Aref Abedi

Aref Abedi on: the secret to building purpose-driven teams: bet on potential

  • 40 minutes
  • Talent Acquisition
  • Ep 23

For decades, employers have used university degrees and years of experience as major requirements for hiring. But for many jobs, success depends more on skills, grit, and the ability to learn and take on new challenges rather than paper credentials. It comes down to potential.

On this episode of How We Hire, Jobylon’s CEO and co-founder, Ared Abedi, talks about how he realised the power of skills-based hiring early on, the relationship between candidate experience and people and culture, and what it takes to build a leading talent acquisition platform over twelve years.

Tune in to hear about a HR tech founder’s personal insights into hiring talent for a purpose-driven brand journey.

Key takeaways

  • How to build a company foundation based on your people and culture
  • Why the candidate experience is tied to your culture journey
  • Tips on standing out as an employer and attracting great talent
  • What recruitment KPIs to focus on and how to enable your hiring managers

On the show

Aref Abedi
Aref Abedi CEO and Co-Founder of Jobylon
Linnea Bywall
Linnea Bywall Head of People & Operations at Alva Labs

Aref Abedi

  Aref Abedi is the CEO and co-founder of Jobylon for the past 12 years. Jobylon is a modern talent acquisition platform with a unique focus on candidate experience and effective job ads. 

With his extensive experience within the recruitment industry, Aref has a deep understanding of the challenges that employers face when hiring the right candidate. Aref loves taking an idea and transforming it into beautiful, sellable products.  Prior to Jobylon, he used to work in sales and SaaS, and has co-founded two other tech startups in the early years.

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

- Introduction-1:50
-Mapping a people and culture journey- 2:57
-Identifying the most important qualities in a potential hire and how other organisations can effectively these qualities- 4:31
- How to use your own culture to shape the candidate experience and find the best talent- 10:59
- How to ensure you don’t oversell your company and position- 13:51
- How the candidate experience feeds into a company’s culture journey- 21:03
- Tips on standing out as an employer and attracting great talent-24:36
- Common mistakes companies make when it comes to candidate experience and selling their culture-31:04
- What matters when it comes to hiring analytics-34:18
- Common recruitment metrics companies track- 38:15
- How to enable your hiring managers and drive new approaches and ways of working forward-41:32

How We Hire Podcast Episode 23 Transcript

Aref Abedi (Guest) (00:00):

I think you need to create a super transparent culture where people feel safe, that they're like, "Hey, I'm not happy. Can you help me find something else?" And I might actually help them find another job. It's naive to think that everyone would be here forever.


So, I think the culture and the transparency is super-key, but also being open from an employer perspective to bet on potential, exactly as you say. And potential doesn't mean that you're junior. I think you could hire a super-experienced person, but still bet on potential and grit instead of just experience.

Linnea Bywall (00:35):

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 Aref Abedi, the CEO and co-founder of Jobylon, a modern recruitment platform with a unique focus on candidate experience and effective job ads. Aref's mission is to simplify hiring through trust and technology. With his extensive experience within the recruitment industry, Aref has a deep understanding of the challenges that employers face while hiring the right candidates. As he says himself, he loved taking an idea and transforming it to beautiful and sellable products. So, welcome to How We Hire, Aref.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (01:35):

Thank you for having me. Happy to be here.

Linnea Bywall (01:37):

So much fun. And before we jump into today's topic and questions, can't you just start off with telling us a little bit about yourself, about Jobylon, for those who don't know you or don't know Jobylon?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (01:50):

Yes. So, my name is Aref. I'm the CEO and co-founder of Jobylon. I've been doing this for 12 years, which sounds long when you say it out loud, but it's been a rollercoaster of a journey. We've been doing so many things and iterations, it's always been within HR tech.


What we do today is an applicant tracking system or we prefer to call it a talent acquisition platform, primarily for the enterprise segment with a heavy focus on Europe. Prior to Jobylon, I used to have a career in sales in a SaaS company, and I've also been part of co-founding two other tech startups in the early years.

Linnea Bywall (02:26):

So, you're one of the cool tech founder personas?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (02:30):

It sounds cool when you say it like I did, but it's probably not as cool in practice.

Linnea Bywall (02:36):

I mean, now when people are listening, they won't see you, but I can tell that you also have the tech founder official outfits with like-

Aref Abedi (Guest) (02:46):

Oh, I do? What's that?

Linnea Bywall (02:47):

Shirt and the vest.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (02:48):

Oh, okay. I thought that was the investor thing, and I'm not an investor.

Linnea Bywall (02:52):

Oh, okay. Okay. Now, I think maybe it's spilled over then.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (02:54):

Awesome. All right, good to know.

Linnea Bywall (02:58):

Okay. I mean, before we started recording we chatted a little bit about people and the people culture journey, and how that is a topic close to heart. Can't you just let us into your brain when it comes to people and culture journeys?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (03:11):

Yeah, sure. I mean, sounds like a cliche in a way, but again, we've been doing this for 12 years, we've failed so many times and we've done so many things wrong. And I remember in the early days I always got the question, "Why are you still doing this? Why are you not joining something else?" And from friends or other people outside of the company. My answer was always, "I'm happy." And it took me a while to understand what that means, and that has become our culture. We talk a lot about happiness in Jobylon.


And we realized after a while that it's all about the people. The product will change and it has changed and I'm sure it will change again, and you will fail, but the constant is the team you're working with and the culture. Sometimes I'm joking about it, but we could start up a coffee shop tomorrow and I'm sure it will be super successful, because you have a team that's just willing to do everything together. So, that's what really inspires me. That's what makes me want to come to work, or jump online, or whatever it is. And I can do this for 10 more years as long as I feel what I feel today. So, that's how I would summarize that.

Linnea Bywall (04:14):

I mean, I think we're going to have that as an overarching theme for our discussion, but obviously from the angle of hiring and recruitment. And just to start us off, how has this focus on people and culture impacted Jobylon as a company but also as a product, I guess?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (04:32):

I mean, I think it's all to do with the people and the team we have. I think every initiative we run in the company, if we talk of Jobylon as an employer, that's a direct result of dialogue with the team. Every quirky thing we do or every perk we have, or when we rolled out pension, doesn't matter what it is, it's all a result of discussing and talking with the team.


I think this also went into our product and our methodology. So, for us, customer success and customer satisfaction is everything. And I think it's hand-in-hand, everything goes aligned. If you ask me, I'd rather be vendor that's known for their partnership, their proactive way of working, their customer service, not that they have an ATS, in that sense. And I think that that's core to our culture in that sense, if that makes sense?

Linnea Bywall (05:25):

It does. So, I guess, depending on what culture you have, that will also impact what strategy you go after, how you plan your work, ways of working, and that then feeds into everything. And I think, isn't that also what just employer branding is all about? Is getting that message across and both in the sense of making it attractive, so you can attract talent, but also to make it honest, so that you set the right expectations.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (05:50):

Absolutely. I mean, I think we also have a super long-term view in this journey. I truly believe that most of the team members and the colleagues have the same way. We're not looking at it as, "Let's build something and then sell it and then we do the other thing." We've been doing this again for 10-plus years, more than happy to do it for 10-plus years, as it's a journey that never ends and then you have exciting milestones along the way.


And I think every single human being, I think, wants to feel relevant and they want to have impact in whatever they do. And I think that's the culture we really try and create in whatever we do. And I think it's easy to talk about it, it's much harder to actually achieve, but that's what we do talk about all the time and that's what we're trying to basically do with the company.

Linnea Bywall (06:34):

And it all boils down to, as you say, the team getting the right people in. And in your opinion, what are the most important qualities to look for in a potential hire and how have Jobylon and how should other organizations effectively assess that?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (06:53):

That's a great question. I think it depends on where you are, what stage you're in, and what you need. In the early days, if you're a bootstrapped company like we've always been, you can't afford hiring super senior talents even if you want to. And you need these super ambitious, hungry, driven young people that love the chaos of a startup and they want to be part of building something.


I personally love that segment of hires, because there's also such a gratification when you see these people develop and take more initiative and take responsibility as you grow. But then I think as you start building more of a business, the flip side of it is that one of the best things ever is to hire people that are way smarter than yourself, because they can do what you've been trying to do all over the place, but they do it just way, way better. So, I guess, a little bit of a flooky answer in that sense, but I think it highly depends on where you are, at what stage you're in.

Linnea Bywall (07:52):

I mean, if I'm going to translate the flookiness, it sounds like that you're looking for, I mean, potential, but more specifically-

Aref Abedi (Guest) (08:00):


Linnea Bywall (08:01):

... grit, smartness, people that can adapt based on what gets thrown at them. I have such a fantastic story actually from Jobylon, where I know one of your employees that's been with you for a long time started in customer success and is now a product manager.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (08:20):

Yeah. We have a number of those. So, that's one. We also have, I usually talk about this story, my colleague, Karin, she is today in the management team and heading People and Culture. She started as a customer success manager in Jobylon, after years of talent acquisition. We had this idea that a CSM in Jobylon should know the space and so they can teach our customers. And we quickly learned that our customers, they have that knowledge in-house, whether right or wrong, they have a plan for it.


And being a CSM was also not Karin's thing, but I'm super glad that we have this culture that she once told me that, "I'm not happy with the role, so I'm thinking about going back to TA and that's what I really love." And we were at a stage that, "Hang on, we're going to hire quite a lot, so why don't you take that opportunity?" So, she went into a TA role and from there to Head of People and Culture, and now within the leadership team.


First, I think you need to create a super-transparent culture where people feel safe that they're like, "Hey, I'm not happy. Can you help me find something else?" And I might actually help them find another job. It's naive to think that everyone would be here forever. So, I think the culture and the transparency is super-key, but also being open from an employer perspective to bet on potential, exactly as you say. And potential doesn't mean that you're junior. I think you could hire a super-experienced person but still bet on potential and grit instead of just experience.

Linnea Bywall (09:43):

I think that's a very good distinction, that it's not just about that you have to be junior to be a potential hire. You can have both. And I think in the space and time and where we're at as a world, I think I've always preached that you should hire for potential, but I think it comes to this shift now where the predictability is impossible.


I mean, we have no idea what will happen for so many roles, probably all the roles that we have in our organizations. And then, hiring for experience, I mean, the experience will be outdated tomorrow or, even this afternoon. So, I think it's only getting more and more important.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (10:30):

Yeah, I fully agree with that. The uncertainty that lies in the future, in today's world, you need people that are willing and love to adapt based on the situation all the time. So, you can't do what you've always been doing. I completely agree.

Linnea Bywall (10:45):

And I mean, this people and culture perspective, obviously there's so much to say around once you are hired and, I mean, you've already mentioned one critical aspect where you need to have that transparency and honest conversation always ongoing.


But let's put on the hiring glasses and let's start from the beginning of the process where you want to attract candidates, create good experience in the process. How can you use your own culture already in the candidate experience and already in the attraction phase?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (11:19):

Well, I think you can definitely use it and I think you can use it in every step of the recruitment process. Everything from the job ad up until every interaction you have with hiring managers, or recruiters, or HR along the process. I think it's about showing, at least in our world, showing the true view of Jobylon and a genuine, "This is how it is to work here." The idea is not that you're going to win over everyone, that's not the point. The point is to find those that should actually be here.


So, I think it's everything about how you write your job ad, how your job ad looks, how you communicate with your candidates throughout the process, how you feedback the ones you're going to reject, how you onboard the candidates, how you take care of them. So, it's like taking care of a customer, right? Or anyone, for that matter. And I think we do quite little when it comes to those things. If you generally look at the market, I think we all agree that candidate experience is very important, but we still see job ads that are just a list of requirements, it doesn't say anything about why you should work for the company.


I've always found it funny that the word job ad comes from advertisement, but the job ad does nothing to advertise the role or the company. So, that's how we actually ended up in Jobylon, like the job ads hasn't changed in 150 years. It's gone from offline to online, but we still use these plain text ads that really doesn't do anything in terms of selling the position or the employer to the candidate.

Linnea Bywall (12:45):

Can you be specific, so if someone listening now feels, "This is my organization having this personal, boring, but maybe correct job ads." How do you go about changing it so that you use it as a advertisement?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (13:02):

Yeah. So, I think the way we do, for example, in our ATS, we treat the job ad as a landing page. So, if you think about it, the job ad is probably the first thing and the last thing a lot of people will see, not everyone goes through your career page. Not everyone will get the opportunity to meet you. So, you have one shot and that's usually that advertisement, which is your job ad.


So, what we try and do is to embed within the job ad not only the information about the job, but testimonials from future colleagues, our culture, our perks, videos, all of the things that you already have on your career page, all of the things that you already talk about during that first interview, we want to lift that into the ad. So, the ad becomes more of a why you should work for us and why you should send in your application.

Linnea Bywall (13:46):

And I think this is so important to set the right tone. Same thing with, I guess, a buyer's journey for any product is that you want to advertise and you want to sell it, but you don't want to oversell it, because then you won't have returning customers. How do you make sure that you don't sell something shiny and fantastic and then reality hits you?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (14:10):

I mean, I personally believe that when you do content in terms of recruitment, employer branding, if it's testimonials, videos, and so on, I think you win so much more by keeping things very down to earth. I mean, for example, rather filming with an iPhone than getting in a production agency doing employee branding video. And maybe that's not the best example, but showing the real workday at the company, showing real people with their testimonials and if you have that transparent culture internally, how do you expose that externally as well?


So, I think the way to not make it shiny is to just make it true in that sense. And if your true day is shiny, well then that's definitely what you should also show in your content.

Linnea Bywall (14:54):

So, I guess it's also about understanding your own situation, what are the pros and cons? Not just about creating content that is going to sound great, but you need to base it on reality.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (15:07):


Linnea Bywall (15:08):

Okay. So, what's your best tricks in your attraction phase for Jobylon, when you hire for Jobylon?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (15:14):

Well, first of all, I think you want to work with people that really know how to run these processes. It's like running a sales process or it's like developing something. You can't do that without an engineer. You can't do that without someone that works with sales. I think we do this mistake often. I did it myself, like, "Hiring, how hard can it be? In the early days, you just meet someone and you sell them the vision." Dah, dah, dah.


And I think there is an aspect to that that's important, but for example, when Karin joined, she completely changed our process. "What are you doing? What are we doing? This is how we should be run, this is the structured process, this is why we do it, et cetera." And it created so much value. So, I think, one, work with a team that really knows what they're doing and then they're passionate about this topic, but it's not that team's job only to recruit. So, involve everyone and the whole company. So, involve the founder, the management team, the people, the candidate's future team.


So, I think that's another part of the success. We might have sometimes lengthy processes and we make it very clear that it's often also for the candidate's sake to meet a lot of people in the company, to give them a view of, "This is how your day could look like." So, combining having a talented team that knows how to run these processes, but also ensuring that you are involving the company and using your employees as ambassadors within the process as well.

Linnea Bywall (16:36):

You know what feels kind of fresh here? It's the focus on quality of the process rather than just speed. I mean, obviously, we never want to waste anyone's time, neither the hiring team, the organization, or the candidates ,of course. But it's also about, I think there's sometimes an obsession with just time to fill, time to hire, that you forget aspects that will come by and bite you into tushy later on, if you haven't gone through some of those steps.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (17:09):

Yeah, I agree. I mean, I think part of it is that I feel like a lot of companies, you want to be data driven because you want to be data driven, and then the core KPIs that always come up will be things like time to hire, time to fill, et cetera. But I think you also need to work with people and maybe a partner or a vendor that challenges you. Like, why do you need to know time to hire? Is that the main problem? Or, the people you hire, are they staying with you after a year? If not, then I think time to hire might be the issue, maybe we need to make it longer so we actually spend quality on it.


So, I think definitely, we track metrics, but we do it for the wrong reasons. So, there's definitely room for including more quality in those process. But then I also feel for other companies, I think it's sometimes easier to be a company in our size, 50 people, and you have a long-term commitment. And for the right person you're willing to wait, because it's going to have some impact. But then you have other customers that are literally receiving thousands of applications on a weekly basis. So, I understand that also, that okay, how do you ensure quality in that process? But that's where I think you need to work with vendors, technology partners that can really eliminate that unnecessary admin in your workday, so you can actually focus on the quality and where it matters.

Linnea Bywall (18:30):

I agree with most of what you're saying. I think going back to the discussion on candidate attraction, you need to know your own situation. So, just when it comes to hiring, you need to know, "Do I have a screening problem or sourcing problem?" You need to know, "What is it that I'm working for?"


I mean, as a good talent acquisition and any recruiter will be fluent in company strategy, "What are we optimizing for?" Et cetera, et cetera. But then what I would like to challenge is this, companies our size, which is 70-ish employees, have the time to wait for the right candidate. I would argue that more organizations should dare to wait for the right candidate.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (19:16):

I agree. I think part of it is also a mindset. You've been doing the same thing as you've always been doing. Because we primarily work with enterprise customers, so I can also see that we can be in a meeting and tell them something like that, but it's so far off from the way they've been working. So, it's like a change behavioral process and you're trying to change the DNA and the culture of the company.


So, I agree, but it's hard to know actually how ... I think it would be easier if a person like you would join that type of company, because then you would drive that change. But you need someone, I think, driving the change, at least. That's the challenge. But it's a tricky one. I agree that the processes and the recruitment world would be way better if everyone would think like that, for sure.

Linnea Bywall (20:02):

They might also hunt me with torches if I joined. We don't know.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (20:08):

We don't know. Yeah.

Linnea Bywall (20:08):


Aref Abedi (Guest) (20:11):

I think one core challenge I see and a problem I see is that we, everyone, and it's definitely not only recruiters, is that we're a bit too short-term. So, you always have to fix that hire yesterday and you have to do this now and dah, dah, dah, and now we're opening this store or this factory and we need to hire, dah, dah, dah.


And that's fine. That's always going to happen. You need to fix those urgent problems. But I think daring to think maybe long-term, "Where do we want to be in one year, three years, five years?" And then, working towards that. I think those are the decisions that one needs to take in order to see those changes, because it's not going to happen over a day. But that's my belief in that sense, I have zero data behind that.

Linnea Bywall (20:53):

No, no, but I mean, you're allowed to think stuff here and I think the same. So, two against no one, because no one else can actually now comment on what was just said.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (21:03):

Exactly. So, we are right.

Linnea Bywall (21:07):

That is the conclusion that I will draw from this. Okay, continue on the topic of candidate experience and this selling your culture journey, how does that feed into the candidate communication?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (21:20):

Yeah. I think communication is probably the aspect we often drop the ball on, and that's where we hurt the candidate experience, because it's also where you spend, as a candidate, the most time. I mean, short application process can be good or bad, but you apply and you're done. I think what happens after that is key, and this is for the majority of candidates, because per definition they won't get the job.


So, I think treating your candidates as customers, right? You never know if they, in fact, will be a customer one day or if they will be your manager, or if they will be a future colleague. I think everyone is looking for honest feedback and quick feedback as soon as possible. And really incorporating that in your process and measuring that as well, to make sure that you are following up on your KPIs, I think is key.


I think we're too used to the select 200, reject, because it's a handy feature, but trying to think a little bit more like, "What am I sending them? Why? At what time?" Et cetera. And there are tools that can help you with that. Doesn't mean that you need to write a rejection email one by one, for every single candidate. There are automations, there are functionalities in many software tools that will help you do that, but I think it needs to be aware of that issue, so you actually incorporate that in your process from day one.

Linnea Bywall (22:37):

I had a discussion just last week with a head of TA for a large organization, where they have a very distributed ownership of their hiring, meaning they have a super slim TA function and it's on the hiring managers to own hiring. So, they just provide the tools, let the hiring manager pretty much run the process.


And we discussed candidate experience and he boldly said, "Yeah, we can't control it. And honestly, does it matter? We know it's not great, but hey, what you going to do about it?" I mean, because now it feels like everyone's talking about candidate experience, has been doing that for a few years now. How important is it? Is my first question. And what do you miss if you don't focus on it?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (23:22):

Yeah, I think it's more important than you think. It's not the end of the world. Your company's not going to go bankrupt if you have crappy candidate experience. That's also one part of it. But I think you're missing a lot of opportunities. There's a lot of lost opportunities if you don't focus on your candidate experience. And these could be candidates that is in your pipeline, that you're missing. The person you're looking for is waiting there, but you're missing them. You're missing the ripple effect of a good candidate experience if the majority of people that are rejected by you as a company, if they would talk good about you, the referral effect that has is huge.


So, I think there's a lot of lost opportunities. I think even with a poor candidate experience, you will of course hire, end of the day, but you're just making things a bit more harder for yourself. And I think that's what I mean with the short-term versus long-term thinking. If you're short-term then you're going to keep on doing that, but if you dare to be a bit long-term and you measure these things and you're open to it, then I think in the long-term you'll win so much more from it.

Linnea Bywall (24:20):

Yeah, I think that's a good answer. So, it also boils down to if you have a weak talent funnel, well, technically where you have a sourcing problem, one way to long-term fix that is through candidate experience.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (24:36):

Yeah, absolutely. And I think if you work properly with candidate experience, you can reuse your existing database in a completely different way, every time you're looking for a new position, instead of hiring new and fresh applications, in that sense. You have a pool of candidates that have a good experience from you, for some reason they weren't a good fit for the job or the timing wasn't right, but they're still interested. So, you can reuse that database along the process. So, everything becomes easier.


I mean, you know way more about recruiting and TA than I do. So, I always think about things like sales. If I would treat prospects crappy, that wouldn't work. It's unheard of. You would never do that. And I think that mentality needs to be the same with recruitment.

Linnea Bywall (25:23):

And I really like that analogy. I mean, I often talk about how you wouldn't plan your marketing spend based on gut feeling, but we still allow hiring to be done via gut feeling. I mean, I think this is a great example too. You wouldn't treat your sales prospect like crap, but it's somewhat okay to treat candidates in a hiring process like crap. And I think those days are over, folks.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (25:48):

Yeah. I also think that the processes where you and me feel that the candidates are not getting a good experience, I'm pretty sure that the ones running that process don't see it that way. I think that's the core problem. They believe, "No, but this is how you do it. They get quick feedback and they're out." Et cetera.


So, I think the core needs to change in some way and you can't just talk about candidate experience because it's a good thing to talk about and mention in your job, but you truly need to live and feel that behavior.

Linnea Bywall (26:18):

Exactly. Better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (26:22):

Yeah. Absolutely.

Linnea Bywall (26:22):

Okay. I mean, we know that the current job market is competitive. There are a lot of organizations struggling to find talent. What advice would you give employers to stand out and attract great talent?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (26:39):

So, I think goes back a little bit to what we were talking about, focus on the why, why should someone join you instead of, who are you looking for? What skills are you looking for? That's just a necessity in that sense. I think we can focus way more on the why, because that's when the genuine side comes out. And I think with the why comes your highlighting your culture, highlighting your employer brand, whatever we call that, and giving candidates a genuine view of how it is to work for you.


And I think that goes back to what I was saying earlier that I believe that every single human being wants to feel relevant, they want to feel that they have impact. And show them how will they have impact. It doesn't matter if you're 10,000 employees or 10, you can always have impact and you can always be relevant. And I think that needs to be a much more of a focus area. So, that's one thing.


I would say the second thing, having a streamlined, proper process, again, candidate experience in terms of making it clear that you are valuing candidates' time and effort along the process, to make sure that they are appreciated along the process. So, that's the other side of it. And the third one is also what we were talking about before, is involving the whole company. TA and HR are not the only ones responsible for promoting your brand or opportunities. You need to get everyone on board.


So, I think a combination of those things. It's still a competitive market and hiring great people is always going to be hard. So, that's just something we need to accept. But then, these are, I think, some of the things we can do to mitigate that basically.

Linnea Bywall (28:11):

And I guess also just iterating on what we said earlier and knowing what type of talent, why should they come to you? But also knowing what type of talent you are hiring for based on the assignment that your organization, or the mission your organization is on, giving the example that you gave on hiring for potential, because things will change. As long as we have the right people, we can adapt to that change. Compared to other organizations where it's probably, it's more static, maybe you can optimize for more specialized talents in those situations, etcetera. So, I guess, yeah, going back to, what is it that you want to accomplish?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (28:50):

And I think also being very honest about where you are in your journey. So, I think in the early days and still today, sometimes, less today, but in the early days we would always say that, "We don't have any career paths." When you work as a CSM, we don't have this, "In two years you should be here and then in four years you should be here." I think it's really good to have that. And now we have the ambition to create those career paths, but in the beginning we didn't.


So, we were saying that, "You can be anything you want, literally, but it's up to you. But it's also up to us to create that culture and that environment." And some will be concerned about that, which is completely fine. And others, will love that. And those are the people we were talking about before, that have just completely switched roles and careers and ended up doing other things. And today we're at a stage where we try to define these paths a little bit more, because that's also important. So, just being very true in terms of where are you in your journey and what can you expect, I think is the best thing you can do.

Linnea Bywall (29:48):

And for me, this goes back to the sales analogy, because the majority of salespeople will agree that the spray and pray method isn't awesome, but rather defining, "Who are we selling to? Who is this product or service suitable for? Who will love it?" And really find those people. I think sometimes we need to keep that in mind when it comes to attraction of candidates. It's so easy to just, like, "We need volumes." And it sounds fantastic to be a Spotify with a thousand applicants because they're super cool, but at the end of the day, you only need to have one good application to hire one good person.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (30:28):


Linnea Bywall (30:29):

And it's probably more interesting to tailor your message, to tailor your process, and find those relevant candidates rather than just like, "Yes, we have a ton of them."

Aref Abedi (Guest) (30:41):

Yeah. 100%. And actually, one thing that I thought of, maybe we have that in the TA world, because that's not my domain in that sense, but I was thinking in sales we talk about your ICP, your ideal customer profile, we should be talking about your ideal candidate profile in the same way. So, I mean, as you say, the best case scenario is getting few candidates, but they're all relevant. That's the ideal situation for everyone.

Linnea Bywall (31:04):

Yeah. Exactly. Candidate persona would be the concept.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (31:08):

Of course, candidate persona.

Linnea Bywall (31:09):

Okay. What would you say are some of the common mistakes that companies make when it comes to candidate experience and selling their culture?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (31:18):

I think the main one is, again, I look at the segment we work within. I think it's very different from being a startup versus being a larger enterprise. They all have their challenges and no one will be perfect. We work primarily with larger companies. I think the main challenge I see is the short-term thinking versus long-term. You're always in a rush. You have to hire the person you needed, last week. And as human beings, we're all just too busy and we will drop things along the way. And generally what we drop is the candidate feedback and the genuineness in that feedback and the frequency in that feedback, and all of that. I think that's probably, I would say, the main problem we see or the common mistakes.


Some mistakes are also connected to what vendors and tools you're using. Sometimes as a company you do want to do things differently, but you are stuck in a legacy tool that you've been using for the past 10 years and you can't change that. So, that's a different thing, but that behavior changes and drives you to change your tech stack, and so on. So, partly it's that, but the other part, I think, is just that we're too short-term and always too busy and then we drop things, and what the main thing we drop is the candidate's feedback along the process.

Linnea Bywall (32:28):

And how can one ensure that that ball isn't dropped as often?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (32:33):

That's a good question. I think you need at least one that really cares about this topic, that drives that behavior internally. If you don't have that, that's never going to change. So, you definitely need that person. If you don't have that person and you're aware of this problem, you would need to hire that individual, in that sense.


And I think it starts there, if you have that person and that team, that change will come with that team. Whether that means replacing your ATS, or hiring more people, or changing the way you recruit, but it starts again from people and you need to have the right people on board.

Linnea Bywall (33:05):

To me that sounds like the accountability either outspoken or just individually taken on is super important. And I guess, I could also add, just starting to measure it or have targets for it. We have quite clear accountability that candidate experience is on the recruiter. They won't be able to impact all of it, but they are measured on it. So, it's on them, meaning they can impact the hiring manager to do better.


I heard a super interesting ... From Core Facility Service, they are super into ensuring diversity and inclusion is part of their DNA, and they are now all ... Managers are being measured on it and it's actually also part of how they set salaries. So, it's not just based on your results, but actually on the metrics that they have, so that you not only put up a metric and not care about it, but do it in, how do we link that to incentives? Et cetera, et cetera.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (34:17):

Yeah. Yeah. That's super interesting. Yeah. I think also another thing we were talking about mistakes, at least this is something I know we do definitely, I mean, everyone does these mistakes. One is that you need to be a bit more clear, I think, in the early process. "What are you hiring? What are the competences? Who are we hiring? Why are we hiring? What's the salary?" It goes back to the thing that we're rushed and we just want to do things quickly.


But I see this also with Jobylon, we run and then we meet candidates and then our perception or our view of this candidate or the profile, we're looking for changes along the way. And that's just like, we are wasting candidates' times and this could be my fault or someone else, because we're like, "Go, go, go, go, go." But I think just taking a step back and sit down with all relevant parties, like, "Who do we need? Why do we need the person? And what are we going to pay? What can we afford?" So, it's very clear and then we continue. That's also something probably happens more in smaller companies because they don't have that experience, is my guess, but that's another mistake I see.

Linnea Bywall (35:18):

I mean, I guess it's human, because I can really relate to it and in the sense that you decide on something and then all of a sudden when you start meeting candidates, your expectations increase, because you meet fantastic candidates and it's like, "Ooh, maybe we can get something even better." And it's about that, again, locking what you're looking for and keep coming back to that, because if it changed over time ... Well, I mean, sometimes that change is good and then let's just decide that we are looking for something else, or let's just link back to, "This is what we said. If this is all correct, then we shouldn't go out looking for the holy grail."

Aref Abedi (Guest) (35:58):

Yeah. Absolutely.

Linnea Bywall (35:59):

Okay. I think we have touched upon it a little bit, but would love just given that you work with wide set of organizations, especially with these bigger organizations where the hiring process and the way that they go about hiring is often really tailored, would be super interesting to just talk a little bit about hiring analytics. Because I know you and me have discussed before how Jobylon offers a lot of tailoring, because different organizations measure different things. If we just start off, what matters and why when it comes to hiring analytics, in your opinion?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (36:35):

I think the main thing that matters is the willingness to be data driven to begin with. I would say it's hard to have one KPI that matters for everyone. Again, it's like sales or anything else, it depends on what your challenges are. I think what we see is that every single customer, they want to be data driven. So, I think that's great and it's becoming more and more, but not everyone knows what they want to measure.


And then, the next layer of that is, not everyone knows, "What do I do with this? Is it good? Is it bad? How do I benchmark it?" One of the problems we also see is that because we work primarily with larger customers, they come from other tools that might be more traditional, legacy tools, and they don't have any data, so there's nothing to compare it to when they move over to Jobylon.


So, what we try and do is to, if they have a thesis or anything, we try to set up custom dashboards and the KPIs they're looking for. But then, I think it's a difference between reporting and insights. One thing is what they need to report on and sometimes do management, or they are being measured on something because they have targets, et cetera. What we try and do is that every quarter we sit down with our customers and then from our end we analyze their data and their metrics and their bottleneck, et cetera, in order to recommend them. So, "We saw this pattern. We recommend you guys to work differently for this quarter, so we can change this KPI."


So, I think that's the exciting part of it when you try and use data in order to understand patterns and improve, but it's also confusing because it's almost easier from a sales perspective to say, "This is our dashboard. These are the KPIs. You need to be really good at time to hire." But I don't think that would be the true way of talking about data in that sense.

Linnea Bywall (38:15):

I love the differentiation between reporting and an insight. So, if we just start in the reporting bucket, what are the most common ones that you see organizations using when it comes to reporting?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (38:28):

Yeah. Right or wrong, the common ones we hear about is everything from time to hire, it's top sources, drop off rates, cost of hire, which is harder because you need to get in so many elements into it, but it's also classical, number of jobs open last, that kind of thing. I would say those are the ones that are always in every single requirement list. That's how you start the classic KPIs.

Linnea Bywall (38:55):

And then when it comes to the insights, what would you say, what are some of the top insight driven aspects that you should look for?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (39:04):

The hard thing with the insights is that they are so different for different customers and you need to analyze the data and dig deep to understand them. But they're super interesting, and for me, it's actionable insights. So, it's an insight that drives some action. And it could be very simple things. It could be that, we had one customer that had been using a certain job board for years and they've always been doing it because that's what they've been doing, and the job board creates a lot of traffic and applications to them. But then by looking at the data, we could see that literally zero people are being hired. So, you are actually paying to get admin, in that sense, or however you want to call it, if you zone in on that.


Another insight could be that a certain stage in the process is taking too long time, it's a bottleneck, why is that? So, I think the why is important. Is it the hiring managers? Is the stage not being used? Is it an integration fault? So, we try and find these patterns and then understand them, but also challenge customers in terms of, "What can we do differently? And, how do we improve that metric?" And then follow up on that, for example, next quarter.

Linnea Bywall (40:04):

Maybe this is a hard question, but what patterns in the differences do you see based on maybe company size or industry? Are there those, "Well, if it's this type of organization, they usually do this. And if it's this type of organization, they usually do that."?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (40:21):

That's a great question. I would say it's, one is the size of the company. Or, not size, I would say with size comes generally volume. So, with volume recruitments, you definitely see some patterns and insights. So, your rejection communicated rate. Are you actually communicating rejections to everyone or are you just moving them? That's one thing we see with bigger volumes. We also see a lot of unnecessary bottlenecks that candidates get stuck in different stages of the process.


With smaller recruitments or smaller teams, I think you see different issues. Then it's more about getting the traffic in, "Are we getting the right traffic to the job ad? How many people are converting to our ads? And how many are coming back to our career page?" And so on. So, it's definitely different challenges depending on where you are.


Another big thing I think that also drives these metrics is if you're a company where you are very TA driven and talent acquisition and recruiters are running the process, or if you're a company where you empower the hiring managers, so you let them do everything. And I love that ideal world where the hiring managers will run everything based on a framework created by a TA team, but you definitely see other challenges there too.

Linnea Bywall (41:32):

To be sure, I think that's a hot potato on how do you, I don't know, enable your hiring managers? How do you ensure quality of the process? And where should accountability and responsibility lie? I think that's super interesting to just hear how different organizations are solving for that and how different it is and how the wins with some approaches, and the lose [inaudible 00:41:56] something, regardless of what you see.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (42:00):

Yeah. And it's so interesting with that because you can see companies that are from the same industry, the same size, and they're going the opposite direction. So, no one knows literally what's the right way to do it. They all have their thesis.


I think the key here is to really empower hiring managers, but within a framework set by talent acquisition in that sense. So, you can't do anything you want. You can't write the job ad exactly how you want. There are certain templates you need to follow, there are certain processes you need to follow, but you do the job itself based on those guidelines.

Linnea Bywall (42:29):

Speaking of hiring managers, I mean, we talked before a little bit about there's this traditional old way of hiring, then there's the new, more modern and often more useful approach. When you run into hiring managers that are skeptical of new approaches, how can you address these concerns? How can you win over hiring managers? What's your take?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (42:54):

That's a great question. I think if we take a step back, so what we do is that we don't sell to the hiring manager, right? So, we sell to HR or TA. So, we need to win them over to get in our product. And they are generally not skeptical because they're the ones driving the process. So, that's not a challenge there. But then of course, hiring managers might be skeptical. It could be a larger company where HR has always been doing that and now they want them to start doing it. So, I think we are very respectful to that, you are used to a way of working. You have to respect that. So, you can't just come in and say, "You guys are doing things wrong."


Our job is to really prove that this way of working will actually save them time and it's so easy. So, what we try and do is, for example, have a webinar for our hiring managers in the early days, when they just go live. And the purpose of that webinar is not to train them in the product, because you should not need training in order to understand this tool. The purpose is to create the feeling that, "Oh, this was super easy, can I get access please?" If you can create that feeling and it's a process, then you start seeing this change across the company. And that's super cool. And we see that sometimes with different customers, where they completely change the way of recruiting. Before, hiring managers didn't do anything. Today, they do almost everything, but they are happy or happier, because they don't need to email someone and wait for something. They can just go in and do it based on that framework that has been set up.


So, I think that's one thing. The other thing is also, I think you have a great opportunity whether you buy in a new software, whatever that software is, to challenge the mindset of the TA team also, like, "Hey, why not try this thing?" Or, "Let's try video applications, if that makes sense." Or, "Let's do assessments." Or, "Let's remove the CV." And the first thing is like, "Oh no, but hang on, that doesn't make sense. We've always had the CV." And we just try and simplify that in terms of, "Let's just try it. If it doesn't work, we'll just turn it back on tomorrow." And that's also exciting when you get to challenge them a little bit and try different things. And sometimes they work and that's awesome, and sometimes they don't. Then you just take it back. I think just also making it a little bit simple that the consequences aren't that big if it doesn't work, we can just change.

Linnea Bywall (45:11):

Yeah. So, linking it to the value that they will get out of it, making it really, really easy. Being open to, it's a trial and error thing. And then I was going to say one more thing that I now forgot. So, let's scrap that.


Okay. I think for wrapping up this great conversation, just on a personal note, I guess, what's your, after 12 years with Jobylon, running around in the recruitment industry, biggest lessons that has shaped the company?

Aref Abedi (Guest) (45:45):

It's a good question, and the answers generally are very cliche on these questions, but they're also true. So, I think again, it depends on what type of company you want to build and what journey you're in, and so on. For me, the biggest lesson in a way is definitely that people is everything. So, hiring the people that you want to work with, that have the same mindset as you, doesn't mean that they're the same as you, they should challenge you, but if we have a long-term mindset, the ones we hire should have a long-term mindset. If the transparency and culture is important for me, it should be important for the people we hire in that sense. So, I think having a solid team. If there's anything I'm by far proud of most of everything we've done, it's the team we have today. So, I think that's my biggest takeaway.


Other things would be definitely, be bold and take risks. What's the worst thing that can happen? I always talk about that. Even today, you can sign a very big contract with a customer and they have these huge liability clauses and you might get bankrupt if things happen. Or, we just sign it and let's see what happens if we can create a value. So, I think being a little bit bold, but then again, I'm also very thankful having other people in the team that are more like, "No, no, no, you got to mitigate that risk."


And I think just be prepared to fail a lot of times and have stamina and the grits, because we've definitely failed more times than we've succeeded. But I think the success has been way bigger than the failures together. And I think that comes with the risk part as well, as you iterate and fail and you learn, you realize that it's not a big deal to take risks in that sense. So yeah, those would be my learnings.

Linnea Bywall (47:26):

I think those are epic learnings. Right after this, I think I'm going to go hug some teammates and take some risks. Thank you so much for joining How We Hire, Aref, it's been an absolute pleasure. And fun fact, my first ever podcast appearance was on Jobylon's podcast.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (47:43):

It was.

Linnea Bywall (47:44):

It was.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (47:45):

I remember that.

Linnea Bywall (47:45):

Full circle. Full circle.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (47:48):

Yes. No more podcasts after this. Now it's all done.

Linnea Bywall (47:50):

Okay, we're done.

Aref Abedi (Guest) (47:50):


Linnea Bywall (47:50):


Aref Abedi (Guest) (47:54):

No, but thank you for having me. It was a fun chat and this time just flew by.

Linnea Bywall (47:58):

It did. Thank you so much. And for those of you listening, connect with Aref on LinkedIn or just find him on the street, I was about to say. But I hope you will listen in on another episode in two weeks. Thank you for listening. Bye.