Omar Khateeb is the founder and CEO of JobPixel. JobPixel focuses on providing a web-based, video-first hiring experience whose goal is to transform the way companies identify, evaluate, and hire the best candidates. This is a space that we think will continue to grow and evolve, particularly as automation develops across other sections of recruitment workflows. This issue becomes: humans are not automatons. Keeping the human element - that connectivity that's fundamental to creating connections - in the process will become a make-or-break decision for hiring teams. Ejecting it entirely in favor of tactical efficiency will prove to be a strategic error in the ongoing war for talent. Solutions like JobPixel's offering will, we think, prove worth the investment.
Along with that, Omar's an interesting human in general, and someone who we think will have an impact on how companies and people connect throughout his career.
We caught up with Omar recently, and wanted to share some of our conversation with you.
I always find it interesting to understand the why behind a company - why was it created, what problem is it solving? Could you talk to us about JobPixel in that context?
Over the past few years, time and again I heard the same thing from friends and colleagues going through a job search…”If I could only meet them in person and tell them face to face why I’d be a great addition to their team!”
That eventually got me thinking more about just how disconnected and impersonal the hiring process has become. Job seekers spend hours writing the “perfect” resume only for the recruiter to spend 10 seconds “reading” it before deciding their fate. Something had to change.
I envisioned a solution where job seekers and employers could leverage video to each tell their stories and get the opportunity to “virtually shake hands” before deciding if there was a match.
Most founders have stories. They could have taken/ stayed on “safe” career paths, building income fairly predictably while working for someone else. For some reason, they decide to roll the dice (often over and over). Can you walk us through your story? What drives you to build versus support?
For as long as I can remember, I imagined myself creating “the next big thing”. I’m a risk taker by nature, so the idea of spending my life working for someone else to build their vision without putting my own neck on the line just never appealed to me.
What excites me is dreaming up solutions to random problems we all encounter in life and then trying to see the business opportunity in building a solution. I’m at a point in my life where I can take risks and absorb failures. I recognize the privilege that comes with being a young tech founder – not everyone has that flexibility - so I figured it would be a wasted opportunity for me to not start a business.
You’ve had successes. Where have you failed, and what have you learned?
At any startup you have to be prepared for failures. Even the most successful companies today hit many snags in their journey getting to that point. At JobPixel, I’ve encouraged the team to always “fail forward” – for us that involves knowingly taking risks, accepting that failure is inevitable and painstakingly dissecting those failures to uncover the “why?”.
On more than one occasion we have had to put our egos aside and accept that what we thought was the best solution or feature was, in fact, not well aligned with the needs of employers and job seekers. This can be challenging for any startup because it involves circling back to rethink and rebuild which can delay other developments. But it’s necessary because after all, you can build your “best” version of the product but if your customers don’t see the value then what’s the point?
How has JobPixel evolved since its founding - have you adapted your approach/ product direction as a result? How did that change (if it happened) go, and what drove it in the first place?
Since starting the company we have had to adapt our billing models to better align with how TA teams actually use the platform to hire. We’ve also refocused development efforts around the value we can provide employers and job seekers using the platform based on data we’ve collected and feedback we’ve gathered. What’s resulted has been called “a recruiter’s dream” by our customers - a simple, intuitive and powerful video hiring platform that is changing the way they hire forever.
We’re in some interesting times. Has the pandemic affected your strategy, eliminated and/ or created business opportunities?
Starting a company is challenging enough without grappling with a worldwide pandemic. When I started JobPixel during the earliest, most uncertain months of the pandemic people told me I was crazy. But I pushed forward anyway and decided early on that we would be a remote-first company. Today, our team is made up of talent from all over the world and we can manage that due largely to advances in video technology. Being remote has also allowed us to keep a very low operational overhead compared to most companies, which means we can focus our resources on delivering the best product and experience possible to our customers.
The pandemic has played a huge role in shaping our business and led to greater business opportunities. The hiring market is frantic right now – companies are scrambling to find qualified candidates and attract and hire them faster than their competition. Our product reduces their time to hire and improves their ability to identify the highest intent candidates.
But beyond that, the pandemic has drastically shifted the public’s perception of video. We spent the better part of the last two years on Zoom meetings for work, parent-teacher conferences for school, virtual doctor’s appointments, and group FaceTime chats with our families. That shift towards video has made JobPixel an easier sell to both job seekers and employers.
You have a goal to “rehumanize” the hiring process. In an age where automation is everywhere, from chatbots to assessments, programmatic, etc - how do you propose to achieve that? And are employers responding to the mission?
Today’s hiring process is largely devoid of human interaction. Everything that happens prior to your first in-office interview takes place following a labyrinth of algorithmic automation. Long ago, before technology existed, hiring was a very intimate and personal experience. You walked into a business, shook hands with the manager and got the chance to tell them all about yourself. A candidate got to experience the employer, and vice versa, breaking down barriers and bias. At JobPixel, we want to leverage video to bring people back together again. We build technology to assist TA, not to automate them.
The response from employers so far has been incredible. Talent Acquisition teams are the first to admit that the current hiring process is broken. They spend far too much time writing generic job descriptions and reading cover letters and resumes – none of which provide true insight into the “person behind the paper.” Also, new technologies are emerging in the TA space all the time, and there is a general excitement and willingness around trying new things which has worked in our favor.
Without naming names (unless you want to), what sorts of companies do you compete with?
There are several other video hiring solutions out there, some of which have been around for 10 years or more. Yet none have emerged as the leader in the space. We believe that’s because they have all approached the solution in the wrong way.
Most have built full video interviewing software that requires candidates to record individual video responses to multiple questions, a painstaking and time-consuming process that leads to lower job seeker satisfaction. Others are trying to be everything to everyone and failing because their products suffer from “feature bloat” and are too complicated for teams to adopt.
At JobPixel, our team is focused on the things that really matter. We build only the features that are absolutely necessary for us to be successful and are laser focused on building the simplest, most seamless and intuitive product experience.
Could you talk a bit about objections - when you lose a deal, are there any reasons that seem to stand out? IE, budget, competitors, integrations, etc? How do you surmount those?
I can count on one hand the number of times someone has outright said they do not like the idea or the platform after I demo the product. In fact, the reaction is usually one of pure excitement.
But that’s not to say I close every deal. The HR space is very complicated for many reasons. Oftentimes you’re up against budget constraints because this area of the company is usually under-appreciated and underfunded. Or you run up against a company that is deeply integrated with an ATS and requires a custom integration which can take time.
We are very cognizant of these challenges and have just recently rolled out an entirely reimagined pricing structure for our Pro Plans which gives customers far more for less money. Our team has also expanded, largely in the Customer Success department so that we can better understand their workflows and put together a strategy for how to succeed with JobPixel, whether that involves integrations or simply some creative thinking.
What advice would you give to a budding Omar - someone who’s thinking about scratching that entrepreneurial itch?
I have three valuable pieces of advice for young entrepreneurs. First, take the time to come up with an idea that excites you. It’s likely that your new business venture will consume your life for a while and there’s nothing worse than making sacrifices for something you’re not passionate about. Second, do your research! By this, I mean learning your industry inside and out, talking to actual potential customers, sharing your ideas and collecting feedback. And lastly, expand your network. Talk to every founder who is willing to give you their time. Listen to their stories of success (and failure) and take those lessons back to your own business. As a founder you must be confident enough to believe you can succeed yet humble enough to know you don’t have all the answers!