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BNZ Start-up Alley winners coHired and using data to do good (and help people get jobs)

Alright, so the above may not sound particularly Earth-shattering, but it is a business with a mission to change the way we think about hiring people – and even how we, the non-business owners and HR managers of the world, hunt for gainful employment that doesn’t make us seriously consider the pros and cons of faking our own deaths in a fiery explosion, donning a disguise and paying in cash for a one-way plane ticket to the Marshall Islands, using what’s left of our money to buy a boat, sailing to an uninhabited island, and living out the rest of our days attempting to make fire and befriend a starfish while re-creating Robinson Crusoe and/or Cast Away while simultaneously declaring the island its own sovereign territory a la Robert Moore and the Kingdom of EnenKio (seriously, that very last bit actually happened – forcing the Marshall Islands government to literally condemn the whole affair).

Andrew Nicol, co-founder and CEO of coHired, says the idea is to use data to make the recruitment process more humane. “One of the biggest things we try to do is see if someone will fit into the ethos of a company,” he says. “When you enjoy being around the people you work with, you’re more productive and you stay longer.

Nicol says a more holistic approach driven by data can help businesses better find people that might be a good organisational fit for particular departments – particularly important at large companies with many departments and high turnover. To do that, coHired uses data to survey an individual team working at an organisation rather than the entire company – and then uses that data against data it collects from applicants to help better determine if they’d be a good fit. References are also asked to submit information online – as Nicol claims people can sometimes be more honest online if they don’t feel as pressured to tell someone speaking to them over the phone or face-to-face what they want to hear.

And as for job-seekers? Let’s be honest: applying for hundreds (as many of us do) of jobs – only to maybe get a single impersonal email asking for a quick phone interview that lasts for no more than five minutes, then never hearing from the organisation again – has an incredibly damaging effect on mental and emotional health. So bad, of course, it sometimes even drives people to kill themselves. Or, if they don’t do that, they’re forced to “settle” for a job they don’t care about, because it’s either that or be homeless and starve.

Nicol says the hope is coHired can help people find jobs they want – and with a lower rejection rate because the jobs are tailored to the individual’s skills, experience and personality. “When you have a job you really love, then you have a lot of dignity.”

Folks are taking notice, too. Facing down judges Derek Sivers, Anna Guenther, Leah Culver and BNZ head of small business Harry Ferreira, coHired took home the top prize in the Start-Up Accelerator category at BNZ’s famed Start-up Alley at this year’s Webstock. Along with Social Enterprise Kick Start category winner Talk Town (see Idealog’s story on them here), coHired won $20,000 in cash each, as well as access to business mentors provided by BNZ. BNZ also awarded coHired with two return air tickets to make new connections across the Pacific.

Nicol says he was surprised by the win. “It was a nice validation.”

He says the money will be used to help go into machine learning. And as for the trip to the US? That’ll help with coHired’s “ambitious” (as Nicol calls it) goal of being in three countries (New Zealand, Australia and somewhere in North America) by the end of 2019.

In a statement, BNZ said that coHired “have a great opportunity lying ahead of them in the US. This is a company that can literally scale into any corporate in America and the rest of the world.”

Expansion aside, Nicol is quick to point out that coHired – also one of five companies taking part in the Icehouse Flux Accelerator – is an example of how data can be harnessed to do good. “We’re not about making a ton of money.”

Cool, but don’t cancel that escape to the Marshall Islands – just bring a bit more money for a return flight.

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