Elevator Pitch: Xref

Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we’re talking with Lee-Martin Seymour and Tim Griffiths, co-founders of reference check Xref.

In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.

Xref is an automated, cloud-based solution that’s tackling an HR industry pain point – reference checking.

Xref improves the efficiency of a traditionally slow and resource-heavy process by making the candidate the driver. Recruiters enter the details of the candidates they wish to reference check, candidates are alerted and provide contact information for referees, who are directed to the Xref platform to provide feedback. If there are delays, candidates are notified and they are responsible for chasing their contacts. Once the reference checks are complete, a detailed report is shared with the hiring organisation.

Xref also protects employers from the risks of traditional phone-based methods, allows HR professionals time to add more value in their role, and provides higher-quality, benchmarkable data, which ensures better, data-driven hiring decisions are made.

What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?

Lee: Our recent growth has been driven by an international expansion strategy and a focus on platform integrations with other, like-mind solutions. Both have enabled us to launch Xref in five different countries and adapt our offering to meet the needs of specific markets.

Tim: One of our biggest growth milestones to date was our ASX listing in February 2016. We launched the company in 2011 and spent five years perfecting the platform and building the team we needed to grow. Since listing we’ve had two major funding rounds, and in 2016 alone we raised $12 million in capital.

What’s the biggest challenge facing your business?

Lee: Our biggest challenge is in encouraging the industry to embrace digital disruption. Beyond the inefficiencies caused by traditional referencing methods, companies are opening themselves up to the risk of candidate fraud, as well as data privacy and discrimination breaches. Released in November 2016, the Xref Recruitment Risk Index, found that 71 per cent of candidates are exploiting reference checking flaws to better their chances of securing a job. Employers need to be aware of the risks they are taking by not prioritising a robust reference checking process.

Tim: The Australian economy’s trust in automated solutions – business across Australia need to recognise the value of automation and focus less on the so-called threat of robots fulfilling the jobs of the future. By using Xref, for example, staff can dedicated more of their time to value-adding aspects of the recruitment process, as well as offering more strategic input to the business.

How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?

Lee: Xref’s competitors are essentially anyone who is collecting references using traditional phone and email-based methods. What makes us different is the fact that we’re providing our clients with data-driven insights from which they can make more confident and smarter hiring decisions, as opposed to making offers on a ‘gut feeling’. For the first time, Xref moves responsibility for driving the process from the employer to the candidate, who is motivated to lead the communication with their referees and encourage timely responses from them.

Tim: Xref is unique, the way we’ve built the platform allows us to quickly and easily scale to meet the needs of any client globally, and the flexibility of the architecture means we can build, and rebuild as we need. Like any successful start-up, the beauty of Xref lies in its agility. But unlike some high-profile start-ups, rather than treating automation as an iteration of an existing system, Xref has almost completely automated an historically entirely human process, which has long suffered from inefficiency, biases and risk.

What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?

Lee: Qantas, Uber and Salesforce.com. I can run my business with just these, including finance, marketing and operations.

Tim: The one app I need is Google Chrome. Everything I use is cloud-based, Chrome allows me to access it all on one device.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?

Lee: My Grandad told me it’s the hard decisions you make that build the successes. Your success is directly proportionate to the risk you take. Hunt the hardest decisions that need to be made and trust the easy ones to make themselves. Two of the worst things you can do in business are one, not make a decision; two, make the same bad decision twice.

Tim: Give everyone in a company – from the cleaner to the CEO – your time. Ask questions and listen, between them you will learn everything there is to know about that company.

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