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Blinkist’s Secret Sauce to Effective Autonomous Hiring

Want to hire faster? Find out how Blinkist's Director of Product Design & UX hires autonomously for his team!
by Vittoria Filippi | Oct 4 2022

In 2019 Blinkist has adopted an innovative way of hiring called Decentralized Autonomous hiring ©, a model that enables team leads to hire independently and find the best talent for their teams.

Today we are talking with Tarek, our Director of Product Design & UX at Blinkist. Tarek joined Blinkist 3 years ago and, by endorsing this model, he’s been hiring autonomously for his team since.

Curious to know how? We had a coffee chat with him to find out more! ☕️

Hi Tarek! Thank you for joining us today. Can you tell us a bit more about your journey with Blinkist?

I joined Blinkist in 2019 as Product Design Lead, initially taking over a team consisting of visual communication and Product Design&Research. When we went through a team restructuring later on, I took over Product Design & Research. This led me to where I am now.

When did you start hiring for your team at Blinkist? Did you have previous experience with hiring?

I started hiring for my team shortly after I joined. I had some experience with hiring before, as I was the Design Lead in my previous company, where I grew the team from 1 person to 7 people, including 5 designers and 2 researchers.

You have been a great example of how the recruitment process can be managed independently by the hiring manager from start to finish. ⚡️
What do you like the most about hiring autonomously?

I feel that hiring can be very different at every company, as the hiring process, culture and presence on the market are different.
In general, I like the feeling of being “enabled” to hire at my own pace. I can act directly and set up a strategy proactively, instead of waiting for others to set up things for me.

Could you tell us more about how you attract qualified candidates to your funnel? 

Usually I try to leverage my own network: if you developed expertise in a certain field and location, you probably have developed a good network too. What makes things easier for me is to think about whom I already know that could be a good fit for the role.
I usually go through my first tier network, then the second tier network and gather recommendations of good matches from people who I trust.

I also ask my team to refer anyone they know from their previous roles. This usually generates a shortlist of people who would potentially be good matches, at least based on the past experiences.

Do you make use of any specific platforms or social networks to increase your reach? 

I am active on Linkedin, I post on product design-related career sites, and I also have a Slack group with other design leaders where I share the open positions. This helps to increase the reach.
Especially now that there are a lot of layoffs on the market, I check the sheets with names of people that have been let go, I filter for the position I am hiring for and select the ones that I could contact directly.

I do not necessarily run active searches with company profiles or keywords, as this might be too time-consuming for me, but I do value partnering with a Sourcer, who already pre-selects promising profiles so I can reach out to them directly.

How do you deal with the increased workload when you have new openings? 

I usually step out of some projects and delegate tasks. Especially when there are multiple roles to hire for, I set the expectations with my team, my stakeholders and my lead, to make sure it’s clear that I will need to dedicate a part of my time to hire, and I might not be able to pick up lots of new projects.

In fact, going through portfolios and CVs and making sure that you are avoiding bias as much as possible when screening can be challenging and also very time-consuming. (📚Want to tackle implicit Bias? We’ve got you covered with these Blinks!)

How do you collaborate with Recruiters to be successful with decentralized hiring?

Surely calibrating on the role requirements is the step where I feel that most support is needed. I usually start out with a pretty clear picture of what is needed in terms of a skillset, but it is more tricky to hire for those positions where I haven’t had much experience with the breadth of role responsibilities.

Having someone with an efficient process in mind, who aims at simplifying things as much as possible, and who can challenge my expectations can be extremely helpful.

The Talent Acquisition manager can advise on how to steer the role requirements and provide more input from a value-fit perspective, especially given that we, as hiring managers, tend to give more emphasis on the hard-skills needed for the role. Recruiters know exactly how quickly we need to move on the market and can help generate a ‘sense of urgency’, which at the beginning is one of the most important aspects for me.

Do you have any challenges selling on the job?

Blinkist is a pretty popular employer, so there are usually a lot of people that are very motivated to join us because of our product maturity, the great autonomy within the mission-teams and what they hear about our culture.

Our offers are usually competitive on the market, especially in relation to those elements that people seek for in a company.
One example is company shares: we have witnessed that this is a very much valued aspect on the market, and it is a standard practice for top tech companies, so we integrated it a few years ago as part of our standard compensation package, in addition to a market-level salary.
Usually these are key elements that make Blinkist a very engaging and fun place to work at.

Would you say there are some limitations to this way of hiring, compared to a traditional one?

It is definitely a lot of work, which is not to be underestimated. It is important to create some boundaries. In fact, I initially fully opened my calendar for screening interviews.. All of a sudden every single break of my day was booked for interviews!
Wanting to move fast does not necessarily mean you need to start talking to candidates from Day 1. I learnt to wait for a couple weeks until I have many applications in, and only then I start narrowing down the funnel. In my opinion, this way you save a lot more time in screening calls than you would if you started interviewing directly. This is just to say that there are definitely a couple of capacity-related topics that are very important to watch out for!

If you need to hire for a position, I suggest you block some buffer time in your Calendar and make sure you have enough capacity for it, both in terms of time and also in terms of headspace.

Is there anything else you would recommend to other hiring managers to be successful with their hiring efforts? 

I can think of 2 main suggestions, a short-term and a long-term one:

⌛️In the short-term, I’d recommend keeping a list (even a mental one!) of the names of whom you consider the best people in your field and in your location. Ask yourself the questions: “If I have a hiring need, who can I reach out to first within my network? Who are the best people I worked with before? Who could I ask for any recommendations?”. Keep these as mental bookmarks.

🗓In the long-term, I’d recommend being active in the community of your field of interest. I personally got very good applications through articles I wrote or through conferences I talked at. Candidates referenced those elements in their applications as of how they first heard about Blinkist.
This is something that is very sustainable in terms of employer branding and helps to get a stand in the community, as well as to generate a good flow of incoming applications for your next openings!

Thank you so much for sharing these insightful recommendations with us Tarek.

And now.. Happy hiring!✨

Interested to know more about Blinkist and our current openings? Please visit our career page here. 👈🏻

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