Get to know the Berlin talent acquisition team. Barbora Jumrova, Mark Serunjogi, Vaughn Morgan, and Vikki Broad share insights and advice on the challenges and opportunities that come with scaling a company during hypergrowth.
This article is part 1 of a 2-part series, which covers how the team members reflect on the status quo and the next steps of sennder’s approach to talent attraction.
In part 2 we will talk about their career progression in sennder’s talent space. If you don’t already, please follow us on LinkedIn to stay up to date for part 2 and other articles.
Talent acquisition (TA) Berlin focuses on hiring for the Amsterdam and Berlin offices and our Paris tech hub. The local team is part of sennder’s global TA team together with five others, based in Madrid, Milan, Paris, Riga, and Wrocław.
Berlin is the biggest local TA team, with 10 employees led by the senior manager of TA who reports to the senior vice president of people.
The TA team has four verticals:
And the recruiters are divided into three recruitment focus areas, corresponding to sennder’s business units:
Business & strategy
TA is one out of four teams in the people department along with people development, people experience, and people operations, which all sit within the business & strategy unit.
We video called four team members to dive into their take on working at sennder, the challenges they see, and what advice they have for other TA professionals working in hypergrowth companies.
Who are you?
Barbora Jumrová (she/her): I joined the TA team in July of 2020, and I do operations recruitment focusing on roles in our account management, sales, and value-added services teams across Berlin and Amsterdam. I also jump in wherever needed, as there is a regular rotation of positions within the teams. So in a couple of months, I might be focusing on other teams and roles to get more experience.
Mark Serunjogi (he/him/they/them): I'm the senior employer brand partner and joined sennder in January 2021 to build our employer brand function. Though I’m based in Berlin, I support the global TA team. My current focus is to produce content to tell our employee stories by highlighting the skilled people working here and the strategic projects they work on. A major attraction point for candidates is understanding how we solve problems as a company, which gives a peek into the employee experience. I especially help recruiters and hiring teams with the content needs they might have when it comes to making our candidate communication more efficient and on-brand.
I also work closely with the internal and marketing communications teams to align on content and social media schedules to make sure that the employer brand is consistent with the evolving company brand.
Vikki Broad (she/her): Like Mark, I’m a first, as in the team's first recruitment coordinator, and I joined back in August of 2020. I support the tech recruiters in all of their hiring. I used to support the whole Berlin team, but now that there are two of us coordinators I solely work with engineering, product, and data roles. I also take care of our recruitment operations systems as the main point of contact for Greenhouse, our applicant tracking system (ATS), Starred, our candidate feedback tool, and any other tooling that we want to implement in recruitment. So I'm the person providing access and admin rights to new joiners, and I’m the one people come to with questions about tips and tricks when it comes to getting the most out of our tools and pulling data.
Vaughn Morgan (he/him): I came into the sennder team in the middle of October 2020 and I've been a tech recruiter for 10 years. I've been focusing on almost all the hiring for the tech department in Paris as well as a couple of roles in Berlin. I also hire for our IT support team and the tech side of the value-added services team, while Barbora hires for their business operational roles. Additionally, I focus a lot on data analytics for the team, which I was really interested in continuing with as I've been doing it for the last couple of years. And then I define a lot of the recruitment strategy in terms of how we operate talent acquisition within tech.
What is the current stage of TA at sennder, e.g. which processes are in place, and what projects are you’re working on?
Vaughn: For tech recruitment, I would say that we are in a good place, but there are still things to figure out going forward. We are probably at a 7 out of 10. We've worked on defining a lot of aspects to have a solid interview process, but we are still working on expanding the interviewer pool, defining processes for certain positions that we rarely recruit for, and aligning on the strategy for the tech hubs of Berlin and Paris.
Barbora: I would also say that operations recruitment is around the 7-mark. Things are much better now than when I joined the team. When I compare the TA team of July 2020 to the one of May 2021 we’ve become a completely different function. We are not only bigger but also more defined, with policies and processes in place to help us educate the business and improve on topics like internal mobility and career development. But there is still work to do, e.g. interviewer calibration. We’re kicking off a project for this inspired by what tech recruitment has already been working on, which is really cool. Also, the diversity and inclusion facets of recruitment are still being elaborated on. So we are on a good path, but still not at the ideal stage.
Vikki: I'd love us to be in a place next year where scheduling is automated and not something we are dealing with on a daily basis. Obviously, you always need someone to make sure things are running smoothly, but we are looking at tooling now and considering the budget so that we can prioritize it. That will help the coordination team to focus more on operational projects rather than manual scheduling and looking through people's calendars. That would be a great step forward.
Mark: When it comes to strategic employer branding, we are at the beginning stages. I’m still introducing the function of employer branding on occasion and communicating the impact that employer branding can have on promoting teams and articulating the career-fulfilling parts of working at sennder. All the while, I’m full speed ahead with driving content projects and planning the road map towards having an articulated employer value proposition.
Also as Barbora mentioned, I was pleased to find out that the focus on diverse representation through recruitment is already an integrated part of our processes. Now the question is how we take it to the next level, learn from the data and efforts done so far, and tie it together with the inclusion parameters of our employee experience post-hire. In relation to that, I'm also a member of our diversity and inclusion committee as a TA team liaison. I see us moving into a new era of what talent attraction means at sennder.
Vaughn: Yeah, when it comes to diversity and inclusion a lot of the senior managers in tech are really behind it. To the point where we are solely focusing on establishing diverse talent pools for specific leadership roles because we recognize that we aren’t yet as advanced as we want to be.
Barbora: And in terms of best practices and knowledge-sharing, our main touchpoints are our bi-weekly team meetings and regular brainstorming sessions. E.g. when we see that something is working out in tech recruitment and they are further along, we transfer those learnings to business and operations recruitment. And vice versa.
What would you say the team’s current main challenges are?
Mark: I would say pace and prioritization can be a challenge. While growing, we want to keep a fast pace and also sustainably implement more structure and processes. This is not the same 200-person startup it was at the beginning of 2020. We are now 800+ people with high ambitions. This leads to having many things we could do while figuring out what are the right things we should do at any given point in time. Balancing those different business requests with short- and long-term perspectives, while also building and cementing new functions, like mine in TA, is challenging. It's fun, but it also requires skills to find the sweet spot and know when to forge ahead with speed and when to take a minute to reflect on choices.
Vaughn: I think some of our main challenges are some of the manual tasks still involved with data and reporting. I've spent a couple of months cleaning up our data and getting it to the best possible place it can be with our ATS. In my experience, Greenhouse is probably one of the best ATS I have used, and it has some really cool out-of-the-box reporting capabilities. However, as a team, we care a lot about data analytics, so we are still figuring out how we can get the ATS to do all of the things we want it to. We're also looking into possible additional tools to help us with that. Cutting back on the manual data work will make everyone's lives even easier.
Barbora: I agree with both of you. Less manual reporting would be great. Another challenge is balancing different priorities when it comes to the desire to ensure diverse talent pools while also hiring for business-critical roles where speed is really essential. So there is still coaching to be done in terms of managing patience, balancing the long-term vision with short-term needs, and continuing to have senior management involved in those conversations.
In general, it's great that we are being recognized as a valuable scaleup, but behind the scenes, it means we operate in a very fast-paced environment. We're doing many things at once, from daily operations to building things from scratch. Which is a super amazing learning experience as much as it's challenging.
Vaughn: Something we've noticed is that some managers in the tech organization don't communicate as much with each other as we initially thought they did. I've experienced that we as recruiters can talk with one manager and then when we talk with another manager, they can say something different. So this is something I see that we can help them with and improve as we iron out our recruitment and communication processes, also across different office locations. We can help foster that efficiency.
Vikki: Because of our fast growth, we are onboarding a lot of people. So it's a matter of making sure that people are up to speed from the beginning. Some recruiters haven't worked with a coordinator before so there is a bit of an adaptation process of explaining how the partnership works.
Within sennder more generally, it's about coping with the scaling. When people join in senior roles we want them to hit the ground running and start hiring as hiring managers and interviewers as soon as possible. So it's a steep learning curve for them in terms of living up to those expectations while they’re adapting to our ways of working, understanding our ATS, and figuring out how to assess candidates. Getting them up to speed and letting them catch their breath can be challenging at times.
What do you think will take the team to the next level?
Barbora: A low-hanging fruit is to really stick to the processes that we have developed and accept that we are not the startup that we used to be. We are a bigger company where processes are needed. We are in a transitional phase, and it's now part of our job to guide managers through the processes. This will help us be more efficient, more data-driven, and make us able to scale faster.
Mark: I also relate to that mindset. The company is in a different league now where an employer branding mindset is needed throughout the organization. The more we grow, the more eyes will be on us, so we need to think holistically about our reputation amongst talent. Because it doesn't just start with the recruitment process. It’s also about how our employees talk about us. So the work begins within the teams when it comes to making employees brand ambassadors and acknowledging that we compete with bigger companies when it comes to providing an attractive employee experience. Recruitment does not just happen in talent acquisition. Every employee can find a role to play to support talent growth and promote our culture.
What would be your advice to someone starting out in TA in a hypergrowth environment?
Mark: Having a big picture perspective and a consulting mindset is something that will be useful, as well as remembering how crucial TA is for the rest of the business. We bring in people who are going to create the value of our products and services. We need to remember that and not make ourselves smaller than we are. It's a bit cliché at this point, but scrapping the idea of TA as a service provider and doubling down on being strategic business partners and internal consultants is my go-to mind hack.
Vaughn: In general, using data to help make decisions has been key throughout my career in different companies. When you’re talking to a hiring manager about strategy, where to find candidates, and about what works and what doesn't, it's harder to combat an argument when there are numbers attached to it. Being able to show what I'm seeing numerically has helped me out a lot since I got into data analytics 5 years ago. It leaves less room for pushback from managers than when you’re only working with anecdotal examples. It's something I wish I did more of when I was starting out in recruiting.
Vikki: Besides the points about data, I'll also say working quickly. Of course, we have to make sure that there is a certain level of quality to what we do, but learn to move quickly and keep in mind that it's ok to make mistakes. No one is really expecting things to be perfect right now, and we know that there is plenty of improvement to be made. If you can work quickly with what you've got without getting bogged down by the details, you'll be more able to fill roles as a recruiter. One of our engineering directors always says "good first, then great," which is quite a good summary of the state of sennder. Get something to work and then worry about it being really great later.
Barbora: Not much to add here. An entrepreneurial spirit is important as well as being creative. Do not be afraid of the scope and the challenges that come with being in a growing company.