Business challenge

Most applicant tracking systems focus on candidates’ qualifications and experience—but soft skills such as empathy and leadership are equally important in hiring and retaining the right employees.

Transformation

softfactors has leveraged IBM cloud data services to rapidly develop an innovative application that assesses candidates’ soft skills and automatically matches them to appropriate roles.

Results

70%

reduction in the number of interviews required to match suitable candidates to jobs

33%

faster development by eliminating the need to manage databases and infrastructure

4 months

to take the new application from concept to launch

Business challenge story

Transforming recruitment processes with analytics

Over many years of experience in the HR consulting sector, softfactors’ founders came to recognize an often-repeated pattern in the organizations they engaged with. Candidate assessment was overwhelmingly weighted towards factors such as qualifications, previous experience, and the first impressions that applicants made during interviews. Meanwhile, the candidate’s “soft skills”—such as their emotional intelligence, communication skills, and ability to build relationships—were generally discounted or ignored.

Martin Müller, CEO and co-founder of softfactors, explains: “Organizations routinely overlook soft skills when they are hiring, and yet we’ve seen that 89 percent of employees ultimately leave their jobs because of soft skills-related issues. Over the years, we have helped many organizations tackle the problem by developing a set of tests that can evaluate candidates’ personalities and assess whether they are the right fit for a particular role.”

He continues: “In recent years, we have seen many organizations begin to automate their recruitment processes with applicant tracking systems [ATS]—but most of these ATS platforms still completely lack the ability to assess soft skills. We realized there was a major opportunity to deliver a solution that would fill this niche, and help our clients get much smarter about recruiting. That’s how softfactors was born."

Rather than compete with larger vendors by developing a new end-to-end ATS platform, softfactors decided to keep a tight focus on its specific domain expertise, and deliver a web-based service that clients could easily integrate with their existing recruitment systems and processes.

Martin Müller comments: “The key was to develop and launch our solution as quickly as possible by taking advantage of the agility that we have as a small startup. We don’t have thousands of employees and millions of lines of legacy code and data to slow us down. So we wanted to find a set of technologies that could help us develop our new solution very quickly, and gain competitive advantage by getting to market much faster than our larger competitors.”

Cloudant gives us a reliable platform to deliver a new generation of smarter recruitment services that genuinely add value for our clients.

—Martin Müller, CEO and co-founder, softfactors

Transformation story

Document databases support domain-driven design

To maintain its focus on the specific business problems that its new service aimed to solve, softfactors adopted a domain-driven design (DDD) philosophy—an approach that focuses on designing solutions by modeling the business problem that needs to be solved, instead of letting technical considerations guide the design process.

Dani Michel, CTO of softfactors, explains: “DDD naturally lends itself to object-oriented programming, where you code a set of objects that model the problem domain that you are addressing. However, this can make life difficult if you are using a traditional database, because mapping these objects to tables in a relational schema can quickly become quite complex.

“By contrast, a NoSQL or document database can store objects very easily, with no need for complex mappings. The ability to serialize objects as JSON documents, for example, simplifies life for developers considerably—and makes development much faster. That’s why we knew that a NoSQL approach was the right choice for our project.”

After evaluating several leading NoSQL database solutions, the softfactors team selected IBM® Cloudant®.

Dani Michel comments: “We had some previous experience with CouchDB, which is the open source engine behind Cloudant, and we were comfortable that it was the best choice for our use case – it has a slightly simpler data architecture than some other NoSQL options, and it is flexible enough to run on anything from a developer’s laptop up to a huge enterprise-scale cluster.”

Martin Müller adds: “The real advantage of Cloudant is that it is a managed service, so IBM handles all the provisioning, management, patching and upgrades. This is absolutely vital for us, because our clients expect uninterrupted service 24/7, but we don’t have the time or resources to devote to managing platforms and infrastructure. Leaving those matters in the hands of the experts at IBM means that we can focus on delivering an excellent user experience for our clients.”

Initially, the company used IBM Cloudant DBaaS Shared, leveraging the cost-effective multi-tenanted platform to start small and scale up quickly. As its business grew, it moved to IBM Cloudant DBaaS Enterprise, which provides a dedicated infrastructure that delivers reliably excellent performance for the company’s database nodes, without needing to contend for resources with other systems.

Martin Müller adds: “The dedicated Cloudant instance also gives our clients confidence that their data will be held securely—and in the HR sector, where much of the data is sensitive or subject to data privacy regulations, this is an important consideration.”

Dani Michel comments: “During the migration we learned how easy it is to replicate a database from one environment to another with Cloudant. If we need to, we can switch between dedicated and shared instances in a matter of minutes—this would be a much more painful and time-consuming task with most relational databases.”

Martin Müller says: “It’s not just about the software—the whole experience of working with IBM is positive for our company. We have a dedicated IBM account manager who really understands our business and provides an excellent service.”

Cloudant made a big difference to our development cycle: in total, we estimate that it reduced development time by at least a third.

—Dani Michel, CTO, softfactors

Results story

Reducing time-to-market delivers competitive advantage

Within four months, softfactors was able to develop and launch the first version of its solution.

“Cloudant made a big difference to our development cycle, particularly for the first version,” says Dani Michel. “If we had needed to develop a mapping layer between the application and a relational database, it would have taken at least a month longer. Similarly, if we had to procure, install and manage the database infrastructure ourselves, that would probably have added another month or more. So in total, we estimate that Cloudant reduced development time by at least a third.”

The high speed of development has enabled softfactors to take full advantage of its agility, compared to larger competitors.

Martin Müller comments: “We are leading the market in the ability to assess soft skills as part of the recruitment process, and we’re now working on continuously improving the solution and delivering new features. By focusing on a simple, flexible design, we make it easy for our clients to plug our services into their existing recruitment processes, so there is almost no barrier to entry—we’re not asking clients to completely replace their whole ATS platform.”

Dani Michel adds: “Cloudant’s speed and reliability help us provide a seamless online experience for our users. As job applicants often get their first impressions of a new company from the online recruitment process, this is absolutely key: if they can’t get the website to work, they might decide not to apply for the job. So the performance and reliability of Cloudant really make a difference.”

Martin Müller concludes: “Cloudant gives us a reliable platform to deliver a new generation of smarter recruitment services that genuinely add value for our clients. On average, companies that use softfactors only need to interview three candidates to find a match for each job opening—compared to an industry average of 15 interviews per opening.

“This fact alone shows how significant the return on investment can be: your HR team spends less time liaising with candidates, and your executives can focus on their core roles instead of being dragged into hours of interviews with candidates who aren’t suitable.

“Finally, on the longer term, hiring candidates with the right soft skills can reduce the risk of turnover and the overall burden that recruitment places on the organization—a win-win for businesses, employees, and applicants alike. We’re excited to be working with some of Europe’s most forward-thinking companies to transform the way recruitment is managed and help people find jobs that they really love.”

business logo

About softfactors

softfactors is a recruitment services and software development company based in Zürich, Switzerland. Its cloud-based softfactors.com solution analyzes applicants’ resumes and soft skills, and matches them with the requirements of each job opening. By matching candidates to roles more effectively, the solution aims to reduce the cost and complexity of hiring processes and mitigate the risk of employee turnover.

Solution components

  • CDS Cloudant SaaS
  • Software Services for Cloud

Take the next step

IBM Cloud Data Services offers a complete portfolio of data and analytics services providing unique and seamless product integrations to build apps faster and gain new insights easier with flexible deployment and pricing options. For more information about how IBM Cloud Data Services can help businesses solve tough big data problems rapidly and cost-effectively, please visit ibm.biz/clouddataservices.

View more client stories or learn more about IBM Cloud