Interview With Fredrik Mellander at Teamtailor: Closing The Gap in Startup Recruitment

by James Ker-Reid - April 7, 2020

We interviewed Fredrik Mellander, Head of Partnerships at Teamtailor,  the #recruitment and employer branding ATS; a new way to attract, nurture and hire top talent.

We asked Fredrik to shed light on the question of “when and how should a startup recruit?

So over to the interview with Fredrik and our founder, James Ker-Reid with the key questions and answers:


  • Could you give an overview of when you started at Teamtailor, what it looked like, how many employees, how many clients?

I joined in early 2017 – the company had been running for quite a while but growth had been slow. There had been a lot of time and focus ensuring that we had something to sell because this industry is a lot about having a good platform that actually works. You need a lot of originality, our work is more than just an ATS – we wanted to have a nice site, as well as a nice ATS. When I joined I was number 17 and we were in a small office, we had all our developers in one table, shoulder to shoulder, all wearing noise cancelling earphones. They were in the same room as the sales team who were always on the phone trying to book sales meetings; 6 people in sales, development team of the same number, one person running customer success team and one person marketing. It was cosy, but we were all intensely together and had the joint mindset of ‘let’s see what we can do’.


  • What was your first role when you joined the company? 

I joined as a sales executive so my role was to sell to every company I could think of and get hold of.


  • And what was the vision of the company at that time back in 2017?

We always had quite grand visions but we never had the global domination that we wanted. Initially we wanted more to change the industry and make it better for the people we recruited for. The company began to go international just before I joined and their goal was to become the biggest recruitment platform in the world. Back then, 90% of our clients were Swedish, before we went more international. I would say the mission is pretty much the same to this day, just closer to the goal.


  • Tell us how today looks like vs North Star back in 2017?

We always had the same vision, but now the company is much closer to those original set goals compared to 2017. We wanted to help companies across the world bridge the gap with recruitment and help them recruit more successfully. We are starting to see that this is really possible and is happening. Today we are at 135 employees, 3000 clients worldwide and almost 100 countries – working from the biggest manufacturing giants to churches, to tech companies, to agencies. The smallest has 1 employee, the biggest has 100s of thousands of employees. It’s been such a great thing to see and be involved with as we work with some of the coolest brands. We only had Swedish companies previously but now, with 3000 clients, we are targeting all over. Opening office in New York this week!


  • In terms of funding, what does that look like for you? Have you taken on funding and when?

Back in the early days we brought in some money from angel investors and friends of founders but since then we haven’t taken in anything. So we brought in about €600,000 to initially fund everything. Since then we’ve been pretty boot strapped and done this growth without any help. We’ll see what happens in the future, but for now this growth from just over the last 3 years, we’ve 10 x our clients, over 650% increase in our employees, without additional funding, has been great.

  • When do you think that point of pressure to take on funding will come?

We are curious. We know there is interest from investors to invest in companies like Teamtailor (since taken on funding of €5 million). For companies that have been as successful as us in terms of growth, of course there’ll be people interested. It’s more about timing and finding the right people – if we grow in the US that might come to something and could be an indicator for investment, but it’s more about finding the right people. Companies have done this journey in the past and built a great company – brought on investors that were the wrong investors meaning they were perhaps forced to make decisions they didn’t want to and therefore take the wrong steps. They would take the fun out of it. They still made a fantastic journey, but they know how valuable it is to find the right investor and right people. The investors should allow what you have done in the past that has been successful to continue, they like your ideas, you can use their network; aid the growth as opposed to hinder it.

  • Great to hear that – perhaps we’ll hear something in the news soon! Great to hear about the US expansion too and that you’re attracting a lot of attention over there. Funding on the East Coast is definitely increasing. 

Yes, so many investors are willing to invest and gamble on companies. If you have a company and are looking for investment, as long as you have a plan and mission, there’ll be interest. We can continue a good growth curve without investment but taking on investment can open new doors and opportunities, opening new ways for us to go certain routes that we couldn’t have done previously due to lack of funding.


  • So going back to recruitment, what are the big mistakes that companies make when recruiting?

In reality, in the early stages of companies it’s so much about mindset, mentality and finding the right people. You should never stop recruiting, even if you’re not hiring right now, or you can’t hire right now, you still have to make sure to nurture the right people that you might have met and are interested in joining your journey when the time is right. In the early stages, the right people will make the right company. Whether you find a young person who is willing to do the journey, or an experienced person who has done the journey in the past, it’s very different for every company. The right person in the right spot in the early stages of growth will make the company you want. A lot of companies in the early stages, will only try to put out the fire as soon as there’s a fire, they don’t think proactively and start looking before it’s even time to hire. It’s always good to already have these people in your network and bring them on board when it’s time. They don’t proactively recruit – you should always be thinking and looking. Always keep your eyes open and if you find someone, make sure you nurture them as they might end up doing your own job.


  • And what about the process – where do companies often go wrong with the process of recruiting, selecting and onboarding new talent?

In terms of the selection, in the early stages they often only use their own network, only people who are similar to themselves perhaps and don’t go beyond or even abroad. Some people tend to spend too much time and money trying to advertise as they don’t know how to do it effectively. People often make it more complicated than it has to be. The biggest resource a company has at any stage is their own employees – you should use their network, try to always remain recruiting and they don’t give the time it deserves. You have to allocate time for recruiting and onboarding. What story do you want to tell, what is the vision that you want candidates to see? Early stages a mis-hire is so crucial and can be fatal to a company. Take your time on the right people in the beginning. 


  • Where do you think companies waste most time when recruiting?

The selection process is a natural answer, but I think the attraction and reaching process to find the right people is probably the most time spent. Not urgent enough when it’s due time. A recruiting process can take days, or even hours, if it’s the right person. People often think they have to interview a certain amount of people – waste the most time they don’t HAVE to find people. 


  • What other tactics would you recommend for companies to find new candidates?

In the early stages, using advertising on LinkedIn and Facebook can be beneficial as you find people who are looking for jobs. Prioritise the free channels – google jobs for example – as you can find and maintain these platforms and people for cheap buck. Make sure your network and employees are engaged and included in the process. Make sure you take time in sharing the journey as people are looking more and more into a culture of a company as opposed to salaries. Especially with startups. Culture, talent and journey a startup can make are probably the biggest selling points that you have. Not everybody will fit every start up. Some people strive and love working in startup environments – those people are key. Finding the right mentality for the role is important. Young people should aim for startups as they often have a mentality of pushing to learn and do more – you’ll learn so much more, faster in a startup than going the traditional corporate route. Sometimes, start ups think about hiring senior people with experience for certain roles, and yes, certain roles do need that – perhaps marketing, customer success, sales – but the mentality of those people are still super important, irrelevant of experience. 


  • Talking mindset and mentality of people you hire, how do you test or evaluate that in the recruitment process?

It’s always good to measure certain hard skills, but in a startup you need to be able to measure soft skills as well in order to be able to understand. There is software you can use to test how people fit certain roles and allow you get a picture of who this person is when meeting them. Perhaps also get other people involved for different perspectives of a candidate – soft skills are hard to understand more and getting other people’s opinions helps get a better picture of a person. 


  • How does the recruiting function, and therefore process, change as they scale from, for example, a 10 person company to 100/200+ company?

Usually it happens in stages and companies now are adapting differently, especially if they are in a growth environment. In the early stages, everyone is so crucial that everyone will be involved and I think no matter what the size of the company, you should always have the mentality of involving as many of your employees as possible. Eventually you will get a dedicated HR person and that’s often where you will see more processes come in, you will start measuring more, you might get a recruiter in, talent acquisition team etc. 


  • Tell me a bit about your own journey – those functions that you use at Teamtailor for recruiting

I think we are a different beast to most other tech companies as we work in the recruiting sector and work with tech whilst recruited. We were very late at hiring and HR person as we expanded so quickly. A lot of the people working for us had perhaps experience of HR and worked with recruitment so we relied on them perhaps longer than another company would have been able to without hiring an HR person. At Teamtailor the CEO was the final decision maker but every manager had their own responsibility for their teams and all made sure they were involved with sourcing and interviewing. Then we hired an HR person so we could scale; as we got busier not everyone could dedicate time to recruiting as they could before. 


  • When did that point happen at Teamtailor that the CEO became less involved in the hiring process?

For us, when we had the HR person join when we were 50/60 employees. It varies hugely from company to company – some start with an HR person as a company forefront which is a fantastic foundation to scale on. Teamtailor had that within the employees as we were an HR tech company ourselves and had a lot of knowledge within that field. I would suggest finding someone who really enjoys and likes the role of HR because it will help the company in the long run. 


  • When you refer to an HR person, do you mean HR or would you perhaps refer to them as a recruiter?

Nowadays there are different types of HR people. Finding a dedicated recruiter isn’t probably what I would prefer. I would prefer someone who does a mix – a head of culture perhaps who does recruiting 50% of the time. Some companies do just need a head of recruitment due to their culture and growth, some companies need more of the dedication to culture in order to recruit. But all companies need someone who is engaged as the energy behind the team to recruit – someone who comes in to help carry the majority of the load, but engine to make sure the team gets engaged in the recruitment process. If you set a talent acquisition culture in a company from the beginning, that will be set for the future. 


  • What can startups do to avoid making hiring and recruitment mistakes?

Start thinking about it early, involve employees to a certain extent and make sure they are engaged. Train, skill and hire personality, depending on the role, but particularly for entry level roles. You can keep salaries down if culture is engaging. Never stop recruiting, try new things and new ways of approaching people. Try not to get tricked – sales people are incredibly hard to recruit as they sell themselves well but can fail at results in the role. 


  • Any further advice you would give?

The biggest advice for smaller companies, think about the recruiting culture and THEN start recruiting. It’s such a key thing for a company. The right people will make the right company, the wrong person will break the company.


Thank you to d Fredrik Mellander at Teamtailor.

Over and out from the team at Sales for Startups. We’ll be interviewing other successful CS leaders, Tech Founders and even recruitment leaders to see why we are missing the mark when it comes to growing existing accounts at tech companies.

If you’d like to be interviewed please comment below or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or submit a request on our website.

Further Reading

Patrick Thorp
August 28, 2020

Creating a winning pricing strategy to drive B2B sales

+Read More
James Ker-Reid
August 2, 2021

First 30 days in Sales for Startups for CRO Matt Davies

+Read More
James Ker-Reid
February 2, 2022

What should you include in a sales strategy?

+Read More