Stephen Reilly of Grad DNA talks about the app created by grad recruiters and psychologists to match quality candidates of all backgrounds.

Grad DNA is an app that psychometrically assesses candidates and matches them to suitable graduate employers based on their profile. It saves students time by only showing them suitable roles that are matched to their skills and helps employers select the best students more quickly without having to review applicants who will not pass their assessment criteria.

Founder, Stephen Reilly, has twenty years’ experience in recruitment, working for large international companies as their head of talent acquisition across the EMEA region. He is a chartered HR professional and a regional director for the Institute of Recruitment Professionals. Stephen tells us more...

I came up with the idea when... I was psychometrically testing thousands of students as part of a graduate and apprenticeship campaign I was leading. It was admin heavy for the team and very costly. I searched for a way to pre-screen all our potential applicants before they applied – there wasn’t a cost effective method so I thought I would build the app and bring psychometric assessment to the student population. Students can now take assessments in a way that is native to them - on their smartphones.

The biggest challenge is... getting the right controls in place to enable testing on smart devices. To achieve valid results you need to take psychometric assessments in a controlled environment, which is extremely difficult on a smart device that's designed to keep you constantly engaged with the outside world. We have devised a way to control the environment so you can take the assessment free from interruptions and lock the assessments if unnecessary interruptions occur. This is a breakthrough not only for the Grad DNA app but for the psychometric testing marketplace globally.

The average day is... spent working in three main areas: product development and testing, student acquisition and client acquisition. I have a great team around me so I can quite easily jump from one to the other throughout the day while they keep the focus and momentum in each specialist area.

The team consists... of me and seven others, covering product management, business psychology, customer sales and student attraction. We partner with two businesses who lead our design and marketing and our product development.

My favourite quote is... ‘Be a voice not an echo’, by Albert Einstein. It really resonates with me. I needed to step out of the comfort of working for a large corporate and disrupt the graduate recruiting market. It was ready for disruption, I just needed to be the one leading the way.

I am where I am today because of... the solid grounding I had in recruitment. I spent the first five years working for agencies where I learnt about the importance of satisfying a customer’s needs. The next 15 years I spent working in-house where an excellent candidate experience was paramount to ongoing success.

I am who I am because of... my grounded upbringing. We were taught not to lie, to play hard, and to play fair. I thrive on healthy competition and perform my best when I am working under pressure. I have an older brother who is equally as competitive, so I also learnt how to lose quite often when growing up!

The best advice I've been given... was from a guy called David Bucknall, who was the chairman where I landed my first in-house role. He made it perfectly clear that you needed to start from the ground up, establish solid foundations and then keep building. The more solid the foundations the higher and quicker you could build. He was quite explicit, this wasn’t just about practical skills or trades, but also relevant to relationships with both your peers and customers.

In five years I’d like to... see our technology being used by all testing providers so they can deliver an array of assessments on smart devices. The world is becoming more and more connected so taking assessments without interruptions is going to be a big thing in the future. There are also other applications for the technology so I expect I will be exploring new business opportunities and partnerships.

The thing no-one ever tells you about running your own business online is... You need to be an expert in everything. There are hundreds of suppliers and experts that you can use for almost every task you do, but with a little more knowledge, it’s surprising what you can achieve on your own. Then employ the real experts to take things to the next stage which sets you apart from the competition.

Our biggest mistake and what it taught us... is knowledge is key. Always ask your suppliers (both old and new) ‘What else do I need to know to make this work better?’. And if they can’t tell you, find someone else who can point you in the right direction.

The most rewarding experience we’ve had to date... was being able to download our own app from the App Store. It was over twelve months in the making from original concept to achieving our first download, with a lot of blood, sweat and tears along the way. But it was all worth it, especially as we achieved 30,000+ downloads in the first few months after launching.

September 2016