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New startup seeks jobs and growth for Myanmar’s entry-level workers

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Research the company, dress well, bring a notebook and pen, ask follow-up questions. 

Basic “rules” for an interview are common sense for some job seekers, but for many entry to mid-level workers in urban Myanmar, interview etiquette is just one example of the soft skills gap in the Southeast Asian country.

New Day wants to fix that. 

Translated from “Neh Thit” in Burmese, the automated recruiting service offers career guidance, application readiness, and interview preparation for job-seeking clients, and uses an algorithm to match their skills with employers looking for new hires.

“We’ve really focused on making sure we're showing value to both sides and creating a really good product or service for both sides,” said New Day founder and CEO Conor Smith, MBA ’18. “For the employers it's creating a much more efficient system, taking out a lot of costs — oftentimes hidden costs. From the job seeker side, it's giving much better information for jobs that are available; much fuller information [and] direct access to it.”

New Day is operating in a country experiencing major turmoil. Since 2017, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have been violently persecuted, leading to one of the world’s major refugee crises. While some refugees are returning, it is against the recommendation of human rights groups. And the United Nations has recommended that some Myanmar military leaders face trial for crimes including genocide.

An employment algorithm

Smith, a 2018 fellow at the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship got the idea for the recruiting service while working in Eastern Asia. In 2012, the Myanmar government rolled out economic reforms, including microfinancing licenses. One of the companies to get a license was Proximity Finance, where Smith worked in Myanmar in 2013. 

“We gave loans to farming families in rural areas throughout the country, and in so doing we observed that every family we loaned to would have one or more family members that moved to commercial centers for work,” Smith said. “In response to this, we launched a migration loan that helped migrants access credit to cover moving and settling expenses, and this gave us a firsthand vantage point into the limited information with which our loanees were navigating the job search process.”

As a member of a growing company, Smith said he also saw how much of a lift it was to recruit and retain several hundred staff, when the existing recruitment agencies focused mainly on manager to executive level workers.

Around 2016, Myanmar’s smartphone use soared to about 80 percent, which meant there was now a way to use a mobile platform to solve employment problems.

New Day helps job seekers build their CV online, and this data is scored against job postings that employers are uploading to the company’s portal, Smith said.

“Then we can better pre-select people based on that initial score, as well as provide an additional automated pre-interview, or almost like a first round interview that goes beyond CVs, that are questions that are important to the employer that we log into the system,” Smith said.

Along with CV assistance, the recruitment service also created professionalizing courses to help job seekers prepare for interviews, something Smith said he noticed when working for Proximity.

While many candidates are technically strong, they can lack the polish needed to portray themselves well in an interview, Smith explained.

“It’s good to have some of that training in terms of ‘how do I research a company beforehand, what questions should I be prepared to answer, what questions should I ask of the employer,’” Smith said. 

Smith said more than 50 employers are posting jobs through New Day, and there are about 60,000 CVs generated through the platform — about half of them are active monthly users.

New Day has raised about $250,000 in non-equity funding. Smith said the company’s next steps are to raise a seed round in the second half of the year and continue growing both user sides of its platform.

“Our secret sauce especially in the medium to long term is in our matching algorithm,” Smith said. “So we are focused on assessing and increasingly improving our abilities of using that, in order to better match our job seekers through opportunities, better match employers to job seekers and candidates.”

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