BrightHire scores $20.5M Series B for Zoom-based job interview app

BrightHire, a startup that wants to transform the way people are hired inside organizations, announced a $20.5 million Series B investment today led by 01 Advisors, with participation from Index Ventures and Zoom Apps Fund.

The fact that Zoom Apps Fund is involved is not a coincidence, as the company is based on taking information from a Zoom-based interview and using the data to drive hiring decision-making. Company co-founder and CEO Ben Sesser says that while most business decisions are grounded in data, hiring decisions have been an obvious exception with a lot of emotion and gut feelings involved. He is hoping to change that.

“Our goal is to transform the way teams are built. In business, it’s kind of expected that any critical decision will be grounded in hard data and rigorous analysis. And yet in hiring, which is perhaps the most important thing a company does for its future, the decisions are made largely based on gut feel and memories and recollections,” Sesser told me.

He said that most companies are not terribly consistent about the way they hire and BrightHire brings some order to the hiring exercise, and in that way improves the experience for everyone involved.

The company records and transcribes each interview, which is conducted over Zoom, enabling the interviewer to concentrate solely on the candidate, and not on taking notes or other tasks. In addition, throughout the interview, the software will surface critical questions to ask the candidate, which helps ensure every interview is conducted in a consistent way.

After every interview, the software surfaces highlights and insights that help companies as they hire new employees and ultimately to continually improve hiring overall.

Dick Costolo, who is managing partner at lead investor 01A, says that one of the reasons he liked what BrightHire was doing was because he recognized that they were solving a fundamental hiring problem he had when he was running Twitter from 2009-2015 during a period of extreme growth.

“One of the things we noticed at Twitter was there was all this unconscious or unintentional bias in the interview process or even in the promotion process,” he said. This led them to try to seek a more data-driven way to make better decisions, something that’s much easier to do with a tool like BrightHire. “This would have solved so many issues we had around subjectivity and unconscious bias,” he said.

During the pandemic when so much business was shifting online, the idea of interviewing over Zoom became much more normalized than perhaps it would have been when the company launched in 2019.

“Six months or seven months prior to the pandemic, just based on the problem, hiring was too important to not fix in really fundamental ways, but ultimately 2020 was a very interesting year due to the pandemic, and ultimately there have been a bunch of changes that have been big accelerants for our business,” Sesser said.

As the company grows, Sesser says he is using the product to drive diversity in hiring inside his own organization, but it’s just one tool in the arsenal. “We don’t solve diversity in hiring, but what our product does is create a more equitable process,” he said.

He adds, “How can you have an equitable approval process if you’re assessing candidates inconsistently […], and if we have no grounding or basis for our decisions that we can fall back on or hold ourselves accountable to. Otherwise, it’s literally our subjective memory and our feelings, which is a really really hard thing to do.”