A Chat with Prem Kumar, CEO of the HR Tech Company Humanly.io

Favorite podcasts, AI-augmented recruiting, parenting app wishlists, and more. (15 min read)

Homescreens is a publication about how we interact with our most intimate possession, our phones. Each week I interview founders and creators across industries, and we reflect on the apps they use, how they’re organized, and their philosophy on notifications and mindfulness. Check out the end of the interview for a full recap and links to all the apps and media discussed.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Prem Kumar, an ex-Microsoft product guy that is now the Founder and CEO of Humanly.io, a VC funded HR tech company based out of Seattle. Humanly uses AI to aid companies with screening candidates, scheduling interviews, and even helping uncover unconscious bias during interviews. Pretty amazing stuff. What follows is our interview, edited for length and clarity.

Jason: Prem, I’d like to start off with a little bit about yourself. You were an early entrepreneur, then you spent over a decade with Microsoft, now it looks like you had the entrepreneurial itch once again and you started Humanly. Give me the backstory and some of the highlights of your career.

Prem: Yeah, absolutely, and thanks again for having me, Jason. I kind of always felt like an entrepreneur at heart. Even when I was at Microsoft, I would take jobs where I was on a smaller team and our VPs were basically VCs, so we'd have to pitch to them and get a budget and go out there. But, after having my first kid, it was a nice little kick in the rear end, in terms of me doing some reflection around how I wanted to spend the rest of my career. And a big piece of that was I wanted the experience of starting my own company and making an impact in that way. I didn't want to jump right into it, so I started by going to a company called TINYpulse. 

Most of my time at Microsoft was product management, and kind of the convergence of people and data. HR technology was always a passion of mine, seeing what we did when LinkedIn was acquired, and really lighting up some powerful scenarios. But when I went to TINYpulse (also in the HR tech space), I met my Humanly co-founder there. He was in sales, I was in product, so he'd bug me every couple of weeks saying “Man, we really got to do something in the hiring space.” 

We found with these mid-market companies that TINYpulse was working with for high volume hiring and entry-level roles, you're getting bombarded by resumes and we just saw an immense amount of time being spent. That wasn’t TINYpulse’s core competency, they're in a different business. So, we went and started Humanly and we’ve been at it for about a year. My manager was super supportive at TINYpulse, I gave him a two-and-a-half-year notice, and I told him in my interview that the next thing I want to do is start my own thing. He really set me up for success, the CEO as well as my manager. So, we kind of incubated out of the TINYpulse office for a little bit, and we're now out in the world doing our best to grow!

Jason: That's exciting. I saw you went through Y Combinator earlier this year and came out with a round of funding, so congrats on that. With Humanly, is the differentiator that you act as kind of an AI layer between job boards like Indeed, LinkedIn, Zip Recruiter, and in between an ATS like Greenhouse? How does that work?

Prem: Yeah, absolutely. And right now, it's a very interesting time because candidate volume is higher than ever with unemployment being high. So, the amount of time spent in screening, scheduling, and reengaging with candidates is quite high; on average it's around 64 hours. So right now, if recruiters had the tools and technology to engage at scale, the same way that sales and marketers can engage with prospects at scale, it would be a little bit of a different world. You're getting hundreds of resumes right now with these high volume roles. The average recruiter spends about seven seconds per resume -- and then only about 20% of resumes ever get to a person in the first place. 

We help you engage at scale 24/7 in a way that's accessible. We've removed certain things that cause unconscious bias. So, how can we engage at scale, screen you down so that the right candidate gets to the right recruiter faster? We kind of act like a virtual recruiting coordinator, and then yes, sync it into Greenhouse or your applicant tracking system, as well as schedule that next step. 

Now instead of a ton of volume to go through, everyone has now gotten a touch, and you now have meetings scheduled with the ones that are most qualified. And generally, our biggest value prop is around time savings, but candidate experience is also huge. If you have 300 people apply, one person gets the job, then you have 299 other opportunities to create goodwill for future employment, brand advocates, or even customers. 

I was talking to someone that was at Disney, and the average Disney job applicant spends eight times as much money at Disney parks [before COVID], then just average customers. So for these B2C brands, your candidates are also spending a lot of money on your brand. You have an opportunity to really blend that employer brand with your brand in general.

Jason: That's incredible and makes a lot of sense. I love the value prop. Early in my career, I spent a little time doing talent acquisition and recruiting for entry-level positions, and that seven seconds may even be a stretch sometimes.

Prem: We had these reviews, and we did some tests where we would have interviewers circle what they're looking at, and if it gets towards the end of the day or a little bit before lunchtime, we did see that seven seconds actually turned into five. I guess it’s human nature, but we feel there's a better solution.

Jason: It looks like your platform is mobile-first from the screenshots, is that the case?

Prem: Yeah, a lot of this depends on role type and market, and we're obviously targeting entry-level role types. So most of the interactions will happen on mobile. And for these roles, there are actually many more job candidates with Facebook accounts and engaging on Facebook than LinkedIn. I think being able to engage people wherever they're at is really important. And mobile is a big piece of that. Right now, most of the time as a passive candidate, you're going to be on your mobile, and you probably don't have your resume with you, even if you are already doing a job search. So I think making the call to action not just “apply now”, but creating ways for people to engage with your brand. All steps of the candidate journey are important. 

And then the new thing we're working on that is just launching, is the next step, which is the interview. We have analytics and a transcription of Zoom interviews, like this one, and it will say, “Hey, did you know you're talking over 150 words per minute,” which isn't good for people where English is a second language. “Did you know when you're interviewing female candidates, you're interrupting more?” So there's a lot of analytics we can get from voice transcription, and that’s kind of the next step. We will never replace people in the interview, we just want to help them be more efficient.

Jason: Wow, that is impressive, augmenting recruiters and hiring managers with technology to make better decisions. I love that, thanks for sharing. Now let's dive into your phone --  and I don't even know where to start, there are so many apps!

Prem: I sent you unedited just what was right on my screen, and there's a lot of random stuff [laughs].

Jason: That’s what we want to see!  What’s a day in the life? You have a ton of games and music apps, so either you love to play games, or you have kids.

Prem: It's definitely little kids. It actually started with my nieces: I was the only one that would succumb to their peer pressure in the family of downloading all the games, so my phone became the game phone. And now whenever they come over, they want to play games. Now my son is convincing me too, luckily, he is not into in-app purchases, but he does like playing. Obviously, we limit screen time -- and I love the iPhone’s feature where I can see how much time is being spent. But yeah, a lot of those games are kids games. I do have a little guilty pleasure every once in a while with sports games, so maybe once or twice a week, I'll pop in and play for 30 or 40 minutes.

Jason: That's not bad. The first app I wanted to bring up, with the largest notification count I've seen so far, is Drift. I haven't used it myself, but to my knowledge, it’s a business chat client that integrates with your website. How are you using it? 

Prem: Yeah, absolutely. One of our investors works at Drift, and I've always been a fan of their story. At our previous company, I had gotten the chance at one point to meet the Drift CEO, David Cancel, and I love what they do from a product development standpoint. A lot of the stuff on my phone, including Drift, is just me playing around. 

Drift really did a great job. We were using them for a while on our website, we were paying for a Drift subscription before we transitioned to our own bot. But yeah, I've been a fan of how they've owned the conversational marketing space. We're doing some similar stuff in conversational recruiting with the chat, so that's been one reason as well. That's why there are so many notifications because I'm mainly just playing around with it. I love the app.

Jason: Very cool. You have a folder titled “startups,” and I recognize most of the apps here like Startup and Venture Capital News, TechCrunch, GeekWire, but there's a couple that I don't recognize. One has a plain black icon. What is that, some super-secret app?

Prem: That might just be an update, I got a lot of updates that I need to upload. I have too many apps [laughs].

Jason: Gotcha. Related to that, you have Shapr. I downloaded this maybe three or four years ago, and I remember it as “Tinder meets LinkedIn.” As far as making connections goes, have you used it a lot? Have you had success meeting and connecting with other people?

Prem: Absolutely. A couple of our first customers we met on Shapr, as well as an investor and an advisor. So to your point, I haven't used it as much lately. I think when it started, the group was pretty small and it was very engaging, and it probably still is, but I haven't used it in a while. But we kind of took advantage of that initial set of people that joined and were very serious about using it. 

But there are a lot of folks that I probably wouldn't have ordinarily met through other tools. So yeah, I do like Shapr. I was just talking to our co-founder about using it again for sales. I have found that generally, at least when it was early on, this was about a year ago, there were a lot of authentic connections, not as much spam as you might see in other forums. Hopefully, that's still the case.

Jason: I might have to redownload that and check it out now because that's how I feel about LinkedIn. Every time I get a new connection and they send a message as well, I'm like -- alright, here we go, what are you trying to sell me?

Prem: Yeah, exactly. I was talking to one of our advisors yesterday, and for some reason, we're both getting a lot of LinkedIn messages from dentists recently, which was interesting. So I think a lot of different professions are doing cold outreach now and particularly, like during COVID, when maybe people aren't paying attention to hygiene and stuff, but it is interesting.

Jason: Continuing with social media, we have Twitter right next door. What are some favorite accounts that you follow?

Prem: I like Jason Calacanis’s stuff a lot. Tim Salau, our mutual connection, he has a lot of great future of work content. Each account I look at is providing a different purpose. Some are more informational, some just pump you up. I know individual folks write about multiple things, but Tim is really good, particularly when I'm looking to get inspired about the future of work. Then competitors. I don't necessarily like the word “competitors,” but just other people in our space that are doing cool stuff. And then you mentioned that we did go through Y Combinator, so there are some affiliated channels that I’ll follow. And that's a good source of news.

Jason: Another app I’m seeing for the first time is Dolly, have you used this service before?

Prem: I haven't actually used the service. One of the things I've done as we're building first-run experiences and onboarding, new users, I have a ton of apps I download just to see what their signup process looks like. Dolly was one of those that someone recommended to me as being a pretty clean design. It did seem like a cool service, I should use it, but unfortunately, a lot of my apps are for testing product stuff, since I'm a Product guy. 

Before Humanly, I was kind of messing around with building an app for new parents, you might be able to relate, for some of the things with feeding times and all that. So I had probably like 50 baby apps downloaded on my phone.

Jason: Absolutely. I was looking into developing an Amazon skill for things like recording bottle times and everything. For now, I just made an Apple shortcut that sends a message with a timestamp and a bottle emoji to my wife so that we can keep track. But if you ever go down that path and make one keep me in mind. That is a space where there's just so many fragmented apps, and I think there's definitely an opportunity for someone to really move in there.

Prem: New parents spend a lot of money, and I think there’s the IoT piece of it. I was wiring up this button called Flic, it's a physical button, and I was thinking of having a few next to the baby changing table and you can connect to their API. So anytime I change a diaper, I can just press it; or if it's number one versus two, maybe I press a different button. So just keeping my wife updated on what I'm doing. But anyway, I think the convergence of IoT and the smart nursery thing is kind of interesting.

The biggest thing I need someone to invent is: when I put our kids to sleep, we put them in their crib that’s pretty high up, so I wish I could just put them at the top and it could just slowly take them down like an elevator. Maybe in the future.

Jason: I can definitely relate to that. One app that I'm jealous that you can even have on your phone is Prime Now. Is that one or two-hour delivery?

Prem: It depends on the types of items and stuff, but two hours a standard. That's one I actually do use, so not just for testing purposes. It's nice being close to Amazon, I use that for lots of things. You know, everything from groceries to if I forget to give someone a birthday present. Also during COVID, it’s been very convenient to use, and customer service is pretty good, too.

Jason: You have Apple Podcasts on your phone, what are some podcasts that you look forward to, what are some of your favorites?

Prem: There's a podcast called Acquired that I like. I haven't listened to a ton of Jason Calacanis’ one [This Week in Startups], but I did read his book on Audible called Angel, I like that a lot, particularly as an entrepreneur. It's good to have the other side of the investor perspective. And then one of my friends was running something called The Better Show, so I listened to that for a while. And then not to shout Tim [Salau] out multiple times in one session, but I do like what he's doing with Unleashing The Future of Work Podcast. Those are the main ones I think that I spend my time on. And actually one more, sorry, Product Hunt Radio is another one!

Jason: I'm not gonna lie, I check Product Hunt almost daily and I didn't know they had a podcast. That's why I like doing these interviews, sometimes I find stuff that I want to check out.

What would be your go-to app for relaxing and winding down, that’s not work-related?

Prem: Good question. A little kind of work-related, but also I kind of enjoy this: just any startup news type of stuff. I have a lot of those news sites like GeekWire and TechCrunch and all that. There's a gaming company called Glu Mobile, and they have a series of sports games called Tap Sports, and I have yet to find any games that work better for being able to hold a kid and only having to use one finger. Also, there are enough in-game pauses where you can just stop at times. With Tap Sports, they did a good job of creating sports experiences where you can use it even if you're busy or holding the kid or something like that. So that was fun. 

Jason: Are there any apps that we haven't talked about yet that you want to highlight? 

Prem: The 7 Eleven delivery app [7NOW] if you just need something quick, that's been good. Basecamp is another one. Our engineering team will tell you I need to spend more time in Basecamp. But the Basecamp app is very convenient to me because I can look at our check-ins and stuff like that, it's been useful.

Jason: Last question, tell me about the background of your phone, I see your name there, who made it?

Prem: So that's my son. This is a zoomed-in version, but he made a little painting for me.

Jason: That's adorable. I appreciate you taking the time to chat, this was fun!

Prem: It’s great to be connected, bye.


Thanks for reading my interview with Prem. Connect with him on LinkedIn here, and if you’d like to learn more about Humanly and how it can enhance your recruiting efforts, visit them at humanly.io. Here’s a sneak peek at Humanly’s interview transcription analytics tool, that empowers interviewers to conquer unconscious human bias:

Lastly, if you enjoyed this interview, consider sharing it with someone and subscribing if you haven’t already. New interviews are published every Friday morning. If you have an interesting story to tell and home screen to show off, submit a request at www.homescreens.co.

📱 App, Product, & Media Recap

  • ⚡️ Drift - Chat & Video - Take your customer conversations and video outreach on the move.

  • 📰 Startup & Venture Capital News - Startup News is the free, trusted, one-stop-app for all of the news on the startups scene

  • 📰 TechCrunch - the best way to get breaking tech news on your iPhone.

  • 📰 GeekWire - stay up to date with the latest in tech news and events.

  • 🤝 Shapr- Business Networking - This app selects for you, each day, people to connect with.

  • 🚚 Dolly: Moving & Delivery Help - Dolly brings you moving and delivery help on your schedule, even same-day. 

  • 📦 Amazon Prime Now - Amazon’s fastest delivery service yet, offers tens of thousands of everyday essentials delivered right to a customer’s door, seven days a week

  • 🎙 Acquired - Learn the playbooks that built the world’s greatest companies — and how you can apply them as a founder, operator, or investor.

  • 🎙 The Better Show - The Better Show is a weekly podcast for people who want to get better at all aspects of life, made by people who love getting better.

  • 🎙 Unleashing The Future of Work - (UTFOW) is a live UNSCRIPTED online series produced and hosted by Tim "Mr. Future of Work" Salau, CEO of Guide.

  • 🎙 This Week in Startups - Jason Calacanis and a rotating group of guest experts bring you this weekly take on the best, worst, most outrageous and interesting stories from the world of Web companies.

  • 🎙 Product Hunt Radio - Product Hunt Radio is a weekly podcast with the people creating and exploring the future.

  • 📕 Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups—Timeless Advice from an Angel Investor Who Turned $100,000 into $100,000,000 by Jason Calacanis

  • ⚾️ MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2020 - YOUR MLB baseball game is BACK with MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2020! Get in the game and continue your MLB dynasty!

  • 🍕 7NOW: Food & Alcohol Delivery - Get alcohol, food, candy, snacks, drinks, ice cream, grocery, health needs and more delivered anywhere you are in about 30 minutes.

  • 🏔 Basecamp - Running your business on email, texts, and meetings? It’s time to switch to Basecamp 3 instead.