Every year, graduands plough through dozens of job applications in the hope that they’ll land a coveted graduate scheme. They fill out forms, write CVs and take endless aptitude tests.
Charlie Taylor was no different. In his last year of studying Chemical and Energy Engineering at the University of York, he applied to 40 different jobs and attended ten assessment centre days.
Taylor was lucky – his work paid off and he landed a graduate scheme at Ernst and Young in international trade, which he started the summer after he graduated. That was back in 2011. In 2015, Taylor launched an app that he hopes will spell the end for those weeks spent on tedious applications. “The application process is so alien to everything else we do,” Taylor said. “It’s so disconnected and old-fashioned.”
Debut is Taylor’s solution: an app that puts students in direct contact with employers in a social and interactive way. When Debut launched last November it already had partnerships with 41 global employers, including Barclays, PWC, Transport for London, Royal Mail, Allen and Overy, and BT. Since then it has been downloaded 20,000 times. It boasts high user engagement, with over 70,000 game plays and 220,000 app sessions in its first month alone.
Taylor’s big idea was to create an app that takes the bureaucracy out of job applications. Applicants create a profile on the app providing basic information like university, course, skills, work experience, social background and extra-curricular activities. There are in-app games that test users’ aptitude in different skills, and there’s an advanced search function that employers can use to look for candidates.
“These companies don’t struggle with volume, they struggle to reach the right people,” said Taylor. Last year Rolls Royce received 40,000 applications and Ernst and Young just over 32,000. With Debut, “The
employer doesn’t have to sit there and go through every CV.” The employers can then send direct messages to the people they’re interested in. These ‘Talent Spot’ messages have a 100% open rate, according to Taylor.
“Imagine you’re walking down the street and your phone vibrates,” he said. “It’s a push notification inviting you to a final round of assessment. You’ve never met or applied for this company, but they know you’re suitable,” he said. “Debut’s reversing the flow, employers go to the candidate.”
One of the stand out features that distinguishes Debut from professional social networks such as LinkedIn is in-app games. “It’s the world’s first non-gaming app to integrate gaming for recruitment,” said Taylor. Taylor and his team have worked with major companies such as L’Oreal to create tailored games that students can play for the chance to win grand prizes such as an interview, assessment day or even an internship. “They’re fully bespoke to every employer,” said Taylor.
The games help match candidates with jobs they might not have expected they’d be interested in. For example, “L’Oreal wanted to appeal more to a male audience.” So Debut designed a game that would show candidates the different facets of a job at L’Oreal, while giving the company an idea of who would be a good fit for the role.
The combination of being mobile-first, holistic and game-based creates a place for employers to meet students they wouldn’t normally engage with in an environment they’re comfortable with. Most of the companies trialling Debut are currently in the process of making their final job selections for this year, so exact figures for how many people have been hired through the app are not yet available. That said, L’Oreal told Taylor that it has recently hired a petrochemical engineering graduate it met through Debut who would never have applied for the position.
Although its employers are among the most competitive graduate recruiters, Taylor insists the app isn’t elitist. “It’s mobile which is very accessible, and it builds holistic profiles of candidates,” he said. “You’ve not just got that one stamp that society gives you.”
Debut has raised a total of £550,000 in two rounds of investment, and is hoping to raise a further £1.5m this year. It is already generating revenue through the subscription fees that companies pay to join the platform. Next, Taylor hopes to expand Debut to reach a global audience – it already has an international team with 12 staff working in London, Buenos Aires and Florida. “Debut aims to be the global app for early student careers,” said Taylor.