“We all have read articles about the traditional job description being dead – that is because it is a ‘wish list’ of the perfect candidate. In reality, no one has all those skills, which puts many people off applying for jobs, resulting in companies missing out on the best talent.”
Sophie Adelman (pictured right) is UK General Manager at Hired, an innovative online platform for tech and sales talent that is turning the conventional approach to hiring on its head. This fast growing tech company was born in 2012 to support the job search of top technical talent, such as, data scientists, product managers, engineers and designers, by creating a marketplace approach to recruiting.
But the success of the business so far and its ambition and mission to help millions of people across the world find the job they love is positioning Hired to serve many other industries in the not too distant future.
I wanted to speak with Adelman to explore how Hired is enabling people to discover new opportunities in a transparent way. In this interview, she talks about how to improve the communication process between companies and candidates, what the latest trends in technology are, the differences between the UK and the US hiring markets, and how the Hired.com online platform can help hiring challenges for the company in the global talent market. In addition, Sophie discusses how Hired itself is approaching their internal communications as they continue to grow.
Gloria Lombardi: How was Hired born?
Sophie Adelman: Three years ago our founders Matt Mickiewicz, Douglas Feirstein and Allan Grant met at a conference in Dublin. They were all serial entrepreneurs and they started to talk about how they felt the recruitment system was broken. Before Hired, people generally found a job either through their friends or through recruitment agencies. For candidates, the challenge with working with some recruitment agencies is they tend to work for their clients – companies come to them saying ‘We have to fill this role’, and then recruiters will go out to find candidates.
Hired was set up to turn this model on its head, by instead focusing on the candidate experience first and foremost. The idea was to get candidates onto the platform by giving them an outstanding experience and enabling them to discover opportunities that would interest them and create a marketplace approach to recruiting.
We started in San Francisco; then we launched in 12 markets in the US including New York, Boston, Chicago and DC. We launched officially in the UK in March this year and things have been going amazingly well since then with over 300 companies using us here already.
GL: How does the Hired platform work?
SA: A good analogy to explain how Hired works is online dating, a curated Match.com for recruiting. Candidates apply to be on the platform by uploading their own profiles. Hired then curates these candidates for quality – we only allow the top 5-7% of candidates onto the platform so companies only see the top talent. If we aren’t sure about their technical ability, we send them a technical coding test to complete. We then pair every candidate with someone internally called a Talent Advocate who helps the candidate prepare for their Hired experience and coaches them on what they want to do next and how to best present themselves. The Talent Advocate can also decide if a candidate has the right intent to interview with employers. It is this combination of quality curation and intent vetting that makes the Hired process so powerful.
Once people get through the curation process they go live on the platform on a weekly basis, depending on their availability. Companies can log-in and see all the candidates who are available from across the US, Canada, UK and Europe – these are all the people who are looking for an opportunity today. They can filter by their needs in terms of experience and location.
Candidates give lots of information about what they are looking for in terms of role, location, size of company, industry and salary. Companies can make interview requests and all conversations take place directly between company and candidate via the platform. Once the company has made an interview request, candidates can see the profile of the organisation and decide whether they want to decline or accept the interview request. Because there is so much transparency and alignment between companies and candidates in this process, the interview acceptance rate is over 50%!
The platform is not a database. Hired is a marketplace platform – you can go there and search for people profiles of candidates who are interested in engaging in new opportunities; on LinkedIn you have no idea whether that person is interested in looking for a new job or even interested in your company. All candidates on Hired are in the process of looking for a new job at any moment in time – companies can look at their profiles and say, ‘Oh, that person looks perfect for the job that we are looking to fill’
GL: How does the communication happen between candidates and companies?
SA: We try to create transparency and alignment upfront between companies and candidates. When companies make an interview request they have to fill out some information about the role and the organisation, but importantly they can submit a personal messages to that candidate. We try to coach organisations to make their messages as personal as possible, such as describing why that person might find it exciting to work with them and why the candidate looks like a great fit for the role. In fact, we have found that the more tailored the message the better in terms of response rate from candidates.
At the same time, each organisation has a company profile page, which is not a repetition of the company’s career page; instead, it is an opportunity to brand themselves and reveal a little more about their corporate culture, working environment, perks and benefits to interested and engaged candidates.
GL: It is an interesting and refreshing approach to hiring, which tells a lot about the new world of work. Before it used to be the candidate who was trying to create the perfect CV to send to companies; now business need to put resources and think carefully about how they address their own ‘profile’ to attract the best talent.
SA: You’ve got it exactly! We have all read articles about the traditional job description being dead – that is because it is a ‘wish list’ of the perfect candidate. In reality, no one has all those skills, which puts many people off applying for jobs, resulting in companies missing out on the best talent.”
On Hired, it is quite the opposite, you’ll often hear us guiding clients and saying ‘You need to sell yourself to the candidate’.
GL: Are the companies who apply to Hired just technology companies? Nowadays, technology is everywhere; I cannot think of any industry not being impacted by it in one way or another. Many businesses that are not necessarily classified as a technology company need great technical talent. I was recently talking with a financial institution that told me, ‘We are thinking of ourselves as a technology company as much as a bank’.
SA: Any type of organisation can apply to Hired. In fact, a variety of businesses are in need of great technical talent including finance, retail and fashion. In the UK we have currently over 300 companies using us – they range from the tiny start-up to large companies like the Financial Times, Just Eat and BetFair.
GL: In terms of trends, what are the most required skills and roles?
Interestingly, given that everyone says we are going mobile these days, we actually do not see that much demand for iOS and Android developers.
GL: How about machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI)?
SA: Candidates are excited about the idea of getting involved in AI and predictive algorithm machine learning. While some companies don’t have that need right now, others have started to require those skillsets.
Within Hired itself we are building a data science team to innovate around predictive matching and make the marketplace more efficient.
There is a growing desire and need in this space, and I expect within one year to see an overwhelming demand. In the past it was all about collecting data; now it is all about what you do with that data.
GL: What are the biggest differences between the UK market and the US market?
SA: One of the biggest differences is salary. Recently, we ran the numbers on salaries in the UK for technical talent against all the markets in the US. On average, salaries are 20% lower in the UK, even when you account for the exchange rate; and salaries in San Francisco are 30% higher than their equivalent counterparts in London.
GL: How about investment in start-ups in the UK?
SA: Over the last few years there has been an improvement in investing capital in UK start-ups; we have seen a plethora of early stage VCs being set up who are willing to invest in Europe. And, we have also started to see firms like Andreessen Horowitz investing in UK companies such as Transferwise and Improbable.
GL: I would like to talk about gender gap and diversity. We hear again and again about the need to bring more female talent into technology. What’s your perspective?
SA: There is definitely a difference between the number of women and men in the tech space in technical roles. At present there is an imbalance. But it is not a problem of quality of the candidates – it’s just a numbers and balance issue.
Companies are really keen to hire female talent too – for example, right now we have a lady on Hired with over twenty interview requests, as she is very impressive and companies are really excited to speak to her.
Companies are not discriminating either; many of them are actually desperate to hire great female developers because they do want to add diversity into their teams. But, there is a pipeline problem in terms of female developers – there are just not as many out there.
GL: How can a platform like Hired support women?
SA: We are putting many resources into place to ensure that they have a great experience on the platform. For example, our Talent Advocates who are Hired’s career coaches, help candidates going through the hiring process. The service is free for everyone and advocates are completely independent. For a female developer who might be unsure about how to position herself, this is a good opportunity to speak with someone who can give her impartial advice.
Secondly, the way the platform works puts the candidate in a position of control of their career. It is well known that when women look at a job description, they read it and say ‘Gosh, I only have 50% of experience and skills for this role’, whereas a man will look at it and say, ‘Great, I can do 50% of that!”.
On Hired candidates just need to put their profiles up and say ‘This is who I am; this is what I have done; this is what I want to do’. Then, they can sit back and let the opportunity come to them. This seems to work very well for the female professionals who often tend to be more modest about their experience and competencies.
GL: Going back to Hired itself, how do you communicate internally between the San Francisco HQ and the rest of the offices?
SA: Interestingly, we have just hired a Director of Communications. We are 120 people right now – not many still, but we are in a lot of different markets. We felt it was key at this stage of our company life to bring someone who is dedicated to communications. As we continue to grow it is important to have a consistent message that can be understood in any local market. That involves a huge amount of skill: you want to ensure that the thread is the same but the way it is communicated may need to be subtly different to resonate with the local market.
Not surprisingly, we use a lot of technology to communicate internally: we are big advocates of the Slack platform; we also use Blue Jeans for video conferences and we adopt a tool called Kindly for up-voting new product ideas.
Additionally, we make use of TINYPulse to elicit employees’ feelings about working for the company. You can ask questions such as, ‘How happy are you at work?’ and people can answer anonymously. We have found this tool very beneficial for understanding how our teams think and feel about different changes inside the organisation.
We also get together as a company twice a year in San Francisco during what we call ‘mega week’ to talk about what is going on in the company and plan for the future. Our founders come to visit the London office regularly too – it is important for them to see how different things are here and to spend time with the team.
GL: What’s the future look like for Hired?
SA: We are constantly innovating. We have just launched a new feature on the platform by merging the UK and the US marketplaces. So, if you are a UK company you can see US, Canadian and UK candidates. The aim is to create a global marketplace eventually.
The plan over the next three years is to expand into 50 markets in Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. We also want to launch new verticals – last December we launched the Sales vertical alongside the Technology one – finance, legal, HR and marketing amongst others!
Ultimately, the long-term plan for the next 10-15 years is to help millions of people find a job they love. That is our ultimate mission and that is what we are aiming for – everything we do as a business, all the innovations and expansions that we are implementing, are around that and about changing the industry for the better.