Senior Tech Talk with Caroo

Caroo is looking to disrupt the recruitment industry through an intuitive mobile app that helps match brands and people. We spoke to Gareth Peterson about his journey and what the future holds for Caroo and the recruitment industry. 

Could you tell us a little bit more about Caroo as an organisation and your goals as a business?

Caroo is a Manchester based technology business and our platform enables businesses in the North West and Yorkshire to connect directly to the talent they need.

We have a few unique aspects to our platform. There's no recruitment agencies, candidates are matched on skills and experience, not job titles, and at the point at which both parties are interested, we open the chat and let them take it from there. 

The reason for removing recruitment agencies was requested by our users. We are a user driven platform in how we design and develop everything. So if users ask for a particular feature, then we move in that direction, pretty much as you would expect of most tech businesses.

Aside from removing recruiters users wanted relevance and accuracy in job or candidate recommendations. We found that matching talent to jobs based on a job title was more often than not inaccurate, and this is an industry standard approach. Just the other day I told LinkedIn I was open to opportunities and the first job it suggested for me was a personal assistant to a Managing Director. All because my job title was Managing Director. 

So at Caroo we define relevance based on skills and experience, not job titles.

The vision for the business is to improve people's lives through their careers. We don't want people being stuck in dead-end jobs, sitting at a desk working eight hours a day somewhere they don't enjoy. And given how much time we spend working, we believe that life is better when you enjoy your job. 

The plan for the product is much bigger than what you see at present, which is simply matching people to jobs. We have started releasing beta features in and around content eventually our app will be like your career personal assistant. A tool that curates relevant events, meetups, courses, education, and of course jobs and employers that are relevant to your skills and interests.

The scope for doing some seriously awesome shit within recruitment, or within hiring and job searching is mind boggling. At the moment, we're just scratching the surface, but it's going fantastically well and we're really excited for what the future looks like.


That sounds really exciting. When you say the app can follow people's lives and improve them, do you think the app will start to open the door to new job paths people may not have considered before?  

Yeah, 100%. There's certainly scope to drive the technology in a direction where we can start to recommend alternative careers to people where they wouldn't necessarily have considered themselves a fit. I think you have to tread very carefully when it comes to things like soft skills but there is potentially the opportunity to look at data around skills that could be transferable. 

I would argue we are already on that journey given we consider skills and “tools” rather than a job title.

Someone working in finance could be fit for a data role at a marketing agency given they’re an analyst and used to modelling data, as an example. As we evolve, there's going to be a lot more data to play with and to model against and therefore it is certainly something that we will be doing far more in the future.

So would you consider yourself to be a data-first company?

Data underpins everything that we do. You don't want to draw everything from data because there's a lot to be said about human interaction and getting subjective opinions and feedback from user research, but data helps to validate assumptions and give us direction.

But yes, data is key. Some of our employers will be looking at things like time to hire and how you can reduce that, or focusing on cost per hire and what's driving that etc.

Something that we pride ourselves on is that our employers generally will get 3-4 profiles, but they are of good quality, every week. So they're not spending lots of time reviewing loads and loads of CVs. It’s this user data that helps us to understand traditional industry benchmarks and drive towards outperforming them, ultimately delivering indispensable value for our users.

What is your role at Caroo?

My role, by title is Managing Director, but I'm just one of a group of people, highly-intelligent and weird people that are driving Caroo forward. It's exciting and I consider myself privileged to work with our internal team and external partners, all of which bring something unique to the table. I think we're onto something huge, given the size of the recruitment industry, peoples’ general dislike it, and we’re always told by users how great the concept and execution is.

The brief backstory to myself is that I'm not from recruitment or talent acquisition or a HR background. I used to run digital and technology product teams in travel and prior to that, I used to work in retail tech. Always designing and building new digital experiences.

The only common thread to my experience is that I never stick around in the same industry for the next role, so when the opportunity presented itself to do something different in recruitment I jumped at the chance.

Fundamentally, I'm just a bit of a geek for user experience and how we can improve sub optimal experiences or create new ones. And I think the majority of the market would agree with us in saying that recruitment, and hiring is generally a painful experience that feels like a chore. 

When you turn recruitment on its head and start to say, actually, I'm growing my team and by growing my team I'm driving my business forward, then that's a seriously cool thing to be doing and it should be exciting.  

Why isn't hiring more exciting? Why is it a chore? Why is it so tedious, time consuming, difficult and painful, right? Or ridiculously expensive.

So we went back to the drawing board, clean slate and worked with talent teams from BBC, adidas, Boohoo, The Hut Group, Dentsu Aegis and a dozen tech and digital SMEs from Manchester to design the ideal experience. 

No recruitment agencies, relevant and accurate recommendations, and when both parties are interested then chat. Candidates also wanted to remain anonymous so they were free to browse Careers without being approached by recruiters or sales people, they also wanted to be matched on skills and employers felt this was perfect for improving diversity and inclusivity within their teams. 

I don’t believe in recreating the wheel so our strategy and approaches are not dissimilar to those you will have seen at other tech businesses: We are user led in the design of our experiences, just like AirBnB. We stayed regionally and we have focussed on a niche (i.e. tech, digital and marketing in the North West) just like Uber and Amazon did respectively. We also kept the platform free of charge for 12 months to build our audience and gather feedback in order to improve our product, just like Slack has done, and now we offer unlimited access to the system for a small quarterly or annual fee. The plan will be to roll the business out nationally around Q3 2021.

In terms of the recruitment industry in the UK, how do you feel technology will play a role within it over the next few years?

I think recruitment is one of the last few industries to have its AirBnB moment. Uber completely smashed the logistics industry just as Airbnb did to travel. Recruitment is one of the few remaining industries yet to be disrupted.

I test indeed, LinkedIn, and a variety of other jobs boards regularly just to see the sort of quality and accuracy of their matching, and how they're changing their algorithms. To think these businesses are the wealthiest in terms of professional data yet the experience just isn’t there yet. I think experience really needs to be the focus, what users want, and then we can consider the tech required to deliver that experience.

We speak to our users and target audience a lot, and I can count on one hand the amount of people that said they actually like their ATS. An applicant tracking system is basically like a CRM solution for candidates. You manage all of your candidates throughout their experience with your recruitment process, manage the distribution of job descriptions across a variety of different touch points, etc. Large and small businesses are also unimpressed with existing sourcing channels (e.g. LinkedIn, jobs boards, etc.) but there is little else on offer for time poor people. 

I said it before, the scope for doing some seriously awesome stuff in recruitment is huge and that will all be down to technology, and how tech can improve the experience.

If you could give one piece of advice to an entrepreneur entering the scene today, what would it be?

You’ve got to keep going. Like, it gets shit. It can get really shit. There are peaks and troughs, but you've just got to keep going. 

There's no other way of saying it. It's stamina. Based on my career history, I should have left this business a year ago, but there are so many exciting challenges and things that I've got to figure out and how to make them work.

I think the biggest attraction for me is: what's the next problem that I've got to try and solve? What's the next challenge that I've got to try and fit into this jigsaw puzzle and make it all work? So my biggest piece of advice is just keep going. Do not give up because you don't have to be talented, you just have to be a bit obsessed. 

What advice seems obviously right, is relatively easy to follow, but is usually ignored? 

Talk about your product or solution as much as you can. Don't ever let the idea of competition scare you from talking about it because at the end of the day, you need people who are going to challenge you because that's going to refine your thinking, and it's also how you validate your ideas and assumptions.

I'm not necessarily one to focus on my competition, because I think that there are very few businesses within the recruitment sector who are doing it really well. So I'd rather remain blinkered and let our users guide the Caroo product and proposition.

Talk about your solution and talk about your product because the more you talk about it, the more you'll learn about your audience, about your industry, and you'll be able to get to the answers quicker.

Thank you Gareth!


You can learn more about Caroo here.




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