the feedback from the company, which "will not take over everything on day 0" - as the managing director of HYRE points out. Instead, the AI will gradually take on more and more tasks. An example could be sending automatic rejections to unsuitable profiles. “The human eye will always be there,” says Willert, who, in addition to the app, would like to engage campus ambassadors as a contact person at universities, “Our promise to the customer is to select the best candidates.” The “completely new system” from Berlin has also been well received by investors: HYRE recently received a new investment of € 500,000. In a successful financing round, HYRE was recently able to win the head of HR at Roche, professional football player Luca Waldschmidt, and the Swedish fund TVG as a lead investor. The latter is a fund specialising in HR tech that had previously only operated in Nordic countries. It has chosen the Berlin start-up as its first investment in Germany. "With TVG behind us, who see our company as the solution of the future, you can expect a lot from us in 2021," adds Willert, delighted with the investment. Plans include increasing the number of staff from the current five-member team and release a new version of the app to offer candidates a better profile and to find the right job for everyone.
HYRE founders Maximilian Willert, Christof Mehlstäubler and Luca Lallopizzi © HYRE
Transparency for the black box
Aivy and HYRE are just two examples of how artificial intelligence is finding its way into recruiting. Learning algorithms can support HR, especially when it comes to assessing and shortlisting suitable applicants. A study conducted by CareerBuilder in 2017 showed that more than half of the American HR managers surveyed were of this opinion: They were convinced that artificial intelligence will become the norm in HR management within five years. Germany, on the other hand, seems to be lagging behind in the use and acceptance of such procedures: According to a survey by the Federal Association of Human Resource Managers (BPM) and the HR Tech Ethics Advisory Board in 2019, only 16 per cent of the more than 1,000 HR managers surveyed were using artificial intelligence for first applications, another 16 per cent plan to use it, and around 41 per cent are considering it. Just as many see the technology as the greatest potential for recruiting. In contrast, only 12 per cent of the respondents wanted to entrust the selection and support of employees to algorithms - even if they promise time savings and more objectivity in the recruitment process. The latter is not always the case, however: the market research company Gartner predicts that by 2022 around 85 per cent of AI projects will deliver incorrect results, because data is distorted or algorithms are programmed and trained by biased developers. One of the main goals of the EU-wide GDPR is to avoid the risk of discrimination, and the German ethics committee HR Tech BPM also comes into play here. Their guidelines and framework conditions are intended to help ensure that artificial intelligence does not remain the inscrutable "black box" that is blindly trusted. This is also in the interest of the companies using it, as a job application rejection due to a discriminatory software recommendation could result in a claim for damages.
DIN certified: AI makes job interviews objective
In order to avoid such negative repercussions, the German DIN Institute developed a standard for AI in the recruiting process in 2020. The DIN Spec 91426 standard was developed on the initiative of and in cooperation with Viasto, Germany's leading provider of video recruiting. Founded in 2010, the Berlin-based start-up supports companies in getting to know job applicants through modern, data protection-compliant video applications and in digitising the selection process with scheduled video interviews and assessments. For the last three years, Viasto has been offering its customers, which include Deutsche Telekom, Bertelsmann and the European Central Bank, an algorithm that generates differentiated, coordinated interview questions. The pool comprises over 10,000 questions, from which the AI develops an optimal conversation guide within a few moments, depending on the industry, position, hierarchy level and other parameters. “Our AI is based on ten years of experience in video recruiting and two and a half years of development with psychologists and AI specialists,” said Viasto co-founder Sara Lindemann in an interview with the Spiegel. The aim of the technology is to structure the interviews in such a way that they do not get out of hand and the candidates can ultimately be compared with each other. “This tool is the best example of how AI can help where it is needed. However, algorithms that evaluate videos are still a long way from being able to meet the standards that would justify their use,” she added.
Voice analysis shows applicants’ potential
Dr Tony Lee, Konrad Gerbing and Syed Shahzaib Ahmed, the founders of the Berlin start-up MindR (short for mind reader) see it differently: They rely on deep learning technology to study the non-verbal patterns in 3-minute video presentations to analyse applicants and make predictions about their performance on the job. "We are currently focusing on the use of acoustic cues extracted from the human voice to identify the potential of job applicants," says Dr Lee, explaining the concept based on his research. "It has been scientifically proven that our voice conveys a wealth of information that can be an indicator of our personality, our communication style, our leadership potential and our social skills." The use of voice as an indicator also helps avoid common human biases that often arise in face-to-face interviews. The technology is designed to reduce discrimination based on appearance, gender or race, thus making "a contribution to a fair society for the future". It also enables companies to find qualified employees faster and more cost-effectively. At the same time, Lee is convinced that the swift process will also motivate employees to apply for a position. The start-up, which is being funded with an EXIST start-up grant, is still in the pilot phase. Upon completion of testing and approval by potential customers, the team aims to launch the product at the end of 2021, thereby helping to build a “more sustainable AI-HR applicant triangle ecosystem”. "I believe that a well-conceived AI service - which meets both the DIN Spec 91426 standards and the EU regulations for AI - is worth the wait," says Dr Lee.