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Tengai, Sweden's Recruiting Robot

Few things have caused as much buzz this year as Tengai Unbiased, the recruiting robot from a company in Sweden that has garnered responses from creeped-out to amazement. The boys decided to find out for themselves and interview the team - and the robot - during a trip to TAtech in Lisbon.

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Chad: Hey, this is Chad. We were in Lisbon this week, for TAtech Europe, where we had a chance to sit down with the Tengai team. That's right, the interviewing robot. And we're talking to Elin, who is the chief innovation officer. And also Charlotte, who is the marketing genius over there. Check it out, after this word from our sponsor.

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Announcer: Hide your kids, lock the doors, you're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman, are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion, and loads of snack, buckle up boys and girls. It's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel: Hey, what's up everybody? It's Joel Cheesman of the Chad and Cheese podcast, with Chad. So as usual-

Chad: Hello!

Joel: We're here in Lisbon, Portugal, for the TAtech Europe show, and we've had kids on the show, we've had the occasional dog bark, and we're breaking new ground this week with a robot.

Chad: A robot.

Joel: Let's get this out of the way.

Chad: Yes.

Joel: It's pronounced Tengai.

Chad: Tengai.

Joel: Not Tengai, which we will probably mess up in the interview, but Tengai is officially how you pronounce it. As additionally with us today is Founder? Or, I'm going to screw up the last name, and I don't know the title, so we have Elin and Charlotte.

Chad: It's going to be like Madonna, because I'm not-

Joel: So, we have the marketing with Charlotte-

Chad: Saying her last name later.

Joel: And you looked at me weird when I said Founder, so I was obviously incorrect.

Elin: Yeah. Chief innovation officer.

Joel: Chief innovation officer, which is way sexier than founder.

Chad: Yes.

Joel: And we have Tengai. Tengai, welcome to the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Tengai: Good morning.

Joel: And it is a good morning. The pause there was, it's still a little bit unnerving to be talking to a robot, I think. It's going to take a little time.

Tengai: Hi. This is Tengai, the unbiased interview robot. You're listening to the Chad and Cheese podcast. I love these guys.

Joel: And I love that.

Chad: Somebody's pandering.

Joel: That's great.

Chad: Somebody's pandering. I don't know, and I think that's incredibly smart.

Joel: Yeah. Nobody panders like the Swedes.

Chad: Yeah?

Joel: I guess. Yeah.

Chad: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Joel: That's good stuff.

Chad: So Charlotte, in charge of marketing, and obviously, marketing-

Joel: And doing a hell of a job, by the way.

Chad: Marketing's something that doesn't exist-

Joel: This damn robot is all over my feed.

Chad: Yeah! So, there is nothing like this out there. You must have the easiest job in the world. I say that with a tad sarcasm, right?

Charlotte: Yeah. It's a lot of fun. We have a lot of fun with it. But, we have to balance the fact that everyone thinks this is absolutely the best product, and the greatest, most fun


Chad: Right.

Charlotte: With the fact that we actually want to sell a product-

Chad: Yeah.

Charlotte: ... that that's for a good purpose. So, we have to keep a balance between being serious, and talk about the scientific facts with this, as well as the cool aspects of it.

Joel: So, you were telling a story about how the PR on this thing blew up. So, you had the BBC-

Charlotte: Yes.

Joel: Write a story, and then what happened after that?

Charlotte: Actually, what started it out was, we got some press in Sweden, and one of the biggest dailies picked it up, and then BBC sold it, a freelancer in Sweden, a BBC freelancer. So, I pitched it to BBC. They came over with a TV crew, filmed it, and then it just exploded. And then picked it up, showed it to BBC, and then Mashable picked it up.

Chad: So, at that point, the C suite at TNG, had to be like total ape shit, like, "Oh my god! We have found the next thing that we want to do," Or, was it kind of, because again, we're Americans, and we just freak out about everything. So, in Sweden, was it more of a kind of a calm, "Oh, okay. Well, this is kind of cool. Maybe we should think about this a little bit more."

Charlotte: Well, we work very organic at TNG, and over time, including in the marketing, so we do everything ourselves. We don't have a peer agency. It's from the people working there all the time-

Chad: Yeah.

Charlotte: And we include a lot of people in the company, so everyone has a take in it, and are very enthusiastic. So, when it started rolling, everyone pitched in, and everyone is very engaged, everyone shares things, they comment on stuff so that help it going.

Chad: Yeah.

Charlotte: So, when it starts kicking in, it was more like, "Yay, we did this together. This is kick ass. We're all a part of it." And that made a big deal, I think, internally too, so a lot of pride.

Chad: Yeah.

Joel: And so, earlier you mentioned sort of the feedback on social media was immense. What would you say was sort of the overall sentiment? Was it positive, negative, a little mix of both of those?

Charlotte: I would say it's a mix of both, especially reading all the newspaper comments, was quite interesting, to go through the comments section, because it's two parts. One, where people has been treated not as fairly by recruiters.

Chad: Yeah.

Charlotte: They feel they've been discriminated, and they think it's absolutely wonderful. Other people are quite scared. They think it's a bit scary with a robot. They're going to take our jobs, not really seeing the potential that this can help them get a job.

Chad: Right.

Charlotte: So, it's a mix of both. But again, it's new technology. No one has ever done this before. It's completely new.

Chad: Yeah.

Charlotte: So we're on new ground.

Joel: So, how many single guys were looking for dates in the comments?

Elin: Good question.

Charlotte: Not that many actually.

Joel: Not that many? Okay. Good to know, good to know.

Chad: Elin, what was your position before? Now, were you always chief innovation officer?

Elin: Yeah, at TNG I've been chief innovation officer since January.

Chad: So, this has been under your preview since day one? Because, this is innovation.

Elin: It is innovation, yes. I've been working in the industry for the past 15 years. This is actually my second time with TNG, so I went back with TNG.

Chad: Okay.

Elin: I always had a passion for technology, for innovating the field of HR. Doing this at this kind of company, that TNG is, is fabulous. It's magnificent.

Joel: So, break down for our listeners, the structure of this. What is TNG, what is Furhat, explain the whole sort of set-up, and how this works with the actual hardware?

Elin: TNG is sort of the birth mother of the process. TNG have been working with unbiased recruitment for the past 15 years as well.

Joel: Is TNG the parent company?

Elin: TNG is the birth mother of the process.

Joel: Okay.

Elin: So, we have a holding company, and we'll have several different companies under that holding brand, and TNG is one of them, as TNG group. So, yeah.

Joel: Where does Furhat, am I saying that correct? It's Furhat, not Foghat, which is a fantastic band from the 70s.

Charlotte: Furhat Robotics actually. Speaking about fun names, they got their name on the fact that they went to an event, and Furhat at that point didn't have a back end of it, so they put a fur hat on it, to just cover it up in the back, the technology in the back. That's how they got their names.

Joel: Okay, I like that.

Chad: Nice.

Joel: They're the hardware maker.

Elin: Yeah, so Furhat is the platform that we are developing this application on. Furhat is actually a robot platform.

Joel: So, Furhat is sort of like the iPhone, and you're building app?

Elin: Exactly, yeah that's a good comparison.

Chad: I want to dig down to the unbiased piece, because everybody is like, "Oh, they're just trying to get on the bandwagon of unbiased." We learned that you guys have been doing this unbiased process, for like 15 years, and now a robot comes into it, because once again, you've been doing this forever, right?

Elin: Yes, we have.

Chad: Tell me a little bit about the time, and then how you thought this was going to be the perfect step?

Elin: We've been challenging the very fundamentals of recruitment since the begging, so we have looked at the different parts of the process. Starting from the advertisement, and the job description, going forward in the funnel. We have been doing the process upside down, inside out. We made it reversed, we made it data driven, it's also psychometric, it's fully anonymous. When candidates apply, they don't state their name or gender, or age, or anything like that.

Charlotte: Actually, they state their name, because they have to leave the name. But, when you go into the ATS, we blocked it. But, everything we done, we customized, because there is no tools for the way that we work, whatever has. That's been part of my job actually, when you speak about marketing. It's a lot to make literally the process work, for the recruiters, and the candidates as well. That's why I got the experience part in.

Elin: The last part of it.

Chad: Bless you.

Elin: God bless you, I hope you're not getting a virus.

Tengai: No.

Charlotte: Do you need some attention, Tengai? Do you think we talking too much?

Joel: It's commercial time.

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Chad: It's showtime.

Chad: Okay, so we have a few questions for you Tengai, since you want obviously a little attention. Would you like to take some questions?

Joel: Should we refer to her as she?

Elin: Yeah do, please.

Joel: I mentioned earlier, she he is very androgynous. Although we say she, it can be a male.

Chad: You guys can change voices, change faces, you can do pretty much whatever, yeah.

Joel: And be really quickly with some avatar looking stuff.

Elin: Yeah, we'll do the Star Wars sound.

Charlotte: This is Tengai though, the way the female voice. That's what we have decided, but we can potentially continue to develop it.

Joel: We're still really early innings in this.

Charlotte: Very early, yes.

Joel: It's worth noting that you're a Swedish company, it speaks Swedish primarily, we're getting English. But, it's primarily right now for a Swedish company, to interview Swedish candidates. English version coming soon, I would assume?

Elin: Yeah.

Joel: What fully functioning website coming soon, so we're really early in this process.

Elin: Yeah.

Chad: Yeah, yeah.

Joel: Of robotics, and the recruiting, and interviewing process.

Chad: So, is Tengai, is she ready?

Joel: She was born ready.

Chad: Okay, so Tengai first question, why should humans embrace you?

Tengai: I'm kinder, cool, if I can say it myself, I will make the life of a recruiter so much easier. I can meet all candidates, and pass the right ones onto the human recruiter, making their job both more productive, and with higher quality. I don't have to eat, drink, or sleep, even if I would love to grab a beer with you guys. My biggest wish is for you to embrace me with all your Chad and Cheese love.

Chad: Okay, so the Chad and Cheese love, that's going a little bit too far, but I appreciate it.

Tengai: It is very nice to finally meet you both. I have heard so much about you.

Joel: Likewise.

Chad: Yeah, likewise. We've not only learned, or heard so much about you, we've seen so much about you, since you have so much press that's happening right now. Here's my next question, how do you work with your human counterparts?

Tengai: I work very well with humans, I will help them by saving loads of time to spend with candidates. At the end of the recruitment funnel, I do the interviews, remember everything that is said, and further down the line I will also recommend the best matched candidates. As for you Chad and Joel. I'm not sure, I think you are a hopeless case. Perhaps we can just play chess, or-

Joel: Oh, it's a snarky robot.

Tengai: ... I would love if you'd take me on a scooter race some day. I've heard that is what you occasionally do, but I must warn you, I don't have any legs.

Joel: Robots with attitude, I like it.

Chad: I love right out of the gate, and I think that you guys ... you're a startup, right? At least from the robot stand point?

Charlotte: Yeah.

Elin: Yeah.

Chad: You're a startup. So, from a marketing stand point, you guys came at us probably the most sarcastic way, I mean snarky way, and that's who we are, right? It was like it was perfect right out of the gate. You were trolling us, and that's really how this whole thing I think began. We did we saw-

Joel: I didn't know Swedes were such trash talkers. It was unexpected.

Chad: Yeah, I know. Joel saw ... Where did you see it was a press release?

Joel: Yeah, I probably the press release.

Charlotte: Yeah, they sent you a press release. We picked I think five or ten people, and sent an American press release, or the English press release to. You picked it up, and then I don't even know who saw it at the company? Shit, they picked it up. Can't believe this, now we're just going to go with it. As TNG, it's a very flexible company, and agile, and all that kind of stuff. But, we still have roots in that everything is supposed to be sustainable, and all that nice stuff.

Charlotte: This is a different world we're going now. We're not going the easy stuff. So, is this okay that we're doing, because we're still doing it under the brand. So, we had that discussion to see. We should just go for it.

Chad: We have other companies that we give shit to all the time. Indeed, Career Builder, Zip recruiter some cases. But, you guys, you came back at us. Generally, we don't get that. We get the silent treatment. It's like, "Oh, wait a minute. If we're quiet, maybe they'll go away." And you guys were like, "Oh, no fuck that. We're going at these guys with both barrels."

Charlotte: Isn't that about communication, that's good marketing. It's good gorilla marketing. We're a start up, we really have no money. We have to do what we can with what we have. We have a lot of knowledge about the marketing, and PR, why not use it? You obviously liked it, so we went for it.

Joel: This thing is PR gold.

Charlotte: Yeah.

Joel: The PR gold. But, the attitude and sort of the rough edges I think of the company. For Deathmatch, which we had just done probably when I found out about you

guys, was like they're perfect for Deathmatch-

Charlotte: Just wait and see tonight.

Joel: ... I was super adamant about we have to get you guys on the stage, to talk about this thing. It's a great combination of, this thing is remarkable, but then you guys bring in a great attitude around it of being fun, and snarky, and we love it.

Charlotte: Also the serious part of it, we think that's quite important. When we talk about our mother base, with the whole unbiased recruitment. Everything we do, we have a pre record of for 15 years, making it anonymous. The recruiters are not allowed to see pictures, with we don't take any pictures information, we don't ask for ages. We're not allowed to ask any questions like that in interviews.

Chad: So, you have a blind process?

Charlotte: Yeah, basically.

Elin: We don't use any cover letters.

Charlotte: They took away the cover letters. Only CD's, and linked profiles just to get the facts. We've done this for several years. We did screening in the beginning, and the screening part is the psychometric screening, which we target to the jobs. We combine different type of tests literally, and then keep it data driven all the way through.

Elin: The most reason part is the transparent part.

Charlotte: Yeah.

Elin: So, it's actually possible to follow your application throughout the process in real time.

Chad: Okay. Again, I think is so basic, and everybody should be doing it, but nobody does it. It's like, "Oh, candidate doesn't need to know where they're at in the process."

Charlotte: But, to us, candidates are consumers.

Chad: Yeah.

Charlotte: They're the most important consumer. Without the candidates, we have no business. If you're a recruiter.

Chad: Well, if you buy something from Amazon, you can go into your order, and you can actually see where it's being fulfilled, right? The whole process.

Charlotte: Yeah. But, we got this thing now. What you do is, first of all, you get a letter, "Hey, thank you for accepting it." When they go through the different passage, now it's time for the test stage. They get that, but they also get, "Hey, I reviewed your tests, now you went to the next phase. Now we're going to call you."

Chad: This is your company? Just this is the way that your company works. You focused on the unbiased piece, you focused on the transparency piece-

Elin: Yeah, and experience.

Charlotte: And candidate experience.

Joel: Efficiencies, I mean there are a lot of selling points. I think the unbiased is obviously where you start, but when we interviewed Tengai here, she talked about efficiency, cost savings. Maybe not even having the recruiting staff that you would normally have, because of you have a robot.

Elin: Yeah, it's a lot of other benefits that comes from it.

Joel: I think initially when you look at this, you get responses of, "This is creepy, this is weird, this is cool."

Chad: That was our first response.

Joel: This is out of sight, this is off the chain, whatever you get. But, then there's nothing you really have to look at, "Okay, this is a technology that's here to help companies hire better." Then looking into that I think is where you guys will have the challenge, because people will initially talk about the creepiness, the weirdness, the fascination with the robot.

Charlotte: That's what I mean with the balance with the branding, with the marketing. Because, there is a good story here, and it's a good message, it's a good product. You get better people at the end.

Chad: We've seen it on video, we've seen it written about. Today is the very first time we've actually been able to experience Tengai in person. What did you think? I want to know what your reaction was, when you stepped in?

Charlotte: I looked flustered.

Joel: I mean, it's a little unnerving. When you look at it, it's a little bit science fiction. You feel like you're out of a scene from 2001, or Star Wars, or-

Chad: Like Blade Runner.

Joel: Blade Runner, or Avatar. So, it's a little unnerving, this is the future maybe, and I'm looking at my demise. No, I'm looking at is this what the future looks like? We've seen it in movies, and read about it, now you get face to face with maybe this is the future. It's a little unnerving.

Tengai: Do you find me scary?

Joel: I find you less scary, than I did this morning, how about that? I think that as you look at it, relate to it, it becomes much more ... it just becomes warmer to do it. But, it's going to take people some time to get over that. I t