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SmartRecruiters’ SVP of EMEA on becoming a unicorn and the future of hiring

Virtual recruitment is here to stay.

Allie Nawrat

Credit: DIMABERLIN via Twenty20.

Unleash Your PotentialWhat does this mean for the future of SmartRecruiters, a leading mover and shaker in the space?

The pandemic has changed recruitment forever.

Gone are the days when people would spend fortunes to travel across the country, or the continent, to attend job interviews.

With the help of virtual meeting technology, like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, candidates have spent the past 18 months doing interviews from the comfort of their home. And this trend isn’t going anywhere.

One of the early pioneers of the virtual recruitment space is SmartRecruiters.

Founded in 2010 in CEO Jerome Ternynck’s garage with a blank canvas, SmartRecruiters’ mission is to “make hiring easy”; so easy, in fact, that his grandmother could use the platform.  

“We want to enable organizations to find the talent that they need and we want to help people find the jobs they’ll love.”

Rob Symons, senior vice-president EMEA, SmartRecruiters

“Why shouldn’t the recruitment system be as easy [to use] as Facebook or LinkedIn?,” states Symons.

Rob Symons, senior vice-president EMEA, SmartRecruiters

To do this, SmartRecruiters has created a solution that differs from what existed before, in that it’s built for candidates as well as recruiters.

It relies on innovation, according to Symons, and everything is mobile-first and with an open architecture.

SmartRecruiters becomes a unicorn

Since virtual recruitment has become the norm, it is no surprise that SmartRecruiters has had a stellar year.

Compared to the last financial crisis, when many organizations just let staff go then found they couldn’t ramp up recruitment quickly enough as the economy improved, “a lot more organizations used the pandemic as an opportunity to digitally transform themselves,” notes Symons.

Hiring is starting to get lots of attention – “This is a front and center boardroom issue,” Symons believes – and it is on the radar of CEO.

This is to SmartRecruiters’ benefit. The company grew by 70% and connected 24 million candidates with 300,000 jobs in 2020; this is because “more and more organizations doubled down on investing in what we provide”, according to Symons. Some 4,000 customers now rely on its technology.

He adds that SmartRecruiters also managed “to have a very strong retention of customers through that period”.

As a result, the company saw the pandemic “as a real golden opportunity to continue our growth and really accelerate”; it sought out Series E funding.

“We felt the timing was right. We had enough momentum off the back of that growth to go out to the market.”

In mid-July, SmartRecruiters announced that it has raised $110 million in a round led by Silver Lake Waterman. This brings its total funding to $205 million, and its value to $1.5 billion, therefore meaning it has achieved coveted unicorn status.

Commenting on achieving this milestone, Symons says: “This is a huge moment of validation in terms of the mission and the hard work that we’ve put in to date.”

He adds how pleased the whole team at SmartRecruiters is to have received such positive feedback from its staff, customers, clients, and even competitors, about the unicorn status.

The future of hiring

Symons explains that SmartRecruiters will use the funding to “invest in ourselves”.

“Other organizations may scurry out and make acquisitions to grow, but we think we’ve got the right DNA, the right formula – we just need to accelerate our product development.”

The company will focus further on innovation by doubling its engineering team. It hopes this will allow it to define and shape the recruitment tech space over the next few decades.

The company wants to focus even more on integrations to offer customers maximum choice and agility, as well as introduce new products, such as onboarding, that allow it to “bridge the gap from candidate to employee”.

HR tech is booming now like never before and has a bright future, Symons explains.

“I don’t think this shift to remote working is going anywhere anytime soon. Businesses are going to need to continue to invest in agile technology that supports the way they need to work in the modern environment.”

Recruitment tech has a key role to play here as companies need to focus on retaining existing employees, and winning the war for talent. It’s a fierce battle at present, linked to the fact that companies are now able to hire from anywhere – not just from talent pools that can easily commute to their offices.

Ultimately, the future of recruitment will be fundamentally different to the methods of the past, and that is to the mutual benefit of employers and candidates.

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