European Business: MeetFrank allows job seekers to stay anonymous when looking for a new position. Why do you believe this can be an advantage in the beginning of the recruitment process?
Kaarel Holm: MeetFrank’s goal is to build a stress-free and safe environment, so that everyone can be active in the job market on their own terms. We enable our users to make themselves available for job offers, which does not necessarily mean that they are actively pursuing a new position at the moment. We keep their identities anonymous, so that they won’t be tagged as job-seekers. Thus, we can keep away unwanted attention and allow our users to be as open about their aspirations as possible.
A while back, I was working for a large publicly traded company and got fired, because I was in the process of making my mind up about whether or not I wanted to stay there after a two-year development cycle had ended. I took meetings with other companies to see what other paths were open to me – and when my employer found out, I was let go. That experience got me thinking: How can we create a stress-free environment so one can make a move in the job market without having to take a risk?
European Business: How does the process of finding a new position – or a new employee – work due to your service?
Kaarel Holm: As an employee, once you have downloaded the app, you go through the on-boarding process, which takes about three minutes. During this process, we try to figure out the tasks you are fulfilling in your current position: What are the activities on which you spend at least ten hours per week? But we also need to know what your aspirations and motivations are: What would you like to do next in your career?
Afterwards you will receive offers and opportunities from companies. Frank, the character in the app, will mediate between the two sides. It is up to you as a job seeker to decide whether you would like to engage or not. Nobody can approach you directly. You are completely hidden and the algorithm you meet through the Frank character presents the offers to you.
From the employer’s side, the process is virtually a mirror-image of the one the user goes through. You tell the algorithm what kind of expertise you are currently looking for, while you are provided with instant feedback about how many people with such skills we know and how to make your offer as motivating and engaging as possible. Then, the Frank character will mediate the offers and allow job seekers interested in applying to approach you.
Competition for talent is getting fiercer and fiercer and it is becoming ever harder for companies to find qualified staff. In every European country, there are more job vacancies than professionals to fill them. Kaarel Holm
European Business: How did you convince organizations – among them Daimler, Accenture and Eon – to embrace the anonymous recruitment process your service provides?
Kaarel Holm: Conventional means of hiring like classifieds only reach active job seekers who account for a meager 15 to 20% of the work force, while the large majority – passive job-seekers – is left out. MeetFrank helps companies like Daimler and Eon connect with the passive talent pool and in doing so the success rate increases significantly.
At the same time, competition for talent is getting fiercer and fiercer and it is becoming ever harder for companies to find qualified staff. In every European country, there are more job vacancies than professionals to fill them. Thus, companies are more than happy to try new solutions which allow them to reach out to talented people.
European Business: If competition for qualified employees is so fierce, does that make the time we’re living in an employee’s paradise?
Kaarel Holm: Definitely. We’re living in a transition period. The companies’ needs have already changed radically, but society is still undergoing its transformation phase. If you are part of the early-adopter group and up to speed with what the work environment needs, it is your paradise and you have many opportunities to choose from. It is you who can negotiate the terms. You are in the stronger position.
If you are part of the early-adopter group and up to speed with what the work environment needs, it is your paradise and you have many opportunities to choose from. It is you who can negotiate the terms. You are in the stronger position. Kaarel Holm
European Business: After Finland and the Baltic countries, MeetFrank recently entered its biggest market yet: Germany. Have German users, both businesses and potential job seekers, been as open to your service just as the Estonians?
Kaarel Holm: The German market has been one of the easiest to enter so far. German companies and users value the core principles of anonymity and diversity, which has allowed us to quickly build a large user-client-base in the region.
In one respect, a large market like Germany is easier to enter than a small market like the Baltic countries for a company like ours, because in order to carry out a successful job placement, we need a certain amount of people to offer the respective position to. For instance, if somebody is looking for a designer, the ideal pool size would be roughly 200 people. The bigger the country, the smaller the market penetration required for us to be able to be successful. In Estonia, we needed to have a market penetration of about 25%, whereas in Germany, even less than 1% is already plenty.
When I was a kid, there was nothing, virtually zero private companies at all, and in the years that followed, everything kind of appeared. Kaarel Holm
European Business: Estonia is constantly making headlines with its unique start-up culture and disruptive businesses. Why has the Estonian economy taken the lead in digitization and disruption in your view?
Kaarel Holm: Estonia has had a lot of early success with start-ups. One name is especially well-known: Skype. Since Estonia is an extremely small country, these success stories immediately become a source of national pride and this entices other young entrepreneurs to build their businesses. In Germany, an individual start-up has a very hard time of becoming talk of the town, because the market is so much bigger, but in Estonia everybody knows about it and immediately gets excited.
Another important factor is the proactive approach the government has extended towards start-ups and the way it has promoted innovative solutions. This has become the norm for our citizens. In Estonia, you can do everything with your smartphone, be it voting or filing your tax paperwork.
Young entrepreneurs in Eastern Europe also share a narrative, which I believe is instrumental in explaining their drive, their ambition and their optimism: Our generation has seen how our countries have developed since the fall of the iron curtain. I was born in 1990 and experienced this first-hand: When I was a kid, there was nothing, virtually zero private companies at all, and in the years that followed, everything kind of appeared. We grew up in this environment where you constantly witnessed the country evolve and where everything was built from scratch, after we had become free from Soviet occupation.
Interview: Julian Miller / Pictures: MeetFrank