We talked to David Dewey, CEO and founder of Shortlist.Me, an employment-readiness solution that transforms the way mock online assessments are facilitated. Here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
David Dewey: We’re thankful. I’m pleased to say that we’re all in good health, and during this time, my family has also been extended – with the birth of my wonderful little boy.
It’s, of course, been a very poignant time for everyone across the country, but there have also been positives for many, such as achieving more of a work-life balance and spending more time with the ones we love – even if it has been virtually.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Shortlist.Me.
David Dewey: I have over 10 years of experience working within the tech industry, and prior to setting up my own business in the education sector in 2014, I held roles in sales and business/relationship management.
I’d always wanted to establish my own firm and create innovative solutions which challenge the ‘norm’ and energize companies by solving their biggest pain points.
Fast forward to 2014, and I set up Shortlister – an online video interviewing solution that helps enterprise companies such as Mastercard, Allianz, Siemens, and Nuffield Health find the right talent – in a bid to challenge and redesign the traditional recruitment process.
Understanding what employers wanted from their hires, I then saw another gap in the market that needed to be bridged, leading me, in 2018, to launch Shortlist.Me – an employment-readiness solution that transforms the way mock online assessments are facilitated.
How does Shortlist.Me innovate?
David Dewey: I’m incredibly passionate about unifying the disconnect between education and employment, as well as ensuring today’s prospective job-seekers are as prepared and confident as possible to take the plunge into the world of work.
Therefore, in simple terms, we seek to provide a best-in-class solution that not only works to ensure our next generations are equipped to meet the demands of employers but which connects the divide and fosters diversity and inclusion in the employment landscape.
With the Shortlist.Me technology, we aim to increase the number of successful applicants within the interview process and help candidates feel confident and prepared when invited to an online assessment. The platform is predominantly utilized by higher and further education careers services, giving them access to an employment-readiness solution that provides ‘real-life’ mock assessments for their students.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
David Dewey: There’s no doubting that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of tech in all its guises. In fact, it’s propelled the education industry’s digital transformation projects forward by at least a couple of years. And as a result of market readiness having grown overnight, the demand for our service increased in tandem.
However, on the flip side, it has also stalled some of our internal business projects. We had, for example, planned to build a team around a core office base – to continue fostering and enhancing our great culture. This has naturally been frustrating, but it’s created new opportunities too, so I can’t complain.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
David Dewey: I think that difficult choices have been aplenty for everyone throughout the pandemic – businesses have never been faced with a situation like this.
At the start, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to trade through it or not – and this was less about cashflow and more about whether can could keep our head above the water and for how long.
As a result, the difficult choice was between whether we should dial back or continue pressing forward. We chose not to hold back and to accelerate, and thankfully this was the right call.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
David Dewey: Weirdly, I think it’s in business owners’ DNA to thrive in tricky and uncertain situations – that’s what we signed up for when embarking on our entrepreneurial journey.
There’s no doubting that stress and anxiety is present every day. It’s just that the magnitude of that differs depending on the situation. And I think the past 12 months have tested everyone’s tolerance to the limit.
Personally, I always try to focus on the ‘controllables’ – recognizing what you can and can’t prevent. Additionally, it’s crucial to celebrate the victories – no matter how big or small – and get some perspective on a regular basis, and often that means taking some time away from the business. This enables you to see the wood for the trees and reset your thinking.
If I ever feel particularly anxious, I also like to get away from my laptop, block out the noise, and meditate. This helps me to get the headspace I need to make better decisions.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
David Dewey: Our competition is the vast amount of e-Learning material and platforms that exist within the organizations we work with. While these resources may do a good job at theoretically showing students how they can prepare for employment and represent themselves in an interview, Shortlist.Me brings this theory to life and provides the experiential learning element – helping to develop job-ready applicants.
Students are able to put what they’ve learnt into practice and – thanks to artificial intelligence – receive a real-time measure of their performance level. Most importantly, this approach closes the feedback loop and allows for pressure-free self-reflection and development.
Your final thoughts?
David Dewey: It’s no secret that reliance on video-based solutions has sky-rocketed over this past year, and how we communicate virtually is now more important than ever – in both personal and professional contexts.
The pandemic has also given many businesses perspective on a working day, with many pledging to either not return to the office – and remain virtual – or adopt a more hybrid and work-from-anywhere approach. I don’t believe that the world will ever return to the ‘traditional’ 9-5; therefore, I only expect the dependency on video communications to grow.
As a result, I think we seriously need to think about how we’re gearing people up for this. I believe it starts with preparing the country’s students and job-seekers for the world of employment – equipping them with the knowledge and insight as to what businesses are really looking for and doing this via virtual-based interactions.
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