Per Tjernberg on: Talent sourcing is broken. Here's how to fix it.

Per Tjernberg on: Talent sourcing is broken. Here’s how to fix it

  • 40 minutes
  • Talent Acquisition
  • Ep 24

Candidate sourcing is increasingly robotic. Mundane. Generic. But it doesn't have to be.

How can you reinvent the talent acquisition wheel and become a sourcing genius? 

In this episode of How We Hire, we talk to Per Tjernberg from, a talent acquisition engine helping companies acquire top talent. Per is passionate about talent sourcing and building a new standard for talent acquisition. We discuss why the HR cycle is broken, where the talent acquisition function needs to go, and how to reinvent talent sourcing. 

Key takeaways

  • Why the HR cycle is broken and how to fix it
  • Common sourcing mistakes to avoid
  • Hacks to increase your candidate engagement rates
  • How to leverage market research and tap into your empathy & curiosity when sourcing talent
  • Tips on building a creative talent acquisition strategy

On the show

Per Tjernberg CEO and Founder of PipeLabs
Linnea Bywall
Linnea Bywall Head of People & Operations at Alva Labs

Per Tjernberg

Per Tjernberg is an experienced HR professional with over ten years of diverse experience in talent acquisition. After working within the HR field for many years, he recently became the CEO and founder of PipeLabs, a company aimed at revolutionising talent acquisition while maintaining operational and process control for hiring companies.

Per is passionate about sourcing top talent and building a new standard for talent acquisition. He is committed to sharing insights, best practices, and strategies to  improve the recruitment process and create a more positive experience for all stakeholders. You can also find Per running his own podcast on scaling your talent acquisition here

Linnea Bywall

Linnea Bywall is a former NCAA athlete turned licensed psychologist – and Head of People at Alva Labs. Linnea was recently listed as one of the most inspiring women in tech by TechRound and was featured as one of the 22 Innovative HR Leaders to follow in 2022 by AIHR Academy to Innovate HR. 

From attracting and hiring to onboarding and growing Alva's employees, Linnea's main mission is to change the world of hiring every day by challenging biases in recruitment.


Show notes


-Why the HR cycle is broken-3:16

-How to fix the recruitment process-7:51

-Positive HR trends to keep an eye on-18:10

-Defining sourcing-what it is and isn’t-20:17

-Why the spray and pray method in sourcing doesn’t work-21:30

-Biggest mistake companies make when sourcing talent-23:25

-Why empathy and curiosity are critical to sourcing success-26:24

-How to conduct market research when studying your candidate persona-30:06

-Why you shouldn’t source candidates based on soft skills-35:38

-Metrics to obsess about as a TA manager-36:45

-Tips for recruiters just starting out-38:26

How We Hire Podcast Episode 24 Transcript

Per Tjernberg (00:00):

I usually say that there's two issues with talent acquisition that needs to be understand. One is that it kind of works because people are getting recruited all over the place, but that doesn't mean it's optimized either for productivity or efficiency or anything else. It kind of works, which is why we're in the place that we're at right now, but everybody hates recruitment. The hiring managers hate it, the candidates hate it, the recruiters hate it. No one likes the way that we're doing things in the traditional manner. So that's the issue. And add to that, the complexity that it become even harder to successfully recruit, it's becoming harder across all verticals.

Linnea (00:43):

Welcome to How We Hire, a podcast by Alva Labs. With me, Linnea, licensed psychologist and Head of People. This show is for all of you who hire or just find recruitment interesting. In every episode, I will speak with thought leaders from across the globe to learn from their experiences and best practices within hiring, building teams and growing organizations.


Our guest on today's episode is Per Tjernberg. Per is an experienced professional with over 10 years of diverse experience within talent acquisition. After working within the HR field for many years, he recently became the CEO and founder of Pipelabs. A company that aims to revolutionize talent acquisition while maintaining operational and process control for hiring companies. Per is passionate about sourcing top talent and building a new standard for talent acquisition. He is committed to sharing insights, best practices and strategies to improve the recruitment process and create a more positive experience for all stakeholders. Welcome to How We Hire, Per.

Per Tjernberg (01:45):

Thank you so much for that.

Linnea (01:47):

That was a long intro.

Per Tjernberg (01:48):

It was a long intro.

Linnea (01:49):

But you've done a lot of stuff.

Per Tjernberg (01:52):

Like those intros, it's just so hard to live up to it. Imposter syndrome is real. Do you people understand that I'm just making this shit up, I don't know anything? You have to understand that.

Linnea (02:00):

That's implied, right?

Per Tjernberg (02:01):

Yep, of course.

Linnea (02:02):

But for the sake of that, you can do your own intro by telling us a little bit about yourself and about Pipelabs because I'm sure that some of our listeners-

Per Tjernberg (02:10):


Linnea (02:11):

... don't know you or company that you founded.

Per Tjernberg (02:13):

It would shock me if they knew about the company we founded because it's quite new and we're quite small still. So more or less, me and my co-founder, we were really frustrated at where the service industry was in terms of recruitment. When we both were line managers previously, we couldn't get access to the help and the insights that we needed to make sure that we improved our own work. So more or less, we don't believe in agency. We don't believe in embedded recruitment, those things are not solving the actual problem or the actual issue. So it's our attempt on offering something else, something that's a bit more structured. We rely heavily on our framework, which is more or less a way to break down the different processes that are in place in connection to recruitment. And honestly just trying to offer a service that actually starts nagging at the problem or rather than dealing with the symptoms of the problem. Which is what we feel that a lot of traditional recruitment agencies do, they're not treating the actual issue. They're dealing with the symptoms.

Linnea (03:14):

What is the actual issue?

Per Tjernberg (03:17):

The actual issue, again, and that's the hard part. I usually say that there's two issues with talent acquisition that needs to be understand. One is that it kind of works because people are getting recruited all over the place, but that doesn't mean it's optimized either for productivity or efficiency or anything else. It kind of works, which is why we're in the place that we are at right now. But everybody hates recruitment, hiring managers hate it, the candidates hate it, the recruiters hate it. No one likes the way that we're doing things in the traditional manner, so that's the issue. And add to that, the complexity that become even harder to successfully recruit, it's becoming harder across all verticals, and this is our attempt of doing something about it.

Linnea (03:58):

And why is it becoming harder?

Per Tjernberg (03:59):

We believe that there's several coinciding partially that's a bit harder just to change, changes in the workforce, changes in our everyday life that puts a stress on finding top talent. We're coming into a situation where even the traditional easy to recruit roles are really hard to recruit for, and why is that? Well, several reasons and we do believe that the changes in the workforce, the changes in demands when it comes to the complexities that everybody needs to deal with in their work life, they coincide. But the end result is, it's hard. It's harder than it ever were.


Sure, it wasn't that long ago you could just post an ad, push it, see who applies, and then make your best guesswork and actually solve your recruitment needs. What we see today is that a lot of our clients or a lot of companies, they're failing in the basic attempt of actually filling the roles that they need to be able to be productive and be competitive in the marketplace. So they rely on either expensive solutions such like consultants or they just don't solve what they need to be able to either develop or continue on being competitive in the marketplace. And it's so complex. This is what we do, we're like this is what I spend all my days thinking about, working with, and I don't know. I don't know why, but I do know I can see the effect. It's really hard. Hiring is really hard and it's becoming harder.

Linnea (05:32):

But I think it's interesting where the fact that changes in the workforce is driving this more difficult scenario, what changes?

Per Tjernberg (05:42):

This is a really a westernized take on it. We're based in Sweden. We do most of our jobs in the Nordics even though we're starting to branch out. Just the fact that we have an aging workforce, we're not really replacing people in the traditional professions. While at the same time we have this enormous pressure when it comes to digitalization, when it comes to technology, and we're not producing enough people to meet that demand. There's something about all of this that just makes it so hard because a lot of companies can't find the people that they need. I saw, I think it was maybe some CEO or some company that put it really distinctly, they can't hire a garbage man, garbage truck driver, but they can find a newly grad MBA directly. Where I come from, when I started out in recruitment, it was more or less software developers. That was where it was really, really hard finding them and maybe a bit of exec search, but software developers that's where it at. And right now we're helping new clients across all verticals because they can't find the right people to solve their needs.

Linnea (06:53):

And I mean, because I really agree with the fact that recruitment is broken and the way that we used to do it isn't working. But listening to you now, is it actually recruitment that's broken or is it just the full HR cycle?

Per Tjernberg (07:05):

I'm going to make so many friends now. I believe it's the full HR cycle. As I mentioned previously, I usually have two things that I say when it comes to TA, one problem is that it kind of works and the other is that it's sprung from HR. I think that it's directly counterproductive to what we want to achieve. I personally believe that the full HR cycle is broken, or maybe broken is too harsh of word. It hasn't kept up with the times. It hasn't kept up with the changes. It hasn't really matured into the function that it needs to be, to be able to solve the issues that people are having. Does that make sense?

Linnea (07:43):

Yeah. So if you were an HR manager, what would you do differently? Million-dollar question.

Per Tjernberg (07:51):

Oh, it's such a platitude. Honestly, it is. People are people and I think that needs to be the basis on how you organize and how you define stuff. I think it's so common within HR TA that it's easy to say the nice stuff, the nice words, the nice way of doing it. And then you need to actually apply it. And then you're directly in that really harsh position where you need to be a representating for a company without feelings, no, you're not a family. Yes, you can get fired and yada yada, but you need to do it towards people. And you're trying to maximize the output of people Ops and it's hard. It's really hard. I mean, if I had an answer to that question Linnea, I would be a very rich man and I'm not, so I don't have it.

Linnea (08:35):

Well call me when you do.

Per Tjernberg (08:37):

I will. I'll tell you directly. Oh yeah, it's really easy. This is just the answer. Just do that.

Linnea (08:45):

Ta-da. But okay. So we have established that it's the way that we hire, it doesn't really work, that it's also linked to that we're not maybe Aruna. Optimizing for the people that we do have in the organization that has created solutions such as consultancies and that makes it even more expensive, et cetera, et cetera. So downward spiral. So how will you and Pipelabs revolutionize this? What's your goal? What's your tactics?

Per Tjernberg (09:14):

So for us, it was a really important realization that the complexities that we are speaking about is just getting more and more complex. We don't believe that the best way of solving that is going to a three-year educated generalist and then put them in a position that is really complex because you need such a wide set of skills to be able to properly deliver something that isn't bad. So on our end, we spent a lot of time doing in the early stages of the company, was trying to actually map out the different processes that has some effect on the recruitment and hiring process. We came up with a, I think we have 29 soft processes that's defined and explained and yada yada. No one cares about that, especially not new clients, like 29, oh please tell me about those. That is not how it works-

Linnea (10:06):

In detail.

Per Tjernberg (10:07):

So we make sure that we could... In detail with lots of words please.

Linnea (10:11):


Per Tjernberg (10:11):

Oh, yeah, definitely slides. Let's do the slides. So we have them mapped out. But we understood that nobody cares, can you swear on this podcast?

Linnea (10:19):

Yeah, yeah, for sure.

Per Tjernberg (10:21):

Oh, it's good to swear. Okay, good. I just, I'm quite the swear one. Nobody would care about the 29 different processes. We need to understand them because that's how we can move in and start affecting change by understanding the things that actually affect the hiring process. So we abstracted it to start being able to communicate about it. So we have everything connected to engaging relevant candidates. We call that pipelining. So that could be anything from copy and employee branding and sourcing and talent pools and talent intelligence, everything that is connected to being able to engage relevant candidates. And the other part is, we call it selection. It's about choosing the right hire. So everything connected to the assessment process, be it tests or DNI or bias or whatever it might be by connecting to actually choosing the right person for the job after we engage the relevant candidates.


And then we have the third part, which is about maintaining process and cost control. Because what we see is that there's so few companies that has actual control, not only over the hiring process but also the costs in connection to that. We're working with one client and then we mapped out and we realized that they have at any given time about 20 consultants, in this case their software development team that is due to the fact that they haven't been able to hire the right people. That's an insane cost. And it's just ongoing. It's ongoing. They could be employees but they're not. It's just an enormous cost, which of course is directly connected to bottom line because if you alleviate those costs, your profit margin, your system are going to go up. But there's such a lack of actual process and cost control. There is unfortunately a quite low understanding of all the costs in connection to recruitment.


It isn't the ATS system and the cost for an external agency. When you put it all together, the costs are insanely high. So how can you maintain or start getting control over that? That's the third part. So that's what we do. We have these processes mapped out. It's in too much detail for anybody else to be bothered with, but on our end, it affords us having a really clear tool set for analysis. So we can move into I'd say any type of organization across any vertical. Because no matter if you're going to hire one CTO or 10,000 engineers, you need to engage relevant candidates. You need to select the right hire and you need to maintain process and cost control.


So we can have that analysis framework that is applicable for any client. And that also affords us starting to break up the process, start to understand what's working, what's not. Maybe engaging specialists when needed within different sub-processes, which also affords us a level of understanding of, yeah, okay, this is probably the actual pain point. What you see or feel is that you're not getting enough candidates or your attrition rate is too high or whatever it might be. But start to understand why that is the case. I think that is probably the most effective part about Pipelabs.

Linnea (13:24):

But I mean I think, given that you do interact with a lot of clients, have thought about this for some years. Where do most organization, A succeed and B fail?

Per Tjernberg (13:38):

They believe that someone else gives a flying fuck about their company, which isn't true. That is probably the most important and powerful understanding that anybody can get. And it's really hard to explain to the board of directors or the CEO or the investors or whoever it might be that other people don't care about your company. You do. They don't. And understanding that is such a base, it's the starting part, right? Because then you understand that, oh my God, I need to get the word out there who I am. I need to be attractive. What is attractive do? Who do I need to recruit? Oh my God, they're not going to come to me, I need to go to them. And suddenly a lot of things fall into place. But that I would say is the main thing that people need to understand that nobody cares about you and your company.

Linnea (14:21):

If we're going to translate that into the everyday life of the talent acquisition manager, that would in my mind mean that you won't get budget for employer branding. No one will help you get the word out. You won't have spokespeople from the right people. So rather you have to, I don't know, make something up that might work but doesn't really work and therefore you struggle. And then people will experience the lack of qualified candidates. So then that's the problem, but they don't see why that is the problem. Was that a good translation?

Per Tjernberg (14:57):

I'd say so. At least that's what I and we believe, most companies aren't Spotify, and that's fine. That's okay, but you're not going to get these heaps of application because you're the cool new unicorn startup, which means that you in a role, such as silent acquisition manager, you need to be really, really considerate. And you need to be really, really thoughtful when it comes to understanding, okay, maybe somebody else doesn't give a flying hoot about me. What can I do to convey that we're actually a really attractive place to be working for and how can I get that message to the right people at the right time in such a way that it makes it easy for them to click the apply button or show interest or partake in your internal culture or whatever it might be.


A podcast such as this, I'm not sure why you're doing it or what the end goal, if it's a marketing thing or whatever, but people hearing you speak about the way that you do HR at Alva, that's going to mean something for people. And then they're like, oh, this seems nice, this seems good or bad. Which is also fine, going, ah, I don't want to work for a company like that. Okay, fine, don't. But getting that message across in different channels and being really thoughtful about doing things in such a way that it leads to some actual end results and all of that is based on what I believe you should do everything from a position of nobody cares because that means that you're going to have to try and understand what would their interest be rather than I have a cool logo.

Linnea (16:31):

Yeah, no, I think that's a really epic take home message. No one gives a fuck. We are going to dive into the bucket of sourcing because I know that's one of the areas where you have a lot of both food for thought and strong opinions and everything is in. First, since I am a big fan of positive reinforcement, I do want to follow up on my question of what do companies actually get right.

Per Tjernberg (16:54):

It's unfortunately really easy to speak about what they're not getting right and not speaking about what they do get right. So one of the things that I'm constantly impressed about is the people working in people Ops, they really about not giving a fuck. They really do give a fuck. So bringing that to the table, being that engage, being that passionate, having that drive and that ambition of getting things right in such a way so that people actually enjoy it. It's an uphill battle. But I think that people in the widest terms are amazing at continuing, even though it's a slightly under prioritized part of the inner organization, considered a cost rather than something that rise revenue. And yet just continuing, continuing, continuing and actually trying to make a positive change. I'm getting to the point where I'm cynical, so it's like, oh, it doesn't really matter. But seeing people having that drive and ambition defeats that cynical take on things. And I'm constantly impressed about the level of engagement that people brings to the table within HR even though in a lot of organization it's not that prioritized.

Linnea (18:07):

Can't you exemplify, what have you been impressed with lately?

Per Tjernberg (18:10):

I think that diversity and inclusion is such an important topic, not only in Sweden, but across the board. That's a really uphill battle, especially when it comes to explaining to the stereotypical white, cis main CEO or investor, how important it is. But I'm seeing such amazing initiatives and people bringing insights to the table like that. I could never happen, and I'm really, really, really humble about knowing that I'm a white cis male and I'm not going to understand how it is to be a woman in today's workforce as you are. But I'm really humble about me not understanding that. I'm just impressed that people continue to nip at the problem even though there's such resistance. Make sense?

Linnea (18:58):


Per Tjernberg (18:58):

All right. It's still releasing a new report every year, not stopping. And I think that's anybody who works that hard in some up-hill battle, adverse... Please continue doing it. I'm just thoroughly impressed.

Linnea (19:14):

I used to run track, I was a sprinter. So to some extent the saying it's a marathon, not a sprint, really doesn't work for me because I'm a sprinter. That's literally who I am. But with that said, I think what you're saying is also when we can just acknowledge that it is a marathon, not give up, but continue and get back on the horse and all those platitudes, that actually will create a difference and will create results at the end.

Per Tjernberg (19:42):

And people does it and still brings that energy to the table and goes, okay, yeah, well it's finished this year. Let's do it again next year. Let's just continue. I find that very impressive. Maybe I don't have a really concrete example for you or something, but doing that and what I'm seeing in the social medias, I just find that really inspiring.

Linnea (20:02):

Okay, good. So now we have positively reinforced the marathon people, Ops people. Love that. Okay. So should we actually dive into sourcing? And before we do, so maybe can you, let's define sourcing. What is it?

Per Tjernberg (20:17):

That's the right question I would say because it's a term used quite widely, but what is it? Of course the shape of a thing is really dependent on how you define it. My definition of sourcing is that it's not writing in buzzword bingo and LinkedIn recruiter and sending shit emails to everybody who pinged when I wrote a couple of buzzwords. I absolutely hate that way of doing things. I find it boring. I think it's counterproductive. I think it's one of the reasons that recruitment has a really bad rap. I cannot for the life of me understand why people are doing it that way. It doesn't work. Well, going back to the worst part about it, it kind of works, right? Because they're getting in candidates. My response rate is 15%. Okay. 85% of people said, please do get out of my emails. I don't want anything to do with you.


And for me that would be such an immense failure, but it's not considered, it's considered the norm. It's okay, let's continue doing it. So that's one way of doing sourcing or one definition of sourcing, writing in the buzzwords from the job description and then just sending out enough emails so that you get enough responses, so you have a candidate.

Linnea (21:26):

The spray and pray method.

Per Tjernberg (21:28):

The spray and pray method, that's so terrible. Getting it into your inbox. I don't know how many you, which you get, but it's so terrible. Of course the candidates are not going to respond to it. It's shit. It's horrible. Who would want to be approached in that way? I cannot for the life of me understand it. Another way of doing sourcing or thinking about sourcing is understanding the market. Is understanding the talent pool. Is understanding, of course there's loads of brilliant managers that are consistently going to hire and train people to be a better performer than any other places. And understanding that, what companies are good? What culture fosters growth? Which managers are the best at it and yada, yada, yada. Actually understanding the market, actually spending time trying to figure out, so you get a request, something that you have or haven't worked with before. But okay, what is it? What does it mean? How can we understand it? What sources of data can we pull into that to start figuring out what's what?


And then going, okay, then I have my list of people that I do believe would suit this role and I'm genuinely curious to start having a conversation with them. Yet proper sourcing is a constant learning process. And if you don't have that curiosity, you're not going to be as interesting to speak with. But if you do have that curiosity, people are going to respond to it. If you have an actual interest in what... You seem to have done really interesting stuff Linnea, can you tell me about your biggest accomplishment? Can you speak about what makes you tick at work? Most people are going to respond to that and it's such much more interesting conversation to have rather than, I see here that you have three years of JavaScript experience awesome, will you come and be a JavaScript experience person over here? I just find it... I cannot for the life of me understand why people move into a position and doing something that they find thoroughly boring and then just keep on doing it. And that's what I'm seeing within a lot of personnel departments.

Linnea (23:21):

What is the biggest mistake that they do?

Per Tjernberg (23:24):

Being robotic. I've learned the process, here's my long list of 300, then I'm going to write the thing and I'm going to copy paste. I'm going to use some information tool or I'm going to use ChatGPT to adapt my messaging or whatever it be. But it's just something that you do. It's not something that we think about. As soon as you start thinking about it and getting information from different sources, if you're, I don't know hiring an HR person, maybe listening to a podcast such as this. That's actually doing market research, but having that yes, it's a process. This is how it is, not really thinking it through, just doing. I think that's... I'm not sure if that makes sense as an answer to your question, but I believe that moving into a sourcing position as a junior, getting taught that this is how you do it and then you're doing it over and over and over and over again. That's why it's boring. Because it's not fun. You're not learning. Yeah, you're not connecting with people, you're not speaking to people. You're just trudging through while quite stuck half the life the process.

Linnea (24:23):

I know we have talked about this before where you were quite bold in a statement where there are in Sweden, 9 million people. I don't know how many recruiters, a lot of them, but there might be, and I'm quoting you now, three good sourcers, not sorcerers because that's something different, but three really good... What's the actual title here?

Per Tjernberg (24:46):


Linnea (24:47):

Three really good sourcers, and the rest is, as you say, have been taught a way to do it and that has created a reality of what it should look like. That's not good. Do you want to take back the quote or do you stand by it?

Per Tjernberg (25:02):

I stand by it. I absolutely stand by it. Just to be really clear, that's not saying that I don't believe that there's loads of people that do good to great work every day. They're trying their best. They're using what they've been taught, trying to apply, trying to make sure that they can solve the issues that they have as a hiring manager or applying something to a hiring manager. But there's always a big but, isn't there? Having that curiosity, that proper curiosity, really willing and interested in learning the market, the people, the players that are in place. That's really, really few and far between.

Linnea (25:38):

What comes to my mind is I remember when back at university, when I studied to become a psychologist, one of our professors said that as a psychologist, when you are in therapy with someone, you don't have to like all the people that you meet, but you do have to feel empathy for them. And sometimes it will take longer to feel that empathy, but as long as you practice open active listening and really have that curiosity, you will find something that will make you feel the empathy that you need to have to build that therapeutic bond. To me, this relates to what you're talking about. You have to look for what's interesting in that person because you will find something to some extent. Does that make sense in your mind?

Per Tjernberg (26:25):

Absolutely. I mean it's such a platitude, but believe it boils down to, you don't have to like or love everyone. If you didn't, that would be absolutely insane, so don't do that. But you need to be able to find something interesting and you need to be able to have that... Maybe not a therapist bond with the client, but being really open and curious. Curiosity, I always come back to curiosity because everything changes, market changes, market shifts. Suddenly there's a new tool called ChatGPT that turns everything on its head. The only thing that is certain is change. So if you don't have that innate curiosity going like, what is this? Can I play with it? What is it? Look at it. Figure out what it is and how it works. I just think you're going to be left behind.

Linnea (27:10):

So another quote of yours, you're a quoting machine.

Per Tjernberg (27:13):

Stop quoting me. That's horrible.

Linnea (27:15):

At least I'm letting you-

Per Tjernberg (27:16):

Please explain.

Linnea (27:17):

... react to it. So the quote is, if you find sourcing boring, you're probably doing it wrong. Can you explain what you meant?

Per Tjernberg (27:25):

I really need to stop saying things.

Linnea (27:27):

No you don't. It's great.

Per Tjernberg (27:28):

So that's my belief, that curiosity. Because if you're doing it right, you're going to find stuff that's interesting. You're going to learn something new more or less constantly. So if you don't find that stimulating, get a different job. If you have that, like, oh, these things are happening and I have some interest in it, then sourcing is more or less it's the perfect job because that's what you do. You need to learn stuff. Your job is to learn stuff. That's quite fun, I'd say. And sourcing is just that. It's finding out stuff. Then you need to be able to contact people and you need to be able to get across some messaging if it's written or via the phone or wherever it might be to spark some interest.


And if you can't find that spark of joy, I'm quite sure that the person on the other side of that communication is going to feel it. You're going to have some sense of overall, okay. So doing sourcing right is really fun, you can geek out, you can deep dive. You can have the wide, you can either... The extrovert in you, some space to play because you're going to speak to people or you're going to get the introvert in you some space to play because you can really deep dive. So yeah, sourcing should be fun because if you're doing it right, it is.

Linnea (28:44):

Okay. Now the obvious follow-up question is how do you do it right?

Per Tjernberg (28:49):

The way that we do it. There's tons of way you're doing it. I'm sure others that the people are much smarter than me, have figured it out a different way of doing it that's better. But the way that we do is that we put a lot of focus on the research part. So for many, if not most recruiters, what happens that, okay, you have a some sort of job description coming across your desk and then you scan it and then you go, okay, these are the important buzzwords for me. I'm going to directly type it into LinkedIn usually and just see what pops up. We do that much later in the process. We want to make sure that we understand the talent pools. We have a lot of both internal and external tool sets, starting to understand the market, what is the drivers, which are the big players?


Can we map out which are the companies, if we understand where the company's at, which groupings seem to produce the high performers and just started mapping out and more... A good sourcer is quite well versed at Googling stuff, finding out information. So that's a key part. So we do that way before we ever look at a candidate, because that's not conductive to that learning process of understanding something.

Linnea (30:02):

So what's your top three Google questions when you get started?

Per Tjernberg (30:06):

Oh, that's a hard thing to answer. That's so dependent on what it is. It's easier to answer that by using some sample. I'm just struggling with what I can say. So for example, we're working with a large e-commerce company. We understood or we had that discussion with the client early on, they're fully remote. Everything is synchronically communicated. We understand that you can be fully remote and that's fine. So what we did is that we spent some time actually starting to map out the different e-commerce platforms, the different e-commerce tool sets. Some of them would not be relevant because it's based on a different technological architecture. So we took all of those companies and put them to the side, but that gave us a list of, I don't remember how many of them actually, 80 companies.


So then we know that everybody who works for those companies understand e-commerce, it's a technological platform that would be relevant for our client and they're due to working fully remote. So those are three keeper, that gives us some list starting to break down most because they have a limit on time zones. So it's two hours before, two hours after Sweden. Well that gives us a geography. So what we have then is we have the platform that if you have been working for those companies, you have been working with the correct set of tool sets and the tech stack and yada yada. We have a geography that defines where we can reach out to people. We have some understanding of the client's actual offering, which is also limits the candidates that we would look at. And then we can start finding people. So after we've done that, after we've learned all of these things around a specific market, a specific vertical, a specific client, then we can start looking at candidates. For us, it's all about having, we call it secondary databases, which is more or less just going, yeah, not only LinkedIn-

Linnea (32:05):

What else?

Per Tjernberg (32:05):

... we need to move outside LinkedIn. Dependent, in that case we did a lot of sourcing on Discord and Slack because it made sense for that time, but it can be anything, clean industry validation, yada yada. Where are those people? Well, if you're engaged with that kind of profession, probably you are going to have to speak to others. So where does that take place? It can be a forum, it can be a meta group, it can be a technological platform such as Slack or it can be something else. But of course you're going to have professionals that are curious about their own thing wanting to speak to other professionals about it, and it's 2023 somewhere on the internet, that's a secondary database. LinkedIn is awesome, but everybody's not on LinkedIn and the user trade is not that high and a lot of people hate LinkedIn and I understand that. Okay, so what other... On which platform are they? So how can we make ourselves relevant? We did another thing that was all about... It's about being where the candidates are at.

Linnea (33:07):

What's the weirdest location you find a candidate in?

Per Tjernberg (33:10):

I love a fair bit of guerrilla marketing because I think it's fun. So we did on bicycles, the seat, the cover for the seat. We did that at a competitor's place and just went there, are you looking for a new job? Please call us. Worked like a charm.

Linnea (33:24):


Per Tjernberg (33:24):

Oh, it was brilliant. And it was so cheap in terms of cost per hire doing that, instead of writing a bunch of outreach, it worked like a charm.

Linnea (33:35):

Protecting people's bums from getting wet will help you find your next hire. I think that's brilliant advice.

Per Tjernberg (33:42):

But it's talent, it's all dependent on the talent pool. We might have helped a client with Ryder Last Mile delivery, so think Bolt or Fedora or something like that. It's really easy if you know the logistic centers to be standing a block away, just handing out leaflets. It's about being where the candidates are at and also looking back to when is it fun? Well, it's when you start solving problems like that, it's much more fun going, oh, how the hell are we going to make ourselves relevant for this talent pool? Let's go out, let's do, keeping people's bumps from getting wet. Let's try that. Or did another thing where we hired people dressed in smokings and then they had to hand deliver a note going, I want to meet you for lunch, handwritten. Of course, they're going to accept that. Really hard to find candidates. It works like a charm.


So when you start approaching the work as a problem to be creatively solved rather than this quite non-dynamic process of just going a bit of Google search and here's my email and hi candidate, and you have a really interesting profile, I would like to speak to you. And sending that out in volumes, that is just insane because you're getting such a low response rate. So you need to send it to 600 to get your one candidate at the end. Start to extrapolate from that, sooner or later, everybody's going to have to contact everybody within all talent pools to get one hire because it's just going to, oh, I don't even want to look in my inbox. It's just shit. So the law of diminishing returns is something that even recruiters need to understand. So that's how we do it, we place a lot of focus on understanding before doing rather than going directly to the doing. And taking that time to understand stuff or doing research it pays off so much in comparison to the other way of working.

Linnea (35:28):

One thing I'm interested on your thoughts where I don't have a quote, so I just want to create some quotes. Soft skills and sourcing. Go.

Per Tjernberg (35:38):

Oh, that's hard. I don't think that you should ever believe that sourcing or that way of working can do something that it can't. So if you're going, yeah, these top skills are really important for that position. Yeah, well, I don't know because I don't know the person and they haven't written it in their online CV or where I found them in the disco channel, wherever it might be. Sourcing can't solve that. And if you believe that you can solve it using sourcing, you're going to be let astray. I would say it's more or less an impossibility to source based on soft skills and if you believe that you are, I think you're fooling yourself. Unless someone has given insane person and writing it in that way. But no, I don't believe in it.

Linnea (36:18):

Yeah, no, but I think that's a fair answer. So our time is starting to run out, so let's start to wrap up. I want to hear just some quick thoughts on key metrics that you think all talent positions should be obsessing about.

Per Tjernberg (36:33):

I have a boring answer. It's no fun at all.

Linnea (36:36):

That's okay.

Per Tjernberg (36:37):

Response rate. Response rate is a really isometric to understand if you're able to engage people.

Linnea (36:42):

And what's a good response rate? What's my benchmark?

Per Tjernberg (36:45):

60% plus.

Linnea (36:46):

That's high.

Per Tjernberg (36:47):

It should be, if you've taken the time, if you've done everything that we spoke about, if you've taken your time doing the market research, understanding the companies, understanding the talent pool, trying to understand the candidate before you reach out, going, yeah, let me have [inaudible 00:37:00]. If you've done that and you can't get the people to respond, rethink what you're doing.

Linnea (37:05):

Good. I love it. Let's aim for the stars. 60% people. Let's quote Per.

Per Tjernberg (37:10):

Stop quoting me. Okay. So a more applicable response rate I'd say is as soon as you dig down below 20%, stop. Obviously you're not reaching the right people with the right messaging. But everybody's fighting for some attention in people's inboxes, no matter if it's mail or emails or whatever it might be. So you're not going to be able to engage everyone and that's fine. So going that high requires you to work in really small cohorts. So that means understanding these six or eight individuals before you reach out. As soon as you do anything higher volume, top of funnel, you're not going to see those kind of response rates. I would in that case, rather be very precise about where I drop below something, and I would say that 20, 25% is pretty good benchmark because if you're going below that, even at volume, something is wrong with your messaging, either your understanding of the talent pool or the messaging in itself.

Linnea (38:05):

Yeah, but that's fair. One final question. What advice would you give to yourself when you just started out on your recruiter journey, knowing what you know now?

Per Tjernberg (38:16):

Ooh, you're asking hard questions. You're quoting me and you're asking hard questions. This is no fun, Linnea, come on.

Linnea (38:22):

No, it's not sourcing, it's podcasting. I didn't promise fun.

Per Tjernberg (38:26):

What advice would I give myself starting out. In hindsight, I'm quite happy that what I did was really early on, starting following and engaging with really good sources. For me, Glen Cathey and Boolean Black Belt was incredibly important when I just started out and I'm really happy about that now. Steer into your geekiness, that's advice I got from a manager a while back. I'm quite geeky, I'm quite niche, I'm quite narrow in terms of my application. It's talent acquisition, which is a wide subject, but that's what I obsess over and I spent a long time going, oh, I'm not going to speak about it and I'm going to do it on the side. Nobody's going to know it, know that I read the thing or engage with this stuff. And he told me, Per just steer into it, it's fine. Be that. Maybe that is something that I would've liked to have known and understood even earlier. Just hid my nerdyness and there's no reason for it. Steer into your geekiness.

Linnea (39:23):

Boom. On that note, thank you so much for joining How We Hire, let's make sure that we link or add a link in the description to the podcast of Pipelabs. So if you want to hear more about Per, which you obviously want to, we can link back. But thank you so much Per, it's been a pleasure and thanks everyone for listening. I hope you will join us next time. Bye.