Talking Kalibrr with CEO Paul Rivera

Victor Barreiro Jr.

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Kalibrr CEO Paul Rivera talks to Rappler about the BPO industry and how Kalibrr helps people break into that field

PAUL RIVERA SPEAKS. Kalibrr's CEO talks to Rappler about what his company brings to the table.

MANILA, Philippines – Paul Rivera is an intriguing fellow with an even more intriguing company under his wing. The company he’s started, known as Kalibrr, is focused on teaching people how to become a part of the Philippine BPO industry.

Kalibrr provides people not only with free skill assessments and training to become a high-caliber worker in the BPO industry, but also connects companies looking for new members with people looking for jobs.

In an interview, Rivera discussed the Kalibrr platform, what makes it different from your standard training institution or hiring agency, and what he wants for Kalibrr and for Filipinos seeking to move forward in life.

Kalibrr and the BPO industry

Rivera explained that Kalibrr is a company that helps people get jobs in the call center industry by testing people to see if they’ve got the skills, and then training them to build upon the skills they have, so they can qualify for a position in one of Kalibrr’s partner groups.

The reasoning behind this startup’s focus on the BPO or call center industry is that it’s a growing Philippine industry that can provide a good career starting point.

As Rivera explained, “It’s the fastest growing industry in the Philippines. It will contribute US$16 billion in GDP to this country this year. It will employ over one million people working for some of the best companies in the world, including Accenture, HSBC, and IBM, and it provides an amazing place for Filipinos to start their first job out of college because it allows them to further build the skills that make them very marketable through the rest of their career.”

The process and limitations

The first step in getting a job through Kalibrr is signing up to be tested under Kalibrr’s platform. After creating a free account on their website, users take an assessment to test their skill sets and capabilities.

Those whose scores qualify them for advancement using the Kalibrr platform are either endorsed for interviews with partner companies or endorsed for additional training to prepare the applicants for a future interview with partner companies.

While this allows for a more inclusive method of finding applicants to become a part of Kalibrr’s recruitment program, Rivera acknowledges that the program in its current state can’t take all willing applicants on if they don’t have the base set of skills needed by the industry — such as a working knowledge of the English language.

Training and persistence through failure

Rivera said that what Kalibrr provides on its platform is training people for the job they’ll undertake in the industry and adjustments for correctable skill deficiencies — such as when applicants have trouble with pronounciation.

An applicant’s training regimen is based on the results of his assessment. Rivera tells me that the assessment is there to identify what someone knows and, more importantly, what someone doesn’t know.

“It is what you don’t know,” he explained, “that we provide you lessons on so you focus your learning on building the skills that you don’t know, so that you can pass the interview and have a good chance of being very successful at that job.”

Kalibrr, according to Rivera, is in contact daily with its partner companies to better understand why people fail the interviews. This way, it can improve its system with new applicants. Kalibrr’s success rate is at 25-30%, around 5 to 6 times higher than the industry average.

Despite the assistance of Kalibrr, people do fail, but this doesn’t mean Kalibrr lets people give up. Instead, the program is designed to keep pushing people to improve even after a failed interview.

Rivera explained: “But even the ones we take into training and send off to a job interview, when they fail that job interview what we tell them to do is to come right back to our job station for further training and we’ll send them off to another interview again. We typically send one candidate to 3 different companies for 3 different job interviews….The idea is to give them opportunities to learn and sometimes the best way to learn is through failure…Some of them will fail the interviews but it’s in those failures that they understand the interview process. They understand the interview techniques and they further understand the skills they need for that next interview. So it is a very forgiving process. because what we want people to build in this interview process is the confidence to understand that if I fail one interview, it’s not over.”

The partnership explained

Part of the reason why the system pushes its candidates to keep going and to eventually succeed is that, aside from incubation programs that have invested in Kalibrr, the company earns revenue through each applicant who gets accepted by the partner companies.

“As a business,” Rivera explained, “we are a success-based business, meaning we will only generate an income if that candidate gets hired by one of our partner companies and it is that company that pays us a commission that we earn every time they hire a candidate that we send them.”

He added this is a win-win-win situation for everyone involved: “If we provide the right training and we are successful in that training, the job candidate will get a job so they win, the company will hire someone they really like so they win, and that company will pay us a fee every time they hire someone, so we win as a business…. I think really that’s the best way to do this, as it incentivizes Kalibrr to do a really really good job in training people.”

Moving forward and never giving up

With this in mind, Rivera wants to build Kalibrr and move it further forward, not only in terms of its reach around the country, but also in the types of training programs the company offers.

“We want to go nationwide. Right now we‘re heavily focused in Metro Manila. By the end of the year we want to be in the emerging BPO hubs. Cebu, Davao, Bacolod are 3 of the next really big hubs that have been emerging over the last couple of years. So we want to have a presence there. Meaning, we want to help the people in those regions learn the skills to be able to get BPO jobs in that region. The next 9 months, the entire year is going to be focused on expanding Kalibrr throughout the entire country and then from there, what we want to be able to do is expand our job offerings and our curriculum offerings so that you can get more than just a call center job…,” Rivera said.

River said his success was something he had to fight for. “I myself have failed 20 interviews in my lifetime. Sometimes some of the biggest interviews in my life, I didn’t end up getting those jobs, but I never gave up. I kept going, and I learned from those failures, and continued to go to those job interviews until I was finally successful enough to get a job at Google, which was the last company I was working for before I moved to the Philippines.”

At the same time, he wants everyone to aspire to greater things, and reminds everyone that if they want to succeed, giving up is the only way to lose the fight. “My advice to the Filipinos here all over the country is to never give up, because it’s only when you give up [that] you lose in life. Even if you fail one interview, even if you fail two interviews, even if you fail 3 interviews, don’t give up. Keep trying, because if you give up, what are you going to be doing otherwise? Are you just going to stay at home and not do anything, or are you actually going to keep trying to change your life and change the opportunities that you have for yourself?” 

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Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.