MAX: Hello, viewers. Hello listeners to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast. We have a special series starting now with Joe Tomco, who is president for Emmersion. Emmersion has established itself for the last few years as a leader in the linguistic assessment world and, and Joe is going to spend a little bit of time with me explaining to me how this technology works and how robots can can tell you who speaks what language correctly with a higher accuracy than most of your human testers, we're going to try to get the human out of the loop. Is that right, Joe?
JOE: Awesome! Absolutely yeah. We love human interaction but we like letting technology do what technology does best and let the humans do what they do best. And as humans we're all very different and what we are not good at is being consistent in standardizing our assessments and so we help specifically to help with the language assessment automation.
MAX: Yep, great, brilliant. So, I'm really excited to see and for those who are listening, we're gonna put this on YouTube so people can see, we want to see the platform in action and how it works, but maybe set the scene a little bit for us first what is the grand vision and I believe, correct me if I'm wrong that where your bread and butter is really on language assessments, and being able to evaluate if somebody speaks, any language correctly or maybe not any language.
JOE: Yeah absolutely. So we focus on automated language assessment, and we use AI and machine learning to be able to assess your learners anywhere in the world. We've done testing on six continents in over 100 countries and our product can be used on mobile devices, they can test from home or the office anywhere they're at and in just 10 to 15 minutes, they can get a very accurate and a standardized assessment score. We tied to the major international standards for language assessment, and really helped to speed up the process and improve that language assessment process. Our main focus is probably 80% of our work is done in English. That's just the most in demand language worldwide, so we work a lot in the Philippines and India and Asia Pacific and as well as Europe and Latin America. And in addition to English, we also offer Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Italian, Japanese etc. so we'll have Mandarin here very shortly. And we'll have several other languages this year.
MAX: There's a few derivatives of the Mandarin so it'll be a head case this one.
MAX: It's amazing to think of that sort of United Nations of languages, you guys are carrying under your umbrella. Considering the founding team is guys in Utah. How did you end up into that space? What was the founding story?
JOE: Yeah, so we have definitely a unique founding team, all three of us live here in Utah in the United States right now, but all three of us lived abroad, and initially had kind of learning experiences and that's where the name comes from Emmersion. We found the best way to learn a language is to be immersed in the culture and deliver among the people if you can, and we have emmersion because it's electronic immersion basically being able to provide this immersive experience and on the assessment side, being able to tell exactly how fluent, someone is. But I lived in the Dominican Republic for two years, right after high school I lived there for two years and I was a volunteer and one of our other co founders lived in Thailand actually for two years, and my other co founder Dr. Jacob Bertus he lived in Russia for two years. And so we all lived abroad, learn the language and lived among the people and as we came back one of my co founders and I actually ran a company out of the Philippines for about 10 years. We owned and ran a contact center and we grew that and sold it, and then we grew a software development company out of the Philippines and part of this product came from our pain, there in the Philippines we needed to have high quality level of talent on the software development, but also had to verify that they could speak English to a high enough level that they could work directly with our clients in Europe and in the United States. And so we have this idea in the back of our minds. Fast forward a few years and I'm in grad school, getting an MBA, and I met my other co founder Jacob Bertus who is actually getting a PhD in linguistics and instructional technology and he was actually working on figuring out a way to automate speaking testing oral proficiency testing, and we got together a few years later we launched the company and he had run a large language company as well, a language organization and you saw the need for automated speaking testing is something that you can't test with a traditional multiple choice type test. Visually, it's had to be done with humans and still today, close to 90 to 95% of all language assessment is done by humans.
MAX: It costs a lot more money right, it's when you have to get, I forget the name of those vendors, but they like semi automated but actually it is always a human listening.
JOE: Yeah, so there's a couple of things there, it costs a lot more money, it's hard to scale up and down. And then also the time right so if you're dealing with a human you often have to schedule an interview, or if it's automated, you still usually have to wait 24 to 48 hours for results. For our product from start to finish, they get a link immediately or it can even be integrated into your applicant tracking system or other systems, and they get a link, they can take the test and within 10 to 15 minutes, you as a company will have their automated scores on the standardized international skills like Seafarer or even we can give estimated TOEFL or TOEIC or IELTS scores as well.
MAX: Great. Well, Joe, would it be okay to take a look at the candidate experience as a starting points, because that's the hot topic of the day, these days is how do we make it easier for candidates to get through this. Yeah, because they do have a choice. At last we can say people have choices these days.
JOE: Yeah, for sure and even more so you know with COVID everyone is remote, and let me share my screen here briefly so I can show you the experience.
MAX: I guess with people being stuck at home with COVID. It was a little bit easier to get people in a quiet room in front of their computers with a microphone. How much of your traffic is mobile versus desktop, do you know?
JOE: Yeah. So, recently and especially with COVID It's been a much higher percentage of mobile, especially in the call center space, so many of the contact center applicants and this is very important for our clients, many of them, if they're just graduating college a lot of them actually don't have a desktop or laptop at home. Many of them are completely mobile, and especially in Asia we see this, where every one of them will have a smartphone and maybe a tablet. And so it's very important all of our products are mobile friendly and they can be taken on any device, really anywhere in the world that they have an internet connection.
MAX: And usually the microphone is a little bit better on your phone and on your computer. So, it might actually get better scores, right?
JOE: Exactly. Yeah they can take it right on their mobile phone if they're in a quiet place or otherwise they can just use, earbuds that come with their smartphone and it does a great job and they can take the test anywhere. As you mentioned, it's a really easy seamless experience. So, when an applicant would receive a link, they would just go ahead and sign in and usually they would just have one assessment available to them, so we'll look at the English speaking demo, but as you can see there are other languages, French, Italian, Spanish, etc. But usually they would just receive a test for the language that they're applying for. They'd be able to click 'Take test', and within a few minutes about 15 minutes or less, they can complete the entire experience. We started out with instructions, they can get instructions in any of the top 20 languages, but English is by far the most popular. We also have an identity check and a few different security features that can be turned off or used by our customers but helps kind of remind them of making sure that they are doing their own work and then because it's an audio test we havetheir audio recorded and then a language background survey. This can be customized for our clients to be used as part of the interview, or it can also be bypassed if they want it to be a quicker experience for their applicants. As you mentioned, it's really important, where there's high competition that applicants are able to get through the process quickly and efficiently. And humans are not very good at that right. There's always backlogs and our system allows them, even if they apply at two o'clock in the morning, they can immediately get an assessment and work through the test and be done in 10 to 15 minutes. We do have a mic check, and we'll just see a couple of these examples. I won't go through the full assessment, but we'll just give you an idea of how it works. So let me share my audio with you. But it was a list, 'he writes letters'.
MAX: He writes letters, I got that.
JOE: He writes letters, so you'd have to listen and repeat. And these are checking their microphone, their audio, making sure their internet's working which is super important if they're taking this remotely to go through another, 'sometimes they go to town' 'sometimes they go to town'. Then finally, 'I cried because the book was so sad', 'I cried because the book was so sad'. So that was just an example, they would go through a series of these questions right. In this demo, there's just a few but in the full test, there would be about 20 to 25. And what's important to know is that our test is fully adaptive, meaning that whether the applicant, say if they're at a three out of ten or an eight out of ten, they will get different test experiences that match their ability level. That helps us to give them a much more enjoyable experience and more accurate assessment, and ultimately leads to better hires for our clients. And we obviously won't have time to go through a full demo right now but once they've finished the assessment, they would go through a series of those questions as well as a few open response questions so they can get some recorded audio on the test takers as well. But as soon as they finish they would be able to receive a score report instantaneously.
MAX: What's the minimum amount of time. I mean, is it a standard number of questions or can your customers change the length of the assessment? Is it standardized or is it customized?
JOE: Yeah so it's standardized in that we don't change the number of questions to get to these standardized test scores, but what you can do is you can remove the open response section, which can cut the time down by about five minutes if clients want a faster experience, but with our English assessment that's fully adaptive. It can be done in about usually seven or eight minutes from start to finish if they take out the open response, so very quick, very streamlined, it makes it very easy for the candidate skip through and then as an admin, you get the score report back immediately to make informed hiring decisions and to be able to do so more quickly.
MAX: Are your customers taking these to send them back to the candidates to say thanks for your time, here's a score or is that a minority of them or how come?
JOE: I would say the minority send the score report to the applicant the majority would use them just for internal decisions, but where they usually are shared with the applicant is if they're trying to learn the language. So for example if you're a call center and somebody doesn't quite make the mark, they will often send the score report to them and say, thank you for applying, this is your score we need you to get to this level for us to be able to hire you, but that can be customized based on the client, whether they decide to have the score report automatically go to the test taker, or they can share it with them later or they can decide to just have it go to the admin.
MAX: And besides about 8.0 and B to C one, do I get any additional data to advise the candidate sorry your grammar is good but your dictation is bad, where your understanding is that.
JOE: Yeah for sure so this is specifically for the speaking assessment so you'd get this overall score, and we tie it to several different skills which they would have on the score report, But at the bottom, it also gives them tricks and tips to improve. And this is customized based on the level of the test taker, so talk to them about things that they need to work on to improve. It will also have the audio responses so that they can listen to those, and specifically see within kind of pronunciation and fluency, as a recruiter, they can see where they need to work and where they need to improve upon.
MAX: I imagine you must have a map of the talents by country or by place in the world, you would be able to tell me where the pockets of talents are on the global scale.
JOE: Yeah for sure. We have a lot of that good information and a lot of anecdotal data as well in terms of kind of average scores based on region or within the call center industry. We also work with over 600 of the world's top universities as well, including the majority of the Ivy League schools and many of the top schools around the world. And so we have a very high level of accuracy both kind of built for the call center BPO space but also for academic as well as language learning companies as well.
MAX: Okay, you've established that these are the type of customers who you love. Are their some customers that have given you that are bad customers or ones that you prefer to stay away from?
JOE: Yeah, so with our solution, ideally we're focused on corporations, so larger scale, usually companies that are using at least a hundred but ideally a thousand tests or more per year. We can take smaller clients and they can actually purchase directly through our website. But for larger clients we'll work with them directly, they'll have an account manager assigned directly to their account, and we'll help them grow. The reason that the larger clients are better for us and really better for them is that the automated assessment that we have is really helpful if you're dealing with a large number of applicants or students. So if you have 20 applicants a year you can probably handle it without an automated solution but if you're handling know 500 or 1000 or 10,000 or even 100,000 applicants, you need something automated to be able to have both an apples to apples comparison but also to have a scalable solution that works with that number of applicants.
MAX: Great. Well, is there anything else you want to share on the visual, I think that's all the time we're wanting to invest into seeing it in action, but I don't want to cut the demo short. I know people would typically ask for a much longer product demo and I guess my next natural question is, how do people get a hold of you?
JOE: For sure. Yeah, so my direct email is firstname.lastname@example.org, but also through our web website emmersion.ai. We're also on LinkedIn and Facebook and through any of those paths you can get a hold of us and what we weren't able to show is kind of the admin side but it really makes it easy, and an enjoyable experience for the recruiters as well.
MAX: Do you want to spend a few seconds on that now, or is that take longer?
JOE: I mean we can take 30 seconds if you like and and as you mentioned, we would love to meet with anyone who is interested to kind of dive deeper into it. Yeah, just a quick 30 second kind of version from our admin dashboard you can easily assign the assessments, literally within a couple of clicks, you would just choose the language, you can assign them to a group, and then you would create the link as easy as that. This can all be completely automated through API integration. And so that as soon as someone hits the Apply button on your website, you can automatically have an assessment pop up for them, and it can be tied into your applicant tracking system, or other systems as well. Really quickly, just in the last 10 seconds you'll also have this score dashboard that as soon as someone takes the assessment within milliseconds, their score will appear and you can start making hiring decisions right away on that and click into any of these summaries to get a full score report.
MAX: And all these data can be fed into the CRM or the HTS through API?
JOE: Correct. It can all be done either completely automated or it can also be done through downloading the data, but ultimately for larger clients we recommend full integration and it's quite easy to do for them as well.
MAX: Yeah, I think we got one of those going on right now between Talkpush and Emmersion, so.
MAX: Happy to do more of those, and hope we get to introduce you to more of our customers, and to work together, Joe. So, pleasure meeting you and seeing what you've built. Congratulations on all your success, and follow my podcast for more. I'll have a couple of discussions with other assessment vendors, it's such a crowded space there's so many vendors doing so many things, but clearly you've focused on the language part and the sport and the linguistic part and taking a dominant position in the market. I actually don't know what the market share is but that's your claim right?
JOE: Yeah, absolutely. We're growing fast and we have the best technology out there and we would love to be able to prove it to you, so please reach out if you're interested. And thank you so much for your time Max and for inviting me to your podcast.