From MBA To CEO: The AGSM Grad Revolutionizing Recruitment With Uber-Style Startup

Ben Hutt heads up Search Party, a peer-to-peer recruitment marketplace which uses machine learning algorithms to connect candidates with jobs

Uber did it to the taxi industry, Airbnb to hotels. Now, Ben Hutt is revolutionizing recruitment with Search Party.

Leveraging the power of Big Data and machine learning systems to identify the best candidates for specific jobs, the peer-to-peer recruitment marketplace connects all the participants in the hiring process together; supporting candidates, recruiters and SMEs looking to hire.

Since Ben joined the business in July 2012, Search Party has raised more than $20 million. It has offices in Sydney, London and Toronto. It’s processed over 15 million professional resumes and works with over 1000 recruiters worldwide.

He owes it all to his MBA. Determined to run his own business, Ben sold his house in the UK and moved to Sydney to pursue an MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management just over 10 years ago. He then left a lucrative management consulting job at Macquarie Group to join an early-stage Search Party as its CEO. And now, he’s convinced he can grow it into a billion-dollar business.

Why did you decide to get involved with Search Party?

Technology and the internet are making things public that traditionally weren’t, undermining the traditional recruitment business model. And recruitment is a ginormous industry. $350 billion dollars was done globally in recruitment last year, yet only 3% of that was transacted online.

I realized that the next wave of digital innovation was upon us; big data, machine learning, marketplace business models. I saw the intersection with recruitment and a really solid industry base to attack.

How is your technology changing recruitment?

Our algorithms are only possible because of hundreds of machine learning experiments that can evaluate capability and attribute meaning to things; that allow things like natural language and semantics to be relevant.

That type of insight doesn’t just reduce manual time and effort, it actually improves the success of hires. You’re able to better decipher who’s appropriate for a job, who’ll fit the culture or who’s ready for a new opportunity.

Plus, we’re delivering a quicker outcome. The average time to hire in Australia last year was 60 to 90 days. Because we allow the recruitment industry to participate in the recruitment process online, leveraging all their candidates, we’re able to provide a recruitment outcome that’s roughly 2 weeks from beginning to end. In some cases, people hire someone the same day they sign up to the platform.

Why do you think Search Party can become a billion-dollar business?

Marketplaces radically change the way industries function. They also grow industries. If you look at Uber or Airbnb, because of the marketplace model, the price point comes down and makes the service accessible to the greater public.

While marketplaces are very hard to ignite, when you get momentum they grow very fast. We’ve been building this business for four and a half years now. We’ve raised and spent more than $20 million. We employ 50 people around the world and we operate in the UK, Canada and Australia.

Recruitment is a global problem. So, I think there’s every chance this could be an absolutely ginormous business if we continue to get it right.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at AGSM?

I’d always imagined I’d be running a business of one form or another. And as budding entrepreneur who’d had a bit of corporate experience and made a couple of mistakes in businesses, I thought an MBA was probably a good thing to have, and a good way to meet people. AGSM’s was a highly-ranked, credible, global MBA program in Sydney.

How has an MBA helped you in your career?

Whether people want to change career, or arm themselves for the challenge of starting a business, having a credible MBA is tremendously powerful.

The idea that I can sit here saying I’ve started a business that now serves thousands of customers and employs people all over the world, wouldn’t have been possible had I not learnt all the things I learnt at AGSM.

What makes the perfect resume for an MBA grad?

Breadths of experience, clear goals, and it should only be two pages long.

I’d very much warn against anything that wasn’t just text. Machines all around the world read these things now, so if you rely on anything other than the written word there’s a good chance that one machine or another isn’t going to understand it.

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