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15 minutes with... Denis Hilgert

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Like the co-founders of Xref, Denis Hilgert embarked on the opportunity to build a tech-based solution after becoming frustrated with the flaws he’d noticed in the recruitment process.

Following several years in talent acquisition and recruitment, he launched RedBeard Talent with the passion to drive change and the bravery to jump into something new and unknown.

Here we dive into what led Denis to take the risk of starting his own business and his views on the HR and recruitment landscape.

Tell us a bit about your background.

Before I started RedBeard Talent I used to work for a major American recruitment agency and, if I’m honest, some of the industry “best practices” frustrated me.

I had previously worked in the travel sector and that agency role was the only time I ventured outside it. So, when I left, I decided to go back to the industry I was knowledgeable and passionate about and joined travel website, Travelzoo. But the idea of helping people to find a job they're really going to like and get fulfillment in, and helping companies fill roles faster than using just traditional channels, was still in the back of my mind.

I knew that if I was going to leave the Travelzoo job it would be to start my own company and it would be somewhere in the HR recruitment world. That's when I started RedBeard Talent, without really having an idea of what I wanted to do!

That was a big leap of faith! How did the company expand from there?

I thought "Okay, you have recruitment experience. you have been head-hunted before yourself so you know what was promised to you and what was delivered". For the sake of cash flow, I started with an agency and used the platform for further market research about how to come up with a new system or a better way to do things.

For the first couple of months, I met with so many hiring leaders and a lot of different applicants. In total, I interviewed almost 150 to 200 people about working with recruitment agencies as well as hiring in general. Based on that feedback we developed our prototype and then eventually we released a product in January 2019, which allows companies to create effective employer branding and also hire for personality, efficiently.

From an applicant perspective, we learned that they are also looking for cultural fit and for a speedy recruitment process. So we came up with our product that helps companies to record a job description by video. That video helps with employer branding and allows us to measure the personality of the team against the personality of the applicant and forward the applicants we know will fit the team environment.

Our platform also now asks applicants to provide a one minute video about themselves. So, we don't work with CVs at all. Candidates provide a video about themselves, which helps to take away the initial screening process of the company, saving them 75% of their time in the recruitment process.

Today, we work closely with existing clients and lots of applicants, so that everything we develop is totally based on feedback.

What have you loved about going out on your own and doing something different?

When I step in front of people and I tell them we are a start up and, at the moment, I want to find out what they hate about recruitment and how they think things could be improved, I find that people are so willing to help and spend time with me.

It's unbelievable the amount of support I have had and still experience. That's really what keeps us going. They are willing to share their knowledge and experience because they believe there's finally someone who listens to them.

Our premise is always that when you meet with us, we are going to give you something you can actually work with the next day.

That's what excited me at the beginning and still excites me every day.

What would the ideal recruitment process look like to you?

Firstly, through our research, we’ve found that today, an applicant doesn't really want to see anything about the company in the job description because they can research it themselves.

It's important to give a snapshot of the responsibility and maybe an idea of what's required but there should be bigger parts dedicated to talking about who the hiring manager is, what they can learn from that hiring manager, and who the team is that they will work with. Some of those things are very difficult to do in writing, especially if your company goes through a lot of change.

When it comes to the application, we believe it should be without a CV because they are read for, on average, just six seconds. So we cut out CVs almost from day one. Instead, we send over an updated link to the candidate’s profile (after helping them to update it), then we send an application video from the candidate about themselves on a personal and professional level.

An interview should be an equal conversation. Normally an interview is an intervention because people are afraid to ask questions. It doesn't matter if you apply for a casual role or for a manager role, you have got to have your questions ready. It's like playing tennis, there has to be a back and forth conversation. Only this way can you really sell yourself.

My last point about the recruitment process is that the amount of time companies take to get back to applicants with feedback should be improved. It's a shame, they lose out on so many opportunities and money further down the line by just not sending an email or picking up the phone.

What would you say is the biggest HR or recruitment challenge in the tourism industry?

From what we have learned, the challenge is the communication between the hiring manager and HR specialist.

Often they sit in different offices and it's very hard for them to communicate. What we see in the tourism industry, and especially hotels, is they are behind in technology adoption. They are not sitting in front of a computer all day, so they aren’t as quick to respond to emails and they don’t see as big a need to embrace technology.

What advice would you give someone who wants to introduce a solution in a similar way to you?

Well, the HR and recruitment world is pretty crowded when it comes to solutions. So my number one piece of advice for startups would be, always go to your customer and let them drive the product. The thing we have developed to this day wasn't our idea.

We’ve been really honest with clients, saying we know there's a problem, we need your help to find the solution and we'll keep adapting until we get it perfect. That's how we uncovered further problems and developed new parts of the product.

So my advice for tech startups is always be driven by clients because that way you can achieve and manage fast growth.

About Denis

Denis Hilgert is originally from Germany but since the age of 20 he has studied and worked in the US, Panama, The Netherlands and Australia. He is an award-winning Sales Manager, having worked for a number of startups and ASX-listed companies, predominantly in B2B sales. Denis’ passion is for helping people find new opportunities and his disappointment in traditional recruitment methods led him to launch RedBeard Talent in July 2018.

RedBeard Talent believes in helping people and companies build meaningful connections, giving them an opportunity to express themselves and connect effectively. The HR software uses videos for personal branding and data to enable the right job match.

The company’s dedicated team of five is proud to support major hotel chains like Accor, Hyatt and PARKROYAL Hotels in Australia.

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