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Ajai Sehgal from The Chemistry Group on evaluating candidates

Tim Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 01 March 2017

Chief Technology Officer Ajai Sehgal from The Chemistry Group candidate evaluation

The Chemistry Group logo 150x150Social Media Portal (SMP): What is your name and what do you do there for The Chemistry Group?

Ajai Sehgal (AS): I’m Ajai Sehgal and I’m the chief technology officer (CTO) at The Chemistry Group. I run technology, production operations, information security and IT for Chemistry.  On the technology front, we are opening an office in Seattle WA where we will be hiring a software engineering team.

SMP: Briefly, tell us about The Chemistry Group

AS: Chemistry enables organizations to make better people decisions, which drive better commercial outcomes by defining "What Great Looks Like" for an organization, and through innovative technology, enables it to accurately hire and develop it at scale. Trusted by some of the world’s leading enterprise companies in 32 countries, Chemistry enable millions of people a year to understand where they have the opportunity to be brilliant.

Winner of SME of the Year, Business Enabler of the Year and Best UK Employer, my intent when I started Chemistry was to create the best place in the world to work, where amazing people do great work for clients who love them. Clients include British Airways, SAP, Vodafone, Experian, Whitbread, Carlsberg, Betfair and Lloyds Banking Group amongst others.

Photograph of Ajai Sehgal, Chief Technology Officer, The Chemistry GroupSMP: How is it different to a recruitment agency/company/service?

AS: Chemistry does not recruit candidates.  We help organizations evaluate candidates that are sourced to ensure that they are a great fit for the role they are interviewing for.  We supplement an organization’s own candidate evaluation process using objective measures resulting from psychometric analysis.

SMP: What were you doing before you joined The Chemistry Group and how did you snag your current job?

AS: Prior to Chemistry I was in a similar role for Hootsuite, a social media management company based in Vancouver BC, Canada.  I was at Hootsuite for almost three years.  Hootsuite is an awesome company with a tremendous culture and is a fun place to work.  After three years of commuting from Seattle to Vancouver and dealing with taxes in two countries, I had completed what I came to do.  Today Hootsuite is a company with global scale and a rock-solid product and engineering leadership team in place that will take them to the next stage.  I met Chemistry’s CEO, Roger Philby, quite by chance and his infectious enthusiasm and incredible vision sucked me in. When he asked me to join as CTO, it was easy to say yes!

SMP: Briefly, what does your job entail and what does a typical day look like?

AS: My experience is in helping companies scale.  A typical start-up can grow to a certain extent before it needs to put into place policy and practices that will allow it to grow revenue and remain cost effective. Given that I am wearing many hats today, my typical day involves everything from ensuring that Chemistry has the right video conferencing technology in place to allow effective global communication, to interviewing candidates for engineering roles in Seattle.  While doing those and many other CTO/CIO tasks, I also must learn the science behind the psychometric analysis that our consultants are doing and identify exactly what and how we can use state of the art technology to overcome the bottlenecks in the process to scale effectively.

SMP: What makes it a great job compared to Hootsuite?

AS: I don’t think that I would say it is a great job as compared to Hootsuite. Working at Hootsuite was awesome too.  After my three years there, Hootsuite is now at a stage where they will be successful on the technology side without my help.  Chemistry is a new beginning and new challenge where I get to put in practice what I have learned over the past 20+ years scaling technology at Expedia, Groupon and Hootsuite.

SMP: What are the challenges that you’ve encountered and how are you overcoming them?

AS: I have only been at Chemistry for a week – my biggest challenge has been getting into the details behind the science they have developed over the past 5+ years. That, and getting to know everybody’s name ;-)

The Chemistry Group website image

SMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far and why?

The 2017 kick-off event at the Chemistry office in London was a huge high! The unbridled enthusiasm of 100% of the employees was energizing.  They are some of the most brilliant people that I have ever met and their work ethic is incredible.  Chemistry has put into place policy to reign in the number of hours that its employees work to ensure they have a balanced life so they don’t burn out. They are like thoroughbreds at the gate!

SMP: How are you using technology to make it more useful and accessible to your clients (and end users i.e. people seeking employment)?

AS: While it is still early days of figuring out what we need to do, the problem space that Chemistry is in lends itself very well to new technology being developed in the big data and machine learning space. In today’s world, there is so much publicly available data about each of us.  That data can be used in conjunction with traditional techniques to help determine whether an individual is a great fit for a role.

SMP: What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities for your sector and the competition that you have?

AS: The opportunities are currently unbounded because technology has now reached a stage where we have the compute power to analyse vast amounts of data in real time.  Much of the competition in our area uses techniques that were developed many years ago and require a lot of time investment by a candidate and by the employer.  At Chemistry, we are doing things differently using proprietary IP.

SMP: What do you think is going to be the most interesting aspect technology, recruitment and workforces for the next 12 to 18-months and why?

AS: The most interesting application of technology to recruitment and workforces in the next 12 to 18 months is going to be the enabling of techniques to allow a move from what is largely subjective evaluation of people to a more balanced evaluation method with objective data.  

SMP: What are your top five predictions for technology, recruitment and workforces for next 12 to 18-months and why?

AS replies with:
  • For people management, there will be a move from subjective evaluation to evaluation with greater objectivity.
  • Publicly available data (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs etc.) will be used in targeting and evaluating individuals for more than just marketing.
  • Machine learning is maturing and will be playing a big role in recruitment and workforce management as well as many other areas.
  • With the increasing pace of disruptive technology, companies must move from “managing change” to using “change as a strategy” to compete.
  • Human resource departments are overwhelmed by data and metrics. They are going to have to forgo manual processes and rely more on technology to keep up with the pace of change.

SMP: What are your top overall five tips for candidates seeking employment, or recruiters seeking them and why?

AS replies with:
  • Be very careful what you put out about yourself on social media. It will be used to determine who you really are.
  • Cultural fit has become an essential attribute in companies because it helps them to focus on employee experience to drive engagement and retention. Recruiters need to pay attention to that along with the usual screening criteria.
  • Candidates should learn as much as they can about the manager that they will be reporting to before accepting a position. That manager has a large impact on how happy you will be and whether you will be successful - so don’t go work for one that is not a good fit.
  • The millennial generation of employees demand full transparency from companies.  Companies who are not transparent in communications with their employees will not be able to hire the best of the best.
  • There is a great role out there for almost everyone with a good education.  Technology can help match “what great looks like” in a role to the best candidate.  Make use of the technology, it will lead to better outcomes.

SMP: Is there anything else we should know, or is there anything that you’d like to share?

AS: You can learn more about me at LinkedIn.

SMP: Best way to contact you and The Chemistry Group?

AS: On email and the Chemistry ​office +44 (0) 207 629 9565

Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

AS: When not doing something physically active during the day, I tend to eat one meal a day – dinner.  I had a cup of coffee for breakfast, coffee for snack, coffee for lunch and I am going to be ravenous for dinner!

SMP: What’s the last good thing that you did for someone?

Over lunch today, as a favour, I provided coaching to an entrepreneur putting together a pitch deck for investment in her start-up.

SMP: If you weren’t working at The Chemistry Group what would you be doing?

If I was not working at The Chemistry Group, I would be helping another company somewhere make the leap to global scale with both scalable technology and a global workforce.

SMP: When / where did you go on your last holiday and why?

AS: My last holiday was in Jamaica with my wife, Jackie. We both love the country and the people of Jamaica and returned after spending our honeymoon there 30 years ago.

SMP: What was the first job you had and how did you get it?

AS: My first job was delivering the Northshore News door to door on the West Island of Montreal.  I don’t remember how I got that job, I suppose that I applied – it was 42 years ago!

SMP: What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

AS: In case you did not catch on by my answer to the question above , I am a coffee addict.  I grab a cup of coffee first thing every day.

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

AS: To fly.  I am a pilot and I love flying. I would rather be doing that than almost anything else.

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