Emilie Cushman, co-founder of Kira Talent, at her company's Digital Media Zone headquarters. (Emma Childs/Ryersonian Staff)

Emilie Cushman, co-founder of Kira Talent, at her company’s Digital Media Zone headquarters. (Emma Childs/Ryersonian Staff)

Sitting behind her desk in Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone, Emilie Cushman exudes confidence. The 23-year-old entrepreneur speaks with passion, conviction and enthusiasm. It’s easy to capture her personality within seconds, and this is exactly what her software, Kira Talent, intends to do.

Using their video-interviewing  software, Kira Talent, Cushman and business partner Konrad Listwan-Ciesielski plan to revolutionize the interview process for small businesses.

“Everyone’s talking about how this is kind of the big thing in recruiting. So now we’re just kind of riding that wave,” said Cushman.

Companies develop interview questions and send them to applicants through the Kira Talent website, allowing the candidates to respond to the questions on their own time using a webcam or mobile device. Once the applicant starts answering, they don’t have the option to pause, restart, or edit the answer, mimicking the dynamic of an in-person interview. Not only does this eliminate conflicts that arise with scheduling and distance, but it also allows companies to evaluate applicants back-to-back and get a feel for personalities before interviewing them in person.

“[Companies] can easily see in 90 seconds if the person’s a total rock star or a big dud.”

Cushman and Listwan-Ciesielski got the idea for Kira Talent while applying for The Next 36, a Toronto-based entrepreneurial development program in Fall of 2011. Each had to submit a YouTube video of themselves along with a resume and cover letter. “I probably looked exactly the same as everyone on paper,” says Cushman, “The video leveled that playing field in terms of personality that kind of shines through.” Once accepted, the program director explained to Cushman that although fewer candidates had applied that year, the ones who did were of a higher quality because the video aspect created “a barrier to jump over.”

Cushman and Listwan-Ciesielski took this idea and ran with it, but instead of targeting big businesses, they aimed for the smaller ones. “We’re a mile deep, inch-wide,” she says, explaining that while her company targets a smaller market, it has a much higher standard of video screening than the competition.

“The companies that are in competition with us don’t just provide video screening,” says Cushman. “They provide video conferencing. They provide multiple interviewing. They provide parts of the applicant tracking system.”

Cushman explains that their competitors chase the “multimillion dollar contracts,” whereas Kira Talent targets a different class of clients. “We’re a platform where you can sign up online and get started in minutes, pay via credit card and off you go.”

With clients like Enactus Canada, a university organization that develops student entrepreneurs nationwide, and The Next 36 itself adopting their software, Cushman claims that the number of businesses using video interviewing software worldwide has increased to 70 per cent from 11 over the past two years.

The pair was quick to claim a space in Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone after launching Kira Talent in Sept. 2012 and has grown steadily since.

“We’ve gone from two to 15 [employees] within the walls of DMZ and it’s just in that great second-stage place to actually grow the company.”

As the company searches for new team members to keep up with their growing success, Cushman says there’s only one way to earn an in-person interview with them – Kira Talent.

Emma graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism in 2014.