How a group of Ohio State University students built a startup to change faceless onboarding processes
Joining the workforce after college — and beyond — can be a difficult and intimidating process. It can seem like your accomplishments, experiences and personality are reduced to numbers and resumé items. But what if a potential employer could get to know the real you rather than the version that comes across on a sheet of paper? That’s the goal of the recently launched Columbus startup Helm, a group of college students and recent graduates of The Ohio State University who are developing a combination of interactive resumé and social network that aims to make hiring more personal, connected and effective.
“We built the most direct pathway for individuals like us and our peers to authentically tell their story to employers,” said co-founder and CEO Tommy Hillyer. “We’re trying to make hiring more about people and less about your network connections, resume, GPA or some of these arbitrary metrics that tend to create barriers for a lot of our peers. At the very core of everything we do at Helm, we are dedicated to solving the problems that we are feeling ourselves as young professionals just out of college or still in college. And when you compare Helm to something like Indeed and LinkedIn, the typical way that you go through a job application process, the difference is clear.”
Helm’s platform creates a series of shared projects similar to a portfolio. Users answer a series of questions and watch videos from companies explaining what they’re looking for from certain applicants. The platform helps you build your interactive portfolio that highlights your story, accomplishments and projects. Helm was initially thought of as a LinkedIn-style network, but its founders realized that adding another social media platform to the mix wasn’t doing anyone any good until they had the platform and its utility in place.
“We really emphasize showing, not just telling,” said Hillyer. “For instance, if you tell us what your personality is, that’s great information, but we want you to be able to show that and how it connects to who you are and in a meaningful way. A large part of the platform is centered around projects and things that you have built. You can tell that story in a way that lets you show your thought process through the project, similar to a portfolio in the design world. You can literally map out, ‘This is what I thought I was going to do, this is what I learned, this is what I created and this is how I came to this conclusion.’”
Not only is Helm geared toward employees, but its founders see it as a tool for both sides. Rather than just giving would-be employees a new way to compete against each other, the goal is to give employers access to the candidates they actually want to invest in.
“What’s interesting is that companies are looking for unique people and differentiation,” said Hillyer. “But the way the application processes are set up now, it incentivizes you to assimilate towards certain standards. If you look and talk a certain way, you’re more likely to get the job. But what they are actually looking for are people that they can relate to. Take something as trivial as being interested in soccer. That’s something that we can relate to as people. Sure, you might have the skills and the requirements, but that doesn’t matter as much in the career paths that we’re targeting, because a lot of these entry-level positions require learning on the job even if you have the experience.”
Helm’s creators have their sights set high. They don’t want to just create a new app to clutter your phone, they want to change the way companies hire and employees seek out a new position.
“We’re setting out to change the system — we know it’s a huge problem everywhere,” Hillyer said. “You’re evaluated by a number, which is what this era has taught us to do through resumes, GPAs and our entire economic system being measured by GDP. Sure, these numbers are telling, but they don’t tell the whole story. And to us, that was a motivator. We want that story to be the conversation, not numbers. We want that to start the conversation, make it more personal, and make it more about the people involved.”
For Helm’s co-founders, starting life at OSU was lucky in more ways than one. Not only did it provide them a growing employment market and a large pool of young professionals in their backyard, but they’ve found that the resources available to an exciting startup like theirs are almost limitless in Columbus.
“Obviously, we’re here in the first place because we all went to Ohio State, but the reason why we’ve gotten to this point is because we are in Columbus,” Hillyer said. “We’ve been fortunate to be able to tap into this growing entrepreneurship community. Not only is it the knowledge out there, but these entrepreneurs are some of the most supportive people we’ve met. They’re willing to have a conversation with us, even though we’re just students who are trying to start something. They might be successful entrepreneurs already or starting their own business, but they’re willing to sit down and talk us through what they would do at our stage. That’s really why we intend to stay here.”