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4 mins

How We Scaled Blinkist with Decentralized Autonomous Hiring©

How do you hire the best talent at scale without expanding your HR team — or burning them out? Here, Deborah Caulet explains the unique process that’s been developed at Blinkist.
by Deborah Caulet | Feb 17 2020

Between 2017 and 2019, we hired 150 people at Blinkist with a Talent Acquisition (TA) team of just two people, all the while managing our employer brand and organizational development projects… without working overtime.

You would think that our candidate experience suffered, but if you look at our Glassdoor and Kununu pages, you’ll see that it’s quite the opposite. In fact, we receive emails from candidates on a daily basis praising the quality and humanity of our recruiting process.

Email from a candidate

Our secret sauce? Decentralized Autonomous Hiring© (formerly known as Self-Service Hiring©). In this article, I’m going to share the unique hiring model that we created at Blinkist so that you, too, can successfully overcome an intense phase of growth without risking burnout.

What is Decentralized Autonomous Hiring©?

Decentralized Autonomous Hiring© is a recruitment operations model where hiring managers share a significant proportion of responsibilities in the hiring process.

It was created in 2019 at Blinkist by Deborah Caulet and Milica Radojević.

Our main guiding principle is that every person on the hiring team is equally responsible for running a smooth hiring process, creating a great candidate experience, and placing the best people in our teams—not just the TA team.

We’re not traditional recruiters. We’re enablers.

In the traditional recruiting model, the recruiter acts at an operational level—leading and coordinating every step of the process.

In our Decentralized Autonomous Hiring© model, the recruiter acts as a sparring partner—supporting, advising, and educating hiring teams during the process. They might assist in different stages of the process depending on the hiring manager’s experience level and availability. However, the recruiter doesn’t necessarily drive or participate in every stage of the process.

We have different levels of support

There’s no one-size-fits-all. Each hiring manager has a different set of preferences and needs, so we created three different levels of support—light, medium and heavy—which are agreed on during the kick-off meeting. The support level is decided based on a couple of factors:

  • The hiring manager’s previous experience with hiring
  • The hiring manager’s availability and the number of openings they are looking after
  • The TA team’s workload
We have 3 levels of support: light, medium and heavy

How do we make it work?

Decentralized Autonomous Hiring© definitely comes at a price. Working with such a high level of autonomy and independence means that everyone needs to have the right tools at the right time to ensure a successful recruiting process. If that’s not the case, Decentralized Autonomous Hiring© can compromise your candidate experience and damage your employer brand.

Developing and implementing these tools was a tedious and time-consuming effort, but it was worth the investment. In the beginning, we spent a significant portion of our time advising hiring managers who were managing positions with light or medium involvement from us, but as we gradually created documentation and training for them, they became more and more autonomous.

Documentation is everything

The first thing we had to do is make hiring information readily available at any given time so that hiring teams could perform their tasks with the least possible dependency. We created a Hiring Wiki with all information relevant to hiring: from how to write a job description that’s on-brand, to providing fact-based interview feedback in our Applicant Tracking System. This knowledge base is our single source of truth and is updated on a weekly basis.

Our beloved Hiring Wiki

On top of that, we have templates for literally everything. For example, if a hiring manager needs to organize an offsite day of interviews for a candidate, all they have to do is duplicate the Asana template and follow the instructions. Again, they don’t need assistance from a recruiter to do that.

Education is crucial

In addition to meticulous documentation, hiring teams—especially those new to hiring—need further support in developing an in-depth understanding of our hiring process, as well as building the specific skill set required for interviews and candidate assessment.

Here at Blinkist, hiring training is provided to everyone involved in hiring. It covers the basics of our hiring philosophy, guidelines for applying principles of structured interviewing while providing our candidates with a pleasant recruiting experience.

To make sure that our hiring teams’ skills stay sharp, we organize bi-directional interview shadowing. It is useful for both parties to observe different interviewing styles, receive constructive feedback and exchange best practices.

What are the benefits of Decentralized Autonomous Hiring©?


If we had applied the traditional hiring model, we would have had to hire two more recruiters to be able to cope with the intense phase of growth we just went through. Instead, Decentralized Autonomous Hiring© allowed us to scale Blinkist with a lean and agile TA team of two.

This year, we won’t grow as much as we did in the past and will be able to shift our focus to employer branding and other organizational development topics.

Candidates love it

Decentralized Autonomous Hiring© enables us to move candidates through the pipeline faster. Since the workload is distributed among many people, we’re able to get back to candidates more quickly. Furthermore, most screening interviews are done by hiring managers. They can assess behaviors and technical skills which then allows us to reduce the total number of interviews.

Finally, candidates often tell us that they found our process refreshing because they were able to skip the traditional “HR interview”, meet their future team lead right away and get first-hand information about the team, workflow and technologies we use.

The Talent Acquisition team is highly engaged

Hiring is first and foremost an operational job. Typical recruiters spend the majority of their time sending emails, sourcing candidates and having interviews, which might get repetitive and uninspiring after some time.

In Decentralized Autonomous Hiring©, the operational part of the job is divided amongst multiple people across the organization. Recruiters have much more time to work on projects that add long-term value to the organization, or use their expertise to advise, coach and train the hiring team. This way, we are able to keep our TA team highly engaged and energized for a very long time.

A recruiter’s typical week

And yes… hiring teams love it too

The first question I always get when I speak about Decentralized Autonomous Hiring© to other fellow recruiters is “How does your hiring team feel about this?” It turns out they love it, too. In a recent survey, 95% of our hiring managers said that they are highly satisfied with the amount and quality of support we provide.

We achieved this by making hiring part of our team lead’s job description, which wouldn’t have been possible without the phenomenal culture we have at Blinkist. Our engagement score is high (91% on average in 2019) which means that most Blinkist team members are extremely motivated and willing to invest time to help us find their future colleagues.

Sounds like something you’d like to implement? Please reach out if you’d like to know more!

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