#TakeFiveWith Josh Clarke
Could you tell us about yourself and your job role? And one hobby/fun fact?
My name is Josh and I’m the co-founder of Occumi. We help businesses to recruit the best young talent regardless of their background and identify transferrable skills.
Fun fact: We had the initial idea for Occumi in our second year university house, a few weeks after our ceiling had fallen through…
What is a typical day like for you?
It varies quite a lot – at the moment it’s between having meetings with potential partnerships or clients and then continuing to do the research on Occumi to make sure we stay up to date and make the algorithm as powerful as it can be. We also keep the website kept up to date, write blog posts and put out content – so hopefully it will reach people.
Could you tell us how you got into your role?
When Joe and I were at the University of Kent, we were thinking that it’s going to be difficult for us to get jobs because we’re competing against people going to Russell Group Universities. We started to think about what kind of skills have we actually developed from the degrees that we are doing and what skills we actually gained from work experience.
From that we started to develop an algorithm to work out an individual’s skill based on what they had done. Eventually, Joe and I went into graduate roles and we worked quite closely with our respective companies with their graduate schemes and we realised that there were problems with filtering down applicants and spending a lot of time selecting them. They tended to hire people who were similar to the people who already worked in the building so there was a lack of diversity.
From that we realised our algorithm could actually help businesses to select candidates based on skills.
Could you explain how the algorithm works? How does it remove bias from the process so people are hired based on skill?
We work with a client to identify what transferable skills they want an individual to have for a role. Then during the application process applicants will click through on our skills identification page to fill in a few details such as their work experience and education. And based on our research from university lecturers, academic societies, and industry professionals - our algorithm will identify each applicant’s skillset. Each applicant’s skills are compared to the skills desired by the client and those who have the skills that the client is looking for are highlighted, allowing the client to focus on the most suitable applicants for the role during the remainder of the recruitment process.
Focusing on skills at this initial stage of the process reduces the impact of subjective factors that have traditionally informed the selection process at this stage. It is these factors such as university attended, or work experience company that can allow bias to creep into a company’s recruitment process, as often similar groups of people are taken through to interviews and ultimately get the job. However, we know that attending a top university, or having a week of work experience at a well known company doesn’t necessarily mean that these individuals have the skills that are required for the role. By focusing on skills we hope to create a much more objective way of filtering applicants at this early stage of the process, resulting in a more level playing field for the applicant and allowing clients to identify the most best talent for the role.
Is it like a blind recruitment process, where the employer doesn’t know the candidate’s name until they go to interview?
It depends from client to client and how they want to use Occumi, but it’s something we can do. Our algorithm mainly aims to help people get through that first initial hurdle of the recruitment process, where a lot of people are disregarded because of their background or what university they went to or if they haven’t got the right experience. But you can get different skills from different kinds of places so we help employers work out what skills a person has to help them get the right people in the selection stage of recruitment.
That sounds like an amazing piece of technology. You mentioned you worked with the employers, do you think that helps them think about other ways they can attract talent as well?
The filtering process is the main thing that we do as a company, but during that each applicant will fill out a skills identification form and there’s also some demographic questions on that. After an application process is done we go to the employer and we say, ‘well you’re looking for these skills but actually you’re attracting these skills and a lot of people from the London area, but you’re not attracting people from the North.’
We help people collect a load of info and give them insight in the consultation process to improve the way they attract talent in the future. We also provide a toolkit about what talent they might be missing out on. We want employers to improve the way they are attracting talent and approach different talent pools.
What motivates you to do a good job?
Me and Joe both come from diverse backgrounds ourselves, I’m mixed race and we’re both the first of our families to go to university. From our experience from going into jobs in London, there’s a lot of people who are not from a similar background to us and we wanted more people like us in important roles.
I think it’s important for people like me and Joe to have role models in whatever industry, I think a lot of them are struggling to provide those role models. The big reason for that is not getting in the diverse range of young people and the important thing for us is for companies to not get diverse talent in for the sake of it, we want to make sure they are getting the best talent in a way that creates a level playing field for everyone.
So we’re focusing on skills to help companies focus on merit above all else, and then it doesn’t matter where a person may be from as long as they have the skills that are suitable for the role. We just want to see more role models from all different backgrounds, all different stories and different industries – for people from all different backgrounds to look up to and say “I can do that”.
How do you learn at work?
I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn so I naturally keep up to date with everything that’s happening there, especially the networks around Occumi largely based on Diversity and Inclusion and Graduate Recruitment because they are really relevant to what we’re doing.
I also talk to as many people as possible who are involved in Diversity or the Recruitment of young people, I think you can learn so much from talking to everyone and we’re always happy to have a chat with someone going in the same direction as us. It’s really useful to learn from others especially in this space, where there is a lot of people championing Diverse and Inclusion and people have a lot of interesting things to say.
The networking events I have been going to have also been around HR Tech and they’re really interesting because there are lots of people working in a similar space to us in the tech sector to improve diversity and efficiency. It’s interesting to see how they came up with their ideas and what approach they’re taking, and let’s us see how we can work with these companies towards the same goal.
What are your aims for the next year? For example, if you work in accessibility do you have any plans to help make workplaces more inclusive? If you work in Learning and Development how are you going to promote workplace learning?
We’re at an early stage of the company and have just started going full time on Occumi, but we’re going to try and help as many companies recruit based on skills and level the playing fields for graduates and young people to give them more of a chance to get into a role. The more clients we work with, the more young people we help and give an opportunity to – which increases our positive impact.
YOU CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT INCLUSIVE EMPLOYERS ON THE FOLLOWING PLATFORMS:
Occumi website: www.occumi.co.uk
Occumi twitter: @Occumi_
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