The JyMob Blog

Choose the Best People.

Coursera ML Course and Beyond

Writing after a long hiatus for life has been busy.

But today, I want to tell you about a wonderful experience I had for last 3-4 months. I finally completed the Coursera Machine Learning Course successfully.

This course taught by Professor Andrew Ng from Stanford University is an absolute gem. I would recommend it to any engineer with enough interest in math and a curious mind. The things that stand out for this course are:

  1. Excellent background work done by Coursera. The professor himself, the teaching assistants, the course technique are totally flawless. They have done tremendous amount of work on it and their passion is quite visible. The video player is an innovation too. (The iPhone app could be better, especially in terms of pause and magnification).
  2. The professor loves to teach and the way he has developed his style particularly suits the online courses. He is lucid in his explanation and also quite encouraging. He perhaps understands the pioneering work Coursera/edX/Khan Academy are doing and acknowledges that the students (7.5 million and counting) who have taken this course are busy elsewhere. He perhaps thinks intuitively that education is a configurable and cooperative process. Configurable means personalized and any education endeavor on the web (a successful one) has to be a cooperative task.
  3. The assignments are moderately hard. They are perhaps not as hard as CS-229 offered by Stanford, but they keep you quite busy and interested. The choice of tools is excellent for a starting course like this.
  4. The ecosystem around the course is excellent.

There are several experiments happening around learning and education and as always, we live in interesting times! It’s yet to be seen what the Internet has to offer in terms of education, but the outlook is very positive and I believe the online courses are going to be more and more effective.

The biggest interest on my part is really the personalization and freedom in learning. We are beginning to see that the ways to spread knowledge and impart education can truly be transformed via the Web. You no longer need to feel miserable for you couldn’t take a particular course during your ‘normal’ college education. There’s time before any kind of revolution happens but things are evolving at a decent pace. I am very optimistic about how our and next generation deals with this experiment. I hope the right things emerge out of this – you are free to learn anything you want!

By the way, (shameless plug) I did get my certificate and I am very happy about it for this opens up possibilities in applying sensible machine learning techniques to many problems. I am extremely grateful to my family in general and my wife and JyMob Cofounder in particular for the support and encouragement they endowed upon me!

What do you think?

On Designing Questionnaires That Are Conclusive

One of the strongest motivations for us at JyMob is the quality of its questionnaires. It’s our real IP. We strongly believe that to improve hiring inefficiencies, companies need to employ strategies that simply:

  1. Screen-in the relevant candidates, and
  2. Screen-out the irrelevant (not bad) candidates

This is, of course, easier said than done. It can only happen if the question-setters are committed to the worthwhileness of the questions. They should be conclusive. If a correct or incorrect answer to a question is inconclusive of whether the candidate understands and has solved it correctly, then, in our opinion, the question has failed.

Unfortunately, such questions form a vast majority of questions asked in online candidate assessment products. At JyMob, therefore, we are quite sensitive to forming questions that are worthwhile. There’s no point in further complicating an already complex process such as ‘hiring’. From an ‘objective assessment’ standpoint, there’s nothing wrong in having a question that is multiple-choice or multiple-select, but as it turns out, creating a challenging, fun and clear multiple-choice, multiple-select question is often time-consuming, if not difficult. Our experts, we believe know how to do it and we are constantly look for experts who share this thought process.

For example, take a look at this question that appears in JyMob’s problem database: a good multiple-choice question.

Here are the criteria for a good multiple-choice question satisfied by this one:

  • It makes it (almost) imperative for the candidate to attempt this question seriously. Of course, they can apply brute force and choose one of the 5 options provided. But then again, JyMob makes it clear that the hiring team for this job may ask you to provide actual code (demonstrating your thought process) that resulted in your selection of a given option.
  • It’s suited for an ‘online’ assessment in that it makes candidates do something before resorting to online havens like Google, Stack Overflow, Wikipedia etc.
  • It’s not based on some rather obscure feature of computing. If you are working on data interchange, you need to know how the data is interpreted on various computers!
  • It’s conclusive enough. By providing an “indirection” in terms of an attachment, the designer of this question clearly made the candidate work.

I will write later about our philosophy of various ‘testing models’ we are playing with in order to provide an environment where candidates might be assessed in the most appropriate manner. But for now, we can see the power of simple multiple-choice questions designed with the end in mind – being able to conclusively assess a candidate.

Candidate’s comfort level is another thing we, as question setters have in our minds. We don’t want to annoy candidates that you would love to interview. Thus, we want to make the question as clear as possible. We believe we have been extremely diligent in our endeavor.

If you are, or know anyone who loves to design such questions, please let us know (or let them know that we, at JyMob, are interested in using their skills by compensating them well for their creativity).

The Power of JyMob Badge for HR People

In this slightly longer post, I try to explain the idea behind the JyMob Badge. We believe that this post is especially useful for those who work in the HR function of companies and want to innovate it for effective hiring. So, if you are an HR decision maker or a recruiter at a company, this post is for you. Even if you are not an “HR person”, but care deeply about effective hiring, this post will bring about the essence of JyMob’s approach.

What JyMob Badge Is

When you post a job at JyMob, you get to create a link for that job. Simply speaking, this is the JyMob Badge for that job. In technical terms, it is a simple HTML link which when placed on an HTML page looks like this:

When someone clicks on the badge, s/he is seamlessly led into the JyMob pre-hire assessment. That’s it. So, you just have to do the following:

  1. Post a Job in seconds.
  2. Get the JyMob Badge for it and place it on your job ad. It helps if all ads for your job pass through one page to keep your life simple. This way, all the applicants see the badge.

Easy, isn’t it?

Benefits of the Badge

This easy way of getting the badge brings you some enormous benefits. First of all, just ask yourself – Didn’t these words: “Show of Your Skills” challenge me? – I am sure they did. And that’s increasing the effectiveness of your job ad right there. It’s enticing enough so that active job seekers are challenged to prove that they are eligible for the job. If they realize that proving their relevance via an online test may bring them a chance to interview with you, they will click on the badge.

By designing the test with ease (because of JyMob’s techniques) and with great care at the same time (remember, it’s not “just the test for the sake of it”), you are guaranteed to attract the right talent – the talent that might be right for the job and, more importantly, the talent that is willing to take the crucial first step of helping you determine the relevance in a structured, scientific way. And frankly, this talent is being found by simply placing your ad on ad channels (which you anyway do) and placing the JyMob badge on those ads. Choosing the best among the active (and willing) candidates this way complements your (expensive) efforts of sourcing the passive and semi-active candidates. Statistics show that just because they are seeking for a job doesn’t mean that the active job seekers are not suitable.

Candidates get pissed off when the tests are poorly designed and the tools to take them have an awful user experience. We avoid both these pitfalls at JyMob. You are simply increasing your chances of getting sensible candidates without having to burden a typical recruiter with assessing the technical competence which is a task that should be left to subject matter experts. Agreed, these subject matter experts are not cost-effective, but that’s exactly what we have set out to do at JyMob – bring you a set of subject matter experts at affordable prices, so that your energy is expended in later stages.

What it Means to Your HR Efforts

In our experience in building JyMob as a company, we have come to understand that JyMob Badges are an interesting innovation that HR personnel can very easily accomplish. Hiring is hard and hiring the right talent is harder, no one knows this better than you folks, the loyal HR people! Yet, we find that there is a widely held perception that HR function is hardest to innovate. Perhaps that notion is true, but by being able to do small experiments, you can increase your effectiveness – in this case for instance, you can use JyMob to improve the hiring efforts in no time and without any significant overhead. You don’t have to change your practices – seamlessly involve your engineering/sales/support teams in your efforts to improve the throughput of good, relevant candidates which your hiring teams like to spend time interviewing. I believe this is one of the findings of a recent research done by Bersin Associates – HR people must improve their use of tools. Otherwise, I fear that effectiveness of recruiting done by HR people will continue to deteriorate and that significant function (recruiting) will be influenced more and more by people in other functions of your company.

It’s time for you, the HR people, to step up and do some experiments like JyMob. JyMob’s integration is seamless and lightweight. You don’t have to get caught in yearly contracts and get locked up in corporate-wide deployments before your are convinced of its effectiveness. Ironically, it’s this lack of chance to innovate that makes it hard for HR people to prove effective.

I have no doubt that JyMob will help in both short and long run – effective pre-hire assessment is critical. We just make it easy for you to do it online – remember, software is eating the world – you just have to choose the tools that are effective and are a pleasure to work with.

If I Were to Try to …

While doing anything serious, or anything at all, Lincoln’s advice is spot on. He once (in extremely trying circumstances) said:

If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.

These are really powerful words. They resonate with you every time you are at the helm and you are disappointed. Perhaps not so surprisingly, like other walks of life, these words apply to entrepreneurship. While doing the things you do, there are challenging moments and keeping such a “being with the end in the mind” approach helps.

Ranking Candidates by Relevance Score

We are excited to announce that we are experimenting with a robust new feature for JyMob. This is related to providing a quantifiable assessment of a candidate’s relevance to a given job.

Yes, our machine learning algorithms now do a great deal in trying to find out the match between job descriptions and candidate resumes. Of course, we know that a lot gets lost in translation when it comes to job descriptions and resumes, but a robust candidate assessment service should have a way to quickly sort candidates based on their overall relevance to the given job. This is especially useful in high volume cases.

We plan to tweak the matching algorithm in coming weeks and months. If you want to participate in helping us perform better, we request you to take a look and provide some feedback. Seasoned recruiters, hiring managers and engineers are extremely good at deciding the match amidst imprecise data (like job descriptions and resumes), and we want to improve our algorithms to become reliable in deciding a match.

The feature integrates nicely with the list of candidates and is available when the candidates show off their skills on our tests. You should really try it out yourself, but here is what it looks like:

The candidates are nicely sorted on the score and when you click on a particular score, you get the details that went into determining the score:

Nice, isn’t it?

But wait, that’s not all. We encourage you to form the hiring team for your jobs and we also calculate the hiring team sentiment based on how candidate has performed on the display of their skills! Here’s what it looks like:

We hope this helps you in making an informed decision about whether to invite a candidate or to archive his/her job application (which is also a feature I will talk about soon).

If you haven’t already, give JyMob a try. It’s well worth your time :-).

Some Ruby Fun

Building a startup is hard like so many well-written articles and personal experiences will tell you. But you don’t have to give up what you love (in addition to doing your startup) while doing it. Agreed, the best way to do many things is to do them one at a time: you can’t be building a startup, learning to cook Italian recipes, learning to improve your chess Elo rating from 1800s to 2100s, get really good at math or a new language all at once. Prioritize.

But doing little things you always wanted to do is welcome. It stimulates your way back into your startup struggle and reinvigorates you.

I like explaining things I think I have understood well to others. In that process, I learn a lot myself. Recently, I started dabbling with the Ruby programming language. I wrote some introductory text about understanding Ruby’s classes and objects. It has received a reasonably good feedback on the Ruby-talk mailing list.

Hope you enjoy some Ruby fun!

The JyMob Problem Database

It is imperative that you test the job candidates to your satisfaction. If they are technically competent, you should make sure that there is a cultural fit. In general, humans are great at deciding whether another person is nice to work with. Simply put, if you are reasonably sure about technical prowess/competence of a person you are trying to hire, all there’s in the personal interviews is to ensure that s/he is not a jerk. Recently, Lisa Quast wrote about this and put a special emphasis of testing active job seekers.

Now, to be sure of one’s technical competence is hard. Doing it using the computers is even more so. In these days of fast search engines, testing for the sake of it is utterly meaningless. Hiring is a complex process. Making it even more complex by having a “technical test” appears unnecessary. And it is, if the test is testing nothing specific and if the problems are “googleable”. Granted, we all use Google, Quora, Stack Overflow, Wikipedia, the Internet and our tools to solve the problems we face in professional career. Amidst such a resourceful environment however, it is possible for humans to pose/create problems that are interesting and really test if someone knows the stuff s/he claims. Asking such questions/problems also gives the candidates a glimpse of what you/your company/a particular group is working on.

And then, it is not about just the set of problems or questions in a database. It’s about the testing models. A question can be a carefully crafted multiple choice problem, a puzzle, fixing a (purposely) botched computer in the cloud, a piece of source code in an open source project, a picture in the form of attachments and so on! This is what the JyMob Problem Database is all about. As you know, the core value proposition of JyMob is in creating a test by choosing relevant problems from this growing problem database. Here is what is different about our problems/questions:

  1. It is created and curated by humans. We are constantly looking for experts who love creating innovative problems for us :-). Nothing is as effective as asking experts to contribute real-life problems to our database.

  2. As employers, you have access to all the public problems in the database.

  3. You can create your own problems and not share them with others. What this means is that you can define all your problems and use them for your own jobs.

  4. The problems are of various kinds. We intend to provide you with an infrastructure that is useful for you to test a particular skill. In some cases, asking moderate-to-hard programming problems with varying algorithmic complexity is required. In other cases, you want to find out how good the sense of a user’s sense of “user experience” is. In some other cases, you want to find out whether the candidate applying for a QA position knows about how testable some code is or how to write testable code.

  5. The problems are easily searchable by keywords. You can choose your own problems and generate a test on your own. Every candidate applying for your job(s) can get the exact same test comprising of the problems you choose. If you want to make the tests less predictable (gameable), you should rely on our matching algorithm, however.

The entire treasure trove of problems is available to you when you post your job(s). Once the candidates submit the solutions, you can create discussion threads where you can ask for clarifications and improvements. This keeps an entire record of discussion you have had with the candidate. Going ahead, there will be a possibility of scheduling interactive chat session with one button click.

Such an infrastructure is both job-specific and job-agnostic. This means you can use it to test a sales engineer, a tech support person, a software engineer, a devops candidate etc. In other words, it is not just for coders.

The JyMob Problem Database is thus versatile, growing, dynamic and worthwhile. It helps you find the best people with confidence. It is JyMob’s core IP.

And yes, if you are an expert or know of any expert(s) who loves to compose and pose the problems ;), please let us know.

The JyMob Features

Now that the first JyMob Demo Day is over, I decided to make sure that I resume some targeted blogging so that we can make our customers aware of some of the key things that we have.

Of course, it is not about the feature list and the ugly competition that emerges as a result. Most of the features of a product should work in concert, like a well-made movie. Any time there is a mismatch, the feature should not make its way into the product. Maybe those other features should define another product or another service integrated into your flagship product.

To that effect, this blog post is going to be constantly upgraded as it is a list (or matrix, like Evan Miller suggests) of features JyMob has. Every time I write about a feature, I will link to it from here.

Before I begin, I just want to reiterate that JyMob is a service to transform the human resources function step-by-step. We want to beautify the career pages the companies have and help them attract the talent they need. At the same time, it is an avenue for job seekers to demonstrate their effectiveness. Beautifying career pages of companies has deep connotations and we believe that we will slowly unravel the magical products/services to do that …

So, here we go:

  1. The JyMob Problem Database.
  2. Deciding Relevance of candidates to jobs.
  3. The Power of the JyMob Badge.
  4. The JyMob Machine Learning Algorithm.
  5. Automated Assessment and the Hiring Committee.
  6. Versatile Test Environment.

The First Demo Day

In the (early) life of a startup, a specific day has a special meaning and importance. This day, fondly referred to as the “Demo Day” is the time when the startup founders show off their product to potential investors and others. Of course, the venerable Y Combinator has made this term very popular.

We at JyMob have been very excited about this day. About 6 months ago, we were admitted into the first batch of Alchemist Accelerator and our first ever demo day is set for tomorrow, Thursday, January 17, 2013.

Firstly, like the name says, it’s time to “demo” your product in about eight minutes. Yes, that’s right – you get 08 minutes to explain your vision, your mission and your message. Fortunately, for us, our product is our message. It is in a pretty good shape and that gives Deepa, a lot of confidence. Good luck, Deepa.

Of course, the ultimate power lies with you guys, the users of our service. But personally, I take demo day as a validation avenue. If I have really understood the product, its positioning and relevance, I should be able to generate enough interest in potential investors. Independent of whether my startup is accepting or should accept external money, the positive frame of mind should be whether I can explain my product to someone (who I don’t know) in a short amount of time. After all, someone is coming there and investing his or her precious time in listening to me. I have got to do my best in delivering the message. Period.

As for the product, yeah, like I said, we had been busy doing some really cool things with respect to making JyMob’s distribution easy. New features, new look of the website is refreshing for all of us here. If you haven’t tried it already, give JyMob a try, now!

Wear JyMob Spirit

One of the many interesting things you get to do while doing a startup is run into other startups that do noteworthy stuff. We just ran into one – Teespring. It’s a cool place to design your custom T-shirt and run campaigns. Check it out at Teespring.

We designed a simple JyMob T-shirt and we are running a campaign. If you like JyMob (we are sure you do) you should order your JyMob T-shirt and wear it. I can guarantee you that it will be a good quality T-shirt and as a side-effect, you’d end up helping JyMob.

Here is the campaign.

Thank You!