Post a recent HR seminar in Germany, a few excited HR bloggers shared their insights and someone Tweeted the new HR mantra. It said, “Wir müssen Charaktere rekrutieren, nicht Lebensläufe”. Loosely translated it meant, we must recruit for ‘characteristics/ culture-fits’ and not resumes. The immediate question that sparked up my imagination was- how? Today, I spoke with Christoph Skrobol, founder and CEO of a unique new recruitment service- Careerdate that takes the plunge to take the formal out of recruitment and potentially answer my question. From any job seeker’s perspective, it seeks to answer the big question on- how to know if you are the right culture fit at work.
Careerdate as a platform for companies, recruiters and future employees is a year old start-up that has begun working in German speaking markets. The key idea of the platform itself is to provide a unique tool to both candidates and recruiters allowing them to interact on an informal basis, a date, if you may. The analogy in itself comes from the dating world. We exchange Facebook IDs, perhaps phone numbers next and then head out for coffee. A movie may follow. A friend once told me that you need (the dreaded!) 7 dates in different settings to really know if you match. If culture fit is the big aspect one is hiring for in a company, there’s no reason why this matching mechanism should also not pan out better in informal settings. Careerdate expands this idea into the recruitment space. Read further to find what Christoph had to say…
What was the key reason for you to start Careerdate? How did the idea originate?
Christoph: (Laughs) How much time do I have to answer this question? Well, actually, I had been working in the HR field as a provider for about 6 years in Sweden mainly with the German speaking clients. It was during that time that I realized there are some substantial problems in the space. More and more companies were claiming that they wanted to hire for ‘culture fits’ and not just ‘hard skills’. But the current processes put the ‘personal’ information at the end of the recruitment funnel. The emphasis on culture was too little and came too late. In a usual recruitment process, the companies create a hard-skill criteria for a position, create a job description and place an ad in a service. They hope candidates are going to read it somehow and then come up with a cover letter and resume matching the job description. At this stage, the candidate and the company itself may have no idea of the ‘culture’ on either end. What does a candidate know about the company’s work culture? And if they don’t know about it- are they even applying to the right companies? How does a hiring manager know if this highly skilled employee will be able to work well in a team? There is low transparency in the whole process.
Careerdate started services a year back addressing this exact need. It puts the ‘personal’ in the beginning of the recruitment process, before the recruitment really starts. If you meet people, that’s the only way you will find out if there’s a fit. This is how it works in reality because we are social beings. It is not an outlandish or a first-to-world concept. We already have career fairs and events that do that. But my understanding is that there’s still a stiffness in those processes. The HR person will usually have a set calendar and list out events 3 months in advance and it’s not entirely dynamic. Secondly, there was no real online platform where these ‘events’ were being shared openly or aggregated in a common place. Using Careerdate employees, hiring managers, recruiters, HR personnel can create their ‘events’ and set up meetings with future employees and we market those for them. We distribute their events and allow them to ease up the process and create more transparency. The service also humanizes the employer and makes them more accessible to a future employee. Anyone within a company can use this platform.
In a traditional recruitment market in the German speaking markets, how do you bring about acceptance for a potentially disruptive process like this?
Christoph: In the German speaking market, any adoption is proceeded by trust and credibility. Having worked in the HR field for many years, I had my own network, which I first started with (as a proof of concept). There were people who were not sure if this platform was going to work, but they trusted me, and were willing to give it a try. There are a few companies in Germany that are early adopters and innovators in the HR space. They are not afraid to take risks. You can see these people on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn . These are also people who are active in the blogging space. These companies are of course open to the idea at first. With the majority of other companies, it is a step by step process. We first talk about how they can start using Careerdate as a distribution platform for their existing events. We market the events for them. This allows them to test the platform as a pilot. When people have good experiences, they tend to share these and then it moves forward.
If it is driven initially through the networks, would you say that it is the impediment to scaling the operations of a platform like Careerdate?
Christoph: There are about 100 thoughtleaders in the recruitment space in the German speaking world. But there are tens of thousands of medium sized companies that have the bigger challenges. These companies have great, unique cultures but no one knows them. With their little known brand, hiring for the right culture is not easy for them. These companies are the ones that would enable scaling. So the challenge to scaling the platform is in fact not the network, but our own resources that enable us to reach out to these companies who have the real need. This means, marketing and sales professionals who call them, make the Careerdate concept known and show them how it can benefit them. Currently, we are a small company (based in Stockholm) with 7 people. At the end of this year, we will analyze the growth and the metrics we have for us, and then see if we can scale up resources for the next year. Initially, we began in the German speaking DACH region to use this as a proof of concept and establish a market need, and if it all goes well, the plan is indeed to take it forward to markets like the US and UK where recruiters tend to be more open about such concepts.
For a recruitment platform like yours, what is the main success factor: higher usage and traffic of the platform or the increase in subscription services- because both these can mean different strategic approaches.
Christoph: I’d say both. A positive cash flow allows us to divert the funds into marketing and sales to push for higher usage. But we push for increased usage as well as increasing our subscriptions. Currently, any company can market any number of events on Careerdate and use the platform at a flat yearly rate depending on the size of the company.
Personally, how do you see the future of the HR and recruitment evolving with platforms like Careerdate?
Christoph: My wish is to see recruitment processes and employers in a more transparent way. HR personals and recruiters should involve hiring managers and experts within the company to identify talent more proactively. The companies and employers need to show who they really are. Use the current employees as brand ambassadors showcasing the DNA of a company. A future employee should not just be relying on employer branding marketing campaigns from potential employers but connect with people working there. This is what would enable the culture of a workplace to be seen and would humanize brands. At Careerdate, we provide employers a tool to help them do this. Maybe other services doing similar things will come up too, but I’d like to see more transparency around companies and workplace cultures. That is the future.
The more I think about it, the more it seems that we are realistically moving into the Internet of things. Our online and offline experiences are merging constantly in spaces like never before. For a rather traditional industry like recruitment, the online world offers opportunities to connect and scale efforts without significantly higher costs. And yet, there are online platforms, that are urging us to use online to create something tangible offline. Move from skimming online resumes and employer reviews in 30 seconds to using these online platforms that enable a flow into real offline meetings and dates. Unless you were setting up a virtual love hotel in Tokyo, you wouldn’t just marry anyone based on the comments on their blog, so why do that for a company you want to work in?
About Careerdate and Christoph Skrobol
Careerdate.net is the first Web-based platform that provides personal meetings between employees seen as ambassadors of the employer brand and candidates. Founder Christoph Skrobol opens a new way of candidate approach by “careerdates”