People often ask me why I wrote my latest book, Thriving in the Gig Economy.  It was due in part to the fact that in the summer of 2016, three different investor groups approached me for ideas about gig economy platforms.  One of those groups went on to create a very cool, platform that is changing the recruitment talent markets in two high potential economies.



Shortlist is a recruiting platform launched in 2016 servicing Kenya and India. it recognized early on that a human capital explosion was launching in Africa and India that could change the nature of economic development. By 2030, for example, the working age population will grow nearly twofold to 600 million, eclipsing the developed world. To take advantage of this, jobs are needed.

Whereas most economic development theory focuses on businesses creating jobs, these entrepreneurs recognized that if a pool of vetted and qualified talent were easily available to companies, development would come, since talent has become one of the key resources driving development. Whereas it may have been just capital and natural resources in the past, human resources are driving economic activity now. The “vetted” piece of the puzzle was key to the product, since hiring managers were spending too much time qualifying candidates, often using outmoded practices.

To change that paradigm, the team used technology to cut that time, applying innovative approaches and big data insights to ensure the recruiting process could scale. They used phone screens, automated chatbots and functional assessments to hone in on the best candidates.  Their “special sauce”, however, is one of their own assessments, that they developed around the idea of ensuring a candidate was competent for the job in the first place. They reviewed over 100,000 job descriptions from thousands of companies in a sophisticated competency mapping exercise, which enabled them to distill down the key attributes, in addition to general knowledge and domain knowledge, that successful candidates would need to display. They then created specialized questions to assess the requisite competencies. This process yields a “short list” of the best candidates.  The competency mapping also provides interviewers with customized questions to probe potential weaknesses or fit, based on the results of the exercise.

Given the many years I have been on the Board of CPP Inc., the owners of the Myers-Briggs Type Instrument, I have a strong bias that all assessments need to have scientific integrity.  As such, I was thrilled to hear that the Shortlist folks are continually validating the outcomes of their competency assessments; placements of candidates who were predicted to do well in a certain marketing role, for example, are reviewed after the fact to measure the accuracy of the tool.

The ShortList network is a powerful option for its clients.  Many of the firms in Kenya and India do not have an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), so the company has developed various versions of the product to integrate with most any internal HR system, regardless of its level of sophistication.

With this sort of client care, it is no surprise that Shortlist is thriving. Headquartered in Nairobi with offices in Hyderabad and Mumbai, the firm has been growing steadily.  They have over 150 clients and have over 400,000 candidates in their database. All of the recruiting they handle is for white collar jobs.  In fact, they have become the exclusive recruitment vendor for positions in Kenya for one of the largest global professional services companies in the world.

Shortlist recently acquired Spire Education in Nairobi to expand its product offerings. Especially in Kenya, training is a well-established industry. Shortlist has a unique perspective on professional training in Kenya, because their process provides hard data on the prevailing skills gaps in the marketplace. They see through their data analytics the emerging needs for specific talent, and now they will be positioned to reduce those gaps through targeted training programs.  “Providing soft skills and digital skills into a program for candidates would be so valuable to employers and workers alike, “said Matt Schnuck, Chairman and Co-Founder.  The truth of the matter is, it may be valuable for the country as well.

I was in Kenya last summer, and on my last night in the lovely coastal town of Kilifi, I took a sunset Dhow sail.  The 16-year-old first mate was so excited about his country.  He said at one point that he felt lucky to be coming into adulthood at this time in Kenya because the potential for the country is enormous. He certainly had me convinced, and now with the inroads made by Shortlist, it’s a pretty good bet.

Sunset from the Dhow
Photo Credit: Morgan McGovern




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