Sandra Feldmann – start-up and scale-up HR expert about the rise of the ‘corporate influencer’

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Teamdash Meet the Expert interview with Sandra Feldmann

Sandra Feldmann, the Founder of Itsatalent.business, a company which helps companies attract candidates in a smarter way.

Sandra is an international start-up and scale-up HR professional with SaaS background. She has helped companies grow in B/C Series stage (scaling from 20 to 100 employees), and is now part of a global unicorn start-up (series D and 500+ employees).
She is implementing innovative and creative work and sourcing hacks, and automated and digital workflows for talent attraction.

Let’s dig further into what drives her to help companies succeed in their HR processes and her thoughts about modern talent acquisition.

How did you get started in recruitment/talent management/HR? Was working in talent management something you always wanted to do?

No, it wasn’t always my plan. I majored in American Culture Studies in college, which left a lot of people, including myself, wondering what I’d do career-wise. To figure it out, I tried a bunch of internships in different fields. By chance, one of those was in HR, and it turned out to be a great fit for me. I found that I really enjoyed the work, and it just clicked.

What would you say is a common misconception about the work of a recruiter/TA manager/HR professional?

A common misconception about the work of a recruiter or talent sourcer is that it’s merely a mindless activity of scrolling through LinkedIn profiles. In reality, talent sourcing is a multifaceted and strategic process. It’s akin to a blend of sales and marketing tactics, where understanding the market, the competition, and the target demographic is crucial.

Much like in sales, building relationships and understanding client needs (both the candidates’ and the company’s) are key. We’re not just looking for skills; we’re also matching values, company culture, and long-term potential. In marketing, it’s about crafting the right message and brand appeal, which is similar to how we position a role or a company to attract the right talent.

Furthermore, talent sourcing today is heavily reliant on data analytics. It’s not just about finding candidates; it’s about understanding trends in the job market, analyzing where the talent pools are, and predicting future needs. We use data to make informed decisions about where to source candidates, how to engage with them, and how to improve our processes.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve managed to overcome or improve on during your career so far? How did you do it?

One of the most significant challenges I’ve worked on improving throughout my career has been my communication skills, particularly in being concise and clear. Early on, I realised that while I had a lot to say, the essence often got lost in overly lengthy explanations. It was a struggle to keep my communication short and to the point.

To address this, I actively started practising nonviolent communication. This approach helped me to be not only more concise but also more effective in my interactions. Nonviolent communication focuses on empathetic listening and expressing oneself honestly and clearly, which was exactly what I needed. I learned to structure my thoughts better and get to the heart of the matter more quickly.

What are some of the most rewarding experiences or achievements you’ve had in your career so far?

One of the most rewarding experiences in my career has been the opportunity to network and bond with incredibly inspiring individuals. There’s a saying that you are the sum of the people you spend the most time with, and in my case, it’s been a privilege to be surrounded by colleagues and professionals who truly make my brain ‘sparkle’ with ideas and inspiration. This rich environment of shared knowledge and enthusiasm has been a driving force in my professional journey.

Moreover, this network of inspiring connections led to a particularly notable achievement: writing a book on talent sourcing (“Talent Titans“- available on Amazon). This project was a collaboration with my former coworker, Ben. It’s been an enriching experience to pool our insights and experiences, shaping them into a resource that could potentially benefit others in our field. This endeavour not only allowed me to deepen my understanding of talent sourcing but also helped cement the value of collaborative relationships in professional growth.

What kind of experiences have you had as a candidate yourself? Any experiences that stand out?

As a candidate, I’ve had my fair share of experiences, but one that really stands out for me involved a company that went the extra mile to create a ‘wow’ factor – something I personally strive to do in my role. I remember logging into a Zoom interview and being pleasantly surprised to see a custom background created just for me. It had my name, “Hi Sandra, great to see you today!” This small but thoughtful gesture instantly made an impact.

I’m particularly excited and, at the same time, a bit apprehensive about several emerging trends in recruitment and talent management. Firstly, the role of the ‘messenger’ is becoming increasingly important. We’re seeing the rise of the “corporate influencer” – individuals who can effectively represent and humanise their company’s brand. This trend is shifting the focus from traditional recruitment methods to building a strong, authentic presence that attracts talent.

Another intriguing and challenging trend is LinkedIn’s move to make it harder to x-ray profiles through search engines. This change means that recruiters need to become more adept at being a ‘magnet’ for talent, rather than relying solely on outbound tactics. It’s about creating an environment or brand that draws candidates in, aligning with corporate influencers’ rise.

However, what really stands out for me is how the advancement of AI in recruitment is paradoxically making the human factor more important. While AI can streamline and improve many aspects of the recruitment process, there’s a growing recognition of the value of human judgment, empathy, and understanding in making the final decisions. AI tools can help us get to the decision-making point more efficiently, but they can’t replace the human touch that’s essential for truly successful talent management. This balance between technology and human insight is a fascinating area that’s evolving rapidly, and it’s one I’m closely watching.

What do you feel is unique about your current place of work? What makes the people stay? Why should people apply?

The unique aspect of my current workplace, which is actually a business I recently founded, lies in its core mission – to assist companies in enhancing their talent attraction efforts. What makes this venture stand out is our personalized approach to understanding each client’s unique culture and needs and then tailoring our strategies to align with those specific requirements.

What tools that you use in your day-to-day work are the most valuable to you? What do you use them for?

In my day-to-day work, two tools that have proven to be invaluable are SourceWhale and Harpa.ai.

  • SourceWhale is a game-changer for managing and automating various aspects of the outreach process in recruitment. I use it extensively for its seamless integration with different platforms and its ability to streamline communication with potential candidates. It helps in creating personalized email sequences, tracking responses, and maintaining an organized workflow. This level of automation and organization allows me to focus more on the human aspect of recruitment, like candidate engagement and relationship building, rather than getting bogged down in administrative tasks.
  • As a Chrome extension that operates on websites to scrape data, Harpa.ai allows for a more informed and tailored response to candidate messages. By providing quick access to relevant candidate information and insights directly within the messaging platform, it enables you to craft personalized and context-aware replies. This not only improves the efficiency of your communication process but also helps in building a more engaging and meaningful interaction with each candidate.

In your opinion, what are the most critical skills and qualities a recruiter should possess to be successful in this field?

In my opinion, one of the most critical skills a recruiter should possess for success in this field is a marketing mindset. This approach involves looking at how popular “love brands” – brands that people are passionate about and eagerly follow – operate, particularly focusing on the strategies employed by their marketing teams.

Recruiters with a marketing mindset are adept at storytelling, brand building, and audience engagement. They know how to leverage various channels to reach and engage with their target audience effectively. Additionally, they understand the importance of candidate experience and how each touchpoint in the recruitment process can be optimized to reinforce the company’s brand and appeal.

How do you approach diversity and inclusion in the hiring process, and how do you ensure fair and unbiased recruitment?

Approaching diversity and inclusion in the hiring process requires a thoughtful and multifaceted strategy. One key aspect is adapting our outreach and communication methods to be inclusive of neurodiverse candidates. We utilise tools like bionic reading, which facilitates easier text comprehension, and voice messaging, offering alternatives to traditional written communication. These methods cater to different processing needs, ensuring that our outreach is accessible to a wider range of candidates.

Do you track any recruitment metrics or KPIs in your day-to-day work?

Yes, tracking metrics and KPIs is an integral part of my day-to-day work, particularly in terms of outreach efforts. Some of the key metrics I focus on include:

  • response rates;
  • engagement rates;
  • conversion rates from initial contact to interview stages.

How would you define a good candidate experience? What strategies do you use to offer one?

A good candidate experience is fundamentally about how candidates feel during their journey with your company. Maya Angelou’s words – “People will forget what you said, but not how you made them feel” – perfectly encapsulate my approach to creating a unique candidate experience. It’s all about ensuring that every touchpoint in the candidate’s journey is not just transactional but memorable and positive.

In our candidate experience, we prioritize personalisation, ensuring our communication reflects each individual’s unique background. We maintain transparency, providing regular updates throughout the process. Our approach includes giving and receiving feedback, creating memorable ‘wow’ moments, and demonstrating respect and empathy in every interaction, acknowledging candidates’ efforts and time.

Recommend us 3 books/TV shows/podcasts and let us know why you love them

  • The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss – because it will shift your view on efficiency and work/life balance in general,
  • HR Robo-Sapiens” by Jose Kadlec – because it is the best book about AI in HR, in my opinion, with very practical insights, too.
  • My own book- “Talent Titans” by Sandra Feldmann and Ben Kärki- because we put all of our best practices and hidden tricks and tools in this book.

How do you know when it’s time to take some time off to avoid burnout and take care of your mental health? How do you recharge?

Puhhhh… I wish I knew the right time. To be quite honest, I usually realise that I should take a break mentally when it’s already late.

To recharge, I’ve found that incorporating ‘micro-adventures’ into my life is incredibly effective. These small, achievable adventures or activities break the monotony of daily routines and provide a fresh perspective. It could be something as simple as taking a different route during a walk, trying a new hobby, or planning a short weekend getaway. These activities don’t require extensive planning or time commitment, but they offer a significant boost to my mental and emotional well-being.

What motivates you professionally? What is your biggest professional goal for 2024?

What drives me professionally is the aspiration to become a full-time entrepreneur. The idea of building and running my own business, with all its challenges and opportunities, is incredibly motivating….. and scaaaaaary!!! This goal encompasses not just the freedom to implement my own ideas but also the responsibility of steering a company towards success. So, 2024 will be my time to step outside my comfort zone.

How would you describe your job to people considering transitioning into recruitment/talent management? Any tips on where to start?

Most importantly, get yourself out there. The more you engage with the community and resources available, the more you’ll learn and the better prepared you’ll be to make a successful transition into this rewarding career. Read that HR book, listen to that podcast, but also go to webinars, events and do that networking part!

Thanks, Sandra, for sharing your experiences and tips with our community of 5000+ recruiters & TA professionals.

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Merilyn Uudmae

merilyn

Content Marketing Manager

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