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Customer Stories

HealthTap Builds a Skills-Based Hiring Growth Machine

Written By Ritika Trikha | March 5, 2017

What if sharing your symptoms with a doctor was as easy as sharing a photo with a friend?

HealthTap is one startup that’s making this possible. Its latest innovation is the launch of Doctor A.I., which combines the world’s largest network of 105,000 doctors and 5.4 billion healthcare questions served with a personal artificial intelligence (AI)-powered “physician.”

But you can’t make real progress in disrupting an industry as dated as healthcare without an army of entrepreneurially minded leaders and engineering talent that isn’t afraid of going the extra mile.

How do you find this kind of talent? If you’re a growth manager, you hack it, of course.

As one of the first product growth managers in the health tech space, Steijn Pelle (pictured above), along with lead designer Jordan Pease tell us how HealthTap is saving lives while building the first growth team for the company:

First, give us a little background about yourself and what you’re doing at HealthTap.

Steijn: We basically code….and save lives. I’m not exaggerating. In our product, we give people the opportunity to rate the impact of the experience with HealthTap and Dr. A.I. More than 23,000 people thanked us for saving their lives or the life of a loved one, and told us the story of how we’ve done so–it’s beyond inspiring!

Okay so you’re in charge of both growth and building the first product growth team at HealthTap — finding the right skills and mission-driven people.

Steijn: Yes. One of the most valuable resources you have at a product company is obviously the designers, data scientists, and engineers that are building a product people love to use. When you need to take time away from your team to evaluate other engineers or candidates you’re bringing in, it becomes very expensive.

Especially when you’re doing it at a scale that we were doing it in. We were reviewing hundreds of candidates per week. Any way you can optimize that adds tons of value to the process.

What kind of process was it?

Steijn: To give you an impression of what our hiring process is like, we looked at more than 3,000 applications to find five people. That makes the ratio of hires to candidates 1 to 600. Especially because we have a mission-driven culture; we have certain core values and we’re in an entrepreneurial stage it’s important to find the right match.

How long did it take you to screen people when you were doing things the traditional way?

As a growth guy, I like to measure things and look at things from an optimization perspective. We basically spent 30 minutes reviewing or doing technical assignments manually–and we did that back in the day through Skype conversations or phone calls. A bottleneck in our funnel.

So we decided to use HackerRank to create custom coding assessments, which are automatically graded for us. This helps us evaluate thousands of people by their skills.

And how did this impact your hiring speed?

Jordan: What we saw with HackerRank was an immediate, massive uptick in productivity and our ability to filter candidates out that didn’t quite cut it without wasting engineering resources.   There was a very significant gap that we jumped across from the time before we had a HackerRank system to after HackerRank.

With HackerRank, we brought that 30 minutes down to five minutes. An engineer only has to look at the assignment, which is already pre-set. So, it’s mostly just directional. Jordan and I were able to get a sense of candidates even if we don’t have HTML or engineering skills. I can get a sense of someone’s skills with coding assessments.

Note: The “time spent screening” is based on HealthTap’s estimation on the average time it takes to perform technical phone screenings. 

But did you see better quality candidates as well? People who were truly skilled?

Jordan: It allowed us to bring through–with less resources, time, and effort–much higher-level candidates through the testing component of HackerRank. It gave us the chance to vet people for technical skills and cultural values.

It’s interesting. I saw a lot of qualified candidates who you would have think would do well on the test because they went to a great school actually not pass the test.

How did HackerRank and this skills-based hiring approach impact your bottom line?

Jordan: With this time back, it’s much easier to ship things faster. Hiring is a time-intensive process. Especially if you’re involved in multiple stages of the process.

At HealthTap we have five stages to a good interview process. If you can eliminate any time away from me as a designer and not a recruiter–Steijn as a growth PM not a recruiter–that’s immense value you’re giving back to the company.

You increase speed in bringing candidates, but also you get to commit your own time to the goals you were initially hired for. It basically turns you into an hiring machine!

Doctor A.I. sounds truly transformative. How long did it take for you to build and ship Doctor A.I.?

Steijn: The knowledge and data-foundation building has taken six years to build up. The engine behind it was built and iterated multiple times over these years. The ontology was built and evolved with thousands of doctors contributing and reviewing since the company was founded. Only within the last year was machine learning and AI applied to the data to train the engine and to create the Doctor A.I. functionality.

Building the UI/UX part was a matter of 4 months from start to finish.

Do you think you shipped faster because of your hiring growth engine?

Steijn: That’s the other thing about hiring, it’s important to consider and measure how much time can you delegate to tools like HackerRank? How many hours do you need to bring in candidates?

Back in the day, before HackerRank, we needed 30 hours to bring in a candidate. We’re able to do it in five hours right now. That’s a big benefit.

What’s next for you? What are your hiring goals?

Steijn: The rubber meets the road this year. The business is growing very rapidly and we want to at least double the team, while keeping quality as high as it’s always been. What’s holding us back from growing faster is adding more talented and entrepreneurial engineers, designers, product managers, and data scientists. It’s a great problem to have.

We’re excited to work together with HackerRank and others to see how can we save a lot of time to make sure we’re making the right matches. Jordan and I are going to be contributing to that challenge.

I think there’s a great potential on the sourcing side. As we start picking up hiring for the start of the year, we can accelerate the pace of high-quality sourcing of great candidates. The idea of having pre-tested, pre-vetted candidates is phenomenal.

Jordan: We have experience using tools and services like Hired, A-list, Angel list, and they have their own set of vetting. You only get into that batch or pool if there’s a demand for you and if you meet a certain set of requirements. We love those services, and I think having the HackerRank assignment vetted by top engineers adds a layer that I like and I think would add a lot of value.

Interested in learning more about HealthTap’s skills-based hiring approach? Say hello.

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