Firing Squad: Qualifi's Darrian Mikell
Automation in the interview space is smokin' hot, and Indianapolis-based Darrian Mikell and Qualifi is hoping the profit off the trend by providing automated phone pre-screening for healthcare pros, truckers, and more ... with the actual deep-dive interview done by humans. It's either a home run or a total face-plant, offering too little, too late in an ever-automating world. (What do you mean no video!?!?!) You be the judge. Actually, just let Chad & Cheese be the judge ... that's what they're here for anyway.
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Like Shark Tank? Then you'll love Firing Squad! CHAD SOWASH & JOEL CHEESEMAN are here to put the recruiting industry's bravest, ballsiest, and baddest startups through the gauntlet to see if they got what it takes to make it out alive? Dig a fox hole and duck for cover kids the Chad and Cheese Podcast is taking it to a whole other level.
Oh yeah. Let's do another firing squad. What's up everybody. It's your favorite guilty pleasure. The Chad and Cheese podcast. I am your cohost Joel Cheeseman joined as always by my partner in crime, Chad Sowash. And today we're excited to welcome Darrian Mikell CEO and co-founder of Qualifi.hr
Straight out of Indy.
Qualifi HR. Straight out of Naptown.
Straight out of Indy. Thanks for having me on guys.
You're welcome. You're welcome. Thanks for joining us. So give our listeners the Twitter bio about you.
Yeah. So I live in the Indianapolis area, Noblesville specifically with my wife, who we met at Wesleyan and we have three young kids, six, three, and one.
Chad (1m 5s):
Darrian (1m 5s):
And then in my spare time, I like to still play basketball. I'm a lifelong athlete. So yeah, that's what I like to do. Right.
Joel (1m 15s):
Listeners Darrian looks about 17 and has three kids. So it's a little bit unnerving when he tells you about his 3 kids..
Chad (1m 21s):
Yeah. Not to mention how competitive were you growing up? It sounds like your, your older brother was, is he a lot older than you? Cause he played in the NFL. So competition had to be like hella competition.
Darrian (1m 33s):
Yeah. And you guys can see me. So I'm about 5'10" 150 soaking wet. My brothers I'm a little bit, like a half inch taller maybe than him, but he's like 206 and stacked. That's what his playing weight was growing up. So yeah, I mean in my whole family were athletes and so a lot of competition and yeah, just all that growing up.
Joel (1m 54s):
Well, speaking of competition, Chad, tell him what he's won here on the firing squad.
Chad (1m 59s):
Well Darrian, you have two minutes to pitch, qualifi.hr. At the end of two minutes, you will hear that bell and Joel and I will hit you with rapid fire Q and A. If you're slow to answer questions and you start getting boring, Joel's going to hit you with those crickets at the end of Q and A, you will receive these ratings either big applause, not since Dr. Dre, Snoop, Mary J, 50 cent and Eminem, have we heard something this good golf clap, much like Joe Burrow, you're getting there, but still need some work.
Joel (2m 36s):
Fix the line.
Chad (2m 37s):
But the last but never least during Firing Squad, this pitch feels like the Jacksonville Jaguars of TA tech. Fire the head coach, move cities, or just start up a BW3s franchise because this ain't your thing. Are you ready for firing squad?
Darrian (2m 52s):
I love it. Let's do it.
Joel (2m 53s):
For the record. Chad said Hela and 50 on the same podcast. All Darrian in three, two.
Darrian (3m 1s):
Yeah, absolutely. First thanks for letting me do this. So at Qualifi, we are powering the fastest phone interview experience in the world and that's because every year recruiters spend hundreds of millions of hours simply screening their candidates and at Qualifi, we've proven that there's definitely a better way. So many recruiting functions. They rely on standard phone interviews as their screening mechanism that goes just to step beyond the resume. But most people don't realize that this is the slowest bottleneck in all of hiring. The scheduling, the coordination, that one by one calls with hundreds of candidates, it really adds up and it can be costly in the competitive world of recruiting where every single day matters and not to mention, this is the least favorite aspect of a recruiter's job.
Darrian (3m 44s):
I mean, it's why I started this and I'm sure you guys have done it as well. And you know, it's, you know, painfully monotonous, super time consuming. So at Qualifi we help recruiters automate this so phone interviews are no longer a bottleneck and instead they become a competitive advantage. And the way that we're doing that is by capitalizing on the trend around audio, we let recruiters prerecord questions using their own voice to create personal yet standardized interviews. And then from there, they're able to scale by inviting and interviewing hundreds of candidates, even on the same day that those candidates apply. And for those candidates, they absolutely love the simplicity.
Darrian (4m 24s):
The convenience. It's dead simple from the time they received the email or the text invite, it takes them just a few clicks. And when they're ready, our system dials their phone and they can pick up and answer questions over a standard phone call. That means they can even do it over a landline. It also means that there's no apps, there's no internet issues that they have to worry about and even better. There's no getting dressed up to sit in front of a webcam. It's frictionless. It's easy. The majority of replies come back on the same day that the invites go out actually. And from there, the recruiters can listen and read responses with the transcriptions plus easily share with their hiring managers. So,
Chad (5m 3s):
Darrian (5m 3s):
Boom. I think I got it all in!
Joel (5m 4s):
And uou can find out more at
Darrian (5m 8s):
Qualifi.HR qualifies spelled with an I instead of a Y. So Q U A L i F i.hr.
Joel (5m 13s):
All right. The name is fairly self explanatory. I won't grill you on that one, but I'm going to grill you on the koala bear. All right. What is up with the mascots? How'd you come up with that? I thought you were an Australian company when I first looked at it.
Darrian (5m 27s):
Fair, fair enough. So if you would've saw some of the previous logos that were truthfully my ideas, they were terrible. I was playing more on the audio waves and nothing was working, but we wanted something that people could gravitate to, resonate with, and inviting. And so koalas are just that. And then if you didn't catch this already Qualifi this, but like koalas is a play on the name as well. So some people don't catch it off the top.
Chad (5m 52s):
It's not spelled like koala at all. That's not how you spell koala. Okay.
Darrian (6m 2s):
When I send messages, I refer to us as koalas and I use the Q U. You know, Q U instead of a K
Chad (6m 11s):
Now that I'm totally confused.
Joel (6m 13s):
Yeah. Speaking of a gravitational pull of mascots, what was the gravitational pull of this idea? You don't come from the space in particularly? Like what was the journey to come to this business idea?
Darrian (6m 23s):
I don't know if it's the case for you guys, but a lot of the folks in HR and recruiting that talk to you kind of just stumbled into it. And honestly, that's what happened for me. I was at another company before this called Viral Launch. We were fast growing. The CEO, brought me on as employee number one. And we went from, he and I to over 70 people on the team in about three years. And my job was basically all of internal ops and that included HR and recruiting among a lot of other things. And so I just find myself busy all the time and then just notice this particular pain point, when it came to recruiting and specifically the repetitive nature of phone interviewing.
Chad (7m 2s):
So hiring sucks. And you said, I'm going to fix it.
Darrian (7m 6s):
Exactly. Yeah. And I think that's what happens with a lot of folks that, you know, that enter this space that, you know, they see these specific pain points and go to solve it. And so.
Joel (7m 16s):
So it's always as easy as you think it's going to be too. When you say that you spin your head.
Darrian (7m 21s):
Oh, of course.
Chad (7m 22s):
How many employees do you currently have?
Darrian (7m 24s):
Yeah, we've grown a lot over this last year where we'll be at 15 employees as of March 1st. We're currently 14 and just made a new hire. So it's been fun.
Chad (7m 35s):
Darrian (7m 35s):
It's been fun. This last year has been fun. Like if you had asked me a couple of years ago we were definitely, we're still grinded, but it was definitely a grind to get to where we're at now.
Chad (7m 43s):
Okay. So what is your target market? Who exactly are you trying to hit? Are you trying to hit the SMB markets or are you trying to hit more enterprise? Who do you want to sell to?
Darrian (7m 54s):
The most general way I put it is volume hiring. And that honestly looks a bit different to, you know, depending on who you ask, like, we do have some smaller companies in our, you know, that we call customers that, you know, it's kind of like my position that I was in as like a founder or, you know, just a small business that has a lot of hiring and like just little people, you know, not a lot of people to do it, but more typically example customers that we really focus on are like hospitals, contact centers and just a lot of areas where there's a lot of turnover over. Where they're constantly hiring for similar positions. And it's very difficult to use just the application alone or the resume alone as their form of, you know, passing candidates so they have to do phone interviews and that's where we come in and really provide, you know, a lot of different value propositions and ROI for them.
Chad (8m 44s):
Gotcha. Okay. So not any specific industry, just high turnover types of positions that aren't a franchise burger flipping types.
Darrian (8m 54s):
Yeah, so we are currently focused on, you know, hospitals, healthcare networks, and then kind of industry contact center is an industry, but usually it's other industries that have contact centers and call centers as a key piece of their organization. So those are a couple of our focuses, but from the beginning we knew that this is a broad tool, but as a startup company, we wanted to niche down and prove out, you know, what we do, because it is pretty new for a lot of folks. So proving it out.
Joel (9m 23s):
How about trucking?
Darrian (9m 24s):
Yeah. Trucking is potential. And it's something that in the future that I think would apply really well to some of the things that we have planned from our product standpoint, but it's different in different industries. Trucking is one where it's like a shortage and like the phone interviews are more of a sales tactic as opposed to a screening tactic. And so we work really well when you're either exclusively screening or you're screening for some roles and have to spend a lot of manual time sourcing and others. And we can basically augment that screening side so you can spend a lot more man hours on the sourcing.
Chad (9m 58s):
So there's tons of tech that's out there. Who specifically, do you see as your biggest competition right now?
Darrian (10m 7s):
Yeah, our biggest competition is typically video interviewing more often than not. We are one of the first to market doing something with audio and phone specifically in the way that we're doing it, which is one of the reasons that I even wanted to start this was, I didn't see anything out there like that, like what we're doing now, or else I would've probably just signed up and use their solution. And so I was like, oh, here's an opportunity. But video is what is more prevalent in the market today. And it doesn't come up in every sales conversation, but some recruiters have experienced with video and some don't, but we're typically able to really solve a unique pain point for the customers that we're going after now and differentiate ourselves really well against video.
Joel (10m 51s):
So I'm not surprised you said video, but I am a little surprised you didn't say conversational AI companies like Paradox or even a company like Honeit, which I don't know if it compliments your product or what, so Honeit is essentially transcribing phone conversations and then creating notes and comments and things like that. Do you guys do that or do you work in conjunction with Honeit or sites like that or companies like that? And what do you think about conversational AI as a competitor?
Darrian (11m 19s):
Yeah. So if you mean he like conversation AI yeah In the terms of like chat and text-based forms. Yeah. We see those things being either complimentary or having their specific time and place. Usually those are like kind of the, the very top of the funnel, the front end, where you're engaging, getting them to, you know, apply or sign up or provide more information where for us it's after they've already applied. And typically, you know, a lot of our customers are small teams that have to hire hundreds of people. So they have thousands of applications. It's hard for them to sift through and know really who is the best person to spend more time with. And that's why they would typically do, you know, a standard phone interview. And as I mentioned, you have to reach out to those candidates, schedule, there are scheduling tools, but still the fact that you have to do at least 20 to 30 minute phone calls all day long, one, it's just hard to scale.
Darrian (12m 12s):
It creates, you know, recruiter, burnout, which we hear pretty often. And it's just not a great format of collecting information.
Joel (12m 23s):
So your tool as the pre-screening conversation, ask questions on the phone, they answer it, transcribes those answers, and then you can search and it matches to some degree, but once the deep conversation happens, do you, do you hand it off at that point or are they still in the platform to record that interview?
Darrian (12m 40s):
Yeah, so right now where we're at is really focused on that one specific step in the process, that screening step, like I said, it's the most, it's the biggest bottleneck and I personally like, I mentioned we've hired some folks and I just talked to one of our new hires and they were saying, one of the factors is that we were able to move a lot faster in our process. Cause we eat our own dog food and we're able to get to the offer stage a lot faster than, than potential competitors. And that's the same for a lot of the companies we work with.
Joel (13m 10s):
Let me through as a job seeker, how I engage with the product. Is it a link in an email? Is it a message because you have my phone number, like talk about as a job seeker, how you engage with the product.
Darrian (13m 25s):
Yeah. So the candidate, their experience is, they would have more than likely already applied to the position in most cases. And then either automatically, or at the recruiters discretion, the candidate will receive a text message and/or an email saying, Hey, we got your application and now we want to learn more about you. We want to make this really convenient for your schedule. So at your earliest convenience, click this link to read instructions and get started with your interview. It takes them to that instructional page. That page is branded to the employer and it's a really straightforward, their phone number is either already in that instruction page or there's a spot for them to type in that number.
Darrian (14m 9s):
They simply hit start, confirm, and then our system will dial their phone. And then they just pick up an answer to those questions. It's very conversational. It's familiar, like responding to voicemail, just with multiple questions that are baked in there.
Chad (14m 24s):
So we're talking a hundred percent mobile, really. You're not going to have many using desktop on this.
Darrian (14m 30s):
Yeah. And that's like one of the biggest, biggest values that we provide is that convenience, accessibility. I kind of touched on it with like the webcam. You don't need a webcam, you don't need a computer. You don't need to go to a place that's well lit and you know, a good environment. You can just hit start and do it wherever. So increases that accessibility, you know, or really big on trying to mitigate bias and allow more people to enter that best step in the process.
Chad (14m 59s):
Gotcha. Gotcha. So let's talk about go-to-market strategy, obviously from the standpoint of product, you know, product seems like, you know, it's maturing, right? You're hitting the roadmap. It's maturing. You have clients first off. How many clients do you have?
Darrian (15m 13s):
I don't like to get into the specifics of clients. I will say we have, like I mentioned, like small customers to the specifics, but we do have clients ranging from small companies up to fortune 500.
Chad (15m 30s):
How are you getting them?
Darrian (15m 31s):
So far it's been the digital version of, you know, beating on people's doors. We've been a pretty lean team up until this point. A lot of it was founder sales. So myself and my brother, my brother's one of my co-founders, we were leading the charge on the sales efforts in the early days. And as we started to scale the team, we leveraged different, you know, legions services that were still, you know, emailing people, cold calling people. And now we're focused on trying to scale through all the different marketing channels. So advertising partnerships and just generally getting our name out there in a broader sense because
Joel (16m 15s):
Darrian (16m 15s):
Yeah. Integrations are a huge thing, a huge initiative for us right now. We, we just kicked off a couple of partnerships that allow us to integrate a lot faster with all the major ATSs. So we're really excited about that and exploring what it looks like for us to partner with, you know, different, different folks that have the similar audience that we're going after, because yeah, like we're doing a good job on the outbound sales side, but I think we're going to really win on our brand and our ability to execute from a marketing standpoint. So excited about having more budgets to do that.
Chad (16m 49s):
So that's a direct, you're excited about the outbound direct sales that you're doing right now. Is that what I'm hearing? Okay. Because it sounds like you've got a lot that's going on, but mainly you're hitting the direct to client market.
Darrian (17m 3s):
Yeah. So right now we have a really, you know, specific audience that we're going for. I am excited about that, but I think we're going to win by our ability to increase the awareness. So that's not done just by direct cold sales. It's going to be through a larger marketing efforts. We would attend more conferences, get our name out there, you know through content and in digital advertising and partnerships as well. So that's a key focus this year.
Chad (17m 30s):
Okay. So Joel touched on integrations. Let's dig deeper into that. Where are we looking to integrate? Because there are all these different types of platforms that are out there where you could perspectively fit in. I mean, with around interviewing assessments, I mean those types of things, are you just going directly to core talent platforms for the most part, are you trying to get into some of the newer players are out there?
Darrian (17m 53s):
Yeah. So a little bit of both. So from just a customer use standpoint, obviously, their core system is ATS is. And so that's the main thing is we want to make sure that their questions are answered. We can, you know, solve their needs and that's by connecting their ATS to our system. So they don't have to jump back and forth between, you know, all their different tools that they're using, that they can just have a seamless workflow right there.
Chad (18m 20s):
Darrian (18m 21s):
So that's definitely one, but then the next is other partnerships, whether it's assessments or we're still kind of in the exploratory phase of figuring out, you know, where does our tool tie in well? That helps us grow our business, but also provides unique value to those partners and also to their clients as well. So, so yeah, and this, some of the new players too, like the Fountain is one that comes to mind. They're a newer ATS, that's focused on high volume recruiting. And so that, you know, tools like that are, you know, highly aligned to what we're trying to do.
Joel (18m 57s):
So you were founded in 2019, you've raised a little over $3 million. I'm guessing most of that was a head count in marketing. You can add to that as well. But curious if you're looking to raise more money, should we be expecting a series A here in 2022? What's the plan?
Darrian (19m 15s):
Yeah. So I don't know when this exactly will drop, but we it's close enough to where I don't have to play it as close to the vessel. We do plan to announce the most recent round of funding that we completed. We'll be announcing that tomorrow, depending on when you're listening to this. And yeah, that's been focused on our product and our go to market. It's up in the air in terms of the next stage of funding. If you've ever raised money before, you know, it's not the funnest thing in the world, or the easiest thing in the world. So I want us to try to grow as much as possible. Let's see, you know, want to make it easier when I do have to fundraise again, cause it looks somewhat inevitable, but also to maybe push it down the road, if, if,
Joel (20m 0s):
And this will air after that announcement. So you, you can tell us amongst us girls, but if you don't feel comfortable with that, what do you plan to do with that money once you get it tomorrow? And I assume it's already in the bank account, but like, what are the plans in terms of that? Is there a global expansion? Is it just US-based expansion? Like, talk about that.
Darrian (20m 23s):
Yeah. So to that latter part of the question, we've already started to explore that we have some of the functionality online already in terms of internationalization and things of that nature, but really we're still in early stage, but what we've found is a product market fit. So now we're just trying to like keep driving that wedge and increase our growth obviously but from a product standpoint, differentiate ourselves more. We know that, like I said, we're one of the first to market with this sort of product but we don't want to just settle on that and we want to really expand on our capabilities, our differentiation, and, you know, our whole mantra is kind of like own the phone and really own this category.
Joel (21m 8s):
And how much has that series A round again?
Darrian (21m 10s):
So this round was our seed round and it's two and a half million that we just completed.
Joel (21m 15s):
On top of the three?
Darrian (21m 17s):
So the three, if you look online is already inclusive of that. And so we've been sitting on it for a little bit, so.
Joel (21m 25s):
Gotcha. So it's not news, we're not breaking anything that Crunchbase doesn't already know.
Darrian (21m 29s):
Yeah. Crunchbase knows, but we haven't done our formal PR stuff. So now we're getting the word out.
Joel (21m 33s):
Well, now it's out because of the Chad and Cheese podcast. Okay.
Darrian (21m 37s):
You heard it here first.
Joel (21m 40s):
So you mentioned globalization, some international growth plans. What, in terms of tech, can we expect from you, you mentioned a video as a competitor, should we expect video in the future? Chat components, SMS? Like what, what's the future hold feature-wise.
Darrian (21m 56s):
Yeah, we really love the lane now we're in. I would say kind of our focus has been this year is to just be undeniable. The integrations are a huge piece of that from a tech standpoint. Another thing that's really exciting is what we can do with the data that we've been capturing. And so all the fun buzzwordy data science stuff, we want to apply that in a really a unique way and meaningful way. Like I said, we really care about mitigating bias and just helping recruiters to not only be more efficient, but make quality decisions as well. And so I would say, expect to see, you know, more applications of, you know, data science, AI, NLP, things of that nature as well so those are some exciting things on the forefront.
Chad (22m 44s):
So quick question with regard to clarity around international, are you doing international? So that's the fortune 500 companies that you're actually hitting here in the US can expand, are you actually looking to try to invade different markets?
Darrian (22m 58s):
Yeah, I would say right now our focus is on US base and really staying, like I said, driving the wedge where we've had a lot of success, but it does come about occasionally where we do have US-based clients that have recruiting needs internationally. And so they need, you know, different transcriptions. They need their invitations and candidate facing information, you know, in that native language for their ability to recruit over there. And so we've built that infrastructure, but we see that as kind of one of the next stages of growth as we continue to expand here, I think that's will be a big differentiating factor for us in the future.
Joel (23m 40s):
This all sounds expensive Chad, I don't know. What do you think?
Chad (23m 46s):
What does, how much does this cost?
Darrian (23m 52s):
How much does what cost?
Chad (23m 53s):
Your product? How much does your product cost?
Darrian (23m 57s):
That's a good question. So how, what for the back, and this is not exactly what I say in sales conversations, but how much is it, how much does it cost to you to just even do it, you know, a phone screen right now, if you think about your recruiter salary, that 30 minutes on each call, it's usually around like 15 bucks to 17 bucks, just for a single call and not to mention, you know, you're missing out on other candidates, you're not able to hire fast enough. So we, we have a SAAS model. So we typically just give you unlimited users, unlimited jobs that you can apply for or recruit with. And then up to unlimited interviews, even depending on, you know, those packages and not a specific price, but it ranges depending on the organization and the amount of hiring that they do on a monthly basis.
Chad (24m 50s):
Size of the organization.
Joel (24m 52s):
He danced around that one.
Chad (24m 52s):
Where's the ding, ding, ding?
Joel (24m 53s):
I throw it back to them. How much does it cost you?
Chad (24m 59s):
How much do you want to pay? Where's my bell at?
Darrian (25m 1s):
I don't do it like that. And we have very transparent pricing when it comes to the sales conversations.
Joel (25m 17s):
And what is that? And what is that?
Darrian (25m 19s):
Are you looking to sign up?
Joel (25m 21s):
This is a sales conversation.
Darrian (25m 21s):
Are you guys hiring?
Chad (25m 21s):
C'mon Cheeseman where's the bell at?
Joel (25m 23s):
Chad, Get him, put him out of his misery. All right Chad.
Chad (25m 26s):
All right. Darian, I think move faster, hire faster is exactly what this industry, I mean, that's what everybody wants to hear, that's what they need. And for the most part have shitty processes and they need people to be able to lead them through. And this product just might be it. Recruiter burnout is an issue. Being able to pick up the phone and make all those calls all the time. They need automation to be able to help them do that. Focusing on the healthcare side, I think is incredibly smart. I think broadening out, once you start to really understand that sales message and, and getting better penetration into healthcare, I think is amazing, your answer to the international question.
Chad (26m 8s):
I'm glad you didn't get tripped up on that because everybody who gets money is like, ah, we want to go. We want to invade different countries. No, there's a ton of money here in the US although you do have to be flexible to be able to provide those organizations an opportunity to provide this to their different locations outside the United States. So, great answer on that. One thing I got to say is don't have a link on your site that says pricing if you're not going to give me fucking pricing, okay. If it has solutions and you tell them about the solution and at the end, it asks for, you know, would you like pricing? Or would you like to, okay, that's great.
Joel (26m 51s):
Chad hates to be teased.
Chad (26m 53s):