CleverConnect : “AI creates bridges between professions and skills”
Published on 06/6/2022
Published on 06/6/2022
Louis Coulon and Gonzague Lefebvre, 2012 NEOMA graduates, immediately wanted to revolutionise the recruitment process. In 2014, they created VisioTalent. Since then, the two friends have merged with MeteoJob.com, created CleverConnect, and have become European leaders in talent recruitment and acquisition software. Here is an interview with the two entrepreneurs who went through the NEOMA incubator.
In October 2021, you raised 30 million euros. You managed to do this round of fundraising with your long-standing investors, Citizen Capital and Sofiouest, and you welcomed Digital+Partners. What does this mean for CleverConnect?
It was important for us to raise these funds with an international player, Digital+Partners, since our objective is now to develop a leading position in Europe. We are already on top in France. Our next step is Germany. The two countries account for nearly half of Europe’s GDP.
This fundraising offers us the means to work on two main areas of focus. The first is our commercial development. We are thus going to recruit additional teams. The second area is our product development for improving our solutions and imagining new ones. We are working on nearly 150 positions. We should have more than 300 by the end of 2022 and more than 400 at the end of 2023. We are also looking at one or two additional solutions acquisitions.
Let’s look back at the beginnings of VisioTalent. Can we say that it started at NEOMA?
Yes. We were Entrepreneurship majors at NEOMA and we worked together on a business creation project. At the end of this programme, we saw that we really wanted to get started on something. We first thought of a travel recommendation website, but we quickly realised that we weren’t the right people for that. We didn’t have the skills for it.
We then aimed at another project based on our personal experiences as job applicants and searching for internships. We told ourselves that something needed to be improved in that sector. When you’re a young graduate, your CV is rather slim, and yet you have a lot of different qualities. How could we give applicants the option of highlighting their personality, their motivation and their creativity? Through video. That was the initial idea of VisioTalent.
VisioTalent was incubated in the NEOMA Startup lab. How was this time important for starting your company?
The incubator, and in particular Denis Gallot, director of Startup Lab, gave us advice and helped guide us. When you start off in entrepreneurship without any previous professional experience, that’s really valuable! We also received grants. We were able to develop a first beta version of the solution with a student recruited by the incubator.
You started with a dozen videos. Today you have exceeded one million. Video has become a standard recruitment medium, both well known and recognised. But it wasn’t that simple to create this new use for video, was it?
Actually, we came up against two problems that are inherent in any usage innovation project. First for recruiters, most of them routinely used the telephone to assess the applicants. We suggested that they invite applicants to respond to two or three questions by video. You can’t underestimate the complexity in making others change their habits, especially if they have had them for a long time.
As for the applicants, the exercise was new, and they were nervous. They wondered who was going to see their video. For both groups, we needed to remove these obstacles.
And how did you remove them?
We supported the companies. We built up use-cases and success stories to reassure them. We gave applicants the options of practising at making their videos. What causes the change is seeing the value of it, meaning the observable results.
You develop talent recruitment and acquisition software. You cover all the steps, from talent attraction to their conversion and assessment. You use AI to attract an applicant to a job offer. What are the possibilities and limits to using AI?
In France, there are a lot of different professions and even more different types of skills, and it’s not easy for a recruiter or an applicant to grasp the full complexity of the job market. Applicants tend to make poor application choices. Either they have the imposter syndrome where they lack a skill and they don’t dare submit their CV, or they have too high an opinion of themselves and incorrectly apply for jobs they that are never selected for.
For recruiters, they think that an applicant cannot perform the job because he or she is missing some small thing. Whereas big data has shown us that hundreds of thousands of applicants, with the same type of profile, managed to be very effective and successful at these professions.
By using big data, the technology creates bridges between professions and skills. It’s what is called matching.
You managed to make employee turnover drop by 30% in certain companies. How do you explain this?
When a company receives 100 CVs, it only keeps the five that are obviously the best match for the position it’s looking to fill. There is already an enormous filter in place. Among the 95 dismissed applications, there are maybe some growing talents with burgeoning ambition, creativity and the ability to work in a team. We know that recruitment success relies on these qualities. Our solution helps companies evaluate the CVs by letting applicants express themselves through targeted questions.
We know that recruiting often fails due to problems with personalities, soft skills, and rarely due to problems with skills. Our solutions provide a more successful assessment of the applicant and are based more on the cultural fit between people.
How do you see the future of recruitment?
To see further into the future, you first need to look further into the past. The lifespan of a skill in 1980 was 30 years; In 2020, it’s 5 years. For some skills it’s just 6 to 12 months. It’s what is called skills obsolescence. This is a far-reaching trend. People will be recruited more and more for their soft skills, creativity, adaptability, ability to learn, motivation, and less for their hard skills.
With digital technology and telecommuting, the recruitment market is also becoming global. The competition for applicant is becoming global: a company in California can now recruit a developer in France, pay them beyond the local rates, but clearly less than the rates in the US.
An applicant’s experience must also change. Today, we are all Amazon consumers. You find what you want in a second, order it in a second, and track the package. But to find a job offer that we like, it’s much more time-consuming. Then applying requires several steps and sometimes providing items that no one reads (the obsolete covering letter!) to, in the end, receive no news from the company. The interval is too big. We are working on changing that.
In the search for employment, what is some advice that you can give to NEOMA students?
You need to understand the life cycle of the company when you apply and to not just apply at any time. As a young graduate, you can find a place right at the start because a new company is looking for people who have more entrepreneurial talent, are versatile and sharp… It’s perfect for supporting a small team that’s just started.
However, when the start-up is building up and developing its structure, the challenges increase, and it is going to look more for experts in their field. The period is less conducive to recruiting young graduates.
Once the company has developed and it has recruited managers for expert teams, it has the leadership for training and overseeing junior staff. Young graduates then have another chance of being selected.