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Exclusive Interviews by HR Digital Today with market leading HR Tech pioneers.
Ali Hackett -Director, Meet & Engage


When social media started to emerge, the opportunities it presented were spotted by some experts in the HR sector. In the case of Meet & Engage, they recognised how the changing way people were connecting with one another could be harnessed to create a service that helped put prospective candidates in touch with hiring organisations. The chat platform they have created is versatile, secure and easy to use, both for clients and candidates. Designed with recruiters in mind, it can promote good candidate experience and uphold an organisation’s employer brand.


Whilst Meet & Engage are modest about their achievements, they are fast becoming a must-have service for organisations of all shapes and sizes, all over the world – including some global names. To find out how a good idea has turned into a product that is now being used by recruiters in three continents, we spoke to Meet & Engage’s Ali Hackett.


When was Meet & Engage launched and what are its aims?


We launched Meet and Engage in 2015. The simplest way to describe it is a real-time chat platform that organisations can use to engage with candidates at different stages of the recruitment process. It could be at the candidate attraction stage where a business is encouraging candidates to consider them as an employer, right through to keeping candidates warm and onboarding. 


When we started the business, our aim was to provide an opportunity for our clients to engage with candidates in a new and relevant way. By getting the right candidate experience, organisations are also maintaining customer loyalty – as an example, if you have applied for a role with a bank and received a poor experience through the recruitment process, you are less likely to open a new account with them, or speak favourably about them as a brand.


How has Social Media helped you?


Hugely! Research and experience both tell us that this is one of the main ways people want to communicate. People of all ages are increasingly familiar with social media and instant messaging.  They expect to be able to engage with businesses and brands in this same way. People are looking for a less formal, more convenient way to get in touch with organisations, whether that’s to find out information, make a complaint or – in our case – as part of the job application process.


We have worked to encourage our clients to embrace social media style engagement. They use our technology to engage with candidates from talking one-to-one with senior hires to group chats with apprentices, school leavers and graduates.


We know that WhatsApp and Messenger are popular today because they are easy to use and quick and you don’t have to speak to people. We have turned this to our advantage -using our technology, organisations can connect with their target audience on their own terms.



A screenshot from a Meet & Engage chat session, between recruiters and candidates



What’s the attraction of the platform for clients?


In terms of their strategic objectives and agendas, they all have different priorities. For some it may be adjusting the gender balance, seeking to hire more female technical staff into the business. Others may want to host online events for volume hires. Other clients are using the platform for one-to-one chat to secure senior hires or even for internal employee focus groups. It’s easy for them to customise our technology to drive towards different aims. 


The advantage of using Meet & Engage over a generic chat platform is that this is an SaaS product (Software as a Service). We sell the technology to our clients and they tailor it to meet their specific needs. Everything is customisable to match the clients’ employer brand.


Can you tell us more about that?


It’s easy for employers to customise the Meet & Engage chat experience with their employer brand


We provide clients with a blank canvas. Some of our clients will set that up to match their brand. Others ask us to set up some basic elements for them. The training we provide shows them how to complete various tasks. This could be adding a logo, changing background images and colours or uploading video content. That’s another thing our clients like – it’s really easy to configure and change content depending on the target market. 


What’s a typical chat?


There’s really no such thing! Clients use the platform to tell people, for example, why GSK is a great place to work. Alternatively, recruiters might be talking to a group of candidates on how to prepare for an assessment centre. Or, it might be talking to people who’ve been offered a job as part of the on-boarding process. It’s useful for initial attraction right through to helping keep people warm and engaged with the brand.


Candidates thinking of joining organisations increasingly want to know about the smaller details of jobs – the things you cannot find out from a job posting or careers site. That might be the culture, the people you’ll be directly working with. Or sometimes it’s the smaller details about the benefits package or flexible working arrangements that can make the difference between a candidate applying or not applying.


And clients can use a moderator for group chats?


In a group chat, the recruiter has ultimate control over the comments that are visible to the whole group; it works in real time. If a candidate enters a message, this is initially only visible to the moderator and unless the moderator answers the question, nobody else can see it.  The moderator also controls the flow of the chat. For example, if there’s only ten minutes left for a session, they can encourage the next set of questions and broaden range of chat topics.


We generally advise clients to use chat sessions like an event or meeting, with a start and an end time, inviting people to participate and appealing in advance for questions.



Do you offer a one-to-one chat?


Yes, you can set up one-to-one chat – these are useful if you want to enable a private chat between a candidate and an organisation, perhaps to discuss the status of an application. It’s designed to be secure: the candidate can select the person they want to talk to, enter their assigned candidate number and continue to the chat room. The candidate and the company know that they are having a strictly confidential meeting. 


What happens if a someone misses an event or a chat they wanted to attend?


We generally recommend that organisations follow up with everybody who registered on email, irrespective of whether they attended the event, giving them the option to receive a transcript. Lots of our clients like to summarise the transcript and share it with prospects, whether directly, on Twitter or LinkedIn, or perhaps as a blog on their careers site.


What names do candidates use and how do you handle confidentiality?


The client can choose from different login options, depending on how the moderator feels the target audience will respond. Candidates can either log in using an existing social media ID, an email address or with a unique avatar for the chat. Some candidates are happy to log in via Facebook and share their participation with their contacts; it’s convenient. Others will want to join a chat more discretely.


One of our FinTech clients, Capco, ran a chat where their managing partner talked about his career path, his leadership style and his vision for the business. This session was aimed at senior people in other consulting firms; the idea was that if they bought into his vision and they’d become interested in a career with Capco.


Is it true that candidate experience in recruitment can have a knock-on effect on consumer behaviour?


It’s a massive consideration. One of our clients, Virgin Media, shared some research with us on how poor candidate experience for people going through their recruitment process could affect their bottom line. They found that if people didn’t have a good candidate experience they were less likely to continue to be a customer of that particular brand.  So, for example, they might not renew their phone contract. They’d would also tell other people that they didn’t have a good experience.  Virgin actually calculated that they were losing something like £4.5m annually from people who had gone through the recruitment process and were rejected.


How can you help your clients to measure candidate experience?


We know from experience that measurability is critical. That’s why the platform includes the means to send a Net Promoter Score candidate experience survey.


After each chat, we ask each candidate how they felt following the interaction. Scores are available for clients to view via the chat dashboard. It helps them to monitor how they’re performing from a candidate experience perspective. Candidates can offer more detailed feedback too; again, clients can see this in their dashboard. Clients tell us this is very useful and helps to make the recruitment process much more interactive – often they can improve things that in the past they simply assumed were working well.


You’re a relatively new business. How did you get this idea?


I have spent my entire career in employer branding – both in house as a consultant and, initially, on the consultancy side, helping organisations with employer branding and creative recruitment communications. I’ve always felt that the technology available to recruiters was lacking. 


I became aware that clients and candidates alike wanted to connect in a less formal, more direct way but I wasn’t aware of any service that could do this – one that provided a really great experience for the candidate and that was also easy and reliable for recruiters to use.


It was really through my own experiences that I came up with the idea for a piece of technology that could fill the gap. I knew our CTO, Graham Shroll from a previous project and every time we discussed an idea he provided the technical reality; together we’ve turned it into a product that works for companies and candidates.


Do you have any competitors?


There are companies that operate chat for recruitment but in a very different way. So, you can get plugins for your careers site, but nobody offers the range of chat elements that we do. In addition, here, we all have recruitment experience, so we have been able to include features which we know are essential in the recruitment process. For example, sometimes you need to engage with people in a group, sometimes one to one. We know that our clients invariably want to measure their interaction with candidates and get meaningful feedback.


I’m confident that in terms of what we provide, we’re the premium provider in the HR sector – and the more clients we work with, the better the feedback we get. It means we have some great recruitment-friendly ideas that will inform the way we develop the product.




Are you seeing a pattern in the type of customer?


It varies hugely but we work a lot with large businesses , who are competitive in their sector. They have many different recruitment challenges coupled with a commitment to choose the right process for their candidates.  Companies that have invested in using the right employer brand and aspire to deliver the very best candidate experience.  They know it is the right thing to do - they realise it is a commercial imperative. 



Which sectors use live chat in recruitment?


For businesses like Vodafone and Virgin Media, it feels like a no-brainer to use chat –

they are tech businesses. That said, most businesses now have a big focus on technology, almost regardless of their sector. Anyone who is recruiting tech savvy people have to make sure they have a fast, frictionless way of engaging with candidates. These are people who want the ability to connect much more conveniently with recruiters, whether on their laptop or their phone.


We work with three police forces in the UK. They are putting digital at the heart of what they do. They rely on technological innovation whether to fight crime or recruit the best people.


We find if you can show clients like this how they can save time and drive engagement by using the right technology, then they are really open to the concept. 


How is your business made up and what do you look for in your people?


I am very hands-on and I love working consultatively with clients to help crack their recruitment problems. I suppose that’s how I’ve always worked and it’s something I look for when I hire people. Our client relationships are everything. So, whether you work in our tech team or our relationship management team, the client is the focus – we want them to get the best out of the technology.


We look for people who have good client-facing skills and an understanding of recruitment – lots of our team have worked in recruitment and with employer brands. It is one of those areas where you need to speak the same language as your clients. The key is that they understand the benefits our solutions can deliver for employers and candidates. 


How do you see the future?


In the short term, we want to continue to build strategic partnerships with in-house recruiters. We also do a lot of work via third parties in terms of reselling, so we definitely want to grow our reseller network. We also want to continue to integrate with other innovative technologies that complement what we do and to be part of a wider HR tech eco-system. We love thinking about how technology can improve the candidate experience and, ultimately, help our clients to recruit more of the right people more easily.


We already have clients in three continents and we work with global businesses.  For example, with Capco in the UK and US.  With Deutsche Bank, we work with their offices in the UK, USA and Asia Pac.  We definitely want to increase our footprint globally.