Welcome to Pulse, the heartbeat of the SaaS software industry. Your host, Andreas CEO of madewithlove, is excited to bring you an interesting episode where he will be joined by Simone Eret, recruiting manager at madewithlove. 

Episode 9 – Hiring & retaining talent

Together, they will unveil the secrets of hiring and retaining the best talent in the software industry. From the art of identifying the perfect candidates to the science of building a culture that keeps them engaged and motivated, they will take you on a journey. Whether you’re a hiring manager, a team lead, or just someone looking to elevate your own hiring process, this episode is a must-listen. So, come along and join Andreas and Simone as they delve into the world of talent acquisition in the software industry.

In Pulse, the madewithlove podcast, Andreas Creten takes you on a journey to the forefront of the tech startup and scale-up ecosystem. He delves into the minds of industry leaders and uncovers the strategies that have made them successful. But that’s not all, Andreas also invites his own colleagues to share their insights and experiences, giving you an inside look at everything he encounters as a CTO in residence for various clients. So, grab a comfortable seat, and let Andreas guide you through the pulse of the software industry.

Listen to the podcast on your favorite platform

Hiring and retaining talent in the Saas eco-system

This week, we’re tackling a heated topic that has been on the minds of many in the SaaS industry: the war on talent. Our expert, Simone, will discuss the challenges of hiring and retaining top talent in the fast-paced world of SaaS. They’ll explore the importance of company culture and the difference between finding someone who “fits” your culture and someone who can “add” to it. Simone and Andreas discuss ping pong tables and beer-filled fridges as well. They’ll also discuss the importance of speed when it comes to hiring senior engineers and the impact it can have on the success of a company.

Podcast transcript

Hi there, I’m Andreas. I’m the founder and CEO of madewithlove. We help startups and teams grow. Today I’m talking with my colleague Simon Eret about hiring and retaining talent in the software industry. In our monthly podcast Pulse. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy.  I’m talking today with Simone, our German colleague living in France. But you’re a bit of a digital nomad as well. You live mostly in France, but today you are in Spain as far as I understand to survive the winter, and you’re the one that manages recruitment that we do for our clients. So welcome to the podcast, Simone. 

Thank you very much. Nice to be there. 

Yeah, of course.

So, let’s dive straight in, you work with our customers to find their technical talents. So where do you find them? Because it’s a very hard thing to do these. 

Yeah, so there are different channels that we use. Of course, we have a well-visited website of madewithlove where we post our ads, and they’re also directly posted on different channels.

We also use LinkedIn quite a bit, so we have a good potential for LinkedIn followers. For example, recently, we got 77 candidates in a couple of days because you posted an ad there, Andreas. 

Also what’s quite important is, That the job description must be well-written and we need to conduct a sort spell check to make sure that it looks professional and that it will be easier for people to find it.

Because if you have a typo in technology, then people who are looking for this technology may not be able to find you. So that is very important as well. Also, it’s always good to explore new sources. For example, recently, we tested a new job board, and we actually ended up hiring two people. 


What is also important, and some people neglect this fact: a tech recruiter needs to be a tech recruiter, so you need to have a person who is fairly specialized. I mean, they don’t need to be an engineer, but at least they should be able to tell the difference between front-end and back-end.

Mm-hmm. And we’d also do at madewithlove, we conduct technical interviews and technical assessments, and this way, we are sure that we only send pre-vetted candidates to our clients. 

Yeah. Yeah. That makes, that makes that enough sense. And that’s also something that, when I sell our recruitment service, I think it’s something that is very important that we understand technology. 

Maybe a bit on the job description, to go back to that, I remember we also used some kind of tooling to check if the language that we were using was not only written correctly but also if it was inclusive enough. Is that still something that we do? 

Yes, of course, everybody is welcome. We also have a little sentence in there.

Please feel free to apply even if you don’t match all the requirements. So that is often important because their statistics show that women often only apply if they meet at least like 80 or 90% of the requirements, whereas men reply even if they meet only 30% of them. 

So they’re a bit too confident, huh?

Yeah. Yeah. If, for example, the word culture fits, I stop using it because it can be misunderstood. I may think we only look for white Europeans, so that is definitely not the case. We also have sentences on our website that says: Hey, you may think this team does not look like me at all, but we actually look for people who don’t look like us.

So that is not really in the job description, but it’s on our website, on our career page. And I think that also helps people too. 

Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. And when you talk about the channels of the job boards, I think we also spend quite some time trying to find the job boards that are more.   inclusive.

What’s your experience with that? 

We recently started testing remote women. I use Slack a little bit when I have some time. I browse through a little bit and see if there’s somebody who could be a fit, but for now, we’ve had one or two candidates who came in through that. So, I think it’s what I use a lot is Angel. So that is very international.

They renamed the thing, right?

They renamed it Wellfound. Yeah, that’s true. They will change in January. It will be found under Wellfound. I like that one a lot. It’s, first of all, it’s free. Yeah. And it also tracks a lot of people from Africa, for example. 

So I placed like four people from Nigeria for one of our clients. Yep. And that worked super well because you just get a lot more candidates from there, so, yeah. 

Okay. In today’s market, obviously, it’s very hard to find people, I mean, because of, yeah, everyone’s looking for engineers or technical profiles.

How fast do you need to be basically when someone applies, what is a good run-through time with the candidates? How do you see that?  

As fast as possible. So because it’s actually, it’s, it’s really a race today because good candidates who are actively looking on numerous processes, and often it’s a question of timing. You need to extend an offer to them as soon as possible. 

Of course, you need. To still assess them. We’re currently working on technical interviews that we want to deploy more often in pair programming. So you wanna give candidates the choice because sometimes when people are already working, it takes them a lot of time to complete the technical assignment, and this way, we can be even faster.

I would say the time to hire should be three weeks maximum, and even then, that may already be too long.

Yeah. And how, because we, of course, do the technical assignment with most of the candidates that we see. How does that tie in with the timing? Like, do people, especially if they are applying for different positions at different companies, are they willing to do the assignment that they like, or do you see there is a drop off there?

There is a drop-off. Definitely, there is quite a drop-off, I would say.  I recently ran some numbers for that. I don’t have them reminded, but it’s quite significant.  Especially when we hire for clients, I think the dropoff rate is higher because they’ve only spoken to someone from madewithlove.

Mm-hmm. , and they haven’t really spoken to someone from the client side yet. So they are maybe a little less inclined to invest the 10 hours to do the technical assignment as opposed to when they have already spoken to someone from the company. They’ve looked at our website quite a lot. I mean, they also check the client’s website, so I would say it’s like a 30% dropout rate, maybe.

Yeah, just approximately right from the previous funnel. 

Originally we always did a technical assignment, but we’re experimenting with other options there as well. And hopefully that will, that will help.  Because I understand also if you if someone is and cause we also do some sourcing.

of course, if you source someone and then that means that they’re basically still working somewhere, and you also, like, don’t you want to come over to this company? And then they, they get into the process and then you also like, Hey, do this technical assignment with takes 10 hours. I understand also from their perspective that it might not be the most interesting thing to do, and they drop off there as well.

So that’s why we realized that we need to come up with a solution for that which we’re currently working on. Okay.  Talking about that, what does a good hiring process look like for you? 

It has to be agile. So when, of course, it should be short, that this for sure. But also, what is important is that we need to check in with a client on a regular basis.

So what I try to do also, for example, when a role’s really hard to fill, may make sense to check in with the client to adjust some requirements. We recently started working with the company in France, and there was someone for Laravel and Vue.JS. So, and then they say, okay, Symphony is also fine too.

I mean, it’s also a PHP framework, so mm-hmm. , it makes sense to discuss these things sometimes. And then they also come back with, for example, the salary expectations the salary bracket that they suggested was fairly low. And with some market research, I told them, listen, guys, it’s, it may, is that negotiable?

So, sometimes it’s also good to check when clients want people to come to the office. Mm-hmm.  Is that maybe something, is it enough when they come once a week? Cause then it’s not so bad if they drive two hours to get there or take a train for two hours. If they have to do that on a daily basis, that’s really a problem.

So that will help to extend the search radius. Or when, for example, it can happen that clients refuse everybody. We send them. And then it really, it’s important to check, to get feedback to act on it. So, for example, we are currently working with a client in India. They’re looking for a tech lead, but actually, that tech lead.

On is a tech lead on paper, but in reality, they were looking for a CTO. Mm-hmm. So we found that out by rechecking with them. And now we were finally able to send someone over who has worked as a CTO in the past and who may actually be hired by them. So, It’s good to get the client’s feedback as often as possible.

Yeah, of course. And, and maybe it’s a, it’s an interesting thing for us also to share with our, with our audience. Of course, talking with the customer and getting feedback from them on the candidate is very important, but we also take quite some time actually, to provide feedback to the candidates even if they are not hired.

And it’s, it’s pretty cool because I get to see also the emails that come and reply to that from candidates. They really appreciate that we share the feedback with them and we really go down in details and, basically, we see that there was a learning opportunity as well for, for a person that if they apply for a role, that they can basically, and especially if they do a technical assignment, we’ll get them feedback on the assignment so that they can learn from, from that experience.

So it’s not something that they do the assignment, and they get a yes or no. We really try to give them more concrete feedback on how they can.  Towards more of the profile that we would like to see in our team. Cool.  

Once people are on board, obviously, it’s very hard for the company to keep them, especially with other companies trying to, yeah, pull them away from them.

Like, what do you see, like is a secret of retaining and keeping tech talent?

There are numerous reasons why people resign. So I mean, the salary is one factor, of course, but it’s definitely not the only factor. People quit when they get bored. So most engineers want to keep learning. I mean, really good engineers.

They want to keep making progress and growing. That is one fact. So, and then there’s also a good team, of course, that offers psychological safety. it’s simply more fun to work with people you appreciate. That’s for sure. And you also want to have the impression that you’ve heard. What I also saw is that a lot of companies try to.

Sell themselves by offering free snacks and drinks and so beer fridges and ping pong tables, basically.  

It’s so, so 2019. 

Yeah, it’s that exactly. That is, basically, that is nice to have, but that’s not what will keep people on board. A lot of people like working remotely these days, especially software engineers.

There’s no reason they have to be on site. They can code wherever they are. So remote opportunities are also a good thing. So I maybe as a package of a lot of different factors. So I think a good team and flexible working hours definitely are important. 

Okay. Maybe a last question.  Obviously, the person that’s doing the recruitment is essential to a company to bring in the time, but what is the role of that person in a relationship to the company culture, how do you see that? 

Well, they’re basically an ambassador of the company because they’re often the only person a candidate speaks to. They’re always the first person a candidate speaks to, but often the only person, for example, if they don’t make it past that first stage.

So the interview actually has a huge impact on what they think of us. Mm-hmm. if the people leave the interview with a smile on their faces, that means that they have a positive impression of us. So I usually tend to give feedback and try to help them to improve, for example.

When I see someone’s cv, they say, oh, you speak English pretty well, you should put that on your cv, for example. And so I try to give them some advice that they can take home no matter if I hire them or not. And with honest feedback, I mean, we really have a very honest feedback culture, but it can be a double-sided sword.

So you need to be really careful. For example, I will no longer tell people that, that we will not hire them for whatever reason because that can actually backfire. So, mm-hmm. , and people are, they feel like they lose their face. So it’s better to do that in writing, for example. And language is also important.

It’s earlier said like it’s, I try to no use the term culture fit, so everybody says company fit. So when people may not think that it’s crazy, really a company fit thing and not like about European culture, for example. So

I think one of the very nice things about how we approach interviews is, How we do them actually.

So we have like a very clearly defined script on when we do a phone screen, for example. And, and recently I was doing, we work with a lot of, with customers and of course, our customers also have to hire people and sometimes we don’t do the recruitment for them, but they, they try to do it themselves.

And  I recently sat in a job interview for a candidate for a leadership position at one of our customers. And it was the first time I was doing that with them. And we went into the interview, and I asked them like, What kind, what are you looking for in, this person? What is the kind of profile?

And so they, he showed me like, okay, this is the role description, but what we do more is like we look for kind of behaviors that our people are having, right? So we don’t look necessarily for check boxes that we want to check in terms of, okay, the actual skills. But we move more into like the behavior of a person in a certain situation because that is what we believe is more important.

Mm-hmm.  Can you maybe share a bit more? Or maybe some example questions that you ask to find out if they deduce certain behavior or not. 

For example, I ask them what they recently learned or if is there anything they would like to learn in their next role and how they go about it, for example.

So which sources do they use? So do they really understand if they’re really somebody who’s passionate about this? Do they actually search for new technology? Do they say up-to-date? Can they mention some sources or I ask, for example, how they dealt with a conflict in the past? So when they experienced conflict in the team before and how they dealt with it.

So is there somebody who tries to arrange for everybody to try? Do they try to solve it, or do they get angry? So always ask about, I usually ask questions where they reflect on what they did in the past because that often indicates also how they will do it in the future instead of like asking a hypothetical question.

That makes sense. Okay. Very nice. That kind of sums up this episode.  Maybe I want to mention as well that you wrote a blog post. About this may be the very nice title: “When There Isn’t Plenty of Fish in the Sea, Hiring and Retaining Tech Talents by Simone. It’s on the blog, you can read it there. We’ll make sure to put a link in the description as well.

So thank you, Simone, for your time.  Yeah. Thank you. 

Listen to Episode 9 on Anchor.FM