He could write his own ticket, but not because anything was given to him. He had a relentless work ethic. After excelling at MIT, where he earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer science and electrical engineering, he was recruited by Google, where for more than five years he contributed to breakthrough advances as a stellar software engineer. It was time to reach for the stars, to fulfill his dream. It was time to … hawk interview scheduling software?
That pretty much sums up the unorthodox career trajectory of Jonathan Kennell, co-founder and CEO at Reschedge, a New York-based company that’s all about software that recruiters and HR people can use to schedule job interviews more efficiently. It may not be glamorous, or the next big thing. But in Kennell’s world, it’s the cat’s meow.
I spoke with Kennell last week, and as you might imagine, the first thing I asked him was, of all the things he could be doing with his background, why on earth did he get into interview scheduling software? He said he kind of backed into it:
I’ve always been really interesting in recruiting—I was very active in the engineering recruiting process at Google, and then at Yext, as well. When we started working on ideas for a company, we were talking to some recruiters, and they were telling us how much time they spend scheduling interviews. They were spending about a third of their time with some scheduling aspect. I happen to have studied scheduling algorithms at MIT when I was getting my Master’s, so I knew of some ways we might be able to help. That’s how we got started with it, and when we saw how meaningful our [product] has been to some of our early customers, it got really exciting. I’ve really kind of fallen in love with scheduling.
Well, who wouldn’t? I asked Kennell if anything about his Google experience stood out as having prepared him for his Reschedge adventure. He said it was just the general experience of helping to build a large Web service:
The kind of scheduling that we’re doing is not algorithmically straightforward, so we have a number of servers that crunch over any given schedule that a recruiter asks for. So it’s a lot more similar to running Web search than it is to, maybe, just building Outlook. So in a lot of ways, the kinds of Web services that I worked on at Google were the perfect preparation for building this kind of a distributed system that we have at Reschedge.
I mentioned to Kennell that if you Google “interview scheduling software,” Reschedge is the third provider to show up, behind Appointment-Plus and ScheduleOnce. Didn’t he know anybody at Google who could help him fix that? Kennell, who clearly has a good sense of humor, took the question in stride:
We initially experimented with some search ad-based marketing, and we just found that a lot of people don’t know this category exists at all. Appointment-Plus and ScheduleOnce are really general scheduling tools, so they advertise themselves for all sorts of different things, and interview scheduling is one of them. But very few people are aware that there is such a thing as interview scheduling software, so people don’t really look for it very much. So since there’s not a lot of inbound traffic, we haven’t worried too much about the Google ranking yet.
Exactly! So why on earth go into an area that very few people even know exists? Kennell said it’s like any revolutionary technology:
At first, it’s so different from the way things have been done, that no one is aware of it. We kind of follow the standard innovation adoption curve. At first, people think it’s fine to spend a third of their day scheduling their own things, and everyone accepts that as the way of doing business. But in a short amount of time, when people realize how amazing this technology is, and how much more productive they can be with it, it’s just going to be incredibly powerful. Any time you’re doing something really innovative, you face the problem of creating a new market segment. That’s just part of doing this kind of work.
I asked Kennell if he had any plans to take Reschedge beyond interview scheduling software. He said it’s very possible:
We’ve had people say their executive assistant would love this, or they use Reschedge to schedule a meeting that wasn’t an interview. So I think it’s very, very possible that over time we’ll move in to other types of scheduling. But for now, we’ve found there are things that are unique to interview scheduling, and that by focusing on interview scheduling it allows us to really do a great job of solving that focused problem. Better to be focused and do something really well than to try to be super broad and not really help people very much.
I noted that a number of companies, like HireVue, provide online video platforms to support the employment interview process, and that it seemed to me that doing that sort of thing would be a good fit for Reschedge. I asked Kennell if he might take Reschedge in that direction, and he said it depends:
If we become more of an interview company, and everything surrounding the interview, then that would be a natural extension. If we become a more generalized scheduling company, then maybe not. Then we would focus, maybe, on how you schedule two executives with really busy calendars, or how you schedule sales meetings without offending the person you’re trying to sell to. So there are a couple of different ways we could take the company. The best path of growth for us remains to be seen.
So did he have a gut feeling on which way it’s more likely to go? He said he really didn’t:
It’s kind of cool that we have so many options. But right now, just within interview scheduling, we’ve got a ton of interested customers. I mentioned earlier I have no one looking on Google for interview scheduling software. What’s funny is that everyone says it’s a huge problem. In fact, at the HR technology conference this fall, someone said it’s the largest unsolved problem in recruiting. Everyone knows it’s a huge problem, it’s a huge time sink, they’re spending massive amounts of their recruiting budgets on this. So for us, it’s a great place to be, because we’re the first people who are really set to do something interesting in this space.