YC-Backed Pomello Helps Teams Determine Whether Job Applicants Will Fit In

Pomello Founders

Y Combinator-backed Pomello wants recruiting to be more about getting new employees who will get along with the rest of the team rather than pushing fancy perks and competing on pay.

At least, that line of thinking is what got co-founders Catherine Spence and Oliver Staehelin talking while they were at Stanford Business School. With backgrounds in product management and recruiting, respectively, they each had thoughts on how the process of recruiting could be approached from a different angle.

They started meeting weekly, and had already signed up First Republic Bank as a customer before they finished their minimum viable product in December 2013. With feedback from the bank and other early testers, the team (which by then included Google/Microsoft alum Xian Ke) launched Pomello in its current form last September.

At a high level, Pomello’s pitch is similar to a dating site that promises better matching than simply asking about your interests. It instead has team members fill out surveys that get to their value frameworks. They determine what motivates current employees, whether it’s renown, the freedom to be creative, or public service (the complete list of motivators is rather long). The data from these surveys is then compiled to create a cultural profile for the team. When someone applies for a job on a team that’s set up a culture profile, they can take the same survey to see if they’ll be a good fit.

Of course, a common criticism of Silicon Valley is that it promotes its own monoculture of nerdy dudes hiring and spending time with others just like them. The team is aware of the stereotype and says that its method actually pushes against that problem. Ke says the questions they ask “are less biased than looking at a person’s particular interests and background.”

As an example, she pokes fun at cute interview questions like asking, “Who’s your favorite super hero?” While seemingly innocent enough, those kinds of questions are exclusionary of those who weren’t exposed to the same culture growing up.

With that said, the team has found that the job market for software engineering talent in Silicon Valley is so hot that cultural fit doesn’t seem to be much of a motivating factor for teams or job candidates. Companies really seem interested in finding the right fit for customer-facing jobs: sales, customer support and other jobs where maintaining relationships is key.

Pomello currently has 20 companies on its platform, with 70 cultural profiles generated from more than 2,000 individual surveys. Based on their early feedback from customers, employees who are hired based on fit do measurably better at their jobs. “When you feel you fit in with your team, you’re happier and more engaged with your job. That leads to better performance when it comes time to actually interact with people on the job,” Staehelin says.

Pomello’s customer acquisition strategy is similar to closer to something like Slack than a traditional enterprise solution. They try to get in at the team manager level, letting small teams within companies make their own profiles and screen two applicants per month for free. From there, they try to get more teams on, convincing higher-ups to pay a subscription to screen more applicants.

Spence says things get more interesting once companies start mapping out culture across the board. If a team gets an incredibly qualified applicant who just wouldn’t fit in at all, they can send the data to other teams that might be a better match, resulting in the employee getting a better work environment without the company missing out on talent.

Once they have even more companies on board, Pomello hopes people will come to them when they’re looking for a job. Instead of checking for cultural fit on a case-by-case basis, they want individuals to take their survey and use that to find which companies are worth their time to apply to in the first place.