Future Shapers: Hiredly’s Derek Toh on combining AI tools and human instincts in the hiring process

The Founder and CEO of Hiredly discusses how AI reveals only half of the equation when finding the perfect job candidate.

Derek Toh, Founder & CEO of Hiredly.

“Recruiting is hard,” said the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who likened it to finding a needle in a haystack.

“You can’t know enough in a one-hour interview. So, in the end, it’s ultimately based on your gut.”

Job’s mantra sums up what Derek Toh brought into the established market of recruitment platforms in Malaysia when he jumped headfirst in 2016 to start his company Hiredly.

It is an understatement to say that hiring is important for a company’s success. In the intricate web of business operations, the individuals chosen to join the ranks of an organisation are not merely cogs in the machine, but rather the architects of its destiny. Each hire brings with them a unique blend of skills, experiences, and perspectives, enriching the collective tapestry of the company’s culture and capabilities.

Hiring such people meanwhile, is a tall order in of itself.

Instead of the one-size-fits-all platform that harkens back to the classified section in newspapers of yesteryears which advertises job openings for everything from a company director to a waiter, Hiredly instead “matchmake” job seekers with employers that share their values, rising in time to cater to the Millenial masses who insists that the job they do have to align with what they believe in and having an impact to the world.

“They graduated from university and the focus for them is looking for the right company to work in,” Derek said.

“Whether it is culture, the brand of the company, they care a lot about the place that they will be working for.”

So how does one go about matching job seekers and employers beyond reading resumés and job descriptions? For Derek, that means going beyond the written word and embracing the rich media that people are already immersing themselves in these days.

“In a very short space of time, you can get a really good sense of what it’s like to work in this company, rather than just reading a job description”

“If you go to Hiredly.com, you’ll find a lot of photos and videos of different companies. We interview people who work there and walk around so you can get a feel of the office,” he said.

“So in a very short space of time, let’s say 20, 30 seconds, you can get a really good sense of what it’s like to work in this company, rather than just reading a job description.”

Hammering on the importance of that “gut feeling”, Derek shared how he quit his job in 2015, two weeks after feeling good about his idea that eventually grew into Hiredly, which itself hires over 100 employees in their office in Kuala Lumpur’s leafy neighbourhood of Taman Tun Dr. Ismail.

“We got lucky. When we launched, it got a lot of attention and we grew organically from there,” he said.

“A lot of job seekers and employers came to us because they love the concept.”


Despite his belief in intuition as a guiding principle, Hiredly is not out of touch with the latest in technology, particularly artificial intelligence. Using AI to sift through the data of jobseekers, the system found potential ties between jobseekers and jobs that might not be something that they have considered but are a great fit for their skills and value.

“If I walk up to a stranger and ask them what job they are looking for, obviously everyone has an answer. However, data on the platform can predict a type of job that someone has not considered but would actually be interested in,” Derek said.

“So data and AI can be more accurate.”

Having said that, Derek said that what AI could reveal is only half of the equation alongside the tried and true measure of human touch.

According to Derek, while it takes copious amounts of data for AI to make its assessment of a potential jobseeker, it could never understand them like how a skilled recruiter could just from a 10 to 15-minute one-on-one chat.

“If you combine these two worlds – AI to expand and predict what a person really wants in their job, combined with a recruitment consultant who can talk to this person face to face – that combination is very powerful,” Derek said.

“That’s what we’re trying to do in this.”

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