Berlin-based recruitment tool Somewhere just rolled out a new dashboard and new features, including “sparks” – tiny, collectible glimpses into companies’ work cultures. Since releasing their beta product in early 2012, the Somewhere team, led by Justin McMurray, has been working vigorously on “re-imagining and redesigning recruitment from the ground up” by building a platform for people to connect with employers in an authentic and meaningful way.
VentureVillage caught up with McMurray to chat recruitment, latest updates and Berlin’s “bubble effect”…
The problem with traditional recruitment
From professional networks (like LinkedIn) to social recruitment companies (like Path.To) to CV-replacement sites (like About.me), there is no shortage of companies in the recruitment industry. If the increasing number of companies tackling this space is anything – it’s an indication that there is an inherent problem with the traditional recruitment process, where applicants are forced to condense their multidimensional personalities onto a small piece of paper and HR managers are overwhelmed with piles of lacklustre CVs.
Somewhere believes that the problem stems from how companies approach recruitment: “One of the things that we’ve learned about the industry is that it’s addicted to this last-minute just-in-time approach,” explains McMurray.
“But the idea of finding exactly the right person for your company and for the role, in exactly the same time that you need them – the probability of that is close to zero.”
A slow recruitment approach
Recruitment is undeniably a complex issue – so how does Somewhere intend on making a dent in the industry? By carefully designing tools that will help foster meaningful relationships between people and employers, says McMurray.
“Companies are building their communities, networks and talent over time so when they desperately need someone to start tomorrow – they’ve already met them. They’re not suddenly looking for this magical person,” he adds.
This approach may be beneficial for companies in the long-run but will people be up for taking a slow approach to jobseeking when there are bills to pay and mouths to feed?
Focusing on discovery
Similar to Steve Jobs’ notion that customers don’t know what they want, McMurray is convinced that when it comes to jobs, people don’t necessarily know what they’re looking for, which is why the new release focuses on “evocative discovery”.
The updated version of the platform aims to not only help companies find the right person for a position, but to help jobseekers find that all-important emotional connection with a company. Instead of algorithmic suggestions and personality tests, Somewhere offers a kind of “Pinterest for job search” and utilises sparks, a new feature described as “very small snippets into the rich fabric of a company.”
Sparks – “almost completely opposite of the job description”
Company websites are often the point of contact between a job seeker and a potential employer. However, with meticulously thought-out mission statements, values and goals, people are often wary of such means of employer branding.
Sparks can be anything from photos, GIFs, sound bytes and video clips. The new feature allows companies to provide a genuine snippet of what it’s really like to work there. For users, it gives an intimate glimpse into a company’s culture and work environment.
“Sparks allow people to have a discovery experience that evokes something that they didn’t even know they liked. They might see a photograph of a poster on a company’s wall talking about a design philosophy and maybe they didn’t even know that was something really important to them,” says McMurray. “But suddenly they really attach themselves to it.”
So far, Somewhere has published over 600 sparks from more than 25 companies from Berlin, London and Copenhagen. But the platform isn’t just for any ol’ company, they are currently targeting the creative industries, namely startups, design studios, agencies and media companies.
On the homepage of the dashboard, you’ll find an ever-changing pinboard-like collection of sparks. Sparks might include a photo depicting the cheese club at Moo, an inside look on the coffee culture at Edenspiekermann or a cool GIF by TheGreenEyl.
If a company or a particular aspect of a company piques your interest, there is the option to heart, comment and add it to a your own private collection of places you can identify with. Once you’re ready, you can begin conversations with these companies and get to know them on a more personal level.
It’s not about helping someone find a job, it’s about finding a place
With the time it takes to find the right person, headhunting fees and recruiting software – hiring a new employee is no cheap endeavour. Somewhere ‘s monetisation strategy is not yet set in stone, but the startup is working to roll out a monthly subscription for companies to use the platform and gain access to their community.
“We want to bring a modern business model that is an affordable, ongoing subscription of a service that provides ongoing value to companies as opposed to having a slightly corrupted commission approach where recruiters are more interesting in filling a place than finding a fit,” explains McMurray.
As for funding, the startup has done an undisclosed early seed round but have been extremely selective with who they want to work with. McMurray doesn’t just want to partner with any investor, he wants to find people “who have a genuine appetite to tackle a global market with a radically new kind of proposition and service.” Like Somewhere’s slow approach to recruitment, it seems the company is taking a slow approach to investment as well.
“Berlin has this bubble effect”
Since releasing their first product in 2012, Somewhere has undergone a mini-pivot, expanded to an international team of seven people and landed a cozy space at Betahaus.
With the growing number of startups sprouting in Berlin, there’s no doubt that the German capital is fertile ground for companies to initiate big ideas and tackle important issues. McMurray agrees that the city is a great place to start something different, but also believes it’s important for companies to get out – it’s easy to get stuck in the Berlin bubble.
“What we’re finding at Somewhere is that once you have a little bit of a foothold on the market and you’re starting to understand what you’re doing, how it works and how your’re going to grow – it’s really important to get out of Berlin,” adds McMurray.
For Somewhere, getting out of Berlin meant setting off on a tour across Europe, making stops in Copenhagen, Zurich, Amsterdam, Sofia and London, to meet cool companies and get some fresh perspectives about the problem they’re trying to solve.
So what’s next for Somewhere?
“It’ll be the year of building the team, new offices, many other cities and a couple of very exciting new versions of the product.”
Somewhere’s aspirations are grand – time will tell whether, in a crowded marketplace, the product will be able to crack the recruitment industry and gain traction from jobseekers and businesses alike.
For related posts, check out:
Silicon Valley tech recruitment firm VonChurch sets up European HQ in Berlin
Zalando, Xing, Rocket, Groupon, Project A – the secret employee reviews of 5 notable German companies
The secret lives of founders: the disruptive CEO obsessed with Berlin doors