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Launch HN: Searchlight (YC W19) – Hiring based on past performance, not resumes
94 points by annawangx 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 114 comments
Hi HN community! We’re Anna and Kerry, co-founders of Searchlight (https://www.searchlight.ai). Our software helps candidates be judged by their past performance rather than their resume or where they went to school.

We built this product to help job candidates and hiring managers. With platforms like Linkedin and Indeed, hundreds of applicants with indistinguishable resumes apply for the same job with just one click. Kerry and I both have backgrounds in software engineering, and we were frustrated by how time-strapped hiring managers increasingly over-index on the “snob test” (a.k.a. where the candidate went to school) or contrived technical screens [1][2]. We’re also twin sisters who went to the same school and worked at the same companies. We look indistinguishable on paper, so we are especially keen to bring a new product to the hiring space that will allow candidates to express their individuality beyond their resumes. When we looked at the landscape of current hiring tools, we realized that the majority of them are self-promotional (resumes, personal websites, Linkedin, etc) and difficult to substantiate at first glance. This disadvantages people who aren't good at promoting themselves, or don't like to, and these are often the best candidates! We saw that a poorly conducted technical screen can penalize the most talented engineers. Worse yet, we learned that take-home coding challenges are a real pain point for certain demographics, like parents who don't have the time to thoroughly attack a 24 hour coding challenge because they have to take care of their kids.

This made us think - why are we ignoring the the perspectives of people who actually know what it's like to work with a candidate? This data is the most indicative of success on the job [3][4], but isn't currently being leveraged until the end of the process, if the employer conducts reference checks. This is why we built Searchlight to better assess candidates early in the hiring process. Currently, we work directly with employers to invite their applicants to the platform. Job seekers can invite as many advocates as they want to speak to their accomplishments and capabilities (some invite as many as 10). The references share feedback like specific examples of how the candidate demonstrated desired competencies and how future managers can set the candidate up for success. Then, we analyze this feedback to assess candidate-position compatibility by matching the requirements of the role to the candidate's strengths. Our recommendations for strong candidates are based on a mix of quantitative factors like average ratings of core competencies, and qualitative factors like work style and environmental fit (which we currently human QA). One of our core beliefs is that every candidate is exceptional in their ideal environment, so all the feedback gathered on Searchlight - regardless of whether the candidate gets an offer - is saved and available for the candidate to use and share.

We aim to make the hiring process more fair. We are building trust and legitimacy into our platform by tying each reference to a specific job experience, verifying references through work emails or Linkedin profiles, and keeping the feedback hidden from candidates. While no tool is perfect, we know that the insights surfaced by Searchlight allow for better decision-making than traditional resume scans, with no extra time commitment for employers. We are especially excited to see that Searchlight is already helping diverse applicants get to the on-site interview stage after being initially screened out.

We'd love to hear about your experiences in today's hiring process and if Searchlight would be helpful to you! Thanks for reading.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15688972

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2175147

[3] https://dornsife.usc.edu/assets/sites/208/docs/Ouellette.Woo...

[4] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-predict-on-the-job-perfor...

> Gather true, unbiased insights from those who already know what it’s like to work with your candidate

How can you be so sure they're unbiased? I would worry a lot that this will just favor candidates who are more amiable and have less honest friends.

Thanks for the question (and visiting our landing page)! You're right that opinions always carry the perspective of the person giving them. We try to minimize the bias by:

1) Gathering a larger number of perspectives

2) Asking gold-standard questions that get to the specifics and contextualized examples

3) Every referencer is tied to a specific work experience and provides their contact information, which helps hold referencers accountable to their feedback.

> gold-standard questions

Does this not just mean trendy? Can you provide an example?

One question that we ask is: "We are all learning every day. What was an area of development for this candidate back when you worked together?" An example of a less open-ended question is asking the reference to stack rank strengths that the employer wants to learn more about.

You may want to not just "minimize bias", but attempt to build a casual model (do-Calculus, causality).

To give an example, recommendation might be due to "attended the same college" or "born in the same country". And this is probably not what you might be interested in.

If you build such model and control for these spurious referrals, you might be able to get better signal. (and hopefully also promote diversity of gender, nationality, age, etc)

Unsure if this actually makes the process more fair. A lot of job seekers probably don't want all of their history carried with them. A previous employer that could've been a bad fit could ruin your future if you don't have a clean slate.

Being a candidate-centric platform, we give candidates the ability to choose who advocates on their behalf. We also do not require that candidates share references from every experience, knowing that sometimes candidates are uncomfortable with their current employer knowing that they are job-searching.

We also understand that everyone's ideal work environment is different. We ask a specific question related to which environments and work styles can set a particular candidate up for success.

Recently went through a process where references were needed. One of my references shared what was asked, and one of those was "what is person X's biggest weakness". There was an indication that submissions without answering that question would be discounted entirely.

I looked at your sample report, and it seems very much like an expanded "linkedin", where it's just about the positives. Knowing - honestly - where someone is weak will help avoid bad fits.

I've been a reference for a couple of folks recently, and I always ask the person calling what the style of the role in question is. Person X might be a great person and capable of XYZ, but only with support/oversight from a more senior person. If the role is expecting them to be self sufficient, and I know they need oversight, I'd try to push that. Me just saying "oh yeah, they're great", or only talking about the positives doesn't really help as much as a full set of questions which also include honest downsides/weaknesses.

Here in the UK, while it's not actually illegal to give someone a bad reference, no employer does because an inaccurate reference is grounds for legal action. You have to be able to provide evidence for everything you say. Consequently lots of employers only provide the dates you worked from and to and what your final salary was.

The fallout from someone not getting hired because the "honest downsides" were a bit too honest (or not honest enough) would not be pretty.

This is true everywhere in the sense that there's absolutely no upside to giving someone a bad references. About all you can do for someone terrible is confirm factual data and refuse to comment on any opinion based questions. The requester can't even interpret that as a negative endorsement because lots of companies only do the same thing for good candidates.

Thanks for that perspective. This is a challenge for reference checks in general, and we are cognizant about the legal implications as we develop our product.

I would never give negative feedback about a former employee to anyone ever. I have no guarantee that that information is private, and they could sue me for defamation or a whole host of other things if they found out, especially if it ended up causing them not to get a job. That's real damages.

If you give 'good' feedback that turns out to be wrong in some sense (or it turns out that someone thinks you exaggerated positively), and they hired someone who caused them material damage... would that scenario prevent you from giving good feedback?

But one is considered defamation/libel and can see you in court (at least in the UK) - the other is a slight inconvenience to a company you don't even work at.

Thanks for sharing. We allow references to decline a request for this reason. Also, by pulling references earlier in the process, we mitigate the causation between the feedback and a negative outcome.

> I looked at your sample report, and it seems very much like an expanded "linkedin", where it's just about the positives.

Thanks for pointing that out! Our sample is just an example and does not show the answers to questions about developmental areas.

> Me just saying "oh yeah, they're great", or only talking about the positives doesn't really help as much as a full set of questions which also include honest downsides/weaknesses.

That's great product feedback, thank you. Our questions do pull out these details, and we'll emphasize that more in the future. For example, our questions include: "What colleague would best complement this person" and "How would you help a future manager set this candidate up for success?"

Slippery slope here. Why precisely is past performance indicative of future performance beyond some very weak correlations? Analogously, is a person's last relationship truly indicative of their future mating potential?

I understand that /some/ people believe it to be so, but I believe it's wrong to move society towards this. We should be going in the opposite direction- that you are as good as what you are aspiring to and putting in the work to become tomorrow.

I think past performance of a human is generally pretty strong as an indicator.

It's rare (though possible) for someone to turn from a lazy, self-entitled dilettante into a hard-working ace coder. It's rare for someone to turn from an excellent coach and mentor into an insufferable bastard.

> It's rare (though possible) for someone to turn from a lazy, self-entitled dilettante into a hard-working ace coder.

Is it though? In my experience people are good at building things that they care about and bad at building things they don't care about.

If someone has been trapped working on sisyphean bullshit projects I would expect them to do much better on something they cared about, and the initial sorting of people into what they work on is often largely indiscriminate when it comes to what they care about, so I would expect there to be a significant percentage of people underperforming at their current job who would excel elsewhere.

I know at least personally, my job performance has fluctuated wildly depending on whether or not I cared about what I was supposed to do.

If you managed to incentivize me enough to get me to leave what I'm doing well now to go do something that I thought was rent seeking and deeply meaningless, I would most likely perform very poorly, and I've already had the opposite happen where I performed mediocrely in a boring area and then performed incomparably better when I got into doing things I cared about.

Our product centers around growth potential and the belief that every candidate is exceptional in their ideal environment. This means, that even if a reference believes a candidate did not have stellar prior performance, we ask referencers to contextualize their feedback and comment on how to set the candidate up for success in the future. This ties nicely with the example about romantic relationships - sometimes people just aren't right for each other at the time. But, prior rocky relationships are still great learning opportunities for what will work better for us the next time.

> You are as good as what you are aspiring to and putting in the work to become tomorrow

Yes, this is exactly what we believe!

Since we are talking about hiring and since this is a YC startup, having seeing other YC startups in this general area, I would caution people regarding using these services.

1)If employer 'X' invites me to platform 'Y', I should not have to accept 'Y' privacy policy. It is between 'X' and 'Y' and I do not have much choice except rejecting it outright.

2) Just because 'Y' has my email address does not mean, 'Y' can start sending me marketing mail (Hello Hacker rank?). I don't need your tips, suggestions and all that crap.

3) Don't use forums like triplebyte. You are better off talking to individual companies yourself. Triplebyte is basically a funnel to make YC companies' hiring more efficient. Lets say you failed triplebyte's interview/test and they share this info with company 'Y'. What will you do if 'Y' chooses to never call you for an interview again? Your potential companies list is now smaller, and worse you also don't know why!

4) Too many recruiting emails now track you through open rates. It is ok if Twilio sends me an email asking me for an exploratory call, but if they send my name, email, actively searching status to their "vendor" named eightfold.ai or searchlight.ai or to some random website called zen.sr, Its unacceptable. What if eightfold.ai or searchlight.ai also sells a product called "predict attrition". I don't want to be in trouble.

That's not an accurate description of Triplebyte, which isn't affiliated with YC beyond being funded by YC, just like numerous other startups trying to fix hiring have been. Presumably they work with tons of non-YC companies since they'd be dumb not to. (Also, I'd be shocked if they did the kind of data sharing you're talking about, because it sounds like a bad thing to do and also a dumb one). You might be thinking of YC's Work at a Startup program? That is a bit closer to what you describe, though hopefully not bad (or dumb) either!

Triplebyte is clean. I work at a non-YC and they don't share candidates who failed tests. We literally don't see them. And I prefer it this way. The other one would be a waste of time.

I agree they don't share today, but we don't know about the future. May be th get bought by someone who has different ideas.!

I said this as a reply, but I thought it warranted repeating.

I would never give negative feedback about a former employee to anyone ever. I have no guarantee that that information is private, and they could sue me for defamation or a whole host of other things if they found out, especially if it ended up causing them not to get a job. That's real damages.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. In fact every hiring manager I've ever talked to about this has said the same thing.

I think they only way I'd feel comfortable giving negative feedback is if you insured me against lawsuits due to my feedback, to the tune of many millions of dollars. And even though I'm not so sure I'd do it.

I hear your points. The feedback on Searchlight is kept private to the candidate, and only shared with employers the candidate has chosen.

> The feedback on Searchlight is kept private to the candidate...

Nothing is truly private in this day and age.

Quick counter-example, I get my friend at company X to offer me a job that is very similar to another job I actually want to see what the "private feedback" is so I can cherry pick which ones I should use.

Ah ok maybe I didn’t understand the process. So all my feedback goes to the candidate first? And they only choose to forward that on after they’ve reviewed it? In that case I’d probably be comfortable giving them the negative feedback.

As a consumer of your service, I’d be a little worried about the client only showing me the good stuff. But I guess if the questions are complex enough it would be hard to filter for only good stuff.

I don't think that's what they mean. Its hidden from the candidate and the candidate doesn't know whats in it - except from the result of that application. but only the candidate can decide which employers to show it to. Weird why I might want to show or not show references when I don't know what's in it.

I doubt this is defamation if your feedback is provided in private, and not broadcasted somewhere.

I’d love to see something like this for abusive bosses. I had a short stint with a manager who yelled at the team, said inappropriate things about my girlfriend, called at all hours, embarrassed teammates to the point of tears etc. I left early into the job, but 2 years later I still get emails from the team about fruitless stories trying to get HR to do something.

There should be a yelp for bad bosses so you can avoid these situations.

I see your wall of text, and raise you a wall of text:

I've started looking for a new job recently. I clicked the button on LinkedIn saying recruiters could contact me and have gotten over 100 incoming messages since Christmas. I'm not sure which buzzwords I have that are causing it. Many are junk, but not all. They all want a 'quick chat' to proceed. There are probably 20 I would talk to but getting started scheduling phone calls is going to be a huge pain given I have a software job that I do all day. Just responding to the 100 messages as "no thanks" or "let's schedule something" is going to take a day. I outsourced updating my resume and website, and am trying to get Hubspot working to set up a sales funnel (but that works horribly with linkedin email redirects, so not sure that's going to stick). I'm trying to get organized and would even pay for someone to actually represent me and help with logistics, but the 3rd party recruiting industry is built around pleasing companies for money, never the candidate.

So I'm not sure recruiters and hiring managers need more coddling and new tools to target candidates. They already have the candidates out-gunned by a few orders of magnitude. And they have resources (and their own time) to deal with their pipeline. I don't. Maybe they could spend a little time and effort differentiating themselves? Cuz these job ads all look the same, and they all think they're doing me a favor for allowing me to be considered for an interview. If they are getting a lot of resumes that look the same, maybe that's a signal about themselves and not about the overall population of developers looking for jobs?

And as for getting my past employers to provide recommendations... They are all hiring. It seems crass to ask them to write me a recommendation while making it clear I don't want my old job back. The time to ask for the recommendation would have been when I was working there.

I think if you go to peers who you trust from old roles there should be no awkwardness in asking for a rec. However, I totally empathize with every company seeming similar when you're an applicant. It's hard to get a sense of the intangibles of a workplace until you actually work there. That's something I'd like to see a startup tackle


Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with the job search. Great to hear that you're getting a lot of inbound interest.

> So I'm not sure recruiters and hiring managers need more coddling and new tools to target candidates.

At Searchlight, we don't help companies target candidates. Rather, we help them surface the best candidates within their applicant pool.

> This made us think - why are we ignoring the the perspectives of people who actually know what it's like to work with a candidate?

Because saying negative things about a past employee can cause you to become liable for libel or slander.

The legal aspect is another interesting part of this problem. We have reviewed the legal statutes by state and our terms and conditions make sure our references comply with the law. We require that our references give their feedback without malice and to the best of their knowledge.

That won't stop a former employee from suing me though. I might win the case, but I'd still have to pay a fortune to defend myself.

Yeah, my business law professor told the entire class to just never give references period. There is no gain, and everything to lose.

Even saying positive things like 'Employee X was fantastic; she was really good at Y' can be grounds for libel. The employee will claim standing based on the fact that, by saying she was good at 'Y' and not 'Z' (which is what the employer really wanted), it was libel by omission.

This is a good point about reference checks in general.

In my opinion, the only two entities that should be involved in the process is the employer and the candidate. Adding more human elements will I think increase potential for abuse (favoritism) and in my opinion single out more extroverted people who have more references and whom they know will say positive things about them. Contrived example; extremely introverted developer who cant make friends and would never ask for references due to various reasons (shyness, anxiety, apathy). He will not benefit from this because he has no references to begin with even if he is a brilliant engineer.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It's hard to build a product that suits everyone, but we try to be as inclusive as possible. In your example, the introverted engineer probably has standard professional relationships with a manager and/or a direct report that he can invite to speak to his capabilities.

I hear your opinion that a hiring process should stay between the employer and the candidate. Unfortunately, the reality is that most hiring processes today depend on a more human element, like a referral. We hope to make it possible for people without this access can also gather support around their candidacy.

Honestly this product discriminates against tons of people and would make the hiring process much worse. I hope it doesn't succeed as I believe this product would make the world a worse place.

I have an anxiety condition, this would be awful for me, for others with anxiety conditions, for introverts, for people with families, for people who care more about work than about networking.

I disagree that most hiring depends on referrals. I recently did a job search and didn't use any referrals. I have anxiety about posting an anonymous comment on a board to a stranger I have never met and don't care anything about. I can't just invite my manager to speak about my capabilities. Also what if my manager was toxic?

Replying again because this question occurred to me: At what point in the hiring process do you expect these references to be used? If I'm a hiring manager getting ~200 applicants per opening, there's no way I'm reading ~2,000 of these references individually. But if I'm only requesting references for candidates who've passed the resume screening process, the bias in that part of the hiring process will remain. Will you provide tools for hiring managers to use NLP, etc., to allow for automated/aggregated reference-based screening?

Thanks for the question. Our process can plug in during the resume screen or after an initial screen. Once the references are completed, we provide high level summaries and recommendations for which candidates have the strongest fit for the position. This gives the hiring manager better data while still saving time. The full references are available if the hiring manager wants to dive deeper.

These recommendations are based on on both quantitative ratings and open-ended questions like working style and ideal environment. We do use tools to help automate the recommendation calculation, but also currently human QA because we want to get these recommendations right when we're early-stage.

I can find 10 people to say nearly anything I want them to on my behalf. Whatever the job requires, they will say I have it. Whatever competency is required, I nail it. Whatever cultural fit is required, I blend into it.

Taking my own example, the signal to noise would be difficult for an employer to separate from my own (equally glowing) LinkedIn profile.

The references submitted to Searchlight are saved and available for the candidate to use and share, and referencers are not asked to speak to a particular culture. This means that the references don't change per position, which makes sense because a candidate's top strengths/personality shouldn't change for every potential employer.

Best of luck! Just went through a lot of interviews with a number of engineering companies before finally settling on an offer, and can strongly agree a more human approach is sorely needed. I get that there is a strong fear of hiring under-qualified candidates, but the true cost is a loss of perspective on long-term hiring.

Thanks for sharing your experience. We've found the fear of hiring under-qualified candidates is one of the primary reasons why hiring managers screen out candidates without recognizable line items on their resume.

By re-humanizing this process and getting better data around a candidate, we hope that hiring managers will qualify more diverse candidates and think more long-term.

I have nothing useful to add, though I do have two things to praise.

First, your write up is excellent and you have a good story. I genuinely wish you the best.

And second, the way you have been responding to feedback here is absolutely incredible. I'm both humbled and inspired by it. Great work!

Keep kicking ass and best of luck!!

Thank you!!!

Isn't this like trying to solve the fake review problem, but for the hiring community? What differentiators does Searchlight bring to the table that would help it solve this problem, where countless bigger companies have failed?

I don't see anything in your literature that gives me confidence that your offering will be a game-changer.

Language like the following doesn't help:

> Our recommendations for strong candidates are based on a mix of quantitative factors like average ratings of core competencies, and qualitative factors like work style and environmental fit

Validating the references are a top priority for us. By anchoring the reference to a job context and verifying the referencer through work emails or Linkedin profiles, we hope to address most of the fake review problems. This is a feature that we will develop further as we grow.

I think it's great you are doing something different. What I will say is that for many jobs or contracts I have had, the performance report given in the middle would be extremely positive, but then at the end when we had a disagreement or I had decided there was a better opportunity, it would be negative because I was giving them extra work to replace me. I am sure I am not the only one.

So I think that you may have trouble getting really objective evaluations of performance.

Thanks for sharing your experience. That will help us with product development as we think about how to support other use cases when people request references, even when they're not actively job-seeking.

"We'd love to hear about your experiences in today's hiring process and if Searchlight would be helpful to you! Thanks for reading."

This isn't a "hair on fire" problem for me. Perhaps your report would nudge me towards interviewing 1-in-5 candidates who I would have otherwise rejected at CV screen. If I want to judge past performance, I'll interview them.

Good luck!

Thanks for the feedback! We find that Searchlight is most helpful for hiring managers who are time-strapped and have high inbound applicants. We realize that this may lean more towards non-technical, early to mid-level roles more so than engineers.

I'm the type of candidate you describe, I think. I'm concerned. Does the average hiring manager wants a good candidate or a candidate who makes him look good? The way I see it, it's mostly the former, even with people I respect for their honesty. How can you make a hiring manager want a good candidate -- assuming he unconsciously think this is not the best option? I have a partial answer: every single one of my managers got promoted, mostly because of my results. In the long term, good employees are obviously better for everybody but the fool doesn't know it. Which makes me think that, when they got promoted, that's when I want them to talk about me and capture that in your thing.

A manager promotion, maybe, is a key moment. Because at that moment, some will think twice before forgetting the guys who got them promoted. At that moment, I wish I could have got to them with your form.

Thanks for sharing! We think more about capturing reference feedback outside of the active job-seeking context.

This is very cool, shared with my team. I am worried about bias in the results questionnaire - both biased against and biased towards the candidate. How do you plan to avoid extremely damaging and false information from getting in? One bad review is now a black spot on a candidate. Dipping into black-mirror rating territory...

Thanks for sharing! You've hit on one of the reasons why this problem is interesting/hard.

We hold referencers accountable by tying them to a specific work context and we ask them specific questions about the candidate's unique work style and abilities. We emphasize having a growth mindset even when we ask referencers to share one of the candidate's development areas. All referencers provide their contact information for follow up and therefore are discouraged against writing false information.

Since we know references are generally positively skewed, we give references who don't want to advocate for a candidate the opportunity to decline. We mitigate black spots on a candidate by positively-framing our questions and then contextualizing the answers for that specific work environment.

We absolutely do not want Searchlight to become a black-mirror rating system. None of the references are public except to employers that the candidate gives permission to.

From what I read you invite people to comment, so you would only invite people who would speak to your strengths. This still leaves positive bias but that's inherent in reference checks because you choose the reference.

You would imagine this to be the case, but I've definitely been asked to serve as a reference by people who should have no rational reason to think I'd be able to speak positively about their employment. In those situations, I've always declined, indicating I was not comfortable and suggested that they use HR instead to validate their dates of employment here.

Thanks for sharing your approach. We give references on Searchlight the option to decline for this reason.

It's true that references are inherently positively skewed. However, with the right questions, references still provide invaluable information in understanding the candidate's working style, ideal environment, and primary strengths. One of the benefits that Searchlight provides to the companies who use us is to parse these answers on the good-to-great spectrum. We've been excited by the range of feedback that comes back - not every reference is a ringing endorsement. References have been willing to provide development areas and tips for future managers, because no one is perfect!

I'm not saying references aren't useful, I'm merely pointing out the bias in contrast to the person I was replying to. The concern that people will leave negative reviews is more dependent on the applicant's judgement of character.

Last week I had an epiphany about why I do so bad in interviews. Lately I have been getting into playing holdem poker online, and I decided to go to a live casino and see how that would feel.

While there I was as stressed as I am during an interview. When I got into a hand and one of the players raised my bet, I found myself unable to do the basic arithmetic operation of subtracting my initial bet from his raise to figure out how much more I should add to the pot. Even when I was told the amount from the dealer, I was still unable to calculate how many chips that would be.

The feeling was exactly like the one I have when interviewing, my brain is so stunned that is unable to do any thinking at all.

> This disadvantages people who aren't good at promoting themselves, or don't like to, and these are often the best candidates!


> Job-seekers can invite as many advocates as they want to speak to their accomplishments and capabilities (some invite as many as 10!). The references share feedback like specific examples of how the candidate demonstrated desired competencies and how future managers can set the candidate up for success.

Why do you think folks who aren't good at self-promotion would be adept at inviting advocates to speak to their achievements? Moreover, LinkedIn has a 'recommendations' feature to cover this.

Giving references is an established part of the hiring process, so we believe that folks who don't want to promote themselves in other ways will be comfortable giving their references to their prospective employers earlier. Reference feedback collected on Searchlight is not public.

Isn't that biased too? You always have some people who think you're good at your job and some people who think you're not. A job-seeker would only seek recommendations from people s/he believes think highly of them.

How do you plan on handling "voting rings" where people all vouch for each other?

We're aware of this possibility, and we flag it to the candidates and the employers.

The problem with systems like this is that your success rate is based on quantity of data, and not quality. The more data you have on a candidate, the more likely that candidate will move forward. This shifts the focus from knowing the job, to polishing your profile.

Simply put, your "performance gauge" as a programmer is directly correlated to your knowledge and expertise, NOT to how well you are at updating your profile and recommendations.

To me this is primary problem of hiring websites at the moment. It creates a sort of game that you can then get better at (but which I don't care for, and unfortunately creating a disadvantage for myself).

From the references that have come through our system, we’ve seen that quantity doesn’t outweigh quality. We’ll make sure that this stays true as we grow. Our goal is to elevate candidates who aren’t self-promotional through the feedback collected on Searchlight.

I don't use LinkedIn, but I know it has a feature called "endorsements" that does materially the same thing as this, and my understanding is that those endorsements aren't taken all that seriously. What makes these more credible?

Also, looking at your landing page, it looks like this is company-driven, not candidate driven (that is, I send my resume to the company, which sends it to Searchlight). If I'm in the early stages of the interview process for a company, and they request that I invite a bunch of former coworkers to endorse me on a platform I've barely heard of, there's basically 0 chance that I'll be continuing the application process.

We've heard from hiring managers that since LinkedIn endorsements are public and not contextualized, it's hard to understand endorsers' motivation and honesty. Searchlight references are private (hidden to the candidate but viewable to employers that candidates give permission to), tied to a specific work experience and specific work relationship, and ask specific questions.

Regarding our landing page, that's a great point! We are a candidate driven product, but we are first focused on employer adoption. That adds legitimacy to our platform when Searchlight reaches out to candidates. In the future, we plan to allow candidates to initiate the Searchlight process themselves - we have already gotten requests from current Searchlight candidates to build this feature.

I hear your hesitation to provide references early. It's a new hiring approach. But we've seen that with our positive messaging and candidate engagement process, candidates see Searchlight as an opportunity to stand out. We try to minimize the burden on candidates and references by saving the answers so references don't have to do it again. As our credibility grows over time, we hope that everyone will feel comfortable making a Searchlight profile.

What measures do you have to prevent a candidate and their reference from collaborating and sharing information resulting in the linkedin status quo? Why can't I just say to a reference to give me access to their searchlight account and write my own? Why can't I say to somebody "Hey, I'll write my endorsement, you can write yours, and we will post eachothers endorsements on our own account"

Furthermore how do you distinguish between a high quality endorser giving accurate information about candidates and a low-quality endorser trading favors to bolster their own number of endorsements? Currently on linkedin I can see somebodies endorsements which can raise red flags about them "trading favors". How will searchlight provide a similar ability to scrutinize endorsers?

When writing recommendations, I prefer it if the subject writes the first draft. I won’t lie, but that way they can choose what they want to emphasize or deemphasize.

Great question. We get the referencer’s contact information, their position and work title, and require that they agree to a follow up with employers. We are developing features for real time identity verification, like 2-step auth with work emails.

The experience and knowledge of the referencer factors into how we calculate the strength of the recommendation.

Isn't that just a game of numbers? The more references the more legitimacy - I'm not sure one could ask favors from that many relevant and impactful references

Some day you may want to look into the impact of privacy legislation such as GDPR when it comes to your position of "Searchlight references are private (hidden to the candidate but viewable to employers that candidates give permission to)".

IANAL, but I have spent many unpleasant days reviewing GDPR and I think it's likely that such data is the candidate's personal data and they are allowed to see it.

California has its own version of the GDPR known as the CCPA that is probably more immediately relevant.


Also, I'd imagine there would be a huge defamation liability.

Came here to say this; don't try to operate in the EU.

Thank you for the pointer!

This space is gigantic and there is plenty of room for multiple solutions.

As others have pointed out, LinkedIn recommendations are public, which skews their content, and they are also subject to recommendation trading and general puffery.

Other interesting players are people like Xref (https://xref.com/) who automate the reference process - though to respond to your objections, these platforms are used later on in the process (e.g. on short-listing).

Many HR technologies are struggling to solve the problem you have highlighted.

They want to move from a per-employer solution ("Now that we're about to hire you, please give us 3 references") to an industry standard model ("you'll need to have a Searchlight profile to apply for this job - its a small hassle but you only have to do it once, then you can use it at any of the other jobs you'll be applying for").

Anyone who cracks that code stands a chance of becoming the next mini-LinkedIn.

> This space is gigantic and there is plenty of room for multiple solutions.

My concern is that references are a poor signal in general, not that LinkedIn has a monopoly on them. I don't request or look at references, and I haven't provided references to a potential employer since I was in high school.

We agree that reference checks as they are done today at the end of the hiring process are under-leveraged. With Searchlight, we believe that we can make them much more useful.

Why do you believe that? There are a number of problems with references, and bias (both positive and negative) is perhaps the most difficult to overcome.

> those endorsements aren't taken all that seriously

I've only ever heard them mentioned in a work situation in the context of endorsing people for bogus things (like a hard-core C/C++ programmer for PHP and Visual Basic).

You can get endorsed for murder. It's supposed to be for lawyers who specialize in murder cases, but the tag just says "murder". I currently have three endorsements for murder.

Now I have to get this.

Yep. I've been endorsed for "Fierce Conversations", "Bees", and "Potatoes".

Hmmm....maybe I should make a LinkedIn. Think our DBAs will appreciate it if I endorse them for Visio?

Many employers, including mine, have "no reference" policies in place (its a legal thing). It's this an issue you've encountered?

We haven't run into many causes where a referencer's employer has a "no reference" policy. Our terms and conditions has language that the reference's opinion does not reflect their employer, but we will continue thinking about this as we develop our product.

In 1016 I worked for https://workgrades.com. This sounds pretty similar.

Did you go to work with your horse in 1016?

PS: I know that I'm probably getting downvoted for this, but sometimes we also need to have fun on here, no?

What was software like in the 11th century? GWBasic?

Thanks for sharing!

Can't go back from: https://www.searchlight.ai/candidate/login by pressing the back button, redirects me back to the same page.

Sorry to hear about the trouble! We'll address that soon.

Who "owns" my recommendations? In other words, once someone gives me a recommendation can I send it to whomever whenever I want or does a company have to pay to see it?

Candidates can invite other employers to view their Searchlight recommendations. We haven't yet decided on the revenue model for this use case.

There's probably mutually exclusive options here. Either I can send my recommendations to anyone or recommendations stay private. If I can send them to anyone, I can send them to myself and read the report.

Is it just me or is the site not loading for anyone else?

This sounds like a recipe for being sued. You're maintaining a record based on potential libel and slander.

The "sample" button at the bottom doesn't work.

Sorry to hear you're having trouble - it should work now

Wait aren't Resumes just statements of past performances? Also where does A.I. come into this? By having a .ai domain you're clearly advertising to have a Machine Learning product of some sort.

Resumes are statements of past performances, and our mission at Searchlight is to help candidates gather support around these statements.

AI helps us analyze the references, and will be developed more as we grow.

Love it! We'll try it out :)

This is what references are for.

Clickable link: https://www.searchlight.ai

Fixed above. Thanks!

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