Reimagining Recruitment with Startup Legends: OfferZen

Valoro OfferZen Interview

If you’ve ever been to their offices, read one of their social media posts, or met one of their scarily loyal fans, you’ll know that OfferZen brings an unfamiliar element of ‘funness’ to the world of recruitment. Of course, if you are one of those fans, you’re probably wearing one of their badass unicorn tees as you read this.

OfferZen Interview

But this story gets a lot more interesting than wizard pandas and rainbow-farting sheep. Because OfferZen was founded by two of the sharpest kids on the startup block: The Brothers Joubert!  

No. We’re obviously not talking about “those two guys who wrote fairy tales about exciting and unimaginable things”! But we are talking about the guys who actually made (and continue to make) unimaginably cool things happen.

Philip and Malan Joubert have a track record of startup brilliancy, with MixIt, SnapScan, Pondering Panda, BitX (the old Luno), and Journey Apps, to name but a few. Sure, they had to move back in with their parents once or twice, and might have spent the first two years of varsity surfing… but so do most geniuses, right? We’re not shocked. We’ve seen that movie before. So here’s one you haven’t seen…

Sit back, crack open a Cola, and find out how the culmination of their past experiences led these brothers to what is known and loved today, as OfferZen.

Changing Lives within 30 Days

Philip Joubert will be the first to tell you that recruitment is not a sexy industry. And while there are a few strong recruiters out there, it’s hard to deny that the industry is saturated with anybody’s and nobody’s trying to make a quick comm. This is bad for the hiring company, bad for the new employee, and a reputational hazard for recruiters with more meaningful motivations.

So how is OfferZen bringing sexy back? Simple. Their intention is to change people’s lives. And to do this, they’ve reimagined recruitment.

“OfferZen is based on the idea that traditional market dynamics don’t work for the recruitment of IT skills.”

It’s Eco’s 101, you see. There’s a greater need for the skills of developers and software engineers, than the number of developers and software engineers actually available in the market. Demand exceeds supply. This gives the developers, well, options.

So, instead of applying to jobs, OfferZen has flipped the scale and created a marketplace where (the best) companies can apply to developers. They’ve curated a tech-skilled marketplace filled with only the top companies and developers by setting a quality bar. Meeting the standards means making it into the club, and becoming part of something awesome!

But, curating their own marketplace isn’t all that makes OfferZen different. They provide upfront salaries on every job (Shut the front door, right?!), so that developers can avoid wasted time on interviews with companies who can’t meet their financial expectations… not to mention those awkward “I need more money than that to leave my couch” negotiations we all hate.  

Learning from Mistakes Doing It Right

Philip has more startup experience than most can conceive of, and with that, has probably encountered more mistakes than all my years of teenage frivolity combined. And yet, he took me by surprise when he disagreed with my generic statement that “we learn most from our mistakes”.

So far, OfferZen has expanded their team to such an extent that they’ve had to move offices – four times! Their online marketplace has welcomed over 650 quality companies, and they’re helping more than 2 developers a day to level-up with new job opportunities.

These are small numbers in terms of where we want to be.

Philip feels that he’s learnt more from each of these wins than from most of the mistakes he’s made before. His first lesson? The importance of remaining focused.

“Broadening your service, product or target market slows you down. That’s why we focused on one city, only startups, and only full-time software developers.”

This focus has allowed Offerzen to grow strong, before it grows big, and has allowed the team time and mental energy to deal with problems properly when they arise.

Philip also has an obvious passion for everything that OfferZen does, and can still do. A passion driven by the impact they can make on people and the world, rather than fame and fortune.

That’s why he says things like this, “Your job determines  a significant amount of your happiness” and this “People achieve 10% of what they’re capable of in their lives”.

So, OfferZen is constantly chasing bigger dreams, and the opportunity to make a greater impact. And with this comes a growing team of inspired, driven, Mensa-level people (trust me, I’ve met them) who want to make that same impact.

How OfferZen Plays Their Own Game

Still, OfferZen is a startup. A startup characterised by hard work, ambitious goals and innovative thinking. This team seems to do the impossible with grace and ease, because the excitement of proving the world wrong is just too hard to say no to.

But, this bunch of unicorn-loving, tech-savvy superheroes isn’t your average collection of people. They’re high on talent, big on brains, and glued together by a culture akin to that of Silicon Valley.

“We’re trying to emulate a Silicon Valley startup, in South Africa. Our ambition level is to compete with Silicon Valley.”

So, how does OfferZen find the right people to join their journey, and harness a culture of continuous awesomeness? To start with (and this should come as no surprise), they’ve implemented a solid recruitment process for their internal team – and it’s made a big difference.

“It’s mostly about finding the right people – they are excited by incredibly challenging situations. Of course there is another side to that – the expectation on you as a leader is incredibly high as well.”

Drawing on wisdom from the book, Who: Solve Your #1 Problem, OfferZen continues to go to the ends of the earth to get the best people on board their high-paced ship. They wrote their hiring process as a blog post, which some people saw, and liked, and sent to their friends who also liked it. And so the applicant funnel grew.

But despite having no shortage of applicants, and despite the constant supply of fan love, OfferZen is steadfast in their transparent approach, and has never become arrogant about hiring for their own team.

A Winning Team

Now, having the right people, and keeping them all aligned and motivated, are two separate (but connected) things. Especially in a continuously evolving startup environment.

“Working in a startup means that you’re often expecting a lot from people. We know that everything is going to change.”

Much like NetFlix, OfferZen is built on a culture of a professional sports team, rather than a family. This means that they’re metrics-driven, goal-driven, data-driven, and super high on self-improvement… all necessary ingredients for coping with change.

“We go far beyond what’s reasonable to achieve our goals. With startups I’ve found that there is often a threshold effect and you need to give unreasonable amounts of effort before you start seeing any results. We wanted to bake that attitude into our culture.”

But the core team isn’t the only team, because OfferZen recognises that advice is accessible – so they use it. As Philip says “People want to help”.

Having no prior experience in recruitment, the OfferZen team decided not to waste time, effort and resources on trying to figure it out themselves, which would have slowed them down. Instead, they found someone with a wealth of knowledge and experience in recruitment. And they continue to draw on the insight of advisers when they feel they need a little help.

Chasing Rainbows

Quick! Put on your shades, because the future’s looking bright for OfferZen. Instead of exerting effort on competing with mainstream recruiters, OfferZen is paving their own way, and focusing on creating high quality and happy experiences for their valued customers.

And just recently, they’ve been able to share this experience with even more customers by expanding their offering to other tech team roles, like UI and UX designers, QA testers, SCRUM masters, product owners and data scientists.

In Philip’s words, building a startup is “90% pain, 10% feeling on top of the world.” But that 10% makes it all so worthwhile!

Follow OfferZen on Facebook and Twitter, or check out their website for opportunities in the tech space.


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