September 15, 2021 LEADERSHIP PROFILE

RezRev’s Seeks to Streamline and Humanize Talent Acquisition

Katie Hopewell  /  Charleston Digital Corridor
RezRev Co-founder, Jackie KohlheppRezRev Co-founder, Jackie Kohlhepp
RezRev Co-founder, Jackie KohlheppRezRev Co-founder, Jackie Kohlhepp

Jackie Kohlhepp is one half of the two-woman team who founded the REZREV, LLC, a Software as a Service (SaaS) interface that serves to streamline standard talent acquisition, while humanizing both candidates and employers in the process. Kohlhepp and her co-founder, Brittany Betit, are the first recipients of support provided by Charleston Digital Corridor's recently launched Diversity Initiative, aimed at cultivating a more inclusive tech community in Charleston. Amid a global pandemic that has forced most hiring processes to be conducted entirely virtually, Kohlhepp provides a valuable perspective about keeping hiring humane through an exponentially growing inter-connective technical infrastructure.

This series is brought to you by Charleston County Economic Development.

Where did you grow up?

Mint Hill, NC (suburb of Charlotte)

Where did you attend college and what did you study?

UNC-Chapel for Undergrad. Studied Psychology. UNC-Charlotte for grad school. Studied Social Work.

What did you find most valuable about studying Psychology as an Undergraduate

Just having a greater understanding of what motivates people and understanding how to recognize people's needs and address them. I think that's been valuable throughout my career, and as we develop our software, thinking about motivations and needs of users when they're using our app.

For example: one thing that we've found is that video can be intimidating for people. So, we think about how we can design our app so that people can feel confident throughout the process and when they submit that video, they feel that they've sent in the best version of themselves.

What drew you to your current business, or inspired you to start it?

Coming from a background in nonprofit leadership and talent acquisition, I started my own company, JTK Consulting, LLC, in February 2020 to help organizations, particularly nonprofits, build sustainable talent solutions to find and keep great people to carry out their mission. My current business partner at REZREV, Brittany, founded her own company the same month, Cornerstone Career Solutions, with the intention of offering career services to help job seekers find great work. We decided to peer mentor each other as Woman-owned and Military Spouse-Owned small businesses. Through this peer mentorship, we frequently discussed the deficiencies in hiring and job search on both sides of the process.

One of the biggest deficiencies being a reliance on the traditional resume. Through our work with clients and our own research, we started building our software. Our goal is to save everyone time, money, and frustration by helping qualified candidates hone and showcase their value proposition to get hired and help talent seekers connect with qualified candidates faster. We officially founded our company in December 2020. We believe REZREV is a tool that will enable so many people to get hired and to hire better.

How do you feel that your background in Psychology has helped you with REZREV?

It's helped us tap into understanding the needs of our users: what are the things they're going to be concerned about? What are their fears? What are their hopes? Strengths? And how do we support those? Especially the strengths: how are we bringing that to life using our app?

I know that can be sort of broad; the way we define that is someone who doesn't necessarily fit the mold: they might have gaps in employment, they might be someone who's a transitioning service member, maybe it's a stay-at-home mother who's returning to the workforce. And how do we help them showcase all the amazing skills they've gained throughout their experience and help them to put their best foot forward to get a job? This is especially important when considering how we support our target customers, non-traditional candidates.

Have you had any personal experiences that urged you to fix the canonical hiring process?

Brittany and I both got tired of seeing clients, colleagues, friends - even we at one point - spend hours writing resumes, tailoring resumes, submitting job applications, and then sometimes not even hearing back about the status of a candidacy. It felt like this code that people were trying to crack; so, we started out by helping job seekers write traditional resumes. That experience helped us to understand what that code is that you must crack. We kind of hacked around that system to get people's resumes through the applicant tracking system, where we found ourselves asking: "Well, what are the most important components of a resume?" What do employers really need to see, and why? And how can we pull that out a little quicker so that job seekers aren't having to spend all these hours rewriting and talent seekers aren't having to spend hours and hours looking at resumes?

That was my main experience doing talent acquisition. I looked at so many resumes and it was interesting because I knew to be careful not to make snap judgements about a person's resume; I tried hard to focus on that. But some recruiters, if they can't quickly find what they think they need to see on a resume, will keep it moving. Or it won't make it through an applicant tracking system if people have those automated readers, or the keywords aren't there. It makes sense because they're trying to find someone with a specific skill set, or specific experiences, but there are still flaws there. That's why people will still pay us to write their resumes, so it will make it through the system. Even if you have an actual live person looking at your resumes, the system is still flawed. It's not that the recruiter is 'bad' or they're trying to do it; but if they don't see those keywords, it can be a challenge. So, how do you help people on both sides to get what they need faster?

Do you feel that people should be able to be more vulnerable in their applications than what is the standard right now?

I think the trend is moving more in that direction and was sort of catalyzed by the pandemic. I think people, especially employers, are realizing that people do have lives. There were a lot of work-from-home struggles. Employers are learning to be more empathetic and flexible because we want to make sure we're there for our employees: making sure they have what they need to do their jobs, while keeping the ship afloat. But people do have to watch kids, or they have health concerns to be worried about, so there is this shift to be more human in the workplace. I was actually interviewed for another article this year about having more awareness of mental health in the workplace, providing more social and emotional support to your employees, how important that is and how it's only going to continue to matter with everything that's been going on.

I like that you view mistakes as an opportunity for growth, how helpful has this been for you, as you build your company?

We have learned a lot along the way and made a lot of mistakes and will continue to do so. If  Brittany or I called the other out for that, we wouldn't be able to continue. You've got to give each other grace, especially when you're doing something new - I mean this app doesn't exist. So, there isn't really a roadmap for it; there are best practices for being a start-up founder - in particular, a tech start-up founder - and we can follow those, but not a roadmap to build this new app. We're going to make mistakes and that's okay.

What has it been like building your team in Charleston?

We have enjoyed building our team and many team members are here in the Lowcountry. One strength that Brittany and I have is that because we don't come from a technical background, many of our contacts come from other fields, necessary to helping us build our business. For example, members of our Advisory Board have legal, financial, and business backgrounds (just to name a few). It's been great to leverage our network here in Charleston to help us ensure that our business will be successful.

Interestingly, while our company is based out of Charleston and I currently live and work here, Brittany lives in Columbus, OH. Her husband is in the Airforce, active duty, and duty took them to Ohio. We work virtually together every day and have found an effective routine. In fact, many of our meetings with team members, investors, Advisory Board members, etc., typically take place virtually. We consider this flexibility in our approach to work to be something we plan to continue as we grow.

What are your thoughts on how Charleston's technical landscape has grown?

I've noticed that the tech landscape in Charleston has become more inviting. There's an interesting emphasis now on skills and knowledge sharing with individuals throughout our community that's encouraging. It opens doors, inviting anyone interested in any aspect of the tech industry to become involved and gain the experience and growth they need to participate in and contribute to this industry.

What do you see as some of the challenges recruiting talent to Charleston?

Available skilled tech workforce; while our community has made strides when it comes to opening doors for more individuals to learn technical skills, there is still a skills gap to be filled. I would also add a lack of awareness of what opportunities are available. I think we could provide more education around informing individuals about the opportunities in tech, including business and operations positions, to encourage emerging workforce and career transition-ers to consider working in the industry.

How do you feel about the business resources and support available to you?

One of the best things I did when I first started my entrepreneurial journey was to sign up for a SCORE mentor. Having a SCORE mentor helped me create a roadmap to understand the potential pitfalls and learn about best practices in starting and running a business. I am a Volunteer Community Organizer at 1 Million Cups, as well. Being part of this community has been a truly incredible resource for me as an entrepreneur because it gives me the opportunity to build relationships with other entrepreneurs at various stages in their business journeys.

Now that REZREV is based out of the Tech Center, we have access to so many incredible resources. I recently attended a course about social media basics offered by CDCu at  the Tech Center . I'm woefully behind the times when it comes to social media and it was great to have a class I could go to, taught by an expert in the field, to learn and ask questions (some questions I had been afraid to ask before), and push myself in this way. There is a lot of talent at the Charleston Tech Center and it's great to know that if you have a question about some aspect of tech or your business, there is probably someone down the hall who has some insights to share.

What do you look for in the people you hire?

I look for diversity of thought and skill. When making hiring decisions, especially when you are building a new team, it is important not to replicate skills or to hire only people who share the same approach to solving problems as you do.

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs or new graduates seeking to work in the tech industry?

Begin having exploratory conversations. There is so much power in claiming out loud what it is you're interested in doing and how you want to help the world with your talents. Having conversations with people in the tech industry, who hold the same role you are interested in, can help you unlock answers to a lot of your questions

Outside of work what keeps you busy?

I love being outdoors. My husband and I enjoy riding our bikes, going on long walks, or just having a couple beers on the back porch.

What is one thing about you that people would be surprised to know?

I'm pretty risk averse. Even though I am very adventurous, I'm cautious when it comes to the way I make business decisions.

Rapid Fire

  • Mac or PC  -  PC
  • Favorite Coffee Shop  - Muddy Waters
  • Favorite Charleston Beach - Folly Beach
  • Favorite App - Duo Lingo
  • Favorite podcast - How I Built This
  • Favorite Restaurant - Fat Hen